A Travellerspoint blog

May 2021

Devon, England 2021

Route: Hove - Milton Combe - Umberleigh - Hove

sunny 12 °C

APRIL 2021

After a brief lockdown period at our usual abode in the New Forest, and on the 12th April 2021, we escaped confinement and headed west to South Devon.

Daffodil and resident ants

Daffodil and resident ants

Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer

Pig on the run, makes a change from ponies

Pig on the run, makes a change from ponies

Pony and trap in New Forest NP

Pony and trap in New Forest NP

Our stay in South Devon was just for four nights, shorter than we had originally planned but forced upon us by National Lockdown rules. Our base was a beautiful apartment on a farm, in the tiny community of Milton Combe. Milton Combe is right on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and it is there that our activities took place.

We didn’t venture far on our first day, just down the road to Burrator Reservoir. Devon roads are notoriously narrow but the access road to the reservoir was exceptionally so. With stone walls on either side and the width not much greater than the car itself. It was worth the effort though as the surrounding area is beautiful, with towering Tors (see below) either side of a forest wrapped body of water.

Lambing season in full bloom in Dartmoor

Lambing season in full bloom in Dartmoor

Dartmoor Hill Pony

Dartmoor Hill Pony

Our target today was to walk up to the summit of Sheeps Tor, which we duly achieved, the highest point in the area at 367m above sea level. After a short road section we turned off onto a grass track and began to climb. We choose the longer less steep route as we had plenty of time. The first thing we noticed was how peaceful it was, with very few other tourists the only sound came from the dry grass under our feet and a woodpecker attacking a tree somewhere in the forest. Once at the summit the views were spectacular; the forest and reservoir beneath us, the Atlantic Ocean to the south and open moorland to the north. We wandered around the top for a bit, searching out the best photo opportunities, before starting our decent back to the car. It was still very peaceful, with only the sound of a distant Buzzard joining the Woodpecker breaking the silence.

View from Sheep Tor in Dartmoor NP

View from Sheep Tor in Dartmoor NP

Sheep Tor

Sheep Tor

Day two found us in the heart of Dartmoor at a place called Postbridge. We were here to undertake a circular walk across the moors, but before that there was a historic “Clapper Bridge” (see below) to check out.

Clapper Bridge alongside bridge build in 1780

Clapper Bridge alongside bridge build in 1780

Leaving the 13th Century “Clapper Bridge” (and its newer 18th century road bridge) behind us, we started our walk along the banks of the East Dart River. Our route then turned us away from the river, across meadows and out onto open moorland. We were now alone with only moorland sheep and bird song for company. This continued for the remainder of the walk, bar a few picnickers and Dartmoor ponies. Three hours later and we were back at the car park, tired but invigorated by our exertions.

Walking on Dartmoor and more remains of clapper bridge

Walking on Dartmoor and more remains of clapper bridge

View over the Clapper bridge and the road bridge build in 1780

View over the Clapper bridge and the road bridge build in 1780



For our last full day in Dartmoor we thought we should visit its number one attraction: Haytor (number one mainly due to its easy accessibility from the road and closeness to the major city of Exeter). As the name suggests Haytor is a Tor (see below) and quite a spectacular one at that, said to be the Ayers Rock (Uluru to use its correct name) of Dartmoor. From the car park it was a short stroll to this impressive geological formation. We resisted the temptation to climb to its summit and continued past, making for an old granite quarries down in the adjacent valley. All around us were magnificent views and photo opportunities a plenty.

Haytor

Haytor

Haytor

Haytor

Dartmoor scenery along Haytor walk

Dartmoor scenery along Haytor walk

Our route followed an old stone tramway, once used to transport granite out of the area, before veering away to investigate more outcrops. Finally we circled back to where we started but not before taking in more of the stunning scenery and passing by a small herd of Dartmoor Hill Ponies, maybe ancestors of those that pulled the carts on the tramway we had walked along earlier.

