Daughter and Father Team run for Romilly in the Bristol 10k Saturday 5th May

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At Christmas Laura, who is twenty decided that she wanted to do something to commemorate the death of her cousin twenty years ago. She bought herself and her father, Sam, tickets to race in the Bristol 10K this Sunday 5th May. Her aim is to raise money for the care of street children, which Romilly’s charity supports. Sam says that it was quite hard to begin with, being dragged outside to train in the wet and cold, but that he is now in peak physical condition. They keen to go.

If you missed the opportunity to sponsor Miki, and would like to help Romilly to help street children, please sponsor Laura and Sam here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LauraandSamForshall

If you would like to hear how Laura and Sam get on in the Bristol 10k, and how Romilly is helping street children, by receiving our occasional newsletter, please fill in the form below.

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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


Llanmynech to Pontcysyllte Aquaduct – Day 16 of Romilly’s One Island Walk for Street Children

Johnny and the Phantom Signal Man.

Man in red walking past abandoned rolling stockAbandoned rolling stock                                                      © James Forshall                              

I had taken a wrong turning.                                                                                                                My mistake would take us out of our way but at least we were heading north.

Dick and Susie Carslake had given us a great breakfast. We had said goodbye to Rachel, Dick’s sister and her husband, who had so kindly put up Johnny and Jerry. Dick had dropped us at Llanmynech.  We had set off up the main road, crossed the river and then turned left.

We walked down an overgrown track. Somewhere down that track I missed our path. So when I saw an a track heading west through a bare field I took hoping would rejoin the correct route.  On the map it passed a large quarry, which had been turned into a farm reservoir. We could see what we thought must be the reservoir behind a wooded embankment and took the path which skirted it. This disappeared into thick thistles and ended in a fenced off corner. There was no style, though there might have been once. We took off our packs and clambered over the rickety fence. There were nettles and brambles to beat out of the  way, and then because the easiest way had seemed to be to climb the lateral fence and then recross it  rather than cross the one that was directly in front of us we had to swing down into a ditch. On the other side there was no path but we could see the embankment of the reservoir on the other side of the fence and followed parallel to it coming to fence over grown with brambles hawthorns. On the far side the ground fell to a stream too wide to jump.  Johnny said, ‘I think I’ll go down to that house. There must be a road there.’    ‘OK, see you at the bridge’. I was referring to a small foot bridge over the railway line which we had both seen on the map. Jerry and I clambered over the fence bashing through brambles down to the stream where a  fallen hazel provided a flimsy bridge. We pushed up the other side through nettles and brambles and out onto a railway track. The rails were rusty. We shouted for Johnny but heard no reply.

‘Let’s press on to the foot bridge. Johnny knows we’ll be there.’ I said turning and walking  down the track.  Jerry turned to look back.

‘Look! There’s a signal man waving at us.’ I turned but could see nothing, but the road bridge to the west that presumably Johnny would cross, certainly no sign of Johnny or a signal man. We shouted again.

‘No, he’s gone. But he was definitely waving at us’, Jerry said.

‘Probably to tell us to get off the track.’  We looked back again. Nothing. No one.

‘He was definitely there. He was dressed like a signalman.  You know, waistcoat, dark trousers, greasy black cap….’

‘ Why would they need a signal man?  This track hasn’t been used for years, probably not since the quarry was turned into a reservoir.’

‘Do you think if we asked in the pub the locals would say, ‘Signal man? Signal man?….The signal man down at bridge?  The one with the greasy cap? Oooh Err….you been seein’ the phantom signal man?’

