Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

February 2020

We’re All Dooned!

Coast Path, Exmoor

New Year in Doone country. We’re in Devon, a stones-throw from Lynmouth and the weather is really rather nice. There was mile after mile of coast path just beckoning us along it and some gorgeous pubs to try – including one right next door to the bunkhouse where we were staying.

In the spirit of literary adventure, we even had our own Lorna. But rather than have her kidnapped by brigands, like in the novel, she was touring the area from the relative comfort of the back of an e-tandem – no rescue required.

Our Saturday walk took us from the bunkhouse along the coast to Lynmouth, where we read up on the epic 1899 overland transport of the Lynmouth lifeboat 13 miles over the top of Countisbury Hill to launch at Porlock during a storm. We only had about half the distance to cover, but it gave us a healthy respect for Nick and Lorna, who were pedalling the tandem over. We didn’t quite believe they were going to make it back up the hill from Lynmouth, but when we arrived at the Valley of the Rocks there they were waiting for us.

After lunch we headed back to the bunkhouse using an inland route following the river from Lynton via the Coleridge Way. This had the advantage of taking us past the NT Tearoom at Watersmeet, but in danger of missing its 3:30pm closing time. In order to save the day, Jim, Ali & Fergus sped ahead, arriving with 5 minutes to spare and ordered tea for 12. Dave also put on a last minute spurt, which was why he was the only one who got a cake with his drink.

We had excellent walks every day during a run of particularly good weather. But I simply have to mention our coast walk from Minehead to Porlock. As we drove over to the start of the walk we thought it might be disappointing. A temperature inversion gave beautiful clear views over the hills, but as we descended to the coast we were in swirling cloud. Luckily it was sufficiently sunny to drive the cloud off the land and onto the sea below the cliffs we were walking on. We chose to walk the “rugged” coast path and our efforts were rewarded with the most spectacular Brocken Spectre, which followed us along the cliffs from 11am to 3pm as a rainbow halo on our shadows. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it was a fabulous way to round off 2019.                                   Ali

John’s Exmoor

A very pleasant few days was spent near Exmoor and this was a good way to work off some of the epicurean over-indulgence of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The rush of packing on Boxing Day evening was soon over and the drive to Countisbury in the car gave a chance to chat and catch up on news.

Exmoor is an area of England that I am particularly enamoured with. Far from the madding crowd, of course, and peaceful and serene in its rusticity. The moor retains a dated feel where time seems to pass slower and the Human footprint less deep. It was nice to see the ponies wandering and good that they are now a protected equine species and increasing in numbers. (They were rustled for their meat in WW2).

Our hike along the gently rising Doone Valley was done in sharp but bright weather and the gently flowing Badgworthy river provided a background gurgling accompaniment. We never found the bellicose, violent waterfall that John Ridd had to climb on his path to meet Lorna Doone. But this for the novel.

On the coast near the County Gates toll house lie the remains of a Roman signal station, probably erected during Vespasian’s advance into the West Country. Excavations indicate that it was only occupied for maybe three or four years. Now just the earthen berms are visible and a depression in the inner bank where the garrison oven once lay. Strange to think how people can pass through a place so briefly and yet leave a stamp of presence behind to remind us that all we do is a transition to something else.

John M (with sketch by George)

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