I wake in the night to hear the pattering of raindrops on the caravan roof. My washing is outside, on the airer attached to the window and is almost dry. Not wishing to venture forth into the dark and rain in my night attire, I hang precariously out of the window. The window is hinged at the top so it inconveniently closes on me as I try to retrieve the almost dry socks. The rain is not going to go away. The forecast ‘occasional heavy showers’ manifest themselves into continuous torrential rain until mid afternoon. This walking lark is meant to be fun so we abandon our plans and stay in the van. The upside of this is that I make really good progress on my forthcoming One Place Studies book.
Next day and for once it isn’t actually raining. We are still on the frustrating walking in both directions kick, due to the lack of public transport. We set off from Hallsands heading for Torcross. Coincidentally we see someone we know as we set off. I am carefully watching my footing as yesterday’s rain has made parts of the path very slippery. This means that I don’t spot an overhanging branch – ouch! There are plenty of early migrant geese on Slapton Ley. We read about the practice manoeuvres for D-Day that took place here, with the loss of 946 American servicemen’s lives.
Back to Hallsands and we now have to move campsites. I set the sat-nav. As we head towards Dartmouth I idly wonder at what point we cross the River Dart. Ah, that would be now. We are about to head on the Dartmouth Ferry. This is clearly my fault. Not being sure if the Dartmouth Ferry accepts caravans, we make a last minute detour before we are past the point of no return. This means it takes ages to get to the new campsite. The new-to-us caravan is equipped with numerous unnecessary gadgets, including legs that descend automatically. That would be automatically and incredibly slowly. There is no way of over-riding the automatic leg descending thingy. It also means, if the mechanism fails, there is no alterative method of making the legs do what they need to do. Once descended, the legs then take another millennia to, theoretically, level the van. The bleeping noise, that signals descended and levelled legs, finally sounds. I do not have a spirit level about my person but no way are these legs level. I test my theory by rolling a can of rice pudding rapidly across the caravan floor. There is nothing for it but to raise the legs and start again, as we get gradually colder waiting outside for the caravan to cease being legless.
Next day and at last we can walk in one direction, without having to retrace our steps. We set off for the bus stop in order to get the bus to the start of the walk, with the intention of then walking back to the car that is parked by the bus stop. I am not in Martha’s league but I do like to leave plenty of time on occasions like this, especially as there is only one bus an hour. Even by my standards, we leave early, to the extent that I am worried what we will do whilst waiting for the bus. There is thick mist and we have completely failed to take account of the fact that we have to drive through Totnes during rush hour. ‘Drive’ is probably a misnomer, as we spend most of our time at a standstill in grid-locked traffic. We make the bus with minutes to spare. I have not been looking forward to this walk, described as ‘strenuous‘. In fact it isn’t nearly as bad as expected. The first two miles along the bar at Slapton and are beautifully flat. We seem to be able to walk about as fast as the local toilet cleaning man can clean toilets, as we see the same man and van at no fewer than three toilets en route. Then up a steep but manageable hill before emerging on to the road. Our instruction book warns us that this stretch is ‘frankly unpleasant’. Chris is waving a high viz jacket in an attempt to stop us being flattened by traffic as the road is busy, narrow and lacks pavement. He is not actually wearing said high viz jacket on the grounds of temperature.
Just as I am thinking that this isn’t too bad, we encounter a valley whose sides must be at a gradient of 1:2. The local sheep all have two legs shorter than the other two. The photographs do not give a true indication of just how steep this was. I debate sitting down and sliding. At the bottom we pass a couple traversing the valley in the opposite direction. We are a little disconcerted when the woman says she is recovering from heart surgery. Nonetheless she makes it to the top of her side of the valley more quickly than we do and appears to be still standing by the end.