Wednesday 27 June 2007

Shropshire and Staffordshire: Knighton - Thorpe [21st-27th June]

[Update 5]

Sorry, too much rain to take any photo's along this bit so here's one of Daisy taking a nap in our tent at Melrose in Scotland.

Oops, my little toenail has fallen off. This walk has now officially turned into a challenge! Before now the target seemed so far away, but after this hard section of daily rain, wet socks, a wet dog and tent and lack of campsites we've been guilty of mile counting. We've also given up on our legs recovering soon as that hobble to the shower is not getting any easier.
BUT, it's not all bad news, we know that these are the parts we'll remember with a giggle!?

Various things have helped us keep our chins up on wet days gazing through pub windows at roast dinners (why did we get a dog, God I miss veg'), jelly babies, a dry phone box to eat hot bakery goods, an owl, poppy fields, canal boats and being offered a lift over a flooded road (don't worry we didn't cheat)!
Two friendly farms lifted our spirits by very kindly providing us with a field to sleep in. The first saved our bacon after a Youth Hostel didn't take dogs and the campsite no longer took tents. On the way to the farm we passed by a built up area where the grocery shops sold nothing but crisps, chocolate and alcohol, so we opted for fish a nd chips (again). We ate these on a golf course and received a random donation from a nice man called Martin :-). The farm lady had stopped doing camping for 10 years but let us stay in one of their cow dung fields. We were more than grateful, she even offered us a bath (we were mad for not taking her up on that offer) and gave us some divine fresh milk straight from the cow shed. It was like nursery milk that you used to get with those little biscuits with the cows on.
The second farm was hosting a 'folk in a field' charity event with, can you believe it, a beer tent, 'real' food and loo's! How lucky was that, plus the farmer had been sailing in Gosport that morning, it's such a small world! We're now going to be in their local community magazine too. After we enjoyed the excellent folk music we were zoinked so regrettably we declined their kind invite to the after party - Daisy isn't the best dog for socialising either. If you're in the Brewood, Staffordshire area next June, be sure to check it out.

Finally, our first campsite in three days provided us with a shower in Uttoxeter (I'm surprised they let us in) and at last, a dry tent and socks... for now! The birds were singing and the hills were coming into view - the Pennine Way was approaching - yippee - so I promised that I wouldn't moan about it being too hot to walk in ever again!

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Gloucester, Monmouthshire and Powys: Congresbury - Knighton [11th-20th June]

[Update 4]

We wanted to get through busy Bristol and the river Severn ASAP, so after hundreds of hot dusty lorries, horseflies (and hairdresser shops), we reached Severn Beach after a 25 mile hike, exhausted, only to find the camp site had gone! Thankfully a local pointed us to an angel who let us stay on her field.
Daisy was a bit scared on the wobbly Avon Mouth and Severn Bridge, but once over we could see those lovely hills ahead.

Relieved to be back on a national trail, our first camp site on the Offa's Dyke path had a 'refreshing' outdoor pool and swallows nesting in the loo. Here we met Kenny, who was doing the trail twice for charity, who we kept bumping into. Unfortunately it was the start of a rainy period - all because we had our first BBQ!
We followed the trail for 5 days to Knighton where we reluctantly had to turn off in order to meet the Pennine way.
It's been a really lovely historic section (despite all the young bulls, styles - apparently 85 in one day, and being spat out onto a road from a brambly forest) where we passed old Abbeys, villages, misty forests, the Wye Valley and its jumping salmon (and horseflies of course) and the Hatteral ridge in the Black Mountains.
We also met loads of fellow backpackers and lovely, interesting Welsh folk. One in particular is the owner of the Little Oasis campsite in Pandy. If you like small farm-like sites and are backpacking that way you just have to meet Bill Evans. He'll have you chatting for hours about his interesting life. He used to make toys which he sold on to Disney, he's had Adam Faith and Tom Jones in his cafe (among others) and has doubled for Sean Connery in the film 'First Knight'. He has also made a stunning water feature in memory of his late wife and he gave us some invaluable advice for preventing blisters - sheeps wool, free, environmentally friendly and it works! We also saw BBC Coast's presenter Nick Crane in the Wye Valley, but he was too busy filming to ask him for sponsor money!

Weather is looking increasingly ominous and I still can't charge the phone, but we're still really enjoying it! Losing lots of weight too!

Sunday 10 June 2007

Somerset and North Somerset: Barnsaple - Congresbury [4th-10th June]

[Update 3]

In Somerset already and still scoffing copious amounts of food. Funny how everything tastes good when you're backpacking! We're now managing to get away by 7am most days, and have passed some ridiculously pretty villages with old rose cottages and trickling streams, mysterious forests, Exmoor (with large cats on our minds) and miles of country lanes. With few camp sites and high mileage we've welcomed the hundreds of bronze beetles on the path, fighter jets, birds of prey and a fox tucking in to a rather large lunch!

We had a lovely day off at Westermill campsite in Exmoor (as Will's feet were on fire and I was hobbling about like a robot at the end of the day) where some swallows were nesting in the laundry room. We then stayed in a damp, smoky camping barn one night and met and chatted to a lovely lady called Helen. We all experienced the noises of a farm and watched some lambs get hand fed, before we had to leave Helen to get our first view of Wales beyond the Quantock hills.

Bridgewater was a sudden culture shock, but we did get some sponsor money at the Fairways camp site :). Missing the coast a bit, the scenery flattened on the flood plains (some scary farm dogs there) and a long humid stretch followed but the local strawberries and raspberries kept us going.

A disused railway line, the Strawberry Line at Cheddar led us thought the Mendip hills and into a welcome long damp tunnel, emerging into North Somerset and some cider orchards - their local cider is knock out! Tip toeing over some teeny baby frogs the lane brought us towards Bristol.

Just having a few problems charging the phone with the new solar panel though!

Sunday 3 June 2007

Devon: Bude - Barnstaple [31st May - 3rd June]

[Update 2]

Well, Devon has definitely been an eat as much as we can phase. The 'Pocket Rocket' stove and titanium pots combination create a distinctive mix of BBQ and burnt - mmm.

Devon has shot by, the scenery now more rolling lush green farm land. Still lots of steps to climb, but more overgrown, so wet feet, hay fever and my first tick (about Will's 50th). "Aah the joys of walking" as a passer by put it. As the flowers changed colour and the foxgloves stretched higher we passed rock pools, an old shipwreck and the dreaded cows (still overcoming our fear after being chased because of their interest in Daisy).

We found sanctuary from the rain in an old driftwood hut in the cliffs where the local vicar used to smoke his pipe, then a camp site with a menu! So we scoffed enormous scones while watching the sunset behind Lundy.
A bluebell forest led us to the steep cobbled street of Clovelly where we picked up our next 2 sets of maps and passed a few backpackers with enormous rucksacks. Phew, thank goodness we were so strict with our kit!

Our last day in Devon followed a long estuary around to the never ending tarmac 'Tarka Trail' and a busy Barnstaple where we scoffed crappy burgers and hot dogs, which completely reversed the rare find of an organic shop next to the camp site the day before (which had incidentally made up for the awful communal showers there).

For Somerset we hope to perfect getting up early to avoid the heat...