Mike Kearney

I was inspired to complete this glorious long distance path (my first one !!) for the charity Hannahs , based in Ivybridge. After a long time in the planning stage I decided that I would go for an Autumn start and aimed to cover it in a 4 day period from Thurs 29 Sept to Sunday 2 Oct 2016. This would mean walking an average of 25 miles a day, carrying most of my gear, with overnight stays en route with friends , Glamping (another first) and Camping.

Well after visiting Hannahs in the morning of Thurs 29 Sept , I said goodbye to Laura, my wife ,and set off from the Car Park at Harford (just north of Ivybridge) .The weather wasn’t good , raining, misty and windy. After a short while I was confronted by a torrent of water streaming down from the Moors, after checking the map for any rivers, I realised this was the Two Moors Way!! As I made my way I realised my waterproof walking boots were anything but !! Worse was to follow, the path heading along towards Hangershill Rock towards Red Lake was completely flooded . (see picture) The water was approx. 8 inches deep and impassible for approx. 4 miles. I was forced to head across the Moors and make my way via bogs and tussock grass to the Avon Dam with the aim of picking up the trail at Pupers Hill and then onto Holne. My planned eta at Holne was 12.30 but I wasn’t to reach the Tea Rooms till 14:30.
The Tea Rooms were a good place to re fuel, change wet socks and treat my blisters that had started to form after the wet start!! After picking up a donation and some tips from a fellow walker heading south, I decided to make up the lost time by jogging the Holne to Widecombe stage (along the River Dart) The route was a lot dryer and flatter and I made good time , arriving in Widecombe in the Moor at approx 15:30. Again I had a short stop and treated my feet and set off to Chagford.

I made Chagford at 19:30, absoloutely shattered after completing approx. 30 miles that day (the last time I had completed that type of distance over open terrain was during my time with Commando Forces many years before) . I had pre booked a taxi and soon found myself heading to my friend’s house near Mortenhampstead where I spent a most enjoyable time catching up and reminiscing about former days over a few beers.After completing my video blog for the charity I was soon asleep with thoughts of the walk in my head.
Gary (my friend) had arranged a lift early the next day to Castle Drago with his neighbour Wes who worked for the National Trust. This was ideal as it meant I was ahead of myself in terms of miles and time plus I got to see the grounds at Castle Drago early in the morning. The path down to Drewsteignton felt like a soft carpet bathed in the early morning sun .My aim was Morchard Bishop for lunch, all be it a late one, and then onto Witheriidge for a rendezvous with Laura . This section was a lot drier and most enjoyable even if the final slog to Morchard Bishop was along the road (the signpost for the “MW was missing here along the A377). My feet were becoming a major problem now and I was very grateful to the stores /tea room owner in the village for letting me change my socks and treat my painful blisters. After having a cup of tea and a fresh cake and with my boots dried out in the sun the next section was like starting afresh.

I passed the halfway mark (51.5 miles) at a free range chicken farm and received a text from my workplace to say they had raised £181 for me !! This spurred me on to make Witheridge by 1900, after a few errors of navigation (I always carried Sue Viccars book in one hand and my compass in the other…tip here maybe photocopy the book pages and laminate them so you only need the relevant sheet out for that section ) Witheridge was reached at 19:15 and my step speeded up with the thought of meeting up with Laura , having a hot meal and a night of Glamping at a nearby farm.

The next day was cold, frosty but dry !! After leaving the village centre the path descended down to very boggy river meadows and it was a slog to get to Knowstone for a lunch break.The heaven’s opened just as I exited the village church graveyard ” forcing ” me to take shelter in the very welcoming Mason Arms. I saw a break in the weather and decided to go for it and head for Hawkridge where a small welcoming committee was awaiting me. Hawkridge , although wet and remote, was a massive boost. Family and friends had driven up from Plymouth and it was good to see them all, especially my niece Darcie, who uses the facilities at Hannah’s. After crossing the Tarr steps me and my friend Kieran headed along the River Barle path to Withypool. Kieran was able to experience how boggy the paths were.

After a brief look around Withypool me and Laura headed to Winsford to camp at Halse Farm in our very small tent. I awoke early to glorious blue skies and as I felt the warmth of the sun it was nice to think this was the last day of what had been a long hard boggy slog up through the spine of Devon. Simonsbath was reached with few problems and the Boevey Tea Rooms were a great place to re fuel , meet fellow walkers and to talk about Hannahs. I have to say the next leg over The Chains was great walking/ running sharing it with Exmoor ponies and with fantastic views of Wales in the distance With 88 miles behind me I descended through Watersmeet and then after entering the outskirts of Lynmouth I saw some people waving in the distance .As I got nearer and smelt the sea, I saw my two grandsons , who had come up with my daughter and partner, and Laura!! My stride quickened , suddenly the blisters didn’t matter anymore it was all about completing the walk!!

Out of interest I raised £580 for Hannahs and I am safely at home now with my feet completely healed ….Coleridge Way next!!

Start point: Ivybridge
Finish point: Lynmouth
Distance travelled: 100
Started: 29/09/2016
Walking time: 4 days