The day could not have been a greater contrast in weather from last Sunday, for the 15 walkers on our second celebration walk for the National Parks event. From 2 deg to 22 in a week! No gloves and a warning to have plenty of fluids this time.
We set off from Okehampton Station under clear blue skies and after one (minor) false start we crossed Simmons Park and picked up the path alongside the East Okement River for a very pleasant stroll, eventually underneath the A30 and along the lane to Combe Farm and Sticklepath. Like so many settlements in Devon, Sticklepath has a long and varied history. The road running through the village was for centuries the main route west from Exeter. Consequently, travellers of all walks of life passed through. Hence, its association with John Wesley, whose itinerary took him through the village on his preaching missions to Cornwall.
After a quick pause at the Village Stocks (it had to be done) we made our way into Finch Foundry for lunch, a lovely setting in the hot sunshine today. During the 17th Century, the Quaker movement became predominant in the village, later superseded by the advent of Methodism in the 18th Century. The Methodist Chapel, built in 1816, is located in the centre opposite the village hall and the Quaker Cemetery, behind the Foundry, provided shade and a peaceful spot for our lunch today. The Foundry is now owned by the National Trust and was once a 19th-century water-powered forge. It was originally used to produce agricultural and mining hand tools and at its peak produced around 400 edge tools a day.
We left at the rear of the Foudry and picked up the path alongside the River Taw this time, towards Belstone, spotting the Tarka the Otter quote from Henry Williamson’s famous tale, along the wooden bridges.
The climb from the cleave up to Belstone was tough today in the heat so a break was necessary while we admired the open moor to the South and Cosden Beacon silhouetted on the horizon.
A short climb onto Dartmoor now, no firing today and marvellous open views towards the Taw Basin. Leaders spotted the path to our right, elusive in poor weather but very clear today, taking us back down the valley to the Okement River again and another drinks break sitting on the convenient logs, listening to the stream babbling its way to Okehampton.
The final leg saw us walk out of the valley onto high ground again and eventually through a farm and along the lane, passing the Okehampton Army Camp and back down to the Station once again. 10.5 miles completed and tea and cold drinks were a treat in the Station Cafe, although all agreed we were perhaps fortunate to have missed the 1000 children celebrating Peppa Pig Day earlier on in the day!