JJ writes: Leaving Chagford after a wonderful night at the Drewe Arms last Wednesday, I quickly realised that mornings after a big night are not my best time to be leading 40 walkers onto Dartmoor, as I went wrong three times in the first two hours, and was relegated to back marker by lunchtime.
Up to Hameldown… 520 metres – the highest point of the day and our whole walk… Grimspound was wonderfully spooky in the mist… But then the weather cleared for us, giving a fantastic view down into Widecombe and the surrounding valley. Big thanks to Andy the Tavistock wine merchant who turned up with a bottle of Italian white and 12 glasses.
We descended to the Rugglestone Inn with a glow on our faces. It’s a great old pub which served 60 of us in efficient and friendly fashion.
The afternoon was a bit of a blur for the first group of people walking with me as we had to get to Holne Church by 4.15pm. It was a case of whizzing through bluebell woods and tracks overlooking the River Dart, and probably walking faster than some of them had ever done! But it was worth it for the reception from the vicar and the ladies who had made us tea and cakes. Eddie Sinclair’s talk on the restoration of the mediaeval rood screen was absorbing as we all steamed quietly in the church. Somehow 50 people were taken from Holne by our transport angels in time for a sold-out show at the charmingly eccentric Barrel House Ballroom in Totnes.
Next day: back up to Holne Church and we were joined by the ramblers of Ivybridge walking group who helped us navigate the bleak grandeur of south Dartmoor and kept us to the Two Moors Way with the spirit of Conan Doyle all around us.
We came down into Ivybridge for an interview with Radio Devon and another packed show at the Watermark Theatre. The band was really played in by this time and new sings “I’ll be your ferryman” and “Down by the lake” were featured.
We left for a final day’s walk in gorgeous sunshine for one of the best-ever final days of a walking tour. The path down the secluded Erme river valley leads to one of the most sheltered and beautiful estuaries you could find in England – unspoilt and empty except for us trudging through the sand at low tide and two horse riders cantering in the distance. Between the two headlands at the mouth of the river, the first glimpse of the second of the “Two Seas” which gave our tour its name.
A short walk up the hill to the biggest open-air soup kitchen in Devon, with the indefatigable and ever-optimistic duo of Tim and Caz serving hot soup, rolls and beer from Tim’s van – a vehicle that increasingly resembles the Tardis with more inside it than really seems possible.
The walk around the headland and into the Yealm was a delight in glorious weather. The undulating path follows the cliff line round into the mouth of the river and down into Noss Mayo. What met us on arrival at The Swan was the most brilliant of settings for any gig. We played in the garden with the estuary behind us laced with boats, and the sun going down beyond the hill.
The session that followed in the pub is now a blur but it seemed to have lots of happy faces and blistering tunes to go with the blistered feet… and one moment of stillness and silence when the packed pub held its breath as Rowan sang “Lowlands”.
After seven days’ walking, seven great gigs and 117miles covered, my thanks go to Al, Tim, Rowan, Dil and Lindsey for making my songs come alive; and to everyone in the support team including Tim, Colin, Tom, Caz, Fran, Bev and Helen… for keeping us all alive!