Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Minehead to Combe Martin

This weekend walk was based on an article by Paddy Dillon in TGO magazine some years ago and takes in some of the best that Exmoor has to offer. Taking the Macmillan Way West out of Minehead, I ascended through woodland to the east-west ridge and headed west. It was a Thursday evening so it was a case of stopping for something to eat and then scouting out a pitch for the night. There were only a few joggers about so as light faded I had the place to myself.

I had two new pieces of kit to try out. First was an Integral Designs Sil-Tarp 1, bought in the New Year sale at Backpackinglight for the princely sum of £25. It comes without guys and pegs so I bought 100 feet of 550 para-cord, cut it into various lengths and sealed off the ends. I used my usual tarp pegs but I'd spent some time learning some new knots, bowline, taut line hitch and prusik loop. I'd also played around with the tarp in the garden at home.

The other new item was the amazing Sawyer Mini water filter.

I found a secluded pitch in the woodland known as Wootton Common, very close to the trig at 949442. It was rather a tight fit but sufficed. I attached a ridge line between two trees and very soon had the tarp set up quite nicely as it got dark.

It was very peaceful but around 10pm ten or so cyclists went by on the track just a few feet away but I well out of sight. I slept very well.

Next morning early, I dropped down through the woodland to the village of Wootton Courtenay. It was as well that there was a little shop as I realised that I'd only brought food for two nights out and there were going to be three. Rain came on as forecast but it was light. I stopped for second breakfast just before the climb on to the moorland path to Dunkery Beacon. It was sheltered in the woodland and I knew it would be quite blustery out in the open. I didn't stop long at the Beacon. The wind was strong and it was very misty so not much to see. I came across two hunt dogs and some time later was asked by hunt people if I'd seen four hounds that appeared to have gone missing. I gave them the location of the two.

At Exe Head I joined the Tarka Trail. I had thought, by looking at the map, that a reasonable pitch might be by Pinkery Pond at 724423 but it wasn't at all suitable so I pushed on. It was still quite windy and tried to pitch the tarp just before reaching the B3358 road but it wasn't looking good. I crossed the road and immediately found a quiet field corner which, although adjacent to the road behind a wall, was very still and there was very little traffic passing by.

Next morning, I climbed the path to 717405 and headed west to the village of Challacombe and then back up to the B3358 where, after a while, there was a farm track north over Challacombe Common, eventually leading to Parracombe where the pub was, unfortunately, shut.

Over Trentishoe Down and then Holdstone Down, I found a perfect stop for the night overlooking the sea with Wales visible in the distance. I'd seen it from higher up on the path but it was a crawl through gorse to get to it. Well worth the effort. It wasn't going to rain so I pitched the tarp as a lean to, just pegged along one edge to the ground and the other edge over trekking poles and then guyed to the ground.

Next morning the sun was up early, as was I, joining the coast path to Combe Martin. I didn't really need to carry water as there were plenty of small streams to take water from and the Sawyer Mini was so easy to use (more on it in another posting). During the whole trip, I saw no other backpackers.