My last walk of 2014! I wanted to do a walk along the SWCP that I could drive to and complete in a single day. I therefore started looking at some of the north Devon sections. I opted for a very flat walk from Westward Ho! to Barnstaple. I had been many years ago, for work related purposes, to Barnstaple. However, I had never been to Bideford or the wonderfully named Westward Ho! The only town in the UK with a punctuation mark in its name.
I drove very early to and parked in Barnstaple. I walked to the bus station and caught the 5:45 to Westward Ho! Needless to say I was the only passenger on the bus and the only person on the deserted seafront, well it was still dark at this time of the year! I set off along the cobbly shore with my head-torch on. The sky was lovely and clear and promised to be a lovely sunrise in about an hour or so. I rounded Northam Burrows and walked along a dirt track towards the twinkling lights of Appledore. By the time I reached Appledore, I no longer needed my head-torch.
I was now walking inland to the first (actually second bridging point) of the River Torridge at Bideford. The first bridging point is the new Torridge bridge which carries the main trunk road high over the river. As I head into the small town of Bideford, I pop into a local cafe and get a coffee to take away. I walk along the quay at Bideford aiming for the old bridge of over the Torridge. I am now walking back out along the opposite bank of the river. I am also on the route of the old railway line which will take me all the way to Barnstaple.
After chatting to a local man I met on the path about football and this and that I continue on through Instow, which directly opposite Appledore across the River Torridge, where I had been a few hours before. I make a couple of excursions out to what is now the River Taw, before the marsh forces me to rejoin the railway route, which is now called The Tarka Trail, after the otter of the same name in the story Henry Williamson, which was set in this area of Devon.
The walking along the Tarka Trail is mainly composed of very long and straight tarmac path, with few walkers but plenty of cyclists. I pass through another station halt at Fremington whose station and platform still exists, but is now a cafe.
The final walk into Barnstaple is across the 15th century Long Bridge in which I find the town very busy on this saturday afternoon, with lots of people out and about. The walk has taken me just 6hrs.
Distance today = 18.5 miles
Total distance = 675.5 miles