Nine intrepid OVA members gathered at the start of the East Devon Way on Wednesday 22nd June 2016 at 4.45am. Chris “Boots” Buckland had forgotten his boots and made a quick dash home.
The remaining eight set off at 05.10 in the mist and rain. Even though the group walked at a good pace, having set off 11 minutes later “Boots” caught them up in the third mile. The first stage to Woodbury Castle was completed ahead of schedule. Two other members joined the team for the next two stages. The stage to Aylesbeare Common was also ahead of schedule.
Rain turned into mist so there were no great views to be had.
The cracking pace continued to Sidbury for a well-earned lunch break; Ervine Kewley, in the support vehicle, had set out the chairs and had the thermoses ready for a quick pit stop. Walkers took advantage of the public toilets here, and one popped into the pub for a pint!
Another misty walk out of Sidbury into the hills affected the pace but the group's morale was high. It was a long trek to Money Acre Cross, where the welcome sight of scones and jam lifted the spirits.
The sun shone and we finally saw some views! It was an interesting section through the tiny unspoilt hamlets around Farway. Colyton car park saw a weary and footsore band; there was much application of zinc plaster and blister patches.
Musbury Hill felt like the steepest climb and, on reaching the outskirts of Uplyme in the dusk, the main group missed a turn and the two back-markers got to the minibus first. A hot chocolate re-charge and a 'sprint finish' to the end in Lyme Regis by 22.55 - just in time to get a well-deserved pint.
What a day! What a sense of achievement! When we dreamed up this idea, we had no idea of what we had let ourselves in for.
“When we finally finished, I think I was so overcome with tiredness, pain and having been 'in the zone' for so long, I didn't immediately appreciate what we had done!” said “Boots”.
The walkers, aged between 50 and 70, for the complete route were: Chris Buckland, Sue Newman, Jane Harris, Nigel Pinhorn, Richard Critchley, Steve Hagger, Neill Curtin, Paul Kurowski, Penny Kurowski. Jacqui Ruhlig and Jacqui Baldwin joined for a couple of stages. Support drivers: Ervine Kewley with the minibus for the whole journey, Jon Roseway as back up for the mid-part of the day, but stood done once it was clear we were all going to finish.
Distance: approximately 40 miles
Total time taken: 17 hrs 45 mins
Total walking time: 15hrs 40 mins
Reflections for other groups wanting to try this:
It is very well signposted, but keep an eye on the map so you don't miss a turn because you are busy talking!
A support vehicle with supplies (hot and cold drinks, snacks, chairs, table, everyone's spare kit) and a cheerful face at each checkpoint makes all the difference.
The eastern section can feel quite “remote” and phone signal isn't good, so having back up vehicles in case of injury (luckily we didn't need this) is a good idea.
The EDW goes to areas of the AONB you might not usually visit, a real treat!
Be prepared for some steep hills, mud and lush undergrowth.
We broke the walk into the same sections as the book, but used Money Acre Cross instead of Farway because the parking was better. We also added check-ins with the support vehicles at Musbury (Golden Hind pub) and Uplyme (Talbot Arms) as the last stage is very long (?8.5 miles) and weary walkers appreciate encouragement, as well as the knowledge that they can get a lift if they really need it.
Penny and Paul Kurowski