I’d arranged to meet Bill Bennett, Tessa Rubbra, and Tim and Lizzie at the south end of the new bridge in Bideford at 8.30 so I had six miles to do before 8.30, which meant starting at Instow at 6.30, which meant leaving the house at 6.00, which meant getting up at 5.00 ish. We had allowed half an hour to get to Instow, which should have been enough especially as we were taking the most direct route but somehow it wasn’t and we arrived at Instow at 7.00. I was really paying for my late breakfast of the day before. Nobody’s fault but mine
It was another beautiful morning. I hammered down the Tarka Trail. Because it is a railway line the curves are long and the straights are longer. This makes one feel as if one is moving very slowly, which relative to the trains for which is was designed, one is. Most people use it as a bicycle path. I went as fast I could. In the end I did the six miles in 1 hour 5o minutes, which meant that if we had been able to start from Instow on time I would have been ten minutes early. My knees ached but I was pleased with myself, especially as Billy was the only person at the r.v. before me.
Just after this field I lost the footpath. I could see the path we were supposed to join, traversing gently down and across the hillside below us, and access to it from a gate in the field to the right of the one over which I was looking. The thing was to get into the field with the gate below us to the right. I walked to the right. Now all we had to do was cross the fence and bash our way through the scrub into the field below, with the gate, which I could no longer see, but which must be there, because my compass said it was. The only question was, would the others baulk at the fence. Not a bit of it all of them clambered over with out so much as a scratch. Now for the scrub. This turned out to be made up of mature hawthorn, immature hawthorn, gorse and brambles at all stages of development. My trousers were torn and Tim and Lizzie only had shorts. The hawthorn got thicker and thicker. I wondered if we would be able to wriggle through it on our tummies. The scrub got darker and darker as the hawthorn became taller. On the lower edge of this hawthorn cave immature hawthorn blocked out the light and the way. I saw a lighter patch and headed for it. We waded through huge ferns. ‘It’s like the jungle’, said Tessa happily. “Its like Bear Grylls’, she said. ‘No it’s not’, said Billy, ‘He gets the television crew to do everything while he hangs out in a hotel’. And then after a very severe bit with a steep drop disguised by a huge pile of rotten wood and brambles the trusty compass confirmed my faith and there, bingo!, was the path. I don’t know where the gate and the field, which I had seen from above, had got to, but no one was complaining and none of us really cared where the path would take us.
It took us to Croyde and lunch with Catherine, Flora and Ben Rubbra, who were our valiant back up team and who had brought us Flora’s delicious sandwiches.
We met Catherine and Flora again at Mortehoe.
We arrived at Illfracombe at about 8.30. My original section, Barnstaple to Illfracombe had been 18 miles, to which I had added another 6 miles in the morning: 24 miles at least. Not bad and I had made up for my late start of the previous day. In Illfracombe the sun was setting and people were getting ready to watch footie. Tomorrow was a scheduled rest day….and Fathers’ Day.
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