Granite tracks of the old tramway

Granite tracks of the old tramway

Dartmoor hill pony

Dartmoor hill pony

Having had nice weather throughout our short stay in Dartmoor, we felt we had achieved a lot in the three days and were ready for new adventures in the north of the county. From Milton Combe we travelled 65 miles north to our next location of Umberleigh. The advantage of the short distance was that it allowed us time for one more visit in Dartmoor.
Our choice was a circular walk along the banks of the River Teign. We choose a section close to its source on Dartmoor where it cuts through a narrow gorge. From the car park at Fingle Bridge we walked up-stream flanked by steep wooded slopes, before crossing another bridge to return on the opposite bank. The fast flowing crystal clear waters is a haven for birdlife which added to the enjoyment of the walk.

Teign Gorge walk

Teign Gorge walk

Our new home was again on a farm in a lovely converted cattle shed. We were now in North Devon, in a village called Umberleigh, not far from Barnstaple. Following the busyness of the last few days we decided to take it easy for the first part of our stay in North Devon.
A stroll on the farm estate, a look around Barnstaple and what should have been a short walk in Braunton (it didn’t look far on the map, we should have measured it, nearly 10km was not the plan) was our exercise over the first three days. This gave us time to appreciate the relaxing atmosphere provided by our latest accommodation.

Barnstable church spire

Barnstable church spire

Our exploration of the area really got started on day four. With the sun shining, which has been the case since arriving in Devon, we headed out for a coastal walk. Our chosen destination was only 20 miles away but it took the best part of an hour to reach it, courtesy of the narrow lanes in North Devon. The lovely little coastal village of Combe Martin was our starting point and the towering cliffs above us was our goal.
A steep climb through a wooded hillside gave us access to a cliff path and from there we could see our first target, the high cliff viewpoint known as Little Hangman (see below). It was uphill almost all the way but the view at the top was magnificent. A calm turquoise sea lay beneath and in front of us, the jagged cliffs of the North Devon coast could be seen either side of us and the rolling hills of Exmoor National Park were behind us. We stayed a while admiring the scenery before moving on and ever upwards towards our second goal, the even higher viewpoint of Great Hangman. Great Hangman was equally spectacular and provided a sense of achievement when we arrived. Our guide book suggested heading inland to return to Combe Martin but the coastal scenery was so beautiful that we retraced our steps instead.

Cliff view back towards Combe Martin

Cliff view back towards Combe Martin

Great Hangman

Great Hangman

On our arrival back in Combe Martin we were in time to witness some unusual activity on the beach. Whilst we had been away, 14 rescued Grey Seals had been released back into the wild. But a few of them weren’t keen on the idea and preferred the comfort of the rehabilitation centre. These few were still in the small bay hoping to get recaptured, one in particular was bobbing around very close to shore. We watched for awhile and then headed home, not knowing how the day ended for the seals.

Grey seal

Grey seal

Exmoor beckoned again on the following day. This time we followed the East Lyn River from it mouth to its confluence with the West Lyn River at Riversmeet. Our starting point was the small holiday town of Lynmouth, which can only be accessed by a very steep lane. Having successfully negotiated this we parked up and started our walk. Our route followed the East Lyn River up into a steep sided gorge taking numerous foot bridges to cross it during our ascent. The river flowed fast and clear and gave some idea what it must have been like in the devastating floods of 1952 (see below). Today the water levels were much lower making it an ideal feeding ground for the Dippers and Grey Wagtails that flitted along its banks.
As we progressed we saw the remains of old bridge supports, the actual bridge washed away by the flood, and strangely an old fireplace and mantlepiece. The fireplace and mantlepiece are all that is left of a factory that once bottle the mineral rich water of the area and made ginger beer from it, another victim of the flood.
After about three and half kilometres we reached “Watersmeet”. It is at this point that the East Lyn and West Lyn meet, the West Lyn soon after a small but impressive waterfall. Our walk up to “Watersmeet” had been tranquil as we hardly met any other people on the trail. But going back it was much much busier, with foot traffic increased around twenty fold. Note to self, go early to miss the crowds.

River Lyn walk

River Lyn walk

Lynmouth Falls

Lynmouth Falls

Back in Lynmouth and it was time to do the touristy things. So we bought fish & chips, sat on a bench and eat them then wondered around town looking at the curiosities and buying fudge and local beer.

