On foot along the Two Moors Way
One of the joys of my life as a freelance writer and editor specialising in southwest England is how so much of my work ‘cross fertilises’! Almost everywhere I go – particularly on Dartmoor, be it researching a new walk route or checking out a new café or driving across the moor for a meeting at Princetown – I take notebook and camera. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you might see (and what news items you may pick up as a result), and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to take a good photo for a future issue of the magazine, or an article or book commission. And every walk I go on, either for work or pleasure, builds up my understanding of how the moor works and which valley or ridge links with the next: I’m constantly learning how it all hangs together physically!
Planning a new route on the OS OL28 map and then walking it is one of the most enjoyable parts of my work: I like the exploratory element of the process. So I was delighted to get the commission to write a new book on the Two Moors Way/Devon Coast to Coast route from Cicerone Press a couple of years ago. Exploring yes, but not a walk I had devised myself: the official route, established in 1976, from Ivybridge north across Dartmoor, then Mid Devon and Exmoor, to finish on the North Devon coast at Lynmouth. In 2005 the Two Moors Way was officially linked with a section of the Erme–Plym Trail, extending it 15 or so miles south from Ivybridge to the South Devon coast at Wembury: hence Devon’s Coast to Coast route, a wonderful 116+ miles across England’s third-largest (and many would say, best!) county.
The start of the route: Wembury Bay and the Mewstone
The Two Moors Way stone at Stowford Bridge, Ivybridge
Having walked across Dartmoor several times I had long wanted to walk across Devon, but never managed to find the time. A commission deadline has a wonderful effect on the ability to focus! I walked the route from south to north (in accordance with the publisher’s wishes), dragging myself away from the beach at Wembury somewhat reluctantly on Day One (the pull of the South West Coast Path on a sunny morning is always hard to resist!). But once immersed in the verdant pastures and woodland of the South Hams that familiar delight in walking new paths came to the fore, further boosted by wonderful distant views of Western Beacon and the south moor above Ivybridge.
It is a glorious route: the cosy South Hams are soon left behind as the walker tackles the long and somewhat bleak stretch across remote moorland between Ivybridge and Scorriton (tricky navigationally in poor visibility). The River Dart, Dr Blackall’s Drive, Hameldown, Chagford Common, the Teign Gorge… the route leaves the moor just to the east of Whiddon Down then plunges into the rolling farmland and wooded combes of Mid Devon, passing isolated churches and remote farmsteads (and little else). I love this part of Devon: little walked and visited, and so far off the tourist trail. Morchard Bishop and Witheridge in the heart of the county are the two main settlements passed through (did you know that there is the most beautiful traditional hay meadow just outside the latter – Bradford Moor – awash with yellow rattle, early purple and marsh orchids, ox-eye daisies and ragged robin in summer?).
Standing water on the old Redlake Railway, Dartmoor & The beautiful Hameldown Ridge, Dartmoor & Buttercup-filled pastures near Morchard Bishop, Mid Devon
Distant views of Exmoor’s sandstone plateau may not be as impressive as those of Dartmoor’s lofty granite heights, but from the hills of Mid Devon Exmoor’s southern slopes soon come into view, drawing one on. The Exmoor section starts ‘properly’ on the edge of Badlake Moor, where you pass one half of a Peter Randall-Page sculpture. Placed facing south, its twin sits near the sculptor’s home near Drewsteignton on the edge of Dartmoor, facing each other across the intervening 30 miles of countryside. The Exmoor landscape is so different from that of Dartmoor, and altogether softer: smooth rounded hills, picturesque rivers running through steep-sided combes, small walled fields, historic farmsteads and hamlets. The final stretch of the route runs high above the magnificent valley of the East Lyn towards Exmoor’s towering sea cliffs, making for a dramatic finish at the coastal town of Lynmouth.
The Danesbrook Valley ner Hawkridge, Exmoor
Peter Randall-Page sculpture at Badlake Moor Cross
Walking and writing up the book was a joy, and all I wanted to do when I reached Lynmouth was turn around and walk back to Wembury!
The Barle near Cow Castle, Exmoor & Journey’s end: Lynmouth and The Foreland
The book was published in mid June (£12.95 www.ciceronepress.co.uk). And it is amazing what this commission has kicked off: I am in the process of reviving the Two Moors Way Association with a former member of that committee (the new website www.twomoorsway.org will be launched over the next few months), and in conjunction with Dartmoor Accommodation we will be producing an accommodation list for the route (if you are on the route, or nearby, please contact email email@example.com).
And finally both Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks are fully behind a relaunch of the route at the end of May next year, to mark the 40th anniversary.
Photos are all courtesy and copyright of Sue Viccars
About Sue Viccars: Blackingstone Partner and Editor of Dartmoor Magazine.
Blackingstone partner and editor Sue Viccares has been putting the magazine together since 2008. Sue has been involved with writing and publishing in Devon for 35 years and has written a large number of books and articles on Southwest England, specialising in Dartmoor and Exmoor walking routes.
About Dartmoor Magazine: Published four times a year, Dartmoor Magazine prides itself on being specialist, independent and locally owned. Its small editorial and production team is committed to publishing solid, well-informed features on Dartmoor and the immediate surrounding area, and to supporting local business.
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