The venue of the caving centre was ideal; it was in a secluded location, with a high wooded backdrop with the caves below, it was so secluded that many of us drove straight past the entrance a few times before locating it. The accommodation was basic but the essential amenities were all operational including the fire alarm even with no fire. The rooms needed a bit of an airing but after a while it was fine, the venue afforded complete freedom for the group and it was also within walking distance of Buckfastleigh. Unfortunately the museum was shut, but there were still a few exhibits and information within and outside of the centre.
A walking route for Saturday was planned on the Friday evening; this was a circular walk around a section of the river Dart valley approximately 12 miles, not including all the undulations! The start being a short car journey from the hostel via Ashburton. The walkers were John and Ania and her mother Barbara, Tom and Anthea, Jun, Amy, Mike, Paul and me. Beverly and the boys Ollie and Archie went on a separate day trip.
Saturday began warm and just became hotter and hotter as the day progressed, we all needed to be prepared with the lots of sun cream, water, sun hats and also plenty of bug repellant provided by Mike. We all gradually met up at the agreed start location at the car park of Newbridge Marsh not far from the village of Holne, we all trudged off at about 11am. There was some initial difficulty at first finding a clear path route but gradually this was more defined following the 'Two Moors Way' and onto the 'Dartmoor Way'. Footpaths on some of the initial sections were fairly steep and tiring, this was partly adjusting to the heat also. It proved to be a picturesque route with views down the river valley and also covering some of the moor land features. Quite a few photos were taken mostly of the Dartmoor ponies and their foals; they seemed quite at ease in the presence of people and were willing photo subjects. We all stopped for lunch sitting on top of 'Sharp Tor' amongst the rocky outcrops, it was an opportunity to cool down for a while and air our feet. We then had a further stop at Dartmeet Bridge, this is a popular tourist stopping point by the rivers edge, the atmosphere was very relaxed with people and dogs splashing around in the river and generally lazing around. So we joined in! The ice creams on sale there were more than welcome, some of us even wandered to the pub/restaurant for refreshment. (No names to protect the guilty). We were about at the half way stage of the walk, and when it was time to move on, I must admit it took me a while to get going again. We left the 'Dartmoor Way' path for our route back to the cars; this initially required us to cross a river section via large slippery stepping stones at irregular intervals within the river. Barbara was not keen on this route and disappeared; eventually John found her and helped her across, in some form of 18th century waltz they danced across the stones, to much applause! After passing through the oak wooded area and some further uphill sections, we must have all had a second wind as we were beginning to progress at a more steady pace. This was for me the best stretch of walk following roughly the contour of Holne Moor with fine views into the river valley and then crossing the dam at the picturesque area of the Venford reservoir. Following the route for a further couple of miles it was then a left turn at the road junction to Holne following the river back to the car park. We finished at approximately 6:30 pm.
All in all it was a good walk with variety and good views of the glorious Devon countryside and quite testing considering the heat that day. We all looked forward for some refreshment later checking out some of the local brews at one of the locals in Buckfastleigh.
Another bright sunny day, this time the group split to undertake various activities. Mike, with John, Ania and Barbara returned to where we had walked the previous day, whilst venturing further into the moor. Mike advised that once into the moor they spent quite a lot of the time laying down on the moor looking up at the sky. This seems a reasonable thing to do, relaxing in contrast to the previous day's exertions. Jun drove to the west side of the moors for a bike ride, she later advised that due to the stones on the tracks it was a bit bumpy so she kept to the road routes, the roads were not too busy, so all in all she had a good day.
The remainder of us set out to go canoeing picking up the canoes from Totnes, to travel upstream of the River Dart to shoot the rapids! After some brief instruction form the proprietor we set of in two canoes, Tom and Anthea in one, Ami and I in the other. The arrangement is such that the person at the front paddles and the person at the rear steers (with some paddling). In our canoe Ami steered whilst I paddled, she expressed some slight nervousness at first which she soon overcome whilst correcting my paddling methods. So after a few visits into the bulrushes and trees we were soon moving along with a bit more confidence. Tom and Anthea were progressing along like a couple of old hands, I had the feeling this was not Toms first time with the paddle. We were moving against the current which was quite gentle along this initial stretch of river, and quite relaxing with not too much paddling effort.
Tom was in his element, his American roots were beginning to show by giving some fine renditions of 'Way down upon a Swannie River' echoing down the banks of the Dart. Tom and Anthea also went side to side now and again to allow Anthea to check out and record the local flora. After contacting Tom for directions (via the mobile in a big waterproof bin in the middle of the canoe) we were later joined by Paul, Beverly and the boys, Ollie and Archie. We managed to find a suitable place pull in where we all met up for a bit of a break and refreshment.
The boys were in good spirits and looked to be enjoying the whole canoeing experience, so much so they wanted their Mum and Dad to go home by canoe instead of the car! After the break we all continued to head upstream. The steam train line followed the route of the river and every now and again you would hear a 'toot toot' then the steam train would pass by and the passengers would wave and we would all wave back, I would imagine to some constant amusement for the boys.
Along the route we observed as many as eleven kingfishers, or was it just one following us flying backwards and forwards! None the less it's still quite exiting seeing some wild life we rarely see normally at home. Anthea spotted a fairy garden along the bank in the middle of nowhere, complete with snow white and the seven dwarves. We don't often see these either! Further upstream the current was becoming stronger and was made worse by a feeder stream into river, this was to prove my undoing. Paul, Beverly and the boys somehow sailed through it whilst the rest of us really struggled to get through, going just side to side without making any headway. Paul later confided that he developed some sort of push along the river bottom technique with the oars. In the end Tom and Anthea manoeuvered their canoe to the edge of the river where it was reasonably shallow, then Tom got out for a paddle and pulled their canoe though the last difficult stretch. Ami and I followed suit.
We carried on a little way further, but I must admit I was whacked! Paul, Beverly and the boys headed back and after pulling up for a good rest we also followed them back downstream to where we started. It was a leisurely drift back just going with the flow of the current with little or no paddling, whilst taking the opportunity to dry off! Many thanks to Tom for organizing the canoe hire which proved to be an enjoyable day out and to Ami for putting up with my dodgy paddling. Also to everyone else for their good company.
Another bright sunny start for the day. After packing and tidying up, many of us wondered down in various groups to Buckfast Abbey. The grounds of the Abbey are quite large, consisting of the buildings associated with the Abbey, a produce shop selling various smellies and drink but no Abbey honey left! A water mill, rather large one and various gardens also a very large Abbey. I found the healing herb gardens to be most interesting, I have always believed that man's cures are growing around him. And women's too! The centerpiece of the Abbey was a rather modern, very large glass mosaic of Jesus located at the very rear; it captured the light perfectly shinning and radiating throughout the Abbey leaving the visitor with a lasting impression of the visit. After a walk through Buckfast in search of the elusive cream tea, it was time to head home.
Many thanks for a great time and good company till we meet again, and thanks to John for organising the trip.
Report by Ken
Breakfast - Photo by Anthea
Towards Sharpitor - Photo by Paul
Dartmoor ponies - Photo by Paul
Camouflage - Photo by Paul
A break to cool the feet - Photo by Anthea
The waltz - Photo by Paul
Rowen trees - Photo by Paul
Barbecue at the hostel - Photo by Anthea
Tasty kebabs - Photo by Paul
Canoeing on the river Dart - Photo by Anthea
Picnic by the river - Photo by Paul
Drifting along the river Dart - Photo by Anthea
Tom and Anthea - Photo by Paul
Green bullrushes in the river - Photo by Anthea