Lynmouth

Lynmouth


Smuggling - The disappearance of the fishing industry led to a rise in smuggling activities along the coast. There is not many places along the North Devon coast which is easy to navigate and make a landing. This being so a harbour such as Lynmouth was well used by these free-traders. The 14th century Rising Sun Inn was well known for these unlawful activities as were many inns across Exmoor. It is said there was a secret passage between Rock House and the Manor House to make sure the lord of the Manor was well looked after!

Lynton and Lynmouth cliff railway

Lynton and Lynmouth cliff railway


When the Cliff Railway was first built it was the steepest railway in the world. The two carriages are mounted over 700 gallon water tanks and linked together via a cable and pulley. The tank in the top carriage is filled with water and water is released from the carriage at the bottom so the heavier top carriage pulls the lighter one up.

Up until now our activities have been concentrated around Exmoor’s coast, so it was now time to explore the centre. The centre of Exmoor is the only true moorland, as what surrounds it is cultivated land and rolling hills. The village of Simonsbath is situated in the heart of the old Royal Forest of Exmoor and that is where our latest walk began. From the village car park we headed south east along the River Barle. Our path followed the course of the river, just a few meters above it. It was quiet, with only the sounds of nature to be heard. The River Barle is shallow, clear and fast flowing at this point, which made the colourful stones on the river bed very visible. We continued along the river valley until we reached a failed and now abandoned 19th century copper mine before turning back. The decision to turn around and head back was hard, as the sun was shining and the scenery was beautiful. However, we had decided to keep our walk short today to allow our body’s to recover from almost constant activity of recent weeks.

The River Barle walk

The River Barle walk

Enchanted by the River Barle we decided to explore more of it the following day. Our walk started further downstream at Tarr Steps (see below) and took us through an ancient woodland that lined the river bank. The river was a little wider at this point but just as clear and shallow as further upstream. We were alone with nature for most of our chosen route and with the sun shining it was quite idyllic.

Clapper Bridge, the Devils is not sunbathing, we can cross safely

Clapper Bridge, the Devils is not sunbathing, we can cross safely

walk from Tarr Steps

walk from Tarr Steps



For our last day in North Devon we left Exmoor and went to explore the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our starting point was the old fishing village of Hartland Quay. Hartland Quay was once a thriving port but now is much quieter, the houses remain but the focal point is the pub and hotel.
Our walk required us to climb a steep bank away from the port and join a cliff path that runs for many miles along the North Devon Coast. As we progressed along the path the cliff view was quite spectacular. Tectonic movement has folded the rock in different directions and the weather has buffed their surface to resemble great slices of onyx.

North Devon Coast

North Devon Coast

Geological view from the north Devon cliffs

Geological view from the north Devon cliffs

Interesting geological formation and some climbers

Interesting geological formation and some climbers

Coastal Scenery on our cliff walk

Coastal Scenery on our cliff walk

We crossed numerous streams as we progressed southwards, most disappearing over the edge of the cliff and some forming waterfalls. The most impressive was at Speke’s Mill where the River Speke tumbles over the cliff edge, down to a shelf, then on to the beach many meters below.

The Speke Waterfall named after the explorer Speke

The Speke Waterfall named after the explorer Speke

It wasn’t far after Speke’s Mill that we turned around and retraced our steps back to Hartland Quay. This gave us the opportunity to see the cliffs from another angle and to confirm that they are equally impressive what ever direction you are looking in. We also realised that Speke’s Mill Beach is a surfers beach. There were at least eight hardy individuals searching for the perfect wave at the time we passed.

Long walk to find the surf

Long walk to find the surf

The long walk is worth it for the surfers

The long walk is worth it for the surfers

From North Devon we travelled back to Hove for a quick pitstop at Robs. Before continuing our UK travels further north.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park is a vast moorland in the county of Devon, in southwest England. Dartmoor Hill Ponies roam its craggy landscape, defined by forests, rivers, wetlands and tors (rock formations). Trails wind through valleys with Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age stone circles and abandoned medieval farmhouses. With an area of 954 square kilometres it is dotted with villages, including Princetown, home to Dartmoor Prison in use since the Napoleonic Wars.

