Ben Keates and Tom Ayres

A friend and I had completed the Three Peaks Challenge last year and decided we wanted to up the stakes and do the impossible so we researched treks and challenges and came across the route called ‘Two Moors Way’: an 102-mile route passing through Dartmoor and Exmoor with vast field and farmland in the middle section. We decided to make the challenge a coast to coast, meaning we started at Wembury on the south coast of Devon, adding a 15-mile trek to Ivybridge where the Two Moors Way starts.

Neither of us were experienced walkers and we didn’t have much map reading experience but we did complete the whole thing by use of a map, compass and guidebook.

We had a total of 117 miles to walk and set ourselves a three-day window to achieve this. We did the trek completely unsupported and carried all our provisions  including camping gear and food and water. Our backpack weight started at 12kg each which really took its toll. We hoped to complete 40 miles a day but straight away this seemed massively unachievable. We found the barren land on Dartmoor a huge task and difficult to navigate.

Day 1 we dipped our toe in the sea at Wembury at 5am and stopped at 10pm that evening in Dunston Down. We had completed 37.5 miles. Unfortunately we were on very high ground and woke at about 1am to find we were caught in a lightning storm. We made a decision to leave our tent and bags and try to find shelter. We walked to the local village [Widecombe] about ½ mile away, onto lower ground. We knocked on a house door and were allowed us to sleep on the floor, then set off for day 2 at 4.30am. The weather was awful and it rained until about 11am when we stopped in a village to refuel. This part of the challenge became the hardest and I hit a real low point; having only completed 11 miles in 7 hours things didn’t look good, but after refuelling and a short rest we set off for the afternoon. The weather dried up and we had a very successful afternoon completing 18 miles in the first 6 hours, we then pushed as hard as we could until dusk, and stopped in the village of Morchard Bishop. We ended up chatting to the landlady at the London Inn about where we could safely camp; fortunately she took pity on us and allowed us to sleep in the pub’s outhouse on the skittle alley. It was great to get in the dry, but we were 7 miles short at the end of day 2: we had a long way to go on our final day.

Day 3 we set off at 4am knowing if we wished to complete the task we had 46 miles to cover. We pushed through hard and had to make up a lot of time. We ate ration packs on the move and had to get 30 miles done to meet our partners at Withypool. They replenished our first aid and water 16 miles short of the finish (incredibly we made it there by 2.30pm, completing 30 miles in 11 hours). We swapped our heavy bags for rucksacks for the final stretch and applied half of Superdrug to hold our wrecked feet together. Again once rested up we had our final 16 miles to hobble which brought us in to the coastal village of Lynmouth, the finish line, at 10.15pm!

We had completed the challenge in 65 hours! We had around 60 active hours over the three days running on around five hours sleep. We took around 240,000 steps and burnt around 9000 calories each day with approx. 9000 metres of ascent and descent. The challenge really took its toll and the mental and physical aspects were such a battle. According to records we were the first civilians to complete this coast-to-coast trek in three days.

The charities we did it for were both close to our hearts and have had an impact on our families:
We Hear You – cancer counselling (located in and supporting Frome and surrounding area)
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Start point: Wembury
Finish point: Lynmouth
Distance travelled: 117 miles
Started: 26/05/2017
Walking time: 65 hours
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