We returned to the Tamar valley over a weekend which promised to be fine, if cold, picking up where we had left off at Whitstone.
On our last walk we did a big detour, about 3 miles from the river, to avoid walking down the B3254 super-highway or crossing the border into Devon for too great a distance. On this walk we were faced with another detour in the other direction, as much as anything because of the lack of roads following the river.
As our last posting said, the upper reaches of the river are characterised by low rolling hills with few villages, scattered farmsteads, plenty of clay soils and cattle standing around in green fields. The roads join up these farmsteads. The B3254 is the main artery and, during its 18 mile length from Launceston to Kilkhampton, passes through no town worthy of the name. This is a wild area of open landscape where farms have been in families for generations.
Leaving Whitstone, we followed a footpath across a field which was boggy even though it had not rained significantly in recent days. This was our only foray off road for the whole day.
The rest of the time we followed lanes which came in two flavours: ‘very narrow’, which could accommodate a single car and a walker squashed into a Cornish hedge and which generally had grass down its middle; and ‘narrow’ which left rather more room for the walker unless the vehicle was a particularly large tractor driven at speed by someone who looked about 16 years of age.
It was a day of sounds and colours and bright sunshine rather than notable sites. In the distance, in front of us, the tors of Dartmoor pointed skyward while, to our right, the familiar shapes of Bodmin moor gave us some familiar landmarks.
It has been a ‘good’ autumn with the golden leaves falling straight down and gathering at the roadsides and on woodland floors, not scattered to dark corners. In places, we were walking on a golden carpet, beech producing much the best colours.
The susurration of the trees above us in the occasional wintery gusts sent a shower of dying leaves into our path and we held our hands in front of us, determined to catch falling leaves for luck.
We noted the appearance of starlings, a bird which is rare further west in Cornwall. Great murmurations were chattering away to each other, discussing the unfamiliar walkers below them.
Because of the detour, we had not seen the Tamar for some time and it was good to re-acquaint ourselves with her at Crowford bridge.
A car overtook us as we approached the ridge, drove up to it, seemed to look at Devon, turned around and headed back into Cornwall. We understood and were respectful as we crossed the county boundary.
A mile or so later we crossed back into Cornwall, the border not being marked, and headed for Tamerton bridge where an elegant house, a former post office, kept guard on the crossing. By now, the river was looking quite grown up. A short distance away was North Tamerton church which we had to visit.
We suspect that not much happens in North Tamerton; at least judging by the sign there.
Our way lay southwards on a single road and we stretched our legs to reach Boyton for a late lunch. Here was another church in a small village on a gentle hill above the river, the shape of the valley being unmistakable.
At Hornacott drivers are faced with a perplexing sign. Avoiding horses and dogs is relatively easy. Cats, chickens and geese are more of a problem but are generally avoidable. However, the Highway Code is strangely silent about the correct diversionary manoeuvre when fish pop up in the road. As walkers, we were thankful not to be faced with this danger.
We left Boyton as the temperature was beginning to drop and walked on a mile or so to collect our car for the end of day one of a two day expedition.
We had walked 11.5 miles in four hours, almost all of it on what passes as roads in the borderland.