‘ Definitely they would. Look at the state of this track. If that was a signalman he’d have to be a phantom one’.  Even though we were in sunny daylight there was the melancholy of a place once active that has been abandoned. The silence was dense in the heat. I shouted down the track but heard and saw nothing.

corrugated metal tyre through which a tree is growingAbandoned goods yard                                                  © James Forshall

We carried on down the railway track, passing rusting rolling stock and abandoned sheds. We came to a fork in the track where we bore left. The map indicated that it would take us to the road junction which was the start of the road would make a good short cut in a long day.  From the west it was joined by the road which Johnny would have to take from the house which he had said he was going to.  We came to a high barbed wire topped gate flanked by security cameras.  I could not imagine anyone being employed to watch them but we chose a spot which did not seem to be covered by them,  and shoving our sacks under the wire,  pulling ourselves through on our backs. A few more yards and we were at the road junction.  Since Johnny had had to go west and then east before joining the road and since we had taken the shortest route west without going east first and wasted no time it seemed logical to expect Johnny to appear on the road from the west.  We waited. Cars passed.  We looked at the map. Jerry didn’t want to take the road short cut that Johnny and I had identified. ‘It’s a bit soulless walking up the road.’  ‘Yes, but it adds a couple of klicks to follow the path.’

No sign of Johnny.  Jerry walked west down the road in the direction from which Johnny should appear. After a few minutes he returned to say that he had not seen Johnny. We heard a shout,  looked east and there was Johnny about three hundred yards down the road. How on earth had he got there when he should have come past us from the west?   We waited for him. He told us that at the house he had met an old man who told him that he was the signal man.

‘ He wasn’t wearing a waistcoat and a greasy cap was he?’, asked Jerry.

‘Well, yes he was’.  Jerry and I exchanged glances. It was strange that Johnny had appeared from the east.  It was if as we had traveled back in time and Johnny had reentered the present in a different place. That would explain the way that the path had suddenly disappeared in the thistles, and the appearance of the signal man, who from the way that Johnny and Jeremy had described him, had been dressed like the signal man in ‘The Railway Children’…..   Knowing Jerry he was probably wondering if Johnny could take us back with him and introduce us to Jenny Agutter, and knowing Johnny, who seems to know everyone, he probably could.

We agreed that as Jerry was our guest we would walk the path do the extra 3 kilometers. ‘You won’t regret it I guarantee’ said Jerry. We had to laugh knowing we would.  ‘It’s alright now. It’s still the morning, but we’ll pay for it later.’ I said. We set off along the path. It’s always nicer walking on a path than on tarmac. But it was hilly too, warm work and when we had the opportunity we stopped to fill our water bottles. From Nantmawr the path zig zagged up through woods for several hundred feet. It was steep. Near the top we saw this sign.

Orange ice cream sign painted on slate and nailed to fence on Offa's Dyke On we went and saw another. And then we came to a little house beside the path. It was painted the colour of vanilla ice cream, it’s doors and window smartie colours, but instead of luring us in and shoving us all into the deep freeze the young woman who lived there sold us some some cones, which we happily licked while admiring the view.  ‘It’s beautiful’.  ‘Aye but it’s rough up here in the winter’, she said.  Off we went and after a while came out of the woods to the summit of the hill which had fine views east into England. Jeremy said, ‘ See, I told you you wouldn’t regret it’

Map reading at spot height 285 near MoelyddMan sitting down amoung beech trees Offa's DykeNant-y-Gollen, Offa’s Dyke                                  © James Forshall

We followed the path and the dyke up through Nant-y-Gollen woods where we sat down to eat the delicious sandwiches which Susy Carslake had made us.  The woods led us out onto a plateau which was the site of the old Oswestry Race Course. The last race there was run in 1848. A group of young men with mountain bikes lay in the sun.  We plodded on.

Or rather I plodded, Jeremy who is tall strolled and Johnny was walking doggedly.  Pink sycmamore seeds and green leavesSycamore Pods           © James Forshall

We climbed some 700 feet to the shoulder of the hill to the north of Craignant and then down towards Chirk Mill with the Castle above it.

Chirk Castle, Offa's DykeChirk Castle                  © James Forshall

Chirk CastleChirk Castle                                                             © James Forshall

Two men walking in front of British White CattleLeaving Chirk Castle                                         © James Forshall

We walked up through the castle grounds and then out through fields where Park White Cattle grazed. Not far to go, though the tendon connecting my middle toe with the muscle running down the outside of my shin felt stiff and sore. It moved with difficulty.  I tried different ways of walking with little improvement.  As the evening wore on my pace slowed. By the time we got to the Llangollen Canal I was several hundred yards behind the others.