Tor
A tor, which is also known by geomorphologists as either a castle koppie or kopje, is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest. On Dartmoor the Tors are made of granite and likely to been exposed as softer rock a soil was eroded away some 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Dartmoor Scenery

Dartmoor Scenery

Clapper Bridges
A clapper bridge is an ancient form of bridge found on the moors of Devon and in other upland areas of the United Kingdom including Snowdonia and Anglesey, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scotland. It is formed by large flat slabs of stone, granite on Dartmoor, supported on stone piers across rivers, or resting on the banks of streams. Although often credited with prehistoric origin, most were erected in medieval times, and some in later centuries. They are often situated close to a ford where carts could cross. According to the Dartmoor National Park, the word 'clapper' derives ultimately from an Anglo-Saxon word, cleaca, meaning 'bridging the stepping stones’.

Clapper Bridge

Clapper Bridge

Exmoor National Park and its legend
Exmoor was an ancient royal hunting forest in the 17th century. It is now the Exmoor National Park and covers an area of 692.8 km2 (267.5 sq mi), 71% of which is in Somerset and 29% in Devon. A lot of Exmoor is now farmed and surrounds with what would be recognised as true moorland in the middle. The area has always been sparsely populated with its biggest towns along the coastal edge in the north.
As with most wild places in the UK there is a legend. The Beast of Exmoor is a large cat that is reported to roam Exmoor. There have been numerous reports of eyewitness sightings, the first being reported in the 1970s. However, it only became notorious in 1983, when a South Molton farmer claimed to have lost over 100 sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. In response to these reports Royal Marine Commandos were deployed from bases in the West Country to watch for the mythical beast from covert observation points. After 6 months, no sightings had been made by the Royal Marines and the deployments were ended. Descriptions of its colouration range from black to tan or dark grey. It is possibly a cougar or black leopard which was released after a law was passed in 1976 making it illegal for them to be kept in captivity outside zoos. In 2006, the British Big Cats Society reported that a skull found by a Devon farmer was that of a puma; however, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states, "Based on the evidence, Defra does not believe that there are big cats living in the wild in England."

Hangman Cliffs
Little Hangman is 716ft (218m) high while Great Hangman is 1,043ft (318m) high. Great Hangman is also the highest sea cliff in England with a cliff face of 800ft (244m). No early records mention the name “Hangman”, but a document dated 1792 mentions the name Hangman Hill. However, there is a fanciful derivation of the name, based on a local legend. The story goes that a sheep stealer was walking over the hill carrying a stolen ewe slung over his shoulder. He stopped to rest on a rock and the struggling sheep caused the cord tied around its legs to tighten and slip round the man's neck, strangling him. Hence the reference to hanging.

Little Hangman

Little Hangman

Lynmouth Flood
On the 15 and 16 of August 1952, a storm of tropical intensity broke over south-west England, depositing 229 millimetres (9.0 in) of rain within 24 hours on the already saturated soil of Exmoor. It is thought that a cold front scooped up a thunderstorm, and the orographic effect worsened the storm. Debris-laden floodwaters cascaded down the northern escarpment of the moor, converging upon the village of Lynmouth.In the upper West Lyn valley, fallen trees and other debris formed a dam, which in due course gave way, sending a huge wave of water and debris down the river. A guest at the Lyndale Hotel described the night:
“From seven o'clock last night the waters rose rapidly and at nine o'clock it was just like an avalanche coming through our hotel, bringing down boulders from the hills and breaking down walls, doors and windows. Within half an hour the guests had evacuated the ground floor. In another ten minutes the second floor was covered, and then we made for the top floor where we spent the night”.
The River Lyn through the town had been culverted to gain land for business premises; this culvert soon choked with flood debris, and the river flowed through the town. Much of the debris was boulders and trees.
Overnight, more than 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 28 of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34 people died, with a further 420 made homeless. The seawall and Rhenish Tower survived the main flood, but were seriously undermined. The tower collapsed into the river the next day, causing a temporary flood.

