Saturday, 23 July 2011

Delamere Forest & Old Pale Hill

I was a bit stumped this weekend as the weather was glorious but the missus had the car, so if I wanted to get out then it would involve either public transport or my bike. I got myself a new camera this week and I was desperate to get out and play around with it to see what it could do. The week before I developed a weird injury I picked up as a result of over doing it a bit on the bike every day then playing two hours of football some nights. So just in case, that was the bike out of the equation as I wasn't too sure if I had fully recovered. I had been taking anti-inflammatory tablets most of the week. I therefore decided on a plan I'd had for a while. Only a forty five minutes train ride away is the incredible Delamere Forest where I spent lots of happy days as a child with my family having picnics and making dens in the ferns. The train fair is only nine pounds return and the train station is literally bang in the centre of the forest. So I packed a summer bag, which is always surprisingly easy, and headed down in to town to visit Waterstones for the OS Explorer map. I couldn't resist a large Mocha from Costa Coffee while I was there and grabbed myself a packed lunch and breakfast. Another thing I was interested in was the Pathfinder book of walks in Cheshire, I see them all the time in shops like Blacks and Millets, so I strolled down to Millets. Did they have it? No of course not, why would a Millets in Cheshire have a map or guide book of Cheshire? I mean that would just make far too much sense. I could have got myself a Lonely Planet book on Bolivia or a cheap nasty pointless solar torch made in China, but a useful map or guidebook of the local area, No!

Blakemere Moss

After stressing my above frustration at the sixteen year old teenager in Millets who looked at me dumbfounded, I continued on my journey and brought my ticket at the station. It was a pleasant relief to find that the return ticket was only nine pounds, in a world where I am constantly being ripped off I think nine pounds return is not bad. I helped an old man to use the Metrolink ticket machine on the Manchester bound side of the station. I half felt sorry for him as he clearly couldn't handle the technology, but the techy mean side of me wanted to bang his head against the machine and ask him why he didn't just press the blatantly obvious buttons fed to him on the touch screen interface. I sat at Altrincham railway station and thought of how the lovely old structure compares to the soulless Metrolink conversion that has taken place at Timperley. I got on a surprisingly busy train, full of rowdy young lads on their way to a stag party in Northwich. There were no seats left other than the one directly outside of the toilet, so I hoped for the best and sat in the potentially problematic seat. I was fine until a rather disturbing moment when one of the lads didn't press the lock button inside the loo and one of his friends came along and pressed the open button. It is a sight I won't forget for a while! I absolutely love travelling by train through the British countryside. Staring out of the window on a sunny day you get some perspective of just how vast the country is. Fields and hedgerows seem to just go on forever. Wildlife is in abundance with rabbits munching on grass, herons sat by ponds and Buzzards circling over fields. The journey was pleasant as I passed through yet more lovely quaint railway stations like something from a Honrby railway set. The railway embankments were all covered in the stunning blues of Rosebay Willowherb. After what seemed like nothing the train, much to my excitement, arrived at Delamere. The sign on the station wall as you disembark proudly says "The Forest Station", which put a smile on my face.

Delamere railway station

Delamere Forest is the largest woodland in Cheshire, covering just under a thousand hectares. The forest is a mix of deciduous and evergreen forest. Delamere means 'The forest of the lakes' and the forest does have several constantly changes lakes, or meres as we like to call them in Cheshire. The most fascinating of all those lakes is Blakemere Moss which I have experienced before at various times of the year in various conditions. The forest and Blakemere Moss would have to wait though as my first objective for this walk was to climb to the top of Old Pale Hill. When people think of Cheshire they think of wide flat low lying lands with big horizons. I proved this wrong recently with the walk up Shining Tor, the highest point in Cheshire at five hundred and fifty nine metres above sea level. Over here on the west side of Cheshire is the Mid Cheshire Ridge, an impressive and understated sandstone ridge with dozens of impressive hills and features. Old Pale Hill is the highest point on the northern end of this ridge. I was interested in seeing if I could ascend a wee hill without my knee or thigh giving me grief, and also interested in what views this modest hill would give me. I turned out of the railway station and headed west through the car park to join the roadside path to the visitor centre and bike hire area. I was impressed by the mountain bikes they had for hire as nearly all of them were expensive Kona bikes in excellent condition. From the visitor centre I continued south west passing the Forestry Commission depot and on to the Old Pale Hill car park.

