From: Monkton Heathfield, Somerset
To: Tiverton, Devon
Distance: 28.1 miles / 45 km
Total distance so far: 941.1 miles / 1,515 km
Date: 18 June 2021
Around halfway through my walking day, as the traffic on the M5 thundered past in the near distance, I crossed over into Devon, the penultimate county of my journey across Britain. I still have 10 days left before I finish (I’m aiming for 28 June), but crossing that invisible county line helped propel me through the longest day hike I’ve done on this trip. It’s not a distance I’m looking to repeat, and I’m glad I did it under overcast skies and with much cooler temperatures than I’ve had recently!
My day was bookended by two canals. The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal delivered me into Taunton, Somerset’s county town. The depressed-looking high street, with the empty shopfronts that are so common across Britain right now, didn’t offer much to the early morning walker, but it did have a Greggs that was open… one breakfast porridge and a buy-four-4-three deal on the sausage rolls later, and I was on my way, following a route that stuck firmly to country lanes after the horror show I’ve endured on footpaths in recent days. I stayed on those lanes, almost entirely empty of traffic except for the occasional foray on to busier ‘A’ roads when strictly necessary, until Westleigh. From there, I gratefully picked up the towpath of the Grand Western Canal, that carried me the remaining 10 miles or so to the really rather pretty but oddly quiet town centre of Tiverton.
Not a lot of note happened today, besides a few phone calls about my flooded flat (I’m finally making some progress with the insurance companies but I fear I’m going to have a lot of arguing to do with them once the walk is over). The rather inappropriately named Grand Western Canal (it used to link Tiverton with Taunton but that section closed in the 1860s, leaving an 11 mile route in Devon that is positively bucolic, but doesn’t go anywhere) threw up a few surprises though, like the plane crash there in 1961, which was all but forgotten about until a routine dredging operation in 2003 led to the discovery of large bits of metal and the release of a strong smell of fuel. You’d think they might have collected the bits of plane at the time, rather than wait four decades…