Yesterday was the first day of wintry weather here, with hail showers on and off all day, and a thin layer of hail settled over most of the garden. The temperature was a chilly 4 degrees, and it was hard to remember that on Tuesday I had been out for a walk without a jumper.
Today hasn’t been much better, with rain or hail all morning. By lunchtime we were getting cabin-fever, so started to analyse the weather predictions, which offered a potential dry spell in the afternoon. Dressed ready, we were out of the house as soon as the last drops fell, and drove a short distance to the start of the northern section of the Tarka Trail.
The Tarka Trail is a long-distance footpath , and our local bit runs along the old railway line between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. Except that it doesn’t…there is a gap between Willingcott just to the north west of us, and Braunton to the south. One day they will connect the two pieces up, as they are currently purchasing all the necessary pieces of land, and then the path will run 100 metres or so from our garden. That will be very handy!
Parking in the deserted car park at Willingcott, we set a steady pace down the smooth tarmacked track, enjoying the fresh air, even though the skies were leaden. Soon we were treated to a view down the steep wooded valley towards the grey sea at Lee.
Not a soul was to be seen, despite the rain staying away, and we soon started to descend down through the steep-sided cuttings towards Ilfracombe.
Finally some other souls emerged from their cosy living rooms, and we were greeted and sniffed by a variety of happy waggy dogs. The trail passes a lovely old wall with huge beech trees apparently sprouting from the top…
Finally we reached the first of the two reservoirs at Slade, a small community on the outskirts of Ilfracombe. Such a tranquil place at this time of year, I imagine it must get more visitors in summer, either fishing, or picknicking on the grassy bank. Today, all that was there was a pair of dippers, which were lovely to see.
There is another reservoir further on, but we had reached our allotted turn-around time, based on out predicted weather window, so we set off up the gentle but unrelenting slope back to the car. We arrived as the first drops started to fall, so it was nicely judged. Home for tea in front of the log-burner and the tennis, feeling much happier for some exercise.