From: Tiverton, Devon

To: Hollacombe, Devon

Distance: 19.2 miles / 30.9 km

Total distance so far: 960.3 miles / 1,545 km

Date: 19 June 2021

The River Exe by Bickleigh Mill

I started my 50th day of walking with some trepidation; I was kicking things off by taking a trail, and as you know, I haven’t had the best of luck with those in recent weeks. Luckily, the Exe Valley away came up trumps, even throwing in an unexpected cafe stop about five miles in to my day. I wasn’t hungry but I stopped for a lemonade and a medicinal slice of Millionaires Shortbread at Bickleigh Mill (which was actually still milling corn until the 1960s) and watched a kilt wearing man, who didn’t appear to be Scottish, chase a poor peacock around for half an hour, taking photo after photo of its fantastic plumage. I didn’t get a photo (I thought the bird had dealt with enough paparazzi for one day) but we all know the colour scheme, and it looked resplendent in the morning sunshine.

Views and ferns – my roadside walking from today summed up in one image!

After following the trail for the first half of the day, along a track and fields, often next to the River Exe (a river that, in its southern reaches, has a wonderful floating restaurant that you can access by water taxi from Exmouth – I had a lovely meal there a few years back while walking the South West Coast Path), I was back on the quiet country lanes, and there I stayed for the rest of today’s walk, which turned gloomier as the skies darkened. I’d originally planned to camp tonight but I realised there was no way I’d make it to the site I had in mind, and I’ve ended up in a farm house B&B a few miles past Crediton. I’m glad to be here – it’s pouring with rain outside, and a warm bath and bed seems preferable to packing up a wet tent in the morning!

WW1 memorial, Shobrooke

As I walked through the village of Shobrooke today, I stopped to look at the names on the war memorial there. As is the case in towns and villages across what was the British Empire, there was a startlingly long list of names for such a small place. And as is also the case with almost every memorial from World War One that I’ve seen, certain surnames kept being repeated. One poor family (the Horwells) lost three sons, others two. How could these rural communities – small even then – have ever really have recovered, emotionally or practically? Just devastating. I did a search online and found a nice local history project which threw a little more light on the subject. I love that people make the effort to research these things and share their knowledge – it’s a type of public service. And I love that I have time, right now, to look these things up.

You come across the oddest things on country lanes