Reflection of Ash tree in Llangollen CanalLlangollen Canal     © James Forshall

Never mind. A good nights rest always seem to mend. We walked along the canal tow path towards the aqueduct built by Thomas Telford.

Canal, walkers, walking into sunlight, high contrastLlangollen Canal       © James Forshall

Aqueduct shadow over fields, shadow of Pontcysyllte AqueductPontcysyllte Aquaduct                     © James Forshall

A tow path on one side and a metal gutter full of canal water, just wide and deep enough to carry a barge, are supported on brick arches high above the valley. On the canal side of the aqueduct there is no rail. From the cockpit of a barge it must be as if you are floating a boat through the air.

At the far end of the aqueduct there is a basin, a drydock and a pub, which is where we had supper. I really felt as if I could not walk much further.  In the pub we settled down to our drinks, cider for Johnny, beer for Jerry and me.  In the other room football was playing on the telly.  The girl behind the bar was very pretty. One middle aged regular was camped at the far end of the bar to keep her in constant view. As Jerry said afterwards, ‘If only he had been able to keep his jaw from dropping’, but he couldn’t and sat there in happy, open mouthed wonder.

‘Where’ve you walked from? Asked the man on the next table. ‘Up from Swansea’

‘Fairplay’, He said.  His companion looked at us curiously.  I decided to research my etymological theory about the Welsh word cwm, which sounds like the English word coombe, both of which mean valley.  ‘Do you think that they are really the same word? I mean it’s a bit of a coincidence isn’t it: two words in different languages sounding the same and meaning the same even if they don’t look the same’

‘I really couldn’t tell you, could I?  I went to the wrong school, see?’

‘No really, I’m sure you didn’t…I mean…’

‘I went to the wrong school, didn’t I?

‘Well, I don’t know, I’m sure it was a very good school.’

‘No, see? They beat it out of us. Every time I spoke Welsh they whacked me. They whacked me when I spoke Welsh, see?  So I can’t answer your question.’

After a little while they left. ‘Gosh he was cross, but his wife seemed nice.’ I said.

‘I don’t think that was his wife’ said Jerry, ‘ When you were getting drinks he was already saying to her how mad his wife would be if she knew where he was.’

After a curry and more beer we walked up through the town and out into the country.  It was dark. About 300 yards from the houses we found a flat bit of field, got into our sleeping bags and went to sleep.

Sincere thanks to all those who have donated so very generously. If you have not donated and would like to help Romilly to help street children you can do so at







Montgomery to Llanmynech – Day 15 of Romillys One Island Walk for street children

I awoke early in the morning.  4.45? 5.00?  I remembered enjoying a lot of Nic’s wine the night before and going to bed wondering where my telephone was.  Where was it? Gingerly I rolled back my duvet and lowered my feet to the ground.  Ouch!  My right foot felt quite sore.  I rested it on my knee and twisted it to look at the sole. Not an appealing sight, the skin from the blister seemed to be muddled up with the plaster. I tugged gently. It looked as if pulling off the plaster would pull off the blister too. I didn’t want to expose the tender new skin under the blister. It would quickly form another one. My mind felt sluggish and I had the uncomfortable feeling that I had been a little emphatic in some of my remarks at dinner. I remembered Nic who I had barely seen in 30 years looking at me rather strangely. And wasn’t the default alarm on my phone set for 5.30  when it’s Carribean Funky Disco tone set to max would wake the whole house?rucksack contentsI emptied my rucksack pushing the contents apart. No telephone there. I lifted the duvet, rifled through the rucksack again, felt in my coat pockets, my trouser pockets. The bathroom. I had to cross the landing onto which Nic and Nicky’s door opened. I certainly did not want to wake them. The door to their room was wide open. The wooden floored landing stretched before me like a minefield. Gently I put down a foot. The floor was solid though in the middle one board groaned and wheezed. I froze: front foot on tiptoe, back and head arched backwards, arms raised in surrender. It was not that I was actually doing anything wrong but looking for your mobile at the risk of waking up your hosts is a bit unreasonable and, well,  move like a burglar, feel like a burglar.  Not a sound came from their room. I imagined my hosts lying there in polite silence. How could two middle aged people, youthfully slim though they are, make so little noise in their sleep? I couldn’t even hear them breathing. With one or two more squeaks and wheezes from the floor boards I made it to the bathroom. No sign of the telephone. In the kitchen? Very slowly I made my way downstairs.