Old Place Hill summit stone

From the Old Pale Hill car park I ascended the wide winding track and after just a few minutes of ascent I was already on my own as no one was ascending the hill. In fact all the way to the summit I only saw one person, who was a descending fell runner. The views were opening up and I stopped several times watching Sparrow Hawks and Crows flying over the forest side fields. The views behind over the forest showed just how huge it is, and in the middle was the big opening at the waters of Blackmere Moss. The path to the summit of Old Place Hill was very easy going but enjoyable. The summit of Old Pale Hill has three huge transmitter masts which were not a surprise to me as I had researched the hill on the internet the night before. They don't really affect the experience as the walkers summit is at the north end of the summit and the messy mast area doesn't need to be visited. The summit has a brilliant set of standing rocks that point you in the direction of each of the seven counties that are in the circling view. The English counties of Derbyshire, Lancashire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Welsh counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire are all represented by a standing stone. In the centre of the summit platform is the biggest standing stone, representing Cheshire itself. Around the circumference of the platform there are topographical plaques pointing out all the summits and features in view such as Moel Famau in the Clwydian Range and Shining Tor the highest point in Cheshire. A lot of effort has been put in to this summit feature and I thought it was excellent. I like these things on popular smaller hills like this and also like when they have the educational touch to them. They don't have their place in wild places but somewhere like this I think they can be made in a way that they fit in well. I stood picking out various landmarks I could make out, usually hills, but also the likes of the Fiddlers Ferry power station, Liverpool's anglican cathedral, Joddrell Bank and the Dee Estuary's Flintshire Bridge. I also took a walk around the plaques on the summit platform and learnt a thing or two.

Teasels

I did try and find the trig point on Old Pale Hill but soon realised it is hidden away behind the fences around the transmission masts and buildings area. The descent took me past some cute brown cows which I stopped to talk too, like you do! I switched back on myself and headed down a track through meadows towards Eddisbury Lodge. Before I reached the road at Eddisbury Lodge I nipped in to a beautiful wood to take some photos. Standing in the middle of a silent forest smelling nothing but pine needles really is something special, especially when the sun keeps coming out of the clouds and shooting rays through the trees. I turned left along the road to reach Eddisbury Lodge and then followed the very narrow path north that is now the Sandstone Trail. The Sandstone Trail is a thirty five mile long distance path that traverses the Mid Cheshire Ridge from north to south. I hope to do this entire route soon as a two or three day backpack. I continued along the Sandstone Trail and followed it passing the west of Eddisbury Lodge through some enchanting woodland. Just before the Sandstone Trail rises to cross the railway I turned left to head in the direction of Black Lake. The intention was to visit Black Lake, which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The lake is a Quaking Bog famous for being the home of a rare breed of Dragonfly. I totally missed the track to Black Lake and instead found myself at the next railway bridge so crossed that and switched back to the right to eventually re-join the route of the Sandstaone Trail. Along the stretch near Black Lake the path was flanked with many colourful wild flowers and was teeming with the buzz of Dragonflies, Butterflies, Bees and Wasps. I headed along the now wider and busier track. There were loads of families enjoying the tracks that are perfect for a day out on their bikes. After admiring a seat carved out of an old tree trunk I reached a junction where I turned right to head in the direction of Blakemere Moss.

Myself on Blakemere Moss

Blakemere Moss is an incredible place as you will see on my photos. After many unsuccessful attempts to return the area to woodland a decision was made in the nineties to return it to wetland. The felling of trees has now created a haven for wildlife, in particular birds which thrive in the shelter of its wide open waters, nest on its many islands and fallen trees and take full advantage of the surrounding forest. Each day it takes on a different look and never ceases to amaze me. Today Blakemere Moss was blue, as the skies it was reflecting were blue with small white fluffy alto cumulus clouds and alto cirrus clouds. It was the perfect place for me to test out my new camera, especially as I had also purchased a polarizing lens, perfect for these conditions. The first thing that struck me was not only incredible views from the side of the moss but also the incredible noise of the Gull colonies. I chatted to a couple by the moss and asked them to take a photo of me and returned the favour. I followed what was now the Delamere Way, another local long distance path, east along the south shore of the moss. Every so often the boggy shores on the left caught my eye and I went off to explore. As I reached the most southern side of the moss the sound of screams echoed around the forest from those brave enough to be tackling the Go Ape tree top orienteering course. I stopped a few times to watch participants with trembling legs being helped along by the Go Ape instructors. After reaching the far eastern end of the moss I reached the busy road that dissects the forest. Here I turned right and found a path just off the road that took me south parallel with the road to reach the campsite. At the campsite I joined the road and followed the road back to the railway station. I managed to resist getting an ice cream from the station cafe. The train journey home was as enjoyable as the inward journey. I saw plenty of wildlife again and could make out Shutlingsloe and Joddrell Bank as the train crossed the Northwich Viaduct. A fantastic trip and one I will make a lot more often as it is so easy to do, I can walk down to the station, pay someone nine pounds return and in less than forty five minutes be in the centre of such a wonderful place!

