The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 28 April 2008

Day 14 - Sampford Peverell to Taunton

28 April
Distance: 18.75 miles
Number of killeresque dogs: 1
Number of dogs who wanted to eat my lunch: 3
Number of overly friendly sheep: 16

A couple of hours of yesterday evening were spent chatting to Eileen and Frank. They were brought to our attention when we arrived at our campsite for the fact that Frank set off from Land's End, with his Border Collie Tess, two days after we did. Frank's wife Eileen is supporting him in their camper van.

Although we were on the same campsite Frank is actually a day and a bit behind us and our routes diverge in a couple of days time so it seems unlikely that our paths will cross again.

He poked his head out of his camper van this morning as we set off on our way and we all wished each other the best of luck with the rest of our respective routes.

For us it was back to the Grand Western Canal which we followed under initially clear blue skies until it came to an abrupt end, from where we followed its former route for the rest of the morning (at times walking down the middle of the trough that used to be the waterway).

Plenty of mud was found to cover our shoes and trouser bottoms, which made me say again that I really must wash the trousers - it's just a bit tricky when you don't have a spare pair to wear during the washing and drying process!

Having left the wet part of the canal, our navigation across fields was assisted by way-marks but would have been easier still with a 1:25k map, something that was inexplicably was missing for most of the morning's route. It wasn't until I came to turn over the 1:50k page that I discovered that the 1:25k was printed double sided and all of the head scratching as to which side of hedgerows we wanted to be had been needless. It certainly would have speeded us up when we had map and compass in hand in a field of overly friendly sheep, giving them time to run from their various corners of the field to accost us.

Whilst all of this was going on, the ominous skies which had developed over the course of the morning duly delivered rain, albeit not heavily enough to warrant ferretting in the packs for waterproofs.

A lack of lunchables led to a short diversion at lunchtime (which fell at about 1pm today) to Bradford-on-Tone, a village which provided us with both refreshment and good company in the White Horse Inn.

The afternoon saw us following the river Tone for what should have been just a couple of hours' stroll to just beyond Taunton.

We'd barely got into our stride, following the higgledy piggledy path alongside the meandering river when we spotted rain coming. We didn't need the following rumble of thunder to tell us that waterproofs were going to be wise this time.

It was one of those downpours that, had we been in the tent, would have had us saying "I'm glad we're not out walking in this". It was one of a number that caught us during the afternoon, some more torrential than others, but cruelly in between times the sun came out to make us overheat in our GoreTex.

Having reached Taunton and paused for longer than was justifiable in Tesco's cafe whilst sorting out tomorrow's food supply, we found (with a modicum of difficulty - the trouble of navigating through towns where there's just too much information to show clearly on the map) the canal that would lead us to our campsite.

With tiredness upon us after what had been a long day, the last mile and a half out of Taunton seemed interminable. Of course, we did finally reach our night stop and having paid our £4 (and that's for the two of us, not each) we have a pitch for the night.

There is more upon which I could comment (the lack of mallard chicks, the trees in leaf, the rape fields in bloom) but exhaustion is now too great for thinking and my sleeping bag is calling my name.

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