Off Route, Off Plan

I love maps and planning. There – I said it, confessional time! Last weekend was spent pouring over Explorer maps, planning a romp on Exmoor.
Off Route, Off Plan

Part of this was explaining to curious kids what all the symbols mean – spotting bridges, churches and P parking places. The contours is always a funny one to describe, especially as wherever we go there seems to be hundreds, squashed together…meaning steep, steep, steep!

Ramona is doing the Romans as a school topic just now so we thought we’d head to the cliff tops to see the remains of the Martinhoe Roman Fort. However, enroute, we travelled through driving wind and rain, and headed down Watersmeet Valley with its spectacular cliffs either side with a ravine-like valley dropping off. So, spontaneously, we changed plans, threw the map out the window (figuratively of course) and stopped right there. I had to scrap my best laid plans and run with the wind and unknown terrain... yikes!

Watersmeet was incredible – 2 beautiful rivers pouring off Exmoor through steep, almost sheer valleys and an old fishing lodge at the confluence where they meet. Miles of tramping upstream, downstream, up over the moors, through the trees – stunning! And all the while, the energy of the water rushing by, swirling into quiet pools then cascading on.

Both children are really keen on binoculars at the moment – stopping every few minutes to gaze into the trees and trying to find birds, flicking through the bird book. Apparently we spotted eagles and owls as well as the regular robins and gold finches!

Wild swimming is definitely our new buzz: finding ‘wild’ places to swim such as lakes, rivers and seas. OK, so a bit mad for January but Eomer didn’t bat an eyelid at wading up to his knees for ‘fishing’ while Ramona and I enjoyed an exhilarating paddle too. Note to self – bring spare t shirt and underwear for spontaneous swim sessions!

icy paddle

A final highlight of the walk was returning to the bridge for the final hike up, to find a magnificent heron stood sentry. The kids were mesmerised watching for ages until it finally flew off downstream, disturbed by oncoming white-water kayakers. A stunning end to a beautiful walk off route, off plan but definitely a new gem to return to and explore more. Sometimes the best days are off route, off plan and grabbing the moment.

About the Author

Ruth Lively-Masters

Ruth Lively-Masters

About Me & Mine

Having lived in N. Devon for the last 12 years, we recently moved across to the other side of the world and now live in New Zealand on the North Island. Our adventurous family includes my husband Phil and 2 small cheeky children: Ramona 8½ and Eomer 5½. I have a wonderful day job as Lead teacher in the sensory unit of an SEN school and spend as much time as possible outside, exploring nature and environments both on our doorstep and further afield.

Favourite place in the world:

Hmm, that's really tough! I loved the west coast forests of British Columbia in Canada, such a humbling, incredible place - tall trees right down to the big ocean waves. There's a whole lot of other places I'd love to explore though...moving to New Zealand has opened up a whole world of new adventures and we’re slowly finding new favourites to add to the list.

Sea, mountains and forests in any combination please!

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Again, lots of favourites. Definitely a mix between walking, cycling, surfing, camping and exploring, combined with taking time to notice detail of a place, hear the sounds and absorb the changes over time and seasons. Active and quiet times are both invigorating for different reasons.

Comments (3)

  • Jay Greengrass

    Jay Greengrass

    21 January 2015 at 11:24 | #

    Ooooo, what a gorgeous place! And I'm in awe at all of you wading in to the no-doubt terribly icy water. Hooray for spontaneity, particularly as it's not always easy to do that with littlies.


  • Cally Worden

    Cally Worden

    02 February 2015 at 14:55 | #

    Oh my gosh that looks chilly! Beautiful though! I'm a planner too, and find it hard to wrench myself off the carefully chosen route, so well done you for going with the flow. Literally, lol!


  • Ruth Lively-Masters

    Ruth Lively-Masters

    25 May 2015 at 20:24 | #

    Glad to hear others have a secret planning habit too! Kids have a marvellous way of making that mellow though don't they :) Ah well, sometimes the best times come unexpectedly!


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