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Dunkery Beacon & Great Rowbarrow

When my Dad asked me last Friday night what I wanted to do with the two days we had together, one of the first things that came to mind was Dunkery Beacon. The summit beacon at 519m above sea level is the highest point on Exmoor, and the highest point in South England outside of Dartmoor. I still hadn't climbed along the roof of Exmoor before and with the weather forecast looking the way it did on Friday night I couldn't think of anything better. I also knew that my Dad's Tramper, his off road mobility scooter, would have no problems at all reaching the summit as I had passed by Dunkery Beacon a country lane before now and seen a straight forward bridleway leading up to the summit. As I said in my last post I was delighted on Friday night when my Dad said "why don't we get up real early and go see the sun rise from Dunkery Beacon?... leave here at 3am?", my response was "well I am up for it if you are". We had been out to Braunton Burrows the day before and done an easy walk over the dunes and along the beach, finished off by myself cycling the seven miles back to their house. We had pie and veg for tea Saturday night, showered and then watched the weather forecast on the telly. After days of rain there was to be a big swing in the weather to perfect warm blue skies and initial low lying cloud and fog. Sounded like perfect cloud inversion weather to me, but is 519m above sea level really the kind of place we would get to see a proper cloud inversion from? So an early night was had to prepare for our 3am start.

Parking up on Dunkery Hill above the clouds

My alarm went off at 2:50am and it was still dark outside. I could hear my Dad pottering around in the kitchen already up and preparing our packed lunch. We had got most things packed the night before so we didn't wake Mrs Bassnett Senior, or we would have been in big trouble! We stealthily made our way out of the house. Bats were circling the lamp posts outside munching on the many moths and insects. As we climbed out of Barnstaple and in to the Exmoor National Park the mist and fog we were promised by the weather man showed itself and made driving conditions difficult at times. A certain small stone bridge around Challacombe Mill will vouch for that won't it Mr Bassnett? The fog persisted as we made our way through Challacombe, Simonsbath and Exford. This was very promising and exactly what we had hoped for. As we got close to Dunkery the sky, when we got rare glimpses of it, was starting to turn into that mesmerising aplenglow it gets as the sun is about to rise in the morning. Then something magical happened, at Luckwell Bridge the road rises from 240m above sea level to Dunkery Gates at 387m above sea level then ascends even higher as it skirts the eastern side of Dunkery Hill to 447m above sea level. As we drove higher and higher the world above the clouds opened up and Dad stopped the car as we both said "Wow!" at the same time. I would say we couldn't believe our luck, however I believe in situations like this you make your own luck. Watching the forecast closely, knowing the right conditions, then making the effort to get up at stupid o'clock is not just luck! Our determination had paid off and the view all around and particularly to the east was just simply awesome. The cloud level was at around 350m so we had views all around above the clouds and with various other higher parts of Exmoor sticking out like islands on a sea of clouds.

Dad getting his camera ready for the sunrise at Dunkery Beacon

We continued up the road and then Dad slammed his breaks on again, this time to watch three majestic Red Deer Stags run across the road and make there way over the heather moorland away from us. We finally reached a good parking spot around grid reference SS904420 where the bridleway descent meets the road. We took numerous photos, I know how quickly cloud inversions can disappear in certain conditions so took plenty of photos. We unloaded the tramper and set off at a quick pace up the bridleway knowing we had to race the sun to the summit. For most of the ascent which is just over a kilometre, I was having to jog to keep up with my Dad who was storming up the bridleway on his Tramper. Only pausing briefly at times to take in the stunning scene around us and the familiar dawn moorland sound of Grouse and Skylarks. As we got closer to the impressive stone built beacon on the summit we spotted several other walkers on the summit who looked like they had the same idea as ourselves. We reached the summit with literally only ten minutes to spare. In those ten minutes we spoke to the fellow walkers and discovered they were from the North Devon Ramblers Group. These guys had been walking all night as part of their "Dusk till Dawn" circular walk from Dunkery Bridge. It was great to meet like minded folk who were as mad as we are! The view from the summit was incredible. It was very touching for me as I had experienced such views before but never thought I would see such a view with my Dad. His Tramper enables him to get to these places he never thought possible years ago and neither of us could ever have dreamed that we would have shared this experience at this time in my Dad's life.  As the sun neared its first appearance the skies got brighter and the inversion even more impressive.

