There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bennett's Cross to Lustleigh: Day 30 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

Updated with extra pictures and text 04 Nov 2018

A Tedious Little Prologue (skip if you have read Day 28 or 29)

The ‘five like-minded people’ would only be 4 again this year. I did my preparations and after four full-day practice walks with Mike and Francis and some solo strolls I was feeling fit and ready… except for a nagging little pain beneath my right heel.

Then, with less than a week to go, a further morning’s walk saw that nagging little pain exploded into something I could no longer ignore. It was no better next day and a trip to A&E resulted in a diagnosis of plantar fasciisitis, inflammation of and/or damage to the tendon where it joins the heel bone. And the cure? Rest, probably for several months.

But the accommodation was booked so Lynne and I went anyway. There were cars to shuffle which Lynne usually does on her own, food to be eaten and beer to be drunk for which my talents might be needed.

I found these three days frustrating, transferring people to starts, collecting them from finishes and in between hobbling around various tourist sites.

[Brian volunteered to accompany me filling in these missing legs in February and we walked Day 28, but the arrival of the ‘Beast from East’ forced a tactical withdrawal.

It was not until November that we returned to Drewsteignton, this time with Francis as well, to complete the job. I have added some extra photos and comments – in red, as before.]

Day 30, Bennett's Cross to Lustleigh
The morning started with scrapping ice from car windscreens before I followed Mike and Alison to Lustleigh where they left their cars at the end of walk. After breakfast I took the walkers back out to Bennett’s Cross. There was no snow today, instead there was a platoon of soldiers with packs and rifles preparing for a yomp across the moor. As the others pulled on their boots the soldiers appeared to be forming a firing squad so I courageously decided to leave. On mature reflection I realise I was in no danger, it was Alison they were after – several decades as a pacifist-activist must have made her enemies in the military!

Bennett's Cross on a bright but cold morning (Photo: Brian)

Francis now describes the walk (in blue). He also took the pictures (except where noted).

We re-joined The Two Moors Way but only for a kilometre as we inadvertently veered off our planned route over Birch Tor.

[Our November Day did not start with frost, indeed it was tolerably warm, but the visibility was totaly different. We did not veer off over Birch Tor, though we could hardly see it from Bennett's Cross]

That's probably Birch Tor
We could see the unmistakeable outline of Grimspound on the hillside east of us so took a path to Headland Warren Farm then another across Hookney Tor to the pound.

[We could not see Hookney Tor, never mind Grismpound, and from the tor (once we had found it) the Warren House Inn had disappeared in the mist behind. It now started raining, and apart from occassional pauses for breath it rained for the rest of the day. At least it was relatively warm and there was only a gentle breeze so the rain fell vertically rather than being blown in our faces. It was more comfortable, but just as wet.]

Hookney Tor looking back to the Warren House Inn near Bennett's Cross (photo: Brian)
[Grimspound is just a drive and a short iron from the top of Hookney Tor. I was about half way down when I took the picture below.]

Grimspound from 200m away - it is there somewhere, and not very far away
[the photo below was taken from much further away - but under different conditions!]

Grimspound is a Bronze Age settlement (first settled 3,000BC) containing at least 24 huts. They were enclosed by a large double circle of granite stones but over time their walls have collapsed inwards to leave a single much lower circle.

Grimspound Bronze Age Settlement (Photo: Vince Hogg)
The best way to photograph Grimspound is form the air. As no one was carrying a drone in their pack I have taken Francis' advice and stolen this one from Wikipedia. Thanks to Vince Hogg, who took the picture and holds the copyright.

[The best preserved hut in the centre of the circle is obvious in the picture above. We dropped in for coffee sitting on the walls during a brief cesssation of the rain. It was nice to meet the Grims, but they should consider putting the roof back if they are hoping to open a coffee shop.]

