Romilly’s One Island Walk: Tibby Shiels to Stobo

View of Loch St Mary through leafless trees

I set off up the road from Tibby Shiels with Loch St Mary on my right. The sun bounced off the water. The cold, metallic light darkened the outline of the trees. There were no leaves to be seen. It could have been February rather than May.

After a mile or so I took the path which follows the Megget Water up to the dam. I was walking across moorland, at times the path was no more than a soggy, black carpet of peat. To my right were fields of grass enclosed in stone walls. A few sheep grazed. I heard the cry of curlews. Gradually the path neared the river and at the same time the road from the dam on the other side drew closer to the river too.

Rather than walk two sides of a triangle to cross at the dam I decided to cross just beyond a small island. It looked as if I might be able to step from stone to stone. I stepped out onto a stone and then, following the momentum already flowing, jumped to a large rock. I landed on its side, clung on, and with some difficulty scrambled up onto it. The stream was wider and the stones further apart than I had thought. I sat on top of the rock taking off boots and socks and rolling up my trousers.  The flow of water was vigorous. Its rush and noise hid the sounds of bird and sheep, enclosing me, drawing me down to the river’s world. It looked deeper and faster than I had thought. I stepped cautiously into the water. It was freezing. The stones were rounded and slippery. I hoped for my camera’s sake that I would not fall in, but gosh, it was cold. My feet and ankles felt as if they were being squeezed fiercely by something so cold that it burnt. I would have liked to have moved faster but the darkness of the water and the uncertainty of the stones slowed me down. I clambered out and sat in the sun drying myself and enjoying the tingling sensation in my legs.

I walked up the road and joined my friends at the dam. We set off west and then took a path where there was a public footpath sign. The path was marked on the map but straight away forked in a way that was not. The map path ran up hill parallel to the stream in the valley below, but did not seem to be as consequent as the diverging path which seemed to beckon and corresponded better with the authority of the footpath sign. We stuck with the smaller path and headed up hill past a plantation, keeping the stream or burn below us on our left. We were on the western edge of the map and would soon move on the eastern edge of the next map and had to look from one to another.

It did not seem quite right and at times I was not sure which valley I was in. I took a bearing from where I hoped that we were to the head of the Manor Valley.  The path disappeared and we found ourselves walking uphill through rough tussocky heather. It was hard work.  The burn below swung off to the west. It should have been a sign. I checked my compass and we continued. We went north west down hill to a gate in a fence which we went through and then sensing the empty space behind the rise in front of us walked to its top and found ourselves on a cliff of moorland grass falling steeply to the valley floor with the valley laid out before us. Bingo! It is a happy moment when one’s faith in the wobbly needle of the compass is fulfilled: a kind of magic, a trick played on oneself.

Looking North down the Manor valley, smooth hills and valley sides with occasional plantations, rough moorland grass in the foreground
Looking north from the head of the Manor Valley

We walked down the hill, traversing and re traversing its steep sides and then headed north down the valley.  High up on the valley side where the sky met the hill we could see the silhouette of a man on a quad moving jerkily.

sheep skull with moss

The path became a track. At the edge of a wood we stood back to let a farmer, his boy and dogs herd ewes and lambs up the valley. One of the lambs was left behind by its mother, who was cut out and driven back by the dog while the farmer scooped up the lamb letting it hang by its front legs from his meaty hand.  We walked through the farm yard and down the track. A young woman was hanging out washing. There were few trees and little garden but daffodils had been planted by the track.

Twisted Beech tree

We walked past a low hill to our left. On the map it was labeled in gothic print, ‘MacBeth’s Castle’. Later I emailed a friend called MacBeth, who lives in Glasgow, who replied saying that there were a lot of ‘MacBeth’s Castles’ but sadly none of them belonged to her.

Gate at Dead Wife's Grave with view of hills beyond

Just after that we took a wide path between stone walls which passed between fields to the left and forestry to the right. At the top  we entered a wood and continuing up hill came to a gate at the edge of the wood with a view of the next valley. The place is called Dead Wife’s Grave, a name which belies the beauty of the place and the tenderness of this simple memorial to someone loved.

Soon we could see Stobo.  We walked down cheerfully. We heard a clattering, panting and turned to see a young man, his arms held out hopefully like featherless wings, run past in an ecstasy of kinetic energy.

