BY ELIZABETH CLIFFORD
After the recent death of a close relative and a lot of stress at work, I was urged by my husband to take a week off and join him on the Two Moors Walk crossing Dartmoor and Exmoor. The Two Moors Way crosses from one coast to another right across Devon.
This video explains the route:
We decided to go from south to north so started in Wembury and ended in Lynmouth. I’m told we walked 117 miles in all but we suffered a couple of diversions due to an over-reliance on technology (which stopped working in certain parts of Exmoor) and we discovered gems of pubs and quaint little shops along the way. So we likely walked 150 miles! There were several to-die-for views which also distracted us, of course. There are many things to do, places to see and settlements to explore along the route.
What were the highlights of the trip for us?
We didn’t want to leave beautiful Wembury where we saw a rainbow from the pretty beach just as we set off. The beach at Wembury is owned by the National Trust and they have looked after it beautifully. A diversion to Widecombe in the Moor (a mile and a half off route) is a must, where ponies freely roam and there are good places to eat including the Rugglestone Inn where we tucked into a Rugglestone platter of Ham, cheddar and stilton served with salad, pickles, homemade coleslaw and crusty bread – perfect for walkers who don’t want to get bogged down with heavy food before walking in the afternoon.
The villages along the route are chocolate box and all postcard-worthy. Nonetheless, when we arrived at Withypool just as the sun was coming down over the river there, we were blown away. Along the banks of the River Barle grow the withies or willow trees that give Withypool its name and, crossing the river is the characteristic six arched Withypool Bridge. This was built around a hundred years ago to replace an old packhorse bridge that stood further up the river.
A mile or two off the route, Exford is often referred to as the ‘Heart of Exmoor’ and boasts two pubs/hotels, a youth hostel, tea rooms and a village shop, many located around the picturesque village green. By the time we arrived in Exford my husband Tom had blisters and we welcomed the rest.
The end of the walk is marked by the twin settlements of Lynmouth by the coast and Lynton nestling some 500ft above connected via a Victorian water-powered cliff railway. It’s actually Lynmouth that marks the official end of the Two Moors Way where it meets the Coleridge Way and South West Coast Path opposite the Lynmouth Pavilion National Park Centre on the esplanade. A range of shops, eating places and places to stay make this a great place to rest a while at the end of the walk! (You will appreciate the rest).
But for us the highlight of the walk was our stay in Witheridge, one of the larger settlements along the Mid Devon section of the route, with a population of just over 1000! Its name is derived from the Old English for ‘Weather Ridge’, given its location on an exposed hilltop, which we arrived at somewhat dishevelled and cold after something of a storm. We stayed at the Mitre Inn there which is frequented regularly by the many and various stout-hearted ramblers who attempt the Two Moors Walk. We did not want to leave. The food was absolutely delicious – Tom tucking into a sumptuous Exmoor Fillet Chateaubriand in a rich Bourguignon sauce, while I filled my boots with local Wild Red Venison Steak cooked in port and redcurrant with creamed horseradish parsnip and garlic roast sweet potato. The owners, Andy and Barbara Collidge, were incredibly welcoming and kept us amused with local tales and filled with local ales. The stay overnight was very comfortable and a home away from home. As we set off the next morning for Knowstone, we literally needed pushing on our way! We shall definitely be going back.
Tom and I discussed Malta, Barbados and even Australia as places to take a break in. But I can tell you now that the exertions of the Two Moors Way and the sense of achievement in completing the walk were just what the doctor ordered. I returned to work refreshed. I had somehow found time whilst walking to grieve and to reminisce about my recently lost loved one.
I urge you to walk. You’ll have no regrets.
Liz Clifford is a Guest Writer and Friend of Country Squire Magazine. Liz works in the City as a financial analyst for a large British bank and resides in the West Sussex countryside with her husband Tom and a collection of Persian cats.