Grimspound – Not So Grim This Time Around

A couple of weeks ago we did a moorland walk around Grimspound.  It was almost a year to the day since we had last been there doing the same walk. Last time though the weather was inclement. There did come a point when the mist started to draw in that we seriously began to think about calling it a day and heading back to the car. I say we, I mean me as I’m the sensible one. Simon would have carried on in monsoon conditions. He’s brave/silly like that (delete as you feel appropriate).

GrimspoundHe persuaded me to carry on by telling me that I was an ‘all weather Dean’ and it would be ‘an adventure’. Why do I fall for it every time? It’s like the time he called me a ‘sea-faring princess’ when we were bobbing up and down in a stupid fishing boat off the coast of Madeira. I think he is just overly optimistic about my capabilities. Anyway, here I am last year in the rain.

We always said we would go back when it was sunny and so that is what we did. The plan was to get there early as we wanted to beat 1) the heat and 2) the bank holiday trippers. We arrived just before 9am and parked up in a small car park about 200 metres from the Warren House Inn.

We immediately walked by Bennet’s Cross and up along part of the Two Moors Way to Hookney Tor.

Bennets Cross Dartmoor

Hookney Tor

The weather was wildly different as you can see. Lovely blue skies, green grass and a carpet covering of heather across the moor. After sitting at the top for several minutes to take in the panoramic views we headed down the other side of the Tor towards the great man made stone circle that just sticks right out on this wild, uncultivated landscape. It is a bronze age settlement made up of 24 granite round houses. The shape of some of these houses is still visible today, as is the huge perimeter wall.

Grimspound Hut Circle

We left Grimspound by walking down the hill to the road. We turned left and walked along the road for a couple of minutes before making a sharp right down a track that leads to a farm house B&B. It feels a bit like you are walking along someone’s drive way (which you are) but it is a public footpath. There are signs as you near the house directing you up and over the back onto a path that eventually leads you to the Warren House Inn. It is very up and down and uneven underfoot but the scenery is worth it. When we reached the stream, instead of going up the steep hill to the Inn we turned right in the hope we would come out closer to the car. There was a reasonably easy path to follow that ran by an old fenced off mine of some sort.

And there we were back at the car in no time and not a drop of rain in sight the whole walk!

Duration: 2 hours / fairly easy

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Sea Kayaking in Dartmouth – 3 Deans, 3 Times the Trouble

Simon’s dad had been floating (get it!) the idea of getting a couple of kayaks for a while. Then in July he asked us both if we wanted to go on a half day training course in Exeter. A very long story later, it is now August and the three of us have just completed a 2 day sea kayaking course taking in parts of the stunning coastline around Dartmouth.

Sea Kayaking - DartmouthThe meeting point was at Coronation Dinghy Park which is immediately across from the higher ferry. The weather wasn’t great on day 1 but still provided us with a lovely view of the colourful Kingswear houses sitting on the hill across the estuary.

Our guide was James, a very experienced sea and white water kayaker. He helped us to get kitted up with a dry bag, cagoule, spray desk, buoyancy aid and of course kayak and paddle. After some basic instruction on dry land we carried our kayaks over to the slipway and, with a helpful shove from James, were soon floating in the turquoise waters of the Dart.

My arms and shoulders started hurting after all of 3 minutes paddling and I spent most of the next two days wondering how I could possibly go on. Turns out the 10 minutes I laboured on the arm machine beforehand at the gym didn’t go very far. We paddled into a creek initially to practise ‘skills’ such as turning, drawing the kayak sideways, using the skeg etc. The sun really came out for this which was lucky as Brian, the fourth member of our party who we had only met that morning, got a bit too enthusiastic with the paddling and capsized.

James then guided us down the estuary towards the open sea.

Dartmouth from the Kayak

We stopped for lunch on a secluded little beach before navigating our way around several rocks and out to a seal colony.