Tarr Steps
One of Exmoor’s finest archaeological gems is Tarr Steps. Stretching for 54 metres across the River Barle, Tarr Steps is an example of a clapper bridge (see above), and by far the longest in Britain. There is some debate about the etymology of the name. Tarr is thought to be from the Celtic word tochar meaning causeway.
The exact origins of Tarr Steps are not known for sure. Some suggest that locals constructed it during the Bronze Age or at some other point in prehistory. More recent research, however, suggests late medieval origins. A documentary source from 1279 indicates that at the time there was a bridge further along the river, at Three Waters. It seems unlikely that there would be two bridges in close proximity during this period, suggesting that it was built after that date.
Tarr Steps has had a difficult history, and in recent years has been heavily damaged by flooding, necessitating extensive reconstruction. Regardless of how many times the bridge has been repaired and re-erected, it is still a site of great archaeological importance, reflected in the fact that English Heritage categorise it as a Grade-I listed building.
As is so often the case, local folklore offers a different account for the clapper bridge. Legend has it that the bridge was built by the devil himself, and that he swore to kill anyone who attempted to cross it. To test the threat, locals sent a cat across the bridge. When they saw it disappear right before them, they called for the parson. He was sent over the bridge to remonstrate with the devil.
The two met in the middle, but despite being threatened by the devil the parson stood his ground. Eventually the devil gave in and agreed to allowing people to use his bridge on condition they would stay away if he chose to sunbathe.

Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps

Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps

Posted by MAd4travel 13:33 Archived in England Comments (1)

3rd UK Lockdown: November 2020 - March 2021

Hove

semi-overcast 10 °C

NOVEMBER 2020 to MARCH 2021

Since the epic all day drive from the far north (Scottish Border) to the far south (Brighton & Hove) of England, in November 2020, we have been in Hove following the rules dictated by the third National Covid-19 Lockdown. Those rules meant we could only venture out for food shopping and local exercise. We were also not allowed to see anyone outside our household. Schools and universities were closed and people were encouraged to work from home where possible. This was all very depressing but we counted ourselves lucky, as many people had it far worse than us.
At the start of January 2021 things looked very bleak and the NHS was at breaking point. There were around 60,000 new cases per day, hospitals had a daily intake of up to 4,000 new patients and the average daily death toll was 1,500. Fortunately this was the worst it got and by late January the situation began to improve. The lockdown and a rapid Covid-19 vaccination program was having a positive effect. By the end of March we had seen a massive improvements. Daily cases were down to around 4,000, hospitalisations around 200 and deaths were averaging less than 50 a day.
The speed at which vaccinations were being given was particularly impressive, with over 30million people receiving their first dose by the end of March, more than half the adult population of the UK. I had my first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in mid-February and Anne received her first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in late March.
On 22nd February the British Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) set out the government roadmap out of lockdown and back to some sort of normality. He set out various dates at which normal service could resume, all dependant on an improving Covid-19 situation. The vaccination program was the key driver of this. The first cautious step was to allow children to return to school on 8th March. This progressed to small groups (up to 6 persons) being able to meet outside from 29th March. The key date for us was 12th April, as this was the day self-contained accommodations were able to re-open. We were now able to travel again, but only in the UK and with the knowledge we could be invited for our second vaccination at any time.
As for going abroad that is still a bit of an unknown. May 2021 was initially suggested but that was soon ruled out and now it’s a matter of just wait and see. The original optimism was based on the rapid progress made with the UK vaccination program. But this now seems to be exceptional when compared to other parts of the world. The situation was also compounded by a new wave of Covid-19 infections in mainland Europe and a chaotic roll out of the vaccination program in the EU.

So, as it stands, we have another tour around the UK planned. Starting on the 12th April and extending until the end of June. During that time we will monitor the Covid-19 situation and make a decision as to whether we can continue our travelling lifestyle.

For now we conclude with some images taken during lockdown and hope our next blog portrays a more upbeat message.