Watching sunrise over cloud inversion from Dunkery Beacon

Looking to the distance horizon over the clouds we could make out further away tops now. Dartmoor was a wide and flat island to the south. To the north the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, the likes of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and the Black Mountain clearly visible and sat like islands in orange skies above a white sea of clouds. They actually looked to me like the Small Isles in Scotland when the sun sets up there. The sun rose above the clouds from the west and we all stood in silence in awe of it. We stayed on the summit for a good half an hour chatting to the ramblers group and watching the ever changing scene around us all. One guy spotted a group of Red Deer making their way up to the hill and over the col between Dunkery Beacon and our next target Great Rowbarrows. At first it looked like a dozen, but then another dozen appeared and then another and eventually there were over fifty of them, a great sight. The ramblers group set off heading west at first then south east along the footpath back down to Dunkery Bridge where they had parked the night before. The Red Deer raised their heads then scattered as they approached them. We headed west to follow the easy ridge walk across heather moorland to Great Rowbarrow. Little Rowbarrow, Great Rowbarrow and in fact all of the hills on the high Dunkery Hill ridge are littered with stone cairns and burial mounds, some dating back to the Bronze Age. The going across the wide moorland ridge was easy. The path dog legs between Little Rowbarrow and Great Rowbarrrow then descends north west to Lang Combe Head.

Sun rising over the clouds from Dunkery Beacon

When we reached the tarmac road at Lang Combe Head we turned left and continues along it heading up hill passing close by some beautiful wild Exmoor Ponies. The inversion over the Bristol Channel was now starting to clear and more of Wales's coast line was coming in to view. After a kilometre along the road we turned left on to a bridleway heading east back in the direction of Dunkery Beacon. The bridleway was easy walking again and after over a kilometre and a half we reached a junction of paths where a bridleway heads off right to Dunkery Bridge, the route the ramblers will most probably have taken back to their cars. We carried on heading east following their earlier footsteps back to the summit of Dunkery Beacon for our second visit of the morning, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits entertaining us all the way. We soon reached the summit again, a good few hours after we had left it earlier, this time the views were far more extensive and equally impressive. We could now see in to all of the surrounding valleys and only the odd swathe of misty cloud hung on to the colder moors, forests and valleys. I was ravenous by this point as I forgot to pack food in my actual rucksack. We descended Dunkery with smug smiles on our faces telling everyone we saw on their way up what an amazing sunrise they had missed.

Dad on heading toward Great Rowbarrow on his Tramper

We reached the car and it was like we had parked in a completely different place, you could now see how high we were up on Dunkery Hill, valleys leading off in all directions flanked by typical Exmoor countryside. We sat by the car and ate the packed lunch Dad had prepared and sat contemplating what a great morning we'd had. The drive home was glorious as Exmoor always is on a hot sunny day. As I have already said this National Park is in my opinion the most under rated in Britain by a long way. We finished off the morning with a trip to Porlock Weir for ice creams and Lynton for a much needed orange juice. The trip back to Barnstaple along the A39 is a very familiar one indeed for myself having done the trip many times before. Much to our delight, a small slender Red Fox vixen ran across the road from one hedgerow to another as we neared Parracombe. It was quite a bizarre sighting considering the time was exactly midday. We got home and went to bed for an afternoon nap, absolutely knackered from our early morning start. We visited relatives again in the afternoon then I treated my Dad to a Chinese take away, after which he fell asleep in his chair. The next day I spent fixing his PC and installing a few extra bits and pieces to put it back in a backed up, safe and working condition. I left wishing I could have stayed longer, but I know I will be back again and again. The drive back was great despite driving through Birmingham at Monday evening rush hour there were no major problems and the sun was shining all the way home. A fantastic weekend I will never forget!

