DAY 61: Bratton Fleming to Bideford – 17.60 miles
Premier Inn aside, that was one the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in on this trip and, as seems to be happening more and more recently, I really struggled to get up and moving this morning. I also knew I had quite a long day ahead to Bideford and I wasn’t entirely sure the best way to walk. But my host had left out breakfast so I was still able to load up and the sun was just about holding on outside. A day of two distinct halves, this morning was spent walking some of my favourite kind of roads. Quiet, winding, different kinds of vegetation and something new to look at on every turn. It was still quite hilly though, with many short steep up always followed immediately by a swift steep down. I’m sure if you walked the main road these would be flattened out, but where is the fun in that!
By total contrast I arrived in the somewhat gloomy town of Barnstaple, stopping for a quick drink so I could work out which way to head south. As well as the main road, there was also many side road options to Bideford, plus there was the South West Coastal Path, and parallel to that the Tarka Trail. Having been caught out a couple of times now following river/estuary trails I was hesitant to do the same again. Yes they may be flat but they are often wiggly so can take much longer, and you also never know what you’re going to run into 🐮 Thankfully I didn’t have to go far out of town to figure all this out, and after confirmation from a local that there are no fields crossing any of the trails, I set off on the Tarka Track. 9 miles to Bideford but the path was a delight to follow, full of weekend cyclists and the constantly changing estuary view to my right.
I had planned to make it all the way to Bideford and then stop for a Sunday dinner, but when I came across a cafe at Fremington just as the sun was making another brief appearance, I decided to stop for a late lunch instead. Which turned out lovely as I got chatting to the couple at the next table – Andy and Lynn with their little boy – and not only did hey give me a donation, but also some extra just for me so I could treat myself to an ice cream. Thank you! Actually having what I am doing written across my bag has never gained so much attention. Including Jenny, a lovely lady with whom I had this random 3 minute conversation (whilst her son looked impatiently on) about the hurdles she had overcome, trekking to Everest base camp etc. It’s amazing the people you meet and the stories they have to share.
By the time I limped into Bideford I was utterly exhausted and couldn’t lift my backpack for another moment… So it was lovely to simply be able to sit on a wall and wait for the cavalry to arrive. For the next two nights I would be staying with John and Jacky – parents of a friend of mine who had kindly set this up for me after we got to spend time together in Bath (and John is also my god-daughters, fathers, uncle haha work that one out!) John arrived, carried my backpack to the car and then we went straight back to their house, where he and Jacky made me feel very welcome. Cupious amounts of tea, laundry taken care of and all those other little extra’s you naturally get from being in someone’s actual home.