The rest day in my own home on Monday had been the best thing imaginable at this stage of the walk. One thing had played on my mind though as I took my day off, my right achilles heel has become a little sore and stiff. I decided to walk as planned today and see how it goes, I'm also planning to redcuce my average daily mileage from here to the finish to try and avoid making it worse.
Arriving back at the Milk & More depot in Exeter this morning was great fun, everybody gave me a wonderful reception. Seeing all my workmates for the first time in ages was a real treat. A big good luck message had been fixed to the side of my milkfloat. The best surprise of all was to find that no less than three people were going to walk with me. Marcus, who maintains the Milk & More fleet went to great lengths to spare a couple of hours despite being snowed under with work. Product controller Steve, who has completed many long distance charity walks in the past, and office girl Sally had both volunteered to do the whole day.
After posing for photos we left the depot in pleasant weather. After three miles of road walking we joined the towpath of the Exeter Ship Canal and headed south. We passed under the southern end of the M5, 11 days ago I walked under the northern end at West Bromwich. As expected the canal was ideal for walking and we caught plenty of glimpses of wildlife. The canal empties into the Exe Estuary at Turf Lock, from there we continued along the Exe Estuary Trail.
Marcus had been a great walking companion, but he had to leave us when we reached Powderham. As we went along the estuary by Powderham Castle we saw a herd of deer and stags, a woodpecker and a crane. Unfortunately drizzle started to fall by the time we reached Starcross, light rain and drizzle then continued for the rest of the day. Between Starcross, only a mile across the estuary from my home in Exmouth, and Dawlish Warren we had to walk on roads again for a while, but from there on we able to spent most of the day walking along the coast path.
Dawlish was well placed for our lunchbreak, we approached the town walking along the seawall where trains are very exposed to the elements during stormy weather. The line along the coast here is one of Britains most spectacular stretches of rail and it's often seen on TV. Due to the rain we opted to take our rest in a cafe. After leaving Dawlish our previously flat route started to get quite hilly. We were never going to be able to avoid the notorious Devon hills forever and the coast path to Teignmouth gave us our first hard work. We entered Teignmouth on another section of seawall before cutting through town and crossing Shaldon Bridge. We then headed back to the coast path, watching fishermen reeling-in catches as we went.
The hills got taller and steeper south of Shaldon. The views were good when the rain eased, but the constant ups and downs through fields of cows were hard work in the miserable weather. Often the official coast path is hard to follow so we just wandered through fields in what looked like the right direction and hoped for the best. As we came close to Maidencombe we decided to return to the road hoping to find a footpath running alongside it. Unfortunately there was no path and the road here was narrow, bendy and very busy, easily the most unpleasant place we'd found ourselves walking all day.
In bad weather and with the light falling we called it a day just north of Torquay. Sally and Steve had both done a brilliant job and had walked 22 miles each. Sally in particular put in an amazing effort, she had never taken on a such long walk before, but managed to push herself through some tough sections towards the end. I finished feeling relieved that my heel, while still a bit sore, hadn't worsened or really troubled me to any degree. I'd thoroughly enjoyed walking along the estuary and the coast with my workmates. Tomorrow I will resume walking from Maidencombe. After a visit to the Milk & More depot in Torquay I will be making my way through the Devon countryside before stopping at a campsite near Brownston.
I would like to say a big 'thank-you' to all the Exeter Milk & More staff for such a warm welcome today and for their continued support thoughout my walk. Andy, Steve, Marcus and Sally in particular deserve a special mention for putting themselves forward and volunteering to walk with me.
GP:S data click here
Mileage today; 22.08 miles, walking time 7 hrs 6 mins, average walking speed 3.1 mph
Weather; a bright start, then light rain and drizzle, max 17C
Cumulative mileage; 842.71 miles
|The four walkers prepare to leave Exeter. Sally, myself, Steve and Marcus.|
|A view of Teignmouth from the coast path|