Adventures on the Coleridge Way by Nigel Heath

28/10/2020

“I wonder what adventures we shall have today,” I said to my walking companion Peter Gibbs as we set out from a picturesque Somerset village on a stormy Autumn morning.
 
It was the ritual question I always asked at the start of our latest long- distance trek.
 
This time we were following in the footsteps of one of England’s most famous poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge from his cottage in Nether Stowey all the way to Lynmouth in North Devon.
 
By lunchtime we’d crossed the Quantock ridge to descend to the pretty village of Bicknoller and then on to the quaintly named village of Monksilver where we were overnighting. 
 
We'd made good time and were hoping for a late afternoon pint in the Notley Arms but being a Monday, the hostelry was closed.
 
"Never mind Pete, as it's a bit too early to go to the B&B let's just sit outside the pub and have a breather?" I said which turned out to be a most fortunate suggestion.
 
For five minutes later, landlord and retired prison governor Simon Murphy appeared and to our surprise, invited us in.
 
The following morning, we trudged uphill on a footpath through oak woodland for a mile and a quarter en route for our next stop in the hamlet of Luxborough.
 
Shortly afterwards, we were chatting as we walked along a narrow lane when we heard a vehicle behind us and turned to meet Forestry England Wildlife Ranger Brian Turley, who has ranged across Exmoor and the neighbouring Quantock and Blackdown Hills for the past 30 years.
 
These days Brian, who lives near Wheddon Cross, on Exmoor, spends much of his time protecting wild- life habitats while liaising with contractors coming in to harvest the timber.
 
With four miles to walk we stopped for lunch at The Valiant Soldier in Roadwater where Michael Twine, the landlord for over thirty years, said his business had definitely benefited from having the Coleridge Way running past his front door.
 
We stayed overnight in Luxborough's comfortable Royal Oak before setting out on the next thirteen-mile hike to the picturesque town of Porlock on the shores of the Bristol Channel.
 
Enroute, we crossed open moorland close to the mighty Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor, and then on to Webber's Post above the wooded coombes of pretty Horner Water.
 
The final day of the walk from Porlock to Lynmouth is all about a very steep hill, a famous romantic story and what has to be one of the prettiest waterside woodland walks in Britain plus a finale surprise!
 
The path winds its way up through woodland to pass, tiny Culbone Church, the smallest in England, via a small detour, and then eventually over the busy A39 Lynmouth road to drop down to the little Church at Oare close to the famous Doone Valley.
 
It was here in RJ Blackmoor's famous novel Lorna Doone that the heroine was shot but recovers.
 
Later the way meets the fast- flowing East Lynn River which it follows all the way down to Lynmouth via tiny Rockford and the famous Watersmeet beauty spot.
 
But close to journey's end, we came across a fallen trunk pitted with hundreds of coins.
 
Apparently, these 'Money Trees' have randomly popped up all over the country in recent years and supposedly bring donors prosperity and good luck.
 
I found a place for a shiny ten pence piece but as I walked away, it occurred to me that we’d already been lucky enough to enjoy four days walking through wonderful scenery cloaked in autumn's gold.
 
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