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Friday, 1 July 2011

Crow Point from Braunton Burrows

I headed down south this weekend to visit my dad, who unfortunately had computer problems again. Being hundreds of miles away means that I can't help him when he gets into serious trouble with his PC, and we all know how much the local computer shop can charge to do what to someone in the profession like myself, can do in half an hour at no charge. So I decided to spare him forking out those extortionate costs, and at the same time spend the weekend with him outdoors in one of my favourite areas of Britain. Devon, Somerset and in particular the Exmoor National Park are to me one of the most under rated areas when it comes to natural beauty and walking opportunities. I spent all of my six week school summer holidays in Barnstaple in North Devon with my grandparents at the bungalow in which my Dad and his lovely wife now live. The bungalow sits high on a hill above the town with the most stunning of aspects. From their lounge window at the back of the bungalow is the kind of view you would die for. Watching the sunset over the rolling hills on Saturday night from their lounge chair was very satisfying. I spent the most of those summer holidays either on the glorious beaches with my cousins, down the magical Bradiford Water river below the bungalow by myself or out in the car on a drive and picnic to one of the many beautiful parts of Exmoor with my grand parents and their friends. Those early experiences certainly fuelled my love for the outdoors.

Dad by the old wooden barge and his Tramper

As is nearly always the case when I need my car to travel to a far away destination something broke down a few days before. This time the exhaust started blowing. It turned out that the damage I had done to the car several years ago when I accidentally parked the car on a big boulder in Glencoe, had finally come back to bite me in the bum. I can't complain though as the damage has taken several years to finally break. Luckily I know the greatest mechanics in the world. Not only are they great at their job but the twins at AS Motors in Northenden are also outdoor folk and can often be found climbing up mountains at weekend both in Britain and abroad when they aren't dirtying their hands under Mancunian's neglected cars like my own. They also stand on the terraces at Moss Lane with myself cheering on my beloved Altrincham FC. Sounds too good to be true but they really are great, I phoned up at 5pm Thursday and by midday Friday my exhaust had been replaced and Keisha was ready to drive me down south. So I finally set off along the M6 south, usually a nightmare journey but it wasn't too bad. Going the opposite way heading north was a lot worse with accidents causing major congestion pretty much all the way from Birmingham to Manchester. I reached Birmingham in good time and joined the M5. With so many visits to Devon as a child you can imagine how many times I have one this journey! The pace was good going until I reached Worcester where there had been an earlier accident. The congestion was still there so I ended up crawling all the way past Bristol to Tiverton where the new trunk road makes a speedy trip across Somerset and Devon to Barnstaple. In the old days that trip from the M5 to Barnstaple was a nightmare and often involved driving it through the night. My dad was often the story teller of frightening tales, usually involving the mythical Exmoor beast, especially if we hit anything in the night!

Pyramid Orchid

The trip along the M5 was always an eye opener for me and I was always the kind of child who stared out of the window at the world. The Malverns are the first real hills you see and considering their lack of altitude they still give a very striking profile, like a bunch of pyramids rising over the Worcestershire countryside. The next point of interest I remember from my childhood trips is more of a man made affair. The docks at Avonmouth where the motorway crosses the River Avon bridge where fascinating as a child, hundreds of chimneys pumping out smoke and steam of all colours. Although I am glad to say that these days most of those dirty chimneys are now gone, it is sad to think of the industrial job losses the area must have suffered over the years. Ironically these days Avonmouth is now a mass sprawl of thousands of imported cars that are shipped in regularly on the huge car ship. There are also numerous huge wind turbines now instead of chimneys. The next hills I remember were the pointy Crook Peak, just after the Weston Super Mare junction at the far western end of the Mendips and the small but perfectly formed Brent Knoll, just before the Burnham on Sea junction. Maybe one day when I am not in a rush I will stop by one of these lovely small hills and climb one of them. As the motorway makes its way across Somerset it crosses several rivers and dozens of drains full of bird life. The names of these rivers and drains have stuck with me my whole life Huntspill River, King's Sedgemoor Drain and the River Parrett to name a few. By the time I reached Tiverton it was chucking it down with rain and it continued to do so for the remainder of the journey. I arrived at the Bassnett Senior's residence and sat up late on the first night chatting to my dad who I hadn't seen for far too long. We chatted about what to do with our two days, we decided the best plan was to do the Crow Point from Braunton Burrows walk on the Saturday and I wanted to climb to the top of Exmoor's highest point Dunkery Beacon on the Sunday. The weather forecast made for interesting listening and gave the impression that a cloud inversion and perfect conditions was possible early on Sunday morning. To my surprise dad said "why don't we get up real early and go see the sun rise from Dunkery Beacon?... leave here at 3am?", I was delighted so my response was "well I am up for it if you are". More on that in the next blog post!

