There are times when I need to get off the island as we say in Glastonbury, known also as the Isle of Avalon. Whilst I love it here, it is a small town and the land is flat and cultivated. At the end of winter, especially such a long, wet one as we’ve had here, I’m twitching to get out into wilder landscape and let the winds blow through my clogged brain and spirit. So I booked a couple of days on Dartmoor using www.airbnb.com which enables you to stay with people in their own homes. Synchronicity works and I found a cottage with a writer and her cat – just the ticket for me. Not only had she similar dietary habits, but we discovered we’d met a few years ago when she was walking around England in flop flops no less, gathering Transition stories from communities around the country.
I started my slow down by lunching in Ashburton, a lovely market town with antique and other small shops and good cafes. Then arrived in Rattery heading for the first footpath I could find. My first encounter with wild is often dogged with difficulties and frustrations so I ended up stumbling through excavated muddy farm tracks in soaking rain. The next day fortified by a massive dinner at the village pub circa 11th century, porridge for breakfast and a good night’s rest, I set off for my walk on the Moors.
Beyond South Brent lies Shipley Bridge where you can follow the River Avon up to the Avon Dam. It was just what I needed. Give me a tumble of granite, rushing foaming water, serpentine twist of branches cloaked in green and I’m happy. Despite the occasional hail-shower I was a happy bunny wandering up the moors, watching sheep and ponies on the skyline and a pair of hen harriers working the ridge. Scatters of gorse brightened the moments as did bursts of sunshine between showers. It was hard going up the final slope to the dam and pretty windy but I ate my sandwich on the shore gazing at the glow on the bleached moorland around, imagining myself high up in the Himalayas. I was alone in all that open space and at home in myself. As I left, other walkers appeared and we exchanged friendly words about this and that, and I walked back with fresher mind and heart.
I returned via the village of Aish, over Lydia Bridge, an ancient stone bridge with a waterfall racing beneath; it is stunning. My hostess had told me she had only recently discovered this place. I took a short walk along the river bank with primroses and wild garlic coming into leaf. I even saw a dipper pausing midstream on a boulder. The path runs all the way back into South Brent.
My final day was spent mooching in Totnes at the regular Saturday flea market, the local shops and having my ritual lunch at the fabulous Willow Cafe. I first discovered it back in the late eighties and it’s still going strong. Then meandering on to Teignmouth where their first Poetry Festival was in full swing.
I went to hear Roselle Angwin who is a favourite poet and teacher of mine. Her poetry flows with exquisite ease in its connection with nature and presence in the moment. I rounded off by staying with a very old and dear friend Nelly who loves to play cards. So I paid for my keep with Canasta and returned home satisfied and nourished in every sense.