Coffee & Walnut Birthday Cake. Baking kept me busy during the lockdown

Coffee & Walnut Birthday Cake. Baking kept me busy during the lockdown

Lockdowns meant an end to our world exploration and I got confined to the kitchen to cook for the boys

Lockdowns meant an end to our world exploration and I got confined to the kitchen to cook for the boys

When not cooking, board games were our other pastime, this one seemed particularly appropriate. We lost more often than we won

When not cooking, board games were our other pastime, this one seemed particularly appropriate. We lost more often than we won

On windy days, paragliders take off from Devil's Dyke, South Downs NP

On windy days, paragliders take off from Devil's Dyke, South Downs NP

South Downs National Park (on our doorstep), on one of our many local walks

South Downs National Park (on our doorstep), on one of our many local walks

Another walk on the South Downs NP

Another walk on the South Downs NP

South Downs NP Scenery

South Downs NP Scenery

2021 was a cold winter for South of England. Dusting of snow on the South Downs NP

2021 was a cold winter for South of England. Dusting of snow on the South Downs NP

Made walking a bit slippery on the South Downs NP

Made walking a bit slippery on the South Downs NP

Wintery scene on Hove sea front, a rare phenomenon in Brighton & Hove

Wintery scene on Hove sea front, a rare phenomenon in Brighton & Hove

The same tower i360 (aka the Donut by the local) 162 meters or 450 feet

The same tower i360 (aka the Donut by the local) 162 meters or 450 feet

The Donut of the i360, the 360 degree tower dominating the seafront

The Donut of the i360, the 360 degree tower dominating the seafront

Hardy bathers, this is January 2021

Hardy bathers, this is January 2021

Paddle borders, perfect day as no wind and no waves, not a common occurrence in Brighton & Hove

Paddle borders, perfect day as no wind and no waves, not a common occurrence in Brighton & Hove

Hove Beach which goes on and on and on for 4 miles

Hove Beach which goes on and on and on for 4 miles

Low tide on the beach, a different outlook

Low tide on the beach, a different outlook

Reflection in the wet sand of Hove beach at low tide

Reflection in the wet sand of Hove beach at low tide

During lockdown businesses came up with initiative ideas to attract customers back whilst still complying with lockdown rules

During lockdown businesses came up with initiative ideas to attract customers back whilst still complying with lockdown rules

Shoreham aircrash memorial: Eleven distinctive steel arches - each uniquely commemorating the men who died when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 during an air display at Shoreham Airport in August 2015

Shoreham aircrash memorial: Eleven distinctive steel arches - each uniquely commemorating the men who died when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 during an air display at Shoreham Airport in August 2015

Adur River at high tide

Adur River at high tide

You can decorate your houseboat in any fashion you wish

You can decorate your houseboat in any fashion you wish

Some houseboats look like are in need of TLC

Some houseboats look like are in need of TLC

There are ever more bizarre example of houseboat

There are ever more bizarre example of houseboat

More conventional ones as well

More conventional ones as well

Shoreham pedestrian bridge over the river Adur

Shoreham pedestrian bridge over the river Adur

River Adur at Shoreham where houseboats are moored. This one is an old WW2 mine sweeper

River Adur at Shoreham where houseboats are moored. This one is an old WW2 mine sweeper

Murmuration of Starling over Brighton Palace Pier, one of the few places you can see it in the UK

Murmuration of Starling over Brighton Palace Pier, one of the few places you can see it in the UK

Murmuration always changing shape

Murmuration always changing shape

Brighton Pier, or Brighton Palace Pier is also a favourite for murmuration of Starlings

Brighton Pier, or Brighton Palace Pier is also a favourite for murmuration of Starlings

Starling gathering at the end of the day above the West Pier

Starling gathering at the end of the day above the West Pier

Winter time is the opportunity for fantastic sunset in Brighton & Hove, West Pier mades a beautiful setting

Winter time is the opportunity for fantastic sunset in Brighton & Hove, West Pier mades a beautiful setting

Posted by MAd4travel 14:14 Archived in England Comments (1)

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