From: Hollacombe, Devon
To: Okehampton, Devon
Distance: 17.6 miles / 28.3 km
Total distance so far: 977.9 miles / 1,574 km
Date: 20 June 2021
I rose early, leaving the B&B at 7am to emerge into a damp yet humid, murky, misty morning. I followed quiet, hedgerow-lined country lanes, largely single track, for most of the day, the space around me quiet and calm except for the birds and the occasional sound (perhaps once an hour) of an approaching car. Last night’s rain had stopped, but overhanging trees were still dripping on me as I passed underneath them, the occasional drop of water sliding its way down my neck.
Around six miles in I stopped in the shelter of an over-hanging barn roof, where I’d spotted a dry patch on the ground. I’d just finished snacking on the packed lunch I’d asked for in place of a breakfast when Alex appeared. An engineer in the energy sector, we ended up walking together for a mile or so down the lanes, Alex ultimately turning back at a crossroads, when he confessed he’d walked straight past the house him and his girlfriend have been renting for the past nine months (a ‘work from home’ escape from a London they were due to return to, like me, in the next few weeks) because we’d been having such an interesting conversation.
My good luck held – an hour or so later I was wandering through the hamlet of Heath Cross when I fell into conversation with Penny, then her husband Chris, then their total delight of a granddaughter, Eva. They fed me cake and flapjacks and shared the beautiful story of how they came to meet and marry, of Penny’s inspiring work with horses and equine therapy… and of Eva’s family geese, Christmas and Easter, who sound a bit of a handful! As we discussed, everyone has stories if you just take the time to stop and listen: I feel privileged to have heard some of theirs, and grateful to have received such a warm welcome. The landscapes on this walk of mine have sometimes been breathtaking, but it’s the people, and the conversations I’ve had, that will stay with me long after I’ve hung up my hiking boots.