Sunday, 23 November 2014

Starting Cold

One of the bonuses of the new job (beside getting to stay at a centre with an attached reserve) is the opportunity to do hill and moor training in the spring. As I've been sat on my behind a lot this year (birding hasn't been exactly strenuous) I decided to start getting my fitness back in order with some practice hikes. Everyone knows when out walking, its best to start cold; leave off you coat, ditch the scarf, get warm on the way. So I applied that logic to getting back into the hiking habit. Last night I hit the national park interactive map, selected the "more challenging" option, and hoped for the best. The walk chose was a 7 mile round route on Exmoor. I picked it for the same reason I pick most things. It allowed me to say something daft; case and point - "this morning I had to get into Simonsbath".

Simonsbath is only 40 mins from Nettlecombe, so I managed to grab breakfast with the other trainees, load up my bag with trail bars and bananas and be out and walking by 10 past 10. I followed part of the Two Moors Way, alongside the River Barle, to Bradymoor. The route then turned back past Picked Stones, across the Coombe of White Water, and past Winstitchen Farm to return to Simonsbath.

Starting down the Barle Valley

The route is anything but strenuous as I wind my way down the valley, hugging the bank of the Barle; but the ground is very wet and I spend a great deal of time picking round the marshier areas. As I drop down into the valley I pass the ruins of Wheel Eliza, an old mine (originally copper but later iron ore). Then on past the Cow Castle, an iron age fort atop a steeply sided hillock.

River Barle Toward Bradymoor

Just past the Cow Castle is a bridge of White Water, then the path winds up into a conifer plantation, moving away from the river and up onto Bradymoor. 

Conifer Plantation at Horsen Ford

After getting through the plantation, the path then rose for another mile or so, before sharply turning back on itself. The ground was incredibly boggy, and I was glad that I'd managed to reproof my boots the week before. Every gate was a mire formed by hundreds of passing feet, but thankfully I only met 5 people in the day. 

As I dropped down into White Water Coombe, I realised that the walk was the wrong way round! Suddenly the gradient shot up and I was looking at a sloping valley wall. After a year of not walking, and the previous two hours hard pace, I made a real meal out of the hill; stopping halfway up to "enjoy the view". But once at the top, the only way was down, through another four boggy fields and Britain's highest beech forest, before slipping my way back to the car. 

Exmoor was definitely the best place to restart my walking, as the route was incredibly kind... maybe I'll try for a 10 mile walk next Sunday...

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