The best preseved hut, Grimspound (and a little rain on the lens)
We continued on over the summit of the ridge and steadily down for our coffee stop on the grass near Natsworthy Manor then followed a track to Jay’s Grave. [Nobody knows who Jay was. The earliest report is from 1851 when the landowner's workmen discovered a skeleton. Enquiries suggested it was the remains of Ann Jay who had hung herself some 60 years previously. Many later reports add flesh to these bare bones, but I suspect the writers were more concerned with telling a good tale than getting to the truth. An unknown person regularly leaves fresh flowers on the grave and there was a goodly pile of loose change on the headstone.]

Jay's Grave - through a very watery lens
We joined a road here for just over a kilometre then headed uphill over Hound Tor Down passing Hound Tor on our left and Greator Rocks on our right.

Hound Tor
The path led down through woods to Becka Brook....

The Bridge over Becka Brook - it gives a fare impression of the day
....then up onto the side of Black Hill. We crossed a high minor road then steadily descended to the car park we want to use next year on a slightly lower road. [And that was where we stopped. We had started from here in April so all is properly linked up. It had been a far easier day than yesterday, mainly because it had been considerably shorter, but also because the conditions, though grim had been far better.]

From the lower road we descended steeply and then precipitously down through a deciduous wood to a track at its base - the shortest possible route to Lustleigh.

Here we had some brief refreshment after the ordeal of our descent then crossed a small packhorse bridge across the River Bovey....

Mike and Alison and the River Bovey
...before ascending and zigzagging on a track through Hisley Wood passing some excellent bluebells and reaching the minor road into Lustleigh.

Bluebells in Hisley Wood (Photo: Brian)
We planned to finish with a cream tea at the tea rooms but they were closed for renovation so instead we enjoyed drinks in The Cleave. Finally we walked to the cars, and so ended the tenth year of the Odyssey. For the four of us it had been a very enjoyable three days and we look forward to next year’s instalment.

The Cleave Inn, Lustleigh (Photo:Me - we joined the walkers at The Cleave)
But for the fifth it had been a frustrating time. Last year the walking had not been outstanding, much of it merely a matter of getting from A to B but this year had crossed fine walking country in almost perfect conditions – and I missed it. I hope I will get down to Devon later in the year and will then be able to look forward to the next instalment with everybody else.

Today's distance 17km
The total distance for the three days 61km

[I did not quite 'get down to Devon within the year', but I have done it now. Meanwhile all five of us have completed the 2018 walk and next April/May will bring this 12 year project to its completion.

Thanks to Brian and Francis for walking these repeat (for them) legs just to help me out - and in such unpleasant conditions. Thanks also to Brian and especially Hilary for the hospitality, it is very much appreciated.

Thanks also to Brian for lending me his camera. I took mine, but left the card in my lap-top in Staffordshire. I hope the camera recovers from its drenching.]


  1. The trainee soldiers did indeed seem to be pointing their guns at me. I was so relaxed I took a photo, (but it didn’t work because my phone wasn’t charged). I do appreciate living in a country where I’m not worried by the military, even though the government know I don’t agree with them.
    Jay’s grave was apparently a suicide, so not buried in a churchyard. One of the many hard-done-by women in the 19th century, exploited then accused of being a slut. Her grave has become a tourist attraction, with people leaving flowers and other mementoes. No photos, no battery.
    A lovely walk all round. Hope you recover well David - you'll enjoy it.

  2. The precipitous descent to The River Bovey was the shortest route we could take but with hindsight perhaps not a wise move. When you and Brian go again you will avoid it by leaving a car at the car park above.

  3. This report and the previous day bring back memories, and the contrasting weather and photos are really interesting. I suspect the November weather was more typical. It is good to have a photo of Jay's grave for the record as well.
    Celebrations that we are all 5 ready for the final leg next year (hopefully).

  4. Two grim days and a grim coffee at Grimspound! We followed the exact route past Greator Rocks down to Becka Brook and up the side of Black Hill along which we were led by Mike in 2017 with more certainty than I could manage at the time. It was very misty, even a bit spooky, this time and we were happy to delay lunch until we reached the car.