Two 80 year old Devonshire Freemasons have taken part in a mammoth Estuary walk! Read Tom Archer and Tony Clapham's Trek diary below
It started well with a trip on the Tarka line to Barnstaple. After a night in the Motel, Eddie Dymond kindly picked us up ad took us to the start point, Bishops Tawton. He had sourced a route very similar to one we had looked at, but did not tell us it was a 2 mile up-hill slog to get going!
Alas in some villages there was nowhere open for refreshment, just as well we had supplies on our backs. The day finished at Kings Nympton station.
The Tarka line trains do not stop at every station. Some are request only, but not all trains are request trains as we found out. Missing one by 10 minutes meant a 2 hour wait for the next train. Guess what, it rained, the only shelter was standing under a small canopy supermarket trolley style, with no seats!
Getting back to Barnstaple, a footbridge over the Taw was the shortest walk route to the Motel. No it wasn’t, on arriving at said footbridge it was closed, we had to trek back to the station then over a road bridge into town, adding 2-3 miles to that days tally!
Taxi to station, train to Kings Nympton and a very pleasant walk towards Lapford via Eggesford, where we were welcomed for refreshments by Vic and Fiona Matthews.
On seeing the HUGE marquee on their lawn we wondered how many others would be there, but it transpired that it was left over from Vic’s retirement party the previous weekend. A very hospitable lunch was had when Vic said, 'you are passing Eggesford Airfield.' He knew the owner who has a lovely collection of vintage and classic planes, so phoned him, asked if we could visit and he was told that if we got there by a certain time we would see a Puma helicopter fly past. We made it and what a lovely break from our walk. Then down to Lapford, train to Exeter and another hotel stop.
Train back to Lapford, we started talking to a young lady, only to learn that she was a classmate of Tom’s granddaughter. Resumed walk, this time to Shobrooke. Got to within 1 mile of Shobrooke without finding anywhere open when we saw a roadside hut selling ice cream etc. It was all done on an honesty system, put notes into a locked safe, but cash draw there for change. Long may trust like this continue.
Into pub for the night. We sat there eating dinner when, on hearing a knock on the window we saw Phill Mitchell and Alan Tonkin, come to join us for a pint (or two for us as we were not driving).
Heading for the final trek and the busiest roads to negotiate, we worked our way across country to the Beer Engine pub at Newton St Cyres, a lovely pub. We asked if we could get coffee, they told us that they were not open but would provide some. Whilst talking to them I mentioned that I had been there a couple of times before with Bill Richardson. It turned out that Bill had been in the night before. We tried to pay for the coffee but was told that as they were not open, they could not take any money. Very generous of them to two walkers just passing through. The next point was the nasty traffic zone through Cowley, but Bill had arranged for us to go through the estate over the wall, and less that 100 yards on the public highway. Much appreciated Bill. A gentle stroll down the Exe to Countess Wear, sit on the grass with 2 hoarded bottles of beer toasting each other, before walking back to the Port Royal on Exeter Quay for a drink with our welcoming committee.
The last time we did something like this was the last Provincial Festival, some 12 or more years ago. Next time we will probably need motorised wheelchairs!
The generosity of the Brethren and the public has meant that we raised over £2,500 for the festival, including one single donation of £500 from an anonymous donor. We didn’t undertake this trek for anything other than to challenge ourselves but is equally satisfying to find our combined efforts so well rewarded.