Downstairs I entered  a room I hadn’t seen before, then another which wasn’t the kitchen either.  Then I found the kitchen. I went round it. Several mobile telephones were charging, but not mine.  Where could it be?  The only remaining place I had not checked was Nic’s car. Bound to be locked but perhaps I might see it through the window.  Still no sound from their bedroom. The bolt slid back quite easily. I opened the door quietly. Outside the sun was just coming up. I stood there for a moment taking it in. There was dew on the lawn and the dawn air fresh to my blurred senses. The cool of the paving stones felt delicious. Steps led down to where the car was parked, and there on the gleaming black leather was my telephone.  What did Sherlock Holmes say? Eliminate all other possibilities and what remains is the answer. Well, something like that. I tried the door handle. To my amazement it opened: not just Sherlock Holmes, but a magician too. I crept back to bed and fell asleep, the contents of my rucksack scattered across the floor.

Wooden Offa's Dyke Sign post converted to Bird table Offa’s Dyke Bird Table                                              © James Forshall

If I had woken them Nic and Nicky were far too polite to say. After another delicious breakfast we said good bye to Nicky and Nic drove us to Montgomery where we had finished walking the night before.  It was another beautiful morning. Montgomery is a very pretty town. One wonders how it can possibly have escaped the planners and developers, but then they like to lay the blame for their work on German bombers. I thought sadly what a delightful place prewar Britain must have been, and how much we have destroyed.

We walked out into the country and headed north. Further uphill we could see two women. They stood admiring the view at the top and we said good morning to them. The younger one said, ‘I’m just exercising my mum’. Then Johnny said, ‘ Don’t I know you?. Weren’t you at ……….’s Party?’.  We stood and talked to her for a while. After we had moved off Johnny said, ‘Very odd she couldn’t remember me. I must have talked to her for at least half an hour’.

The way was well marked which was lucky because we did not have a map.  Then at Forden, whose pub was closed we missed our turning.  We could see the hill where we were meeting Jeremy Love to our east.  I asked the way from a man mowing grass. We came to a pub and I asked the way again. I also had a lime cordial and a sandwich which took up too much time.  The directions from the publican were different but sounded easier.  We were to go through the home farm of an estate and then to a church and from the two pillared gate at the back of the church the the path would take us up the hill to another farm where we would turn left, and that would lead us to the beacon where we were to meet Jeremy.  In the end we called Jeremy and agreed to meet at a pub on the Severn a mile or two further on which would save a mile or two and a steep climb.  On the  way we came to a beautiful black and white timbered house.  ‘Hang on a moment.  That looks like ……….’s house,’ Johnny said, ‘Do you mind if I go in and say hello?’.
Two walkers picnic on Offa's Dyke by the River SevernLunch by the Severn, Offa’s Dyke                                       © James Forshall 

We met Jeremy at the pub in Buttington and had a lime cordial. We crossed the Severn and found a place to picnic, then followed the river for a mile before crossing the main road and walking beside the Montgomery Canal.

Montgomery Canal, Offa's Dyke, Montgomery Canal, Offa’s Dyke                      © James Forshall

Between the river and the road a motor bike was parked. It’s middle aged ride and his postillienne were lying in the grass stripped to their underclothes, their black leathers hanging over the bike. ‘ They’re OK in the winter but in this weather….Ooph!….. swap your shorts for my leathers any day’.  ‘Throw in the bike and you’ve got a deal’….actually I didn’t say that. I definitely thought it. We left the canal and then walked across the river plain, along a dyke, not Offa’s but a modern flood defense.  To the east we could see a hill, eaten away by mining, in huge steps like a Mayan temple but without the fine lines of masonry, a Mayan temple with some terrible skin disease.

