A stunning 117-mile walking route links the two great moorlands of south-west England, Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, from coast to coast across the County of Devon. It's called the Two Moors Way. Sue Viccars, author of the Two Moors Way guidebook, explains why it needs your help.
In the centