Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Exford to Bratton Fleming

Yesterday's hopes were quickly dashed. After following hoof-churned bridleways along the slopes of a small valley, I found myself getting wet while taking an arrow straight road back to the high moorland. I did my best to follow the vague grassy tracks while being blasted by shards of rain, swept along on a ferocious wind. It become almost impossible to see where I was going as my face and eyes were stung repeatedly by the vicious raindrops. The steep bracken filled valley of the River Exe provided a damp oasis for a while, before I returned to the exposed moors and another onslaught began.

The weather is beginning to grind me down, although some deranged shouting over the howling wind was useful for regaining motivation after each big gust. I was alone in the clouds, adrift in a remote and harsh landscape. There was a section along road before a thin footpath led to Exe Head, the source of the river. On a nicer day, I would probably be enjoying views of the north coast across the rolling heather, but this river heads in the other direction for fifty miles to meet the sea. A river after my own heart, doing things the hard way.

It wasn't raining quite as hard when I reached Pinkery Pond, but the cold wind and my sodden clothing had chilled me to the bone. Attempting to pinkle meant a lot of fumbling with frozen fingers and zips. Time to leave the high ground. My escape followed walls and lines of trees before little lanes took over. A planned shortcut and break from the tarmac was obstructed by biosecurity measures, but for the final miles I was in a completely single minded mode, focused only on the destination. It has been an exhausting day, and I have promised myself a day off when I reach the thousand mile mark.

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