Bird scarerBird scarer.    (You can also use hubcaps for this.)                    © James Forshall

Although we had no OS map, Jeremy had torn a sketch map from an old guide book and in his hands this proved remarkably useful. The country side was not as pretty as the day before. I felt tired and the discomfort from the blister or my right leg seemed to have spread to my shin.  On we went.

Offa's Dyke, River SevernOffa’s Dyke trail, River Severn                                       ©  James Forshall

It was a relief for someone else to do the navigating.  Of course it is not all fun when the person doing the navigating is not skilled and gets lost, but ever since I have known him Jerry has been a brilliant map reader and we could have complete confidence in him. As day wore on though I missed the map reading. Keeping track of where you are takes your mind off fatigue and sore feet.

Oak Trees leaning at different angles on Offa's Dyke trailOffa’s Dyke Trail                                      ©   James Forshall

In Llanmynech we met Dick Carslake, who had kindly come to pick us up. We all went into the pub for a drink.  Dick then took us back to his house where Susy gave us a delicious supper.

Offa's Park sign and housesOffa’s Park                                                                    ©  James Forshall

Thank you to all who have donated so generously to Romilly.  We are moving steadily towards our first target. I will write to thank you.

If you have not donated and would like to help Romilly help homeless children you can do so here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/RomillysOneIslandWalk


Tairbull to Erwood – Day 12 of Romilly’s One Island Walk for street children

Market researches, girls with clipboardsMarket Researchers in Brecon                                                                       © James Forshall

We walked down the main road for the few remaining miles to Brecon.  Johnny wanted to buy some new boots and I needed some maps for the next leg of the journey.

Orchids We were heading  for Nighton, which is two days walk from Brecon.   A straight line drawn on the map would take us within a few miles of Erwood, where there is a bridge over the Wye.    There were few footpaths across the farmland and those did not go in our direction but across it. We would have to take lanes for much of the days walk.  Although it would not be difficult to navigate, tarmac is an unforgiving surface on which to walk.

Looking south to Pen Y Fan framed by treesLooking south to Pen y Fan                                                                             © James Forshall

We stopped at a farm house to fill my water bottle. You could see the Brecon Beacons clearly.  ‘Yes it’s a lovely view’, said the farmer’s wife, who was cutting up cabbage, ‘ but it’s rough up here in winter.’

I walked out of the farm to find that Caro, a friend of Johnny, and who lives nearby, had arrived with ginger beer, pork pies and chunks of delicious ginger cake.  Thank you Caro.

DSCF8998 Ivy clad telephone box copyright James ForshallTelephone Box                                                                                           © James Forshall

At Erwood we stopped for a drink in the pub. As I walked in an old habitue of the place, said, ‘Well hello, looks like Crocodile Dundee’, and sniggered. What I should have said was, ‘Looks like Crocodile Dundee…. It is Crocodile Dundee’….  but of course I didn’t.  I was tired.

We walked through Erwood over the bridge and up the hill on the other side leaving the road and heading north through fields hedged with hawthorn further uphill.  We saw a curlew and heard it’s cry as it tried to distract us from it’s nest.  Peter, Caro’s husband came to pick us up. He took us back to their beautiful house on the banks of the Wye where Caro was preparing a delicious supper.

It was the night of England’s match against Uruguay. We watched the first half before eating and then watched the recorded second half, and the Nibbler of Uruguay destroy England’s hopes.  Well better to be beaten by a superstar and than a mediocrity, and England’s spoilt, overpaid players did seem to be trying a little harder than usual. The surprise of the game was Rooney scoring a goal.  We all agreed that it had been a good game and as I stumbled off to bed I thought what a jolly evening it had been, how delicious the food and how kind and hospitable our hosts, and although I cleaned my teeth I certainly don’t remember my head touching the pillow.

