We woke up in our nice, dry bothy and packed away as the rain pattered down. I was quietly smug that we’d stayed here last night and now didn’t have to pack the tent down in the rain. I was less smug about the fact that we now had to go out in the rain and make our way towards Appledore.
To be fair the sky stopped trying to drown us pretty soon after we left the Coachhouse but the trail was still hell bent on drenching us. Fucking hell, do they not know what a strimmer is around here? The path was completely overgrown with foliage in varying degrees of stabbiness. We kept our waterproofs on just so we could bushwhack our way through the sodden grass and bushes for about a mile and a half and remain relatively dry.
There are some epic hills in this section to start off with but eventually you emerge and you can see what lies yonder and I think it could probably legally be defined as Devon Flat. Little bit up, little bit down. It’s a nice wander into Westward Ho! which does indeed properly and officially have an exclamation mark at the end of its name. The Interwebs tells me it was named after a novel and it was a village developed purposely for tourists.
These days it’s still a village for tourists but I quite like the vibe of it. You walk past a big abandoned house which I loved the look of. It’s definitely haunted though. Westward Ho! is also home to Britain’s “most famous carpark”. A local businessman, Rob Braddick, leased it then just gave it to the public to use for free. In fairness he openly admits it’s in the hope that people will park for free then spend money in The Pier House pub which he owns. He also owns the haunted house and a bunch of chalets. You also have to question the state of the country you live in when a fucking carpark makes the news because it’s free.
So there I was, dropping the kids off at the public pool, when I noticed a tick buried head first in my thigh. Oh you absolute bastard! Nothing quite scares a poo back in like the threat of Lymes Disease so I left the cubicle to grab the tick tweezers. A kid went in after me. Thing is, the little fucker was too far up my leg to lift my shorts up so I had to drop them and this poor kid comes out of the cubicle to the sight of a podgy, aging lesbian attacking her inner thigh with a pair of tweezers as her girlfriend looked on. Is there a specific form of therapy for that I wonder?
After a cuppa to jump start our brains and a resupply at the Tesco where we applied way too much sugar to our faceholes because Tarrant can’t walk past a jam doughnut and neither of us can resist a Red Bull, we smashed out the last few miles to Appledore as the weather threatened rain. It delivered on that threat a couple of times too but only a spot of drizzle. This did mean that the last slog around the headland involved wet sand over the dunes. Oh yay.
The incredibly annoying thing about this section is that you can see where you need to be on the other side of the estuary but you still have to walk aaaall the way up to come aaaall the way back down again. It was already dull as shit. A bloke we’d met on the trail a while back had mentioned that once the Tarka Trail joins in the fun at Bideford it was a long, flat walk around various fingers of estuary on a fucking cycle lane. It was tedious and hard work and anyone we talked to about it mentioned blisters.
Well fuck doing any of that with everything we owned strapped to our backs. We formulated a plan which involved booking three nights at a campsite in Braunton, skipping forwards from Appledore to said campsite via the miracle of Stagecoach, then bussing back to Appledore the following day to fill in the gap. Then we’d take a day off because I feel like we’d need it. I mean, we have to walk that section, it’s the law, but there’s nothing in the rule book that says we can’t ditch most of our shit and do it with just the daypack essentials.
It’s two buses to Braunton from Appledore and you have to change in Barnstaple but it’s quite seamless. We popped to a local shop to pick up beers for the evening then headed to Secret Spot Camping where we were greeted by two dogs and a chap called Steve who checked us in and showed us around. We booked this place on account of the common room with sofas and a kettle, fridge, toaster and microwave and it didn’t disappoint. There’s WiFi, and free tea and coffee, and did I mention the dogs?
We had a couple more beers than expected this evening on account of the fact a couple of other women on the campsite got a fire going in the communal fire pit, and who are we to turn down everything we own smelling like smoke for several days? It was nice to socialise with Other Humans too. I thought I’d forgotten how to do that. It was a really lovely evening to get us all nice and relaxed for tomorrow’s hell loop of a walk around.
Peppercombe, Devon to Appledore, Devon, England
Stayed at: Secret Spot Camping, Braunton
Useful shit to know…
- There are toilets in Westward Ho! near the haunted house, also by the Co-op, and in the car park by Carousel Amusements.
- The loos by the house have a tap outside, as do the ones in the car park, this one also has outdoor showers. Not sure about the third as we didn’t go there.
- There are toilets in the car park in Appledore too which also have a drinking water tap outside.
- To get to Braunton from Appledore you catch the 21A from opposite the Seagate Hotel to Barnstaple which will drop you at stand G at the bus station.
- The 21 and the 21C to Braunton leave from stand J which is next to G.
- Both buses will go through Braunton proper but if you’re heading for one of the campsites in Saunton Park (Secret Spot Camping or Lobbs Field for example) then you’ll need to catch the 21C and get off at West Meadow Road. You could catch the 21 and get off in town but then you’d have a 1.5 mile walk.
- We got singles for £3.20 per bus but in hindsight we should probably have asked for a North Devon Dayrider. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me. You can pay by contactless on the buses.
- There are no pubs in Saunton Park but there’s a Premier convenience store on Pixie Dell which opens until 8pm.