God that was a good night’s sleep! I didn’t even get up to pee which is unheard of given the fact I have the bladder of an 80 year old woman. I think I woke up twice because we were on a slight slope and I’d slid down my slippy mat in my slippy sleeping bag and what the fuck is it with technical sleeping gear that it always has to be so bloody slippy? Here’s a group of people that’ll throw a tent or tarp up any old place, let’s make all their gear totally frictionless because it’ll be totes hilar when they end up crumpled at the bottom of a slope encased in £300 worth of down.
Anyway, it was lovely and warm when the alarm woke us up this morning, and by “warm” I mean over 8°C, which was actually the coldest it got last night. I could get changed without taking Tarrant’s eye out with a nipple and there was no frost on the ground just waiting to suck the warmth from your soul. Again, we got going about 7am. I don’t know why it takes us so long. I follow a lot of long distance hikers on various platforms and they seem to get their shit together and get going within minutes, shovelling cereal bars into their chops as they begin their thirty mile day. We’re a bit more chilled than that. I like to start the day with a cuppa and some noodles, and Tarrant needs the warm water to wash her hands properly so she can put her contacts in without smearing dirt all over her eyeballs. We do get going eventually though. Then we stop and faff and remove a layer because we’re sweating buckets, then we carry on at a gentle strolling pace. Yeah, thirty mile days aren’t something we’ll casually drop into a hike. In fact, yesterday’s 19.2 miles was something we’d consider a beast of a day and I’m not sure my calf muscles are going to forgive me this time.
I’m glad we did the big day yesterday though, it did mean we only had a 7.73 mile, very flat wander back to Taunton this morning. A lot of it hugged the bank of the River Tone as it passed through farmland, both arable and cowish. Cows. More cows. As we approached the field two of the bastards moved to block the entrance. Oh you absolute buggers! I fell behind Tarrant and tried not to make eye contact with them, but as we got closer we realised there was a very thin electric fence between us and them. Ha! Can’t get me you bovine gits! I enjoyed a very smug stroll along the river after that. I don’t know why I’m so scared of cows these days, I never used to be. I think it’s because one of them faced me down on Dartmoor once and then I joined a Facebook group called Killer Cows so yeah, I probably brought it on myself and need to stop reading the Internet.
So this was a nice, easy end to the trail. We’d eaten all of our food, we only needed to carry a small amount of water, and our packs felt light as a feather, assuming the feather was constructed from galvanised steel. I’d not researched shops on this trail as we’d decided to carry all of our food and snacks just to see if we could, but it turns out that the West Deane Way is very, very rural and the only real opportunities to buy food are at Wiveliscombe and Wellington. There’s a very small shop/post office in Brompton Ralph but I’ve no idea what the opening hours are. We did pass a few pubs in various villages but with us being in some very weird Covid times I don’t know if they do food, or when they’re usually open either.
As for water, there are plenty of opportunities to filter water from the River Tone or various streams, but I’m not sure how healthy it is to drink water from lowland rivers surrounded by farms. It’s probably not. You’re probably better off drinking your own piss but again, there really aren’t many places to buy water and there are no taps so unless you’re passing the very few pubs during opening hours you have very few options. We took a chance and just filtered water at the fastest moving parts of the river we could find. I’ll let you know if our internal organs fall out of our arses at any point.
Right. We were knackered and oh my gosh, I never ached this much after the Isle of Wight Coast Path! Why am I in so much pain? Am I really just this unfit now? Is this my life? Did I have the audacity to age nine months since IOW and all of my muscles went into “everything will hurt forever” mode? We hobbled, literally hobbled, back into Taunton and I made the mistake of sitting down whilst Tarrant popped into the shop for car snacks for the drive back to Brighton. I seized up. I shit you not, my muscles pretty much decided that this was it and any further movement was out of the question. I wrenched myself off the wall and we dragged our broken bodies back to the car.
Something this walk highlighted was the fact that we need to address the weight of our gear. We’ve been investing in lighter weight stuff over lockdown so we really should be carrying less but I’m still carting a Sony A6000 around with me so I can pretend I’m a photographer in front of all the sheep, and we probably carry too much water. We ran out of water halfway around an 18 mile day hike last summer on the hottest day in the world, like, ever and now we’re scared to carry less than two litres, or 2.6 in my case. I think we could easily ditch a litre each unless we were somewhere notoriously dry. I could possibly relinquish some of my tech… but then again, probably not… we’ve got until April 2022 to get our kit dialled in and shed as much weight as possible before we hit the longest walk we’ve done; Eastbourne to Lands End to John O Groats.
Wellington to Taunton , Somerset, England
Activity: Walking the West Deane Way
Useful shit to know…
– If you’re planning on doing this trail I’d advise you to download a GPX of it and open it with an offline app such as Maps.me, or get yourself an OS map. It’s not that it’s not waymarked, it is, but it does miss some crucial turn offs. Actually there are a couple of different waymarks, and some of them are just stickers applied over public footpath markers, or directly to some manner of fence or stile.