Wild Walking UK

LEJOG Chapter 4: Barnstaple to Cheddar

This is the fourth stage of my wild camping LEJOG attempt, from Barnstaple to Cheddar. You can read my account of the adventure from the start here.

Day 12: Thursday 28th February 2019

I woke to rain which luckily did stop for long enough for me to get organised, have a coffee and pack up by about 6am. It then rained or drizzled all day with a brief dry spell at lunchtime. There was also quite a strong wind all day today.

Bratton Fleming. Wet.

A highlight today was seeing a herd of stags. I looked at a hedge and thought, that’s odd, why would someone stick a load of antlers on top of it? Suddenly the antlers all moved, which was the point at which I felt like a right idiot.

Nearly half of today’s walk was on a road, which was my choice as I decided this would be easier going than wet paths. I had to dodge a few idiot drivers, although one man in a white van did stop to offer me a lift, which was very kind. I was surprised to realise that I wasn’t even tempted to accept – I am enjoying the walk. I don’t feel like I’ve fully relaxed into it yet, and I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to survive too many wet days in a row. Keeping everything, including myself, dry and clean is a big worry at the moment.

I camped fairly early today (4pm ish) as I needed to sort myself out in the daylight. My left knee was still painful, and I had a new odd pain in the centre of my foot. I was also worried that I wouldn’t find anywhere to camp if I carried on any further into Exmoor. Is it Exmoor or Dartmoor that you’re not allowed to camp on? I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

My home for night 12.

I hadn’t seen a single person walker on my route today. A few tractor and cars, and the only word I’ve spoken is hello to a lady who was running to put her bin out as the lorry turned up.

The advantage today was that I was higher up, so I had a phone signal to check in with my family. I also checked the weather, but soon wished I hadn’t – real rain forecast for the weekend to Cheddar. At least I’m forewarned, I suppose. It’s sobering how quickly it has changed from feeling like summer to wearing gloves most of the day, and five layers at some points.

Day 13: Friday 1st March 

They say 13 is unlucky for some – Storm Freya was coming for me. 80 mph winds were forecast, so I decided to try to get over the Quantocks before the storm arrived.

Wet. Wet. Wet.

I started the day with a coffee and headed off in the mist on Exmoor. Navigation can be an issue here, as there were few landmarks to mark my progress (especially in the poor weather).

Make sure your navigation is good as landmarks are few

Once I was over Dunkery Hill, I followed the Macmillan Way West and descended through the woods to Dunster, a lovely place. However, I managed to get lost a number of times trying to get out of the village!

Dunkery Beacon – 519m.

I eventually found my way and climbed up through the woods past Bat’s Castle to Withycombe, then pushed on to Williton as I wanted to buy food for tomorrow.

I dropped in to the pub only to be told that they couldn’t serve me for hours (they had a party already booked), so I just stopped for a pint and set off again.

Minehead in the distance – approaching Dunster

There was a great deal of field walking this afternoon, and all was good apart from getting lost 5 times! I think I hadn’t eaten enough, like before at Clovelly, and I was trying to rush to beat the storm. It was definitely time to stop for lunch.

Lunch!

I found another pub later, the Wyndham Arms, where I had a lovely meal and great service. It was clearly a locals pub, just the way I like it. Leaving here at about 8.30pm, I still had nearly 2 miles still to walk before I could camp. I ended up just stopping next to the road in a gateway to a field as it started to rain again, but it was a quiet enough night.

Tomorrow’s walk on the Quantocks in the distance

Day 14: Saturday 2nd March

I had walked the entire length of the wet Quantock Hills by 9am today, then stopped as the sun came up and blue sky appeared. Perfect conditions to dry my tent while I could.

358m – the Quantock Hills. Wet.

I did manage to get a little bit lost coming out of the National Trust woods from the Quantocks. I unknowingly came out onto the wrong road. I realised I’d gone wrong when I passed Duck’s Pool, so I took a path through the National Trust’s Fyne Court. This turned out to be a lovely and very popular place. I then took a different road out of here to rejoin my intended route. It added nearly a mile, but I enjoyed it.

It was then a mix of field and road walking into Bridgwater. I was expecting a pub but I didn’t find one, so stopped at the Co-op for food and two cans of beer. I stopped for lunch after crossing the M5 footbridge. I kept pushing on today because rain was forecast, but it still hadn’t reached me by 3.15pm.

Crossing the M5 – it felt like a different world

It was odd to see so many cars on the M5 – the lorries racing along, and the noise… such an intrusion into my peaceful world. This was followed by flood plains that reminded me of the East Anglian fens, with very long stretches on roads or muddy green lanes. I found it hard to keep going on this section – there were no pubs and few people.

I did chat to a farmer’s wife who was working on a really interesting farm – it had chickens, Christmas trees, crops and various accommodation like glamping pods. She was very kind and offered me a lift as she thought I was injured when she found me airing my feet on a path running through her farm! And no, I didn’t accept the lift.

Somehow I made it to camp in a field on Pit Hill, just past Sutton Mallet. The rain stayed away until I got the tent up at 6pm. I had no water left, so no hot drink tonight but I was nearly out of meths anyway.

Day 15: Sunday 3rd March

I woke this morning to drizzle which got lighter later, so my soft shell was only damp when I reached Street. There was a disabled loo here which meant both I and my merino T-shirt could have a wash – we both needed it! I put the t-shirt back on wet which wasn’t nice. but I have to admit it did feel warm still and it dried quickly .

Glastonbury

My day improved dramatically with the discovery of a Brewer’s Fayre all you can eat breakfast – I made the most of that, and was able to charge my head torch and Flip 10. Well worth the stop.

Feeding myself up ready to take on Storm Freya

During my breakfast challenge, the wind picked up significantly so I was in no hurry to leave. Especially as they had free coffee!

When I finally headed back out, the section from Glastonbury to Westbury-sub-Mendip was very flat and open. I was glad that Storm Freya wasn’t yet in full force. The path passed through some cattle fields and I’m not a fan of walking through cows, so I was glad to find most of the fields empty at this time of year. The paths seemed little used and were rough in places, but passable.

The walk between Glastonbury and Westbury-sub-Mendip was a bit dull

The pub in Westbury-sub-Mendip was very nice, and welcomed me in even though I was wet and muddy. The food was amazing, and I very nearly couldn’t eat it all. I feel so much better for eating properly today.

I enjoyed the walk over the Mendips into Cheddar, and camped above the gorge in a valley out of the wind. The sun finally emerged later in the afternoon and it was lovely to be up high.

Cheddar Reservoir, from the Mendips

Now it really feels like I am getting somewhere, and Wales at least feels achievable!

You can read the next stage of my adventure (Cheddar to Monmouth) here.

My 11 Wild Camping Rules.

4 thoughts on “LEJOG Chapter 4: Barnstaple to Cheddar

  1. Mark, as well as enjoying your reports I’m very envious of you and your adventure.
    Hopefully better weather on its way next week👍

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