You can help Romilly help homeless children here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/RomillysOneIslandWalk

Engine Trouble – Day 9 Romilly’s One Island Walk for Street Children

My plan was to sail from Illfracombe to Swansea.  A friend of a friend of a friend had kindly said that they would take me in their tri marin.  I was delighted.  It would be an adventure, and not cheating because I would probably be seasick all the way and wishing I had walked instead.  We were to sail 36 hours after my arrival in Ilfracombe.  I had planned a rest day.  All good.

On the rest day I received a call from the skipper. ‘The engine won’t start. We’re repairing it but there’ll be a days delay.’

‘ Do we really need an engine though. What about the sails?  What about using a rowing boat to pull it out like in Master and Commander?’

‘ No, sorry, can’t be done. It’s got no steerage below 5 knots. We need the engine to get out of the harbour.’

Well, I could certainly do with another rest day.  I’d just have to make up the time when I got to Swansea.  An extra 5 miles a day for four days should sort it out.

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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Boscastle to Bude – Day 5 of Romilly’s One Island Walk for Street Children

Barnaby Dickens and I left Boscastle at 8.00.  It was another beautiful day.

Boscastle, low tide, fishing boats, creekBoscastle harbour.

DSCF8429We stuck to the coast path all the way to Bude.

Rock and seaAs with much of the north Cornwall and Devon part of the coast the path descends steeply and reascends steeply. From the tops the successive folds in the land are often hidden. It is very hard work. Reggie, Barnaby’s terrier thought so anyway.Barnaby Dickens on  South West Coast Path

Barnaby Dickens, who very generously asked all his friends to donate to Romilly instead of giving him birthday presents.  Many thanks to all you generous friends of Barnaby.

red and yellow butterfly

Plastic dog shit bagHas any one calculated the carbon foot print of the nations dog and cat food?  Whatever it is you can now add the energy consumed manufacturing dog shit bags which some dog owners feel some else should pick up.

two men sitting on bollards on beach drinking with dog looking onLucy supported us with refreshments, which Reggie kept an eye on.

DSCF8466We ended the day at Bude where we stayed the night in a comfortable b and b. We ate in an Indian Restaurant. Delicious. I had two pints of Tiger draft.

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Portreath to Perranporth – Day 3 of Romilly’s One Island Walk for street children

I awoke at 4.30 in the morning but I didn’t know it then because my mobile was charging up in the camp deep freeze room.  The tent fly-sheet was flapping and a bird was singing right next to the tent door. It was like wearing stereo head phones. Each note was precise, a strangely beautiful, alien music with tiny rapid clicks below the treble.. and incredibly loud.  I wondered if it was a skylark, if my phone batteries had charged, and what the time was. I unzipped the door and wandered bare foot through the dew.  4.30! Blimey. Back to bed. Catherine was coming at 7.00 to take me back to Portreath to meet Lucy Gore who was walking with me, Rosie, Rosco, and Flora.

DSCF8302Lucy, Flora, Rose and Rosco

We met beside the Portreath car park where Guy and Jamie had picked me up the night before.

DSCF8252The coast was lovely, beautiful, but the layout and architecture of many of the coastal settlements is dismal. In some places not far from the path a field of houses, like some deviant experimental crop, had been plonked down without any apparent relation to anything .

Path, 4 walkers, sea, houses in distance

Houses, green hill, sand, sky

Beach, wave breaking, grass covered cliffDoes a beach like this……

Deserve development like this?

Buildings on green cliff above beachDSCF8293

DSCF8282 Team Romilly at Chapel Porth © Beach CafeTeam Romilly at Chapel Porth Beach Cafe

Brown Dome in brown field fence and MOD notice

DSCF8330Redistributing the blood after lunch at Perrenporth.

DSCF8310 Cold War: airfield dispersion blast shelter.

That night I we reached Crantock, just before Newquay and well beyond the day’s target. With my team of walkers it had been a very jolly day of beautiful views and sunshine. A great day. If I can carry on like this I’ll have time to spare for a rest day.