Whilst I am sure the National Trust would disagree, Castle Drogo, the last castle built England, is not really a castle. Finished in 1930, this stately home, with mock medieval and Tudor castle features, was always a bit of a contentious choice as Devon’s representative in our County Castle Caper. We only really choose it so we had an excuse to cross Dartmoor as part of our challenge! Having been forced back off Dartmoor earlier in the day, and after fire-side food, beer and good company in the Warren House Inn (near the bunkhouse we should have walked to rather than getting a lift to) a new plan was needed. Neither myself or Sarah had much inclination to re-attempt our planned Dartmoor crossing the following day – Dartmoor is our regular stomping ground anyway and logistically it would be challenging. There are a few decent castles south of Dartmoor but that would put us much further away from Exmoor – a requirement of our caper thanks to the ‘visit every National Park’ rule. Paul, a resident of Okehampton, suggested his local castle was a ‘proper castle’ – should we return to Lydford on foot then get back on our bikes and rejoin NCN 27 to Okehampton Castle?
Day 1 – Tintagel Castle, Cornwall to Lydford Castle, Devon (by cycle)
Considering the level of logistical planning required for the first leg of the #CountyCastleCaper, I could have made a bit more of an effort to check the tide tables! We arrived at Trebarwith Strand ready to get our Cornwall swim in before Tintagel Castle, just up the coast, opened, to be greeted by the sight of the sea smashing into the cliffs just below us. Trebarwith Strand is apparently an excellent swimming beach at low tide – sadly in a few hours time! Our plans already beginning to unravel, we retreated to Tintagel to enjoy a coffee and a second (light) breakfast in the unexpected sunshine as we killed time before the castle opened and the tide retreated.
We are about as ready as we are ever going to be! On Friday, Sarah and I make a start on our challenge to visit at least one castle in every county in United Kingdom in a single continuous loop self-powered (you are doing what now?).
I love castles and, for quite a while now, I have day-dreamed about the impossible challenge of walking to at least one in every county in United Kingdom…. in a continuous loop…..
It is clearly ridiculous but it kept my inner mind amused at a time when I started having to accept that, thanks to the temperature requirements of my tri-weekly injection for my Multiple Sclerosis, I would not be able to undertake anything longer than an overnight camp anymore.
I am not sure what I expected when I told Sarah (@PascallSarah) about it…. I certainly did not expect her to say ‘let’s do it’….. with those three words the ‘County Castle Caper’ went from dream to reality.
In 83 days I, as part of Team Social Hiking, will be on a mountain somewhere in the Lake District taking part in the 10in10 challenge to raise money for MS Society. Actually as it is 6:13pm, I should hopefully be off the mountains and in the pub celebrating with the team after a job well done. But honestly? I am scared, very scared in fact, that I am going to struggle and ultimately fail to complete what on face value seems like a fairly straight forward challenge for a hiker.
Like all good ideas (and indeed most bad ones, but we will forget about those), this occurred to me over a beer.
In a way I do not envy people who live in or near a National Park. They do not get that amazing feeling I get when the outline of big hills and mountains first appear in the distance. Whether it is Snowdonia from M54 (it might just be Wales generally to be honest) or the brooding mass of Dartmoor from A30, it never ceases to take my breath away. Last Friday it was The Lake District (and looking at the map probably the tip of Yorkshire Dales) from the M6. I was sitting in a car with Paul (@paulgbuck on Twitter and @walking4charity on Social Hiking), who was kindly giving me a lift up to Rosthwaite, just south of Keswick in the Lake District, for the 10in10 challenge.
I am not sure it can take too much of the overall blame, but it all started with a hiking sandal. On 17th February, as I was removing said sandal before heading to bed I felt my lower back ‘go’ and my sciatic nerve down my left leg ‘twang’ – I collapsed in an agonising heap on the sofa, from where I have not really moved from since.
So far there are 13 of us registered (and a few more maybes), and it is not too late to join us – there are still places on the challenge available, and I would love it if you would join us.
Earlier in the year, I came across an article in the MS Society magazine about an annual event where a bunch of people climb some mountains to raise money to help support people affected by Multiple Sclerosis. As I have not done much fundraising in a while, I cut the article out and put it in my in-tray for future consideration, then promptly forgot about it…. until a few weeks ago.
As I re-read the article, it occurred to me that I happen to know a bunch of people who like walking, especially mountains- wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could get together, hike some peaks, raise some money, and have some fun?