The wooden boardwalk across Braunton Burrows

On Saturday morning dad got his Tramper off road mobility scooter charged up and loaded in the back of his Berlingo. I have been cycling to and from work this last three weeks as I have purchased a new Specialized Sirrus Elite hybrid road bike through the Cycle to Work scheme. I have cycled over 200 miles in the last three weeks on this bike and it is fantastic, it has given me a really love for cycling I've not had for decades. I decided to take my bike down with me so I loaded it in the Berlingo too with the intention of cycling the seven mile stretch back to Barnstaple from Braunton where we were walking. We visited relatives in Braunton then made our way down the toll road out to the car park at Braunton Burrows. My dad loves this place. As a child I remember spending hours in the sun playing on the beach and flower covered dunes. Braunton Burrows is the largest sand dune system in Britain. It was also the first United Nations Unesco Biosphere Reserve in Britain. The area is part of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding National Beauty. The burrows are rich in wildlife, especially insects and butterflies, and has an internationally recognised abundance of rare and in some cases unique flora and fauna. My dad has spent the last few years cleaning rubbish from the dunes which are sadly often ruined, particularly by people leaving dog mess in bags. If you are reading this blog then there is a good chance that like my dad and myself you will never be able to comprehend what on earth goes on in a persons brain when they litter such a beautiful place. The toll road that leads to the car park has a wonderful marsh drain down its right side for the entire mile and is always full of ducks and there young. We paused at one point as dad started telling me how he often sees a Grey Heron at that point, and wouldn't you know it, the moment the car paused it flew up from behind the bush across the field. Herons are stunning birds, always a joy to see and often easy to spot due to their size and their slow motion style of flying. We parked up, unloaded the Tramper and set off across to the south western edge of the car park. There were Rabbits darting away down their holes at every turn, the spills of soil excavated from their holes littered with seashells. Rabbits are one of my favourite animals. They often get negative press from being labelled with ideas of what is and isn't wrong or right with human's perceptions of evolution and nature, luckily here the Rabbits are seen for the positive effects they have on the area.

View to the groynes from Crow Point

We reached the wooden boardwalk that heads south west from the car park across the wild dunes. Initially the most eye catching flowers by far were the stunning blue of the Viper's Bugloss. The dunes were already abundant with colour from yellow Evening Primrose, white Marsh Orchids, purple Pyramid Orchids, purple Thyme, tiny pink Rest Harrow, fragrant Honeysuckle, trumpet like Sea Bindweed and so many more. As we got closer to the sea the Sea King rescue helicopter from Royal Marines Base Chivenor down the estuary flew low over us. When I was young Chivenor was an RAF base and as a lover of planes I loved the constant jet activity as my grand parents house was right under the flight path. I remember one Christmas at my grand parents when that Sea King helicopter flew above the back garden with Santa hanging out of it waving! The Burrows have always been used as a training area for the armed forces. During the war the American Army used this area to train and prepare for the Normandy landings. We continued towards the sea along the boardwalk. As we reached the drop down the dunes to the beach dad showed me a stunning Sea Holly plant which I had never seen before. We found some that had flowered and it really was stunning, the leaves change to the blue of the flower they hold. We reached the beach at the old wooden groynes below the old ruined pre war lifeboat lookout station. We had lunch sheltered behind the walls of the old look out station. Exploring the area behind the beach I came across hundreds of Cinnaber Moth Caterpillars munching away on every Ragwort plant in the area. The water here is the neck at the mouth of two adjoining river estuaries as they reach the sea, the River Taw from Barnstaple and the River Torridge from Bideford, as they meet the Atlantic Ocean. We headed south from the groynes along the beach to the lighthouse at Crow Point. Beach combing is one of my favourite past times. We came across lots of Moon Jellyfish and stumbled across a beached Cuttlefish. We rounded Crow Point and headed along the River Taw estuary. Turning back towards the dunes along the beach we came across many boats that were lived in on the beach. An old abandoned wooden barge sat proud and colourful on the sands, it made for a fantastic photo opportunity with its many layers of varied coloured paint stripping off and contrasting with its rusty and wooden structure pinned together with huge solid iron pins. A short walk along the beach and we headed back over the dunes next to the beach to reach the car park. It really is a special place and I hope it stays that way. Dad put his Tramper back in the car and drove home, while I get on my bike and cycled a glorious flat and eye opening route along the Tarka Trail back to Barnstaple. Very satisfying day out with dad in his favourite place. We got home and went to bed early ready for the next day which was to be even more special, more about that in the next blog post.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...