This is the seventh leg of the route for a group of people who have joined members of the Two Moors Way Association walking the route together. We aim to do two sections each year in April and September when the days are long enough to handle start times dictated by transport logistics (we use minibuses to get people from A – B, and then to walk back to A!). Our plans were interrupted by the pandemic and then, when it was very enticing to get back out walking in groups, by the caution which surrounded travelling in minibuses. Anyway, Big Walk 7 was planned long enough ago that we had no idea that the UK would be in the grip of a September heatwave that led the UK Health Security Agency to issue a health warning. Consequently we advised walkers to wear a hat, apply sunscreen and carry more water than they would normally consider necessary. We gave careful consideration to ‘water stops’, in suitably shaded locations where possible. The route we were taking lent itself to our plans fairly well: we set off across open moorland and climbed to Hawkridge, stopping in the hamlet’s churchyard, which provided a shady setting, before carrying on to Tarr Steps. We then had a ‘half lunch’ break beside the River Barle where walkers could again rest in the shade and in some cases buy an ice cream before heading off on the next stretch of around 4.5 miles principally beside the picturesque river to the village of Withypool. The village with its tea rooms, shop and ‘lido’ was the perfect location for our second ‘half lunch’ though the chance of sitting in the tea rooms was affected by a group of a dozen or so ageing bikers with huge machines who had arrived before us and had not unreasonably taken the opportunity to divest themselves of their leather motorcycle suits while they also had their ‘half lunch’. Just as we were readying ourselves to leave the village – having melted away into various nooks and crannies out of direct sunlight for 25 minutes – the tea room staff came out and did a sales job: “buy a raffle ticket – it’s for a good cause”. And so it was, as part of the fundraising drive to secure sufficient funds to install a new [second-hand] bridge across the river at Great Bradley to ensure the safety and comfort of walkers at times when the existing path on the east bank, already subject to some erosion is underwater. Refreshed, and in some cases relieved of cash, we set off on the final 6.5 miles to Simonsbath where our cars were parked. It’s difficult to argue with those who suggest that this may be the prettiest part of the whole route – but for the purposes of this note we’ll say that it is among the prettiest stretches of the Two Moors Way, especially when the surrounding countryside is so lush after a wet summer and a few weeks of sunshine. Look out for news of how to sign up with us for the last leg from Simonsbath to Lynmouth which we shall be walking on Saturday 20th April 2024.
Les, John, Alan and 24 others
Start point: Badlake Moor Cross
Finish point: Simonsbath
Distance travelled: 15 miles
Walking time: 8 hours