Vicky

By this time it had grown quite grey and wet but that didn’t dampen the excitement of having the seals come and swim around our boats. For me this was the highlight of the whole two days. Unfortunately the clever little things always managed to disappear when the camera appeared and so we didn’t manage to get a shot of them. Here is a picture of us waiting patiently in the ‘lagoon’ before they decided to come and say hello. It is quite blurry due to the rain but in some ways that helps to convey how atmospheric it was.

Seal spotting

Day two was a beautiful sunny day but unfortunately our guide wasn’t able to get hold of a camera. We headed straight out to sea, past Dartmouth Castle and via an eerie sea cave, to do some ‘rock hopping’. This was great fun and concentrating on not hitting anything took my mind off how sore my poor arms were. I’d also developed blisters on my hands from yesterdays paddling and on advice from our guide wrapped the bottom of my thumbs in electrical tape. It worked a treat!

Again we ate lunch on a beautiful beach in a lovely little cove with views of Blackpool Sands in the distance. Over our sandwiches James tried to teach us the basics of navigation. I’m pleased to say that I was the only one in our little party who figured out where we were on the map – much to Simon’s chagrin.

For the last couple of hours we practised rescuing each other. It took me several minutes to pluck up the courage throw myself over (spray deck release cord already in hand) and it was every bit as cold and as salty as I had been dreading. Fortunately our guide was the rescuer at this point and so I was back in the kayak in no time. Solemnly vowing I wasn’t going in again I then had to rescue Simon’s dad. It was sketchy. I struggled lifting his boat to get the water out. He also didn’t make the best subject; loosing a trainer as well as deciding to remove his (not so) waterproof trousers half way through my valiant life saving efforts.

In our kayaks - Dartmouth

Overall it was a fantastic experience. Are we ready to own kayaks? I’m not so sure but we’re off to Cornwall next week and may decide to rent a couple for an afternoon to see how we fare on our own. If I haven’t posted again by the end of month please call the coast guard!

Deans in Austria – Our Summer Holiday

What with saving to try and buy a house for most of our married life so far, holidays have taken a bit of a back seat. We went to Madeira in 2008 for our honeymoon and then to Crete in 2011. I chose both of these places and so when we started to discuss going away this year, Simon felt it was his turn to choose where. After I dismissed such suggestions as Siberia and Norway he settled on Austria. I really wasn’t sure at first as I thought it would be hard to plan, what with it not being your typical tourist destination. I looked online at package deals through Thomson and other providers but they were really expensive. However my online research paid off as I got to see how stunningly beautiful Austria is and absolutely decided it was somewhere we should go.

Fortunately I stumbled upon the Zell am See Kaprun tourist office website. There was so much information about all the local attractions and activities as well as the option to ask for an “offer”. This is where you give them details of the dates you want to travel and they give you a list of all the hotels and B&B’s which are available. All their hotels offer the Summer Card which was what swung it for us. It gets you in to lots of places for free or at discounted rates. We only paid for one activity in the whole week we were there – 8 Euros for mini golf!

Anyway, enough rambling and more pictures.

On our first full day we took the Schmittenhöhe City Xpress cable car up to 1302m and planned to walk up to the summit (2000m) from there. About a 10 min walk from the cable car station where we got off was a very pretty reservoir with stunning views over Lake Zell and the Kitzsetinhorn.

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After spending time admiring the views (and playing with the jet spray) we started our climb to the top. And what a climb it was. We knew it would take around 2 hours and having done lots of longer walks at home we thought it was well within our capability. Within about 5 minuets of setting off we both realised we had massively underestimated just how steep it was. We were on the verge of giving up a couple of times but like the persevering (or silly?) Deans we are, we carried on. Up. Up. Up. And more up. It was pretty relentless but we both decided that in hindsight the views were worth it.

When we got back home to Devon we decided that it was actually pretty flat and swore never to complain about walking up its hills again.