Beech tree trunk behind stone wall or dyke covered in lichen, sheep and meadow in background

At Dawyck Mill we crossed over the River Tweed. It had been a good day.

I am walking a long way to raise money to help homeless children. If you have not already done so, please donate at


Instow to Illfracombe – Day 8 Romilly’s One Island Walk for street children

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. electricity poles, old fence poles floodingI 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.

We continued along the Tarka Line. More tarmacadam. The weather was hot too. Team Romilly © James ForshallTeam Romilly: Tessa Rubbra, Tim Drake, Bill Bennett and Lizzie Drake.

Our first target was Croyde. Luckily there was a footpath across the hill, which we took and which gave us lovely  views across the estuary.DSCF8680

DSCF8681Just 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.

Toad Warning © James ForshallToad warning.

Team Romilly Woolacombe Beach © James ForshallTeam Romilly on Woolacombe Beach.


DSCF8705Team Romilly. Lizzie being good humoured about getting sea in her boots.

We met Catherine and Flora again at Mortehoe.

 admiring the beach © James ForshallOur admirable back up team admiring the view from Mortehoe.

DSCF8733 © James ForshallGreenbank, sea view, foxglovesfootpath closed sign, man climbing fenceVisiting the danger tree.

Man and woman on footpath sign keep to the pathWe 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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Clovelly to Instow – Day 7 of Romilly’s One Island Walk for Street Children

Rules are made to be broken aren’t they? At least this is what I thought to myself as I lingered over Jasper’s delicious breakfast: porridge, followed by bacon and eggs. Very good indeed. So entirely understandable.  But don’t you find that? You lay down the law, in this case about B and B’s not serving breakfast early enough and then life sets things up to make you look like a real hypocrite….at least that’s what I find.

It was very pleasant in Jasper’s kitchen and I would have liked to have stayed longer but I knew that I would pay for any delay….and I did.  But not at first. Jasper and Henry dropped me off where he had picked me up the night before and I made my way down to the Hobby Drive.

On the way I passed one of those traffic mirrors so perfect for selfies

Man's face in mirror in hedge

Rock with plaque to RAF CrewmenAnd then this very sad memorial to the crew of a Wellington which crashed on anti submarine patrol. The youngest of these boys was 21 when he died, the same age as Beatrice now. Even the captain was only 31, the same age as Rose.  I imagine it was foggy or dark and that they thought they were over water and at higher altitude. How terribly sad.

The Hobby Ride was built by Jasper’s ancestors.  It follows the contours about 1/6 th of the way down the cliffs and from time to time you have wonderful views of the sea.DSCF8612Looking down on Clovelly from the Hobby Ride.

DSCF8614Looking north along the coast from he Hobby Ride

DSCF8621After a while the drive or ride is left behind and you continue on the coast path, which is delightful here. You can glimpse the sea, but you are in the shade of the trees. Although I love the sea I find it strong and alien, the light is so bright, from distance it looks flat and hard and the line of the horizon is sharp. I’m drawn to it but I find it soothing to enter the cool green of the woods.  So I loved this part of the walk, glimpsing the intense blue from the cool, gentle green.

From Green Cliff I walked across country to Bideford. I hesitated at the crossroad at Abbotsham.  Behind me a voice said,

‘Don’t you drop that there Kevin. This in’t a public dump.’

I turned round to see a huge red haired man whose torso was covered in tattoes. In front of him was a white convertible full of small children one of which, a girl, was holding a small black spaniel and another of which must have been Kevin. I don’t usually ask the way for various reasons, which I will give later, but this time I did. ‘What is the shortest  way into Biddeford from here?’

‘Thart depends. Which way you want?  The way the crow flies or the way the duck flies?’

The children were looking up at me with interest and one or two of the vikings fellow crew men, who had appeared from nowhere, were looking at me with expectant grins.  It sounded to me as if this was a prime case for my rule of not asking directions. On the whole, though I thought that taking the duck option would be asking for trouble.  ‘The way the crow flies’ I said quickly. With some relief I saw that it was the right answer for though the crew men laughed, ‘Heh, Heh’, they did so in a disappointed way.

‘Well the way the crow flies is to take that next right there and then go straight and straight and straight and straight not turning left or right and then you’ll get to Bideford.’ And so it was, but I did wonder as I plodded on, what way the duck went.  Actually, I felt like a bit of a duck. Not exactly waddling but something like it. Hobbling. So a duck with a hobbled waddle.

At Bideford I had instructions to call Johnny. He was pleased to hear from me. ‘It sounds as if you’ve only got another three miles’, he said. I was heading up the Tarka Trail to Barnstable which was my target for the day.  I had a cup of tea in the hotel where a group of Londoners was settling in for a week end of football, and spread out my map.  I had been on a fold. Funny but that looked like quite a lot more than 3 miles. As I joined the foot path there was a sign. ‘Barnstable 9 miles.’  9 miles!  I’d better get a move on.  I was paying for that late start with Jasper.  In the end I called Johnny and we agreed to meet at Instow, about 3 miles on.  I would have to make up the six miles tomorrow.

Daisies, sea, estuary, boats, Instow,Tarka TrailLooking north from the Tarka Trail towards Instow

I liked Instow and I liked walking along the Tarka Trail.  It used to be a railway line. I felt that it would have been better to have been one now.  The line is paved with tarmac and for some reason there is nothing, but nothing, harder to walk on than tarmac. It is very tiring. Flat but tiring, and hammers the joints.

At Instow I waited for Johnny down by the front. On the other side of the wall there was a beach and just beside the sea wall a young family. At first I thought that they must be Eastern European with their strange their accents. I was curious and couldn’t resist asking where they were from.

‘Biremingham..I expect you can tell from the accent’. So that was it. I asked them where they lived. They’d moved to Devon. I was amazed. They had moved near to Winkleigh, in the middle of nowhere from Birmingham. ‘Aye, and where we live is even more in the middle of nowhere than Winkleigh, but at least some people have heard of Winkleigh.’  They had three children under 7. They had both found jobs. He was a factory hand setting up as a decorator and she was a carer. We had a nice chat. I wish I had taken their name so that I could have given their telephone number for the decorating.  They were obviously hard working, but what could have persuaded them to leave Birmingham for a part of the country with such feeble employment prospects and so much unemployment?  I wish I’d asked. I wished them luck.DSCF8659Young man with young family from Birmingham settled in Devon: enterprising, hardworking decorator.

Johnny picked me up and took me back to his house for a delicious supper with Rose, and Tim and Lizzie Drake who were joining me for the next day. But somehow I had to make up those six miles.

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Philemon Chilufya is not a street child. This is his home.

This is the house where his mother Mrs Chilufya looks after Philemon, his two sisters and their children.  She is a widow.  Readers of this blog will remember that her husband, Philemon’s father, a security guard, was murdered in July 2012 while on duty at the Friends of Street Children site where Romilly’s donors had paid for the construction of two dormitories. African child in yellow top standing in front of house with corrugated iron roof and washing lineSince her husband’s death life has not been easy for Mrs Chilufya and her family. Christopher Mulenga of Friends of the Street children tells me, that they live in ‘abject poverty’. Now she is unable to find £170 to pay for Philemon’s school fees and uniform.  Philemon has done well at school and passed his exams to move up into Year 10, but the Zambian government does not provide free schooling after Year 7. Thanks to his gallant mother Philemon is not a street child, and keeping a child at school is one of the best ways of making sure that he (0r she) does not become one.

The trustees of Romilly’s charity will be sending the money for Philemon’s school fees and uniform, as well as £360 to repair the minibus generously paid for by Romilly’s donors.

If you would like to help Romilly  to give street children a chance click on the button below to donate.


Miki races in London for Street Children in Africa

I asked Miki Jablowski if she had ever run a marathon. She has. So she knows what it takes. Not only that, but in the last twelve months she has broken her ankle in two places and torn a ligament. If that was not bad enough she has a degenerative spine.   So hers a heroic effort for street children.

Miki training for London Marathon
Miki prepares to run the London Marathon for Street Children and Romilly

Miki feels the fear but does it anyway.

Miki works on the technical side of theatre, lighting and automated scene changing, and is currently working on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical, Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre.

Why Romilly?  ‘Because I am very impressed and moved by the work done, by the extremely valid Romilly street children projects ;
because I have seen how large charities spend our money and I can see that small charities use our money more efficiently as their overheads are lower, have few resources – if any – for marketing.  As a result, our support is much more important to small charities.’

If you would like to support Romilly’s actions for Street Children and Miki’s heroic run please sponsor Miki at