Monday, 27 May 2013

It 's a Long Way to Lundy

The unexpectedly curtailed Scottish trip left a month or so without a cunning plan but as usual I found plenty to fill in a period of largely dry but unseasonably cold weather.
A trip down to Somerset included exploration of a new length of cycle track that cleverly utilises old railway tunnels under Bath and another disused railway line traversing the Somerset Levels where abandoned peat workings now provide a range of wildlife habitats. Extensive panoramic views from Glastonbury Tor and a small, friendly farm based camp site added to the enjoyment of an area I had not previously visited in detail.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton required a full day to appreciate the range of aircraft displayed with the 002 Concorde providing a fascinating insight in to the peak of British civil aviation and the history of the Falklands War tinged with emotion. The simulated aircraft carrier experience was well executed and topped off an excellent day.
After a day at the remarkable National Trust property of Tyntesfield which almost uniquely still contains all the treasures and artefacts that are original to the house, and has superb parkland grounds I returned to Brecon to admire a friend's 60 year old Morris Oxford being prepared for wedding car duty.
Over the May Bank Holiday I cycled in the Elan valley and walked across to the new bothy project we had excavated last November to see what effect the long cold winter had had on the remaining ruins. All seems well and it will be exciting to see the project begin in earnest with a helicopter lift of materials in mid June. I cycled in to Nant Rhys as well before exploring the tracts of forest and moor that surround the large Cefn Groes wind farm which was generating steadily in the strong winds.
A weekend in Shropshire included a family catch up in Bishop's Castle, a walk, bike ride and curry with Penny from Sheffield and a day out around local lanes with my brother culminating in a good pub lunch - our first day out together in decades.
Back in Brecon I enjoyed a horse shoe walk up over Pen y Fan after a late fall of snow before heading to Coventry for the result of my knee scan. Basically I have an oblique tear in the posterior horn of the medial meniscus (a torn cartilage in plain English!) which probably ought to receive further investigation and possible repair but I have decided to defer further action until September when I will be starting a 3 month period in the UK for commitments already scheduled. With cholesterol still good at 4.1 (despite a slight relaxation of my strict regime) and BP of 110/68 thankfully all seems well on the other health fronts
Thus reassured I headed south to Bristol for a memorable evening ride through the Bath tunnels with Bill and Dale once more and back via the pubs of the Kennet and Avon canal before heading down to Frome. This was the departure point for a week in Devon and on a sunny but chilly Sunday we headed down to Bridgetown on Exmoor and an excellent site alongside the Exe from where we enjoyed an evening ride across the empty moor and a night sampling the local scrumpy in the comfort of Anne and Sarah's comfy motorhome.
After a good walk up on the moor including Dunkerry Beacon - the highest point - we pitched up at Ilfracombe in preparation for the visit to Lundy.
Tuesday morning saw us checking in on the harbour front dominated rather strikingly by a Damien Hirst statue beneath which the MS Oldenburg bobbed - perhaps a smaller vessel than I had expected! Luggage and supplies were craned aboard and at 10am we departed along the impressive North Devon coast in a stiff Force 5 northerly and sea conditions described as moderate. Unfortunately despite missing breakfast I saw little of the view as the rough crossing got the better of me and it was with some relief that we arrived 2 hours later at the small jetty on Lundy's southern tip.
Soon after walking up to the small village our larger rucksacks were delivered  and we pitched camp on the empty field using the dry stone wall as a windbreak - the sun was shining though and we were soon away up the east coast passing old quarry workings, cottage ruins and one of the properties available for rent : Tibbetts which with its wood panelling and solid fuel appliances was reminiscent of an upper class bothy.
Soay sheep, Sikka deer, seals and bird life were all encountered and the flooded quarry's pond contained rather bizarrely dozens of goldfish and a large carp. From the north lighthouse we enjoyed phenomenal views along much of the south Welsh coastline - from Milford Haven and the Preselli's via Pembrey, Llanelli, Worm's Head, Gower, Swansea, Port Talbot and the cliffs of coastal Glamorgan round to Cardiff; whilst to the south and west lay Hartland Point and the coast south to Land's End.
After a walk back along the spine of the island the Marisco Tavern provided a welcoming bolt hole and we slept well with total peace enveloping the island whilst the generator was at rest from midnight to 6am.
Wednesday saw us walk the rugged west coast with side trips to the old Fog Battery and the granite slab known as the Devil's Slide before falling asleep in the midday sun leaving me foolishly somewhat sunburned.
We dined well in the Tavern in the company of a lass from Sheffield who was camping and also on her first visit - with a fine evening outside we all decided to walk over to the old lighthouse and ascend the spiral steps to the lofty platform for a panoramic view of the island as the skies darkened.

Very strong winds kept me awake most of the night as my tent flapped wildly despite being fully pegged down but the excellent hot showers soon had me refreshed and by 9.30 our bags were ready for collection  leaving us the day to walk round the south side of the island and watch the Oldenburg arrive after another lively crossing. We took a closer look at the other properties available for rent and the remarkable church built by a Reverend Heaven with granite exterior and decorative brick lining. At four o'clock and buoyed by ginger biscuits we boarded the ship once more and set off with the sea described as rough to moderate. For 2 hours we rose and fell on endless waves that occasionally washed across the decks - Pete had chosen a good spot though and we remained dry although at one point the crew asked everyone to move indoors during a particularly rough patch. Thanks to the biscuits (I think) I was able to enjoy the excitement of the crossing and the spectacular coastline and soon after arrival we had collected our bags, picked up pizzas at Tesco's and were cosily installed on a cool and windy evening.
On the Friday we headed across to Lynton and enjoyed a walk down to the village and back along the coast via the Valley of Rocks and the Lee Abbey grounds before a night in front of the telly with hook up keeping the chill at bay. It is almost 30 years since I last walked in this area as I undertook the Minehead to Bude section of the SWCPP in 1984 and it still retains its beauty and grandeur with plunging valleys, lush woodlands, rocky headlands and hidden coves.
On Saturday we parked up near Watersmeet to enjoy a mini expedition that took us along the coast path over Countisbury Hill, down in to the Doone Valley and then high on to Exmoor for a night under the stars part way along the Two Moors Way. Again it is many years since I slept in a bivvy bag and in such excellent conditions it was a real privilege to be out in such a magical place. A few hours more on Sunday morning returned us to the van which in turn returned us to Frome after what had been a full, varied and rewarding week.
This weekend I am in Leicestershire for the HU Overland Travellers UK meet after which I will get the van bearings done and new tyres fitted in readiness for a trip to Sweden and Norway that is planned to start once the bothy materials lift has been completed in mid June. I plan to be away until late August and hope to return to more regular blog postings once on the road again.
Quite a few pics appear here due to the long interval since my last musings - Picasa seems to have morphed in to Google + which is a little irritating but persevere by clicking the 'v' to the right of 'Add photo's'  and you will be able to run a slideshow which I hope you will enjoy and my sporadic locations will appear here.

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