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We made it to the summit (above) in 1 hour and 55 mins and were pretty proud of ourselves. There was a cable car down which stopped right outside our B&B. All the cable cars were free with the Summer Card.

It was a warm day and slightly overcast so we were both a bit surprised by how much we had caught the sun. We decided to go to the outdoor lido to cool off before dinner. Simon was much braver than me and actually had a swim in the lake.

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That night we found a great restaurant serving very tasty pizzas and were tucked up in bed, absolutely shattered, by 9pm!

The next day was a little bit rainy in the morning and we decided to take things a bit easier after the hard walk the day before. We used our Summer Card to take a free boat trip around the lake.

 

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We spent the rest of the day pottering round the shops and eating more pizza! On that riveting note I’ll end!

Deans in Wales – Climbing Cnicht

Back in the middle of May (yes, I’m still behind) we went to see Josh Groban in concert in Cardiff. We decided to take in a couple of mountains whilst we were there. Unfortunately the week before I had a tooth removed and the thing didn’t heal properly. I was in a lot of pain but thanks to some strong painkillers I made it through the concert. Boy, Josh Groban can sing.

The next day we were supposed to be heading to Snowdonia to  do our first mountain, my first mountain ever – Cnicht. I was feeling so poorly with my wretched tooth (or tooth hole to be more accurate) that we were on the verge of going home. However, I managed to get an appointment at an emergency dentist. He miraculously covered the tooth hole to protect it and within a couple of hours the pain had reduced by around 75%! We drove up to Snowdonia and I don’t remember much about it as I slept pretty much all the way. It did me good though as the next day I was refreshed, almost completely out of pain and ready for some walking!

We had stayed at the YHA Pen-y-Pass that night. Having never stayed in a hostel before we were a bit surprised to find ourselves in a tiny room with bunk-beds but it was clean and in a stunning location. Below are a couple of shots in the vicinity of the hostel taken the night we arrived.

Pen y Pass YHA
Looking up at the mighty Snowdon was pretty spectacular. Continue reading

Sourton Tours & The Granite Way

I am a bit behind with our blog posts at the moment. We did this Sourton Tors walk nearly a month ago and have done two Dartmoor walks and a mountain in Wales since! I have a bit of a cold this weekend and so am snuggled in bed writing this whilst Simon cooks tonight’s dinner (step by step instructions on how to make roast potatoes have had to be given).

Anyway, back to what was our longest walk to date – Sourton Tors to Meldon Reservoir and back along the Granite Way.

It was a beautifully sunny afternoon when we did this walk. We parked in the free car park opposite “the most unusual pub in Britain” (the Highway Man).

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There is a path that runs down the right hand side of the parish church and on to the moor.

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Belston, Higher Tor and The Nine Maidens

They said it would be hotter than Spain last weekend. At times it was and we certainly tried to make the most of it. Simon’s parents came to stay for the weekend and his dad, being a super keen walker, decided to come with us on our Saturday ramble. As the weather was promising to be bright and clear we decided to do a proper ‘moor’ walk starting from the highest village in Dartmoor – Belston. And yes, this is the walk we originally planned to do on the day that Simon forgot his shoes a couple of weeks ago.

We arrived in Belston at 9am and, as per our instructions, parked in the free car park opposite the Village Hall. We walked by the old stocks and stray dog pound and came out next to the common where several ponies were nibbling the grass.

Belston Stocks

Dartmoor Ponies

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Okehampton – When You Forget Your Shoes

When we visited Lydford Gorge a few weeks ago we picked up a new book of Dartmoor walks in the gift shop. Last Saturday we set out to do a walk on Belston and the high moor but on the way Simon realised he had forgotten his walking shoes. It’s a bit like the time he forgot to put the pasta in a pasta bake but I’ll save that story for another time. Fortunately, on the next page of the book, we found an easy walk around Okehampton that he could do in his normal shoes. We parked just off the main street and proceeded to the start point in Simmons Park.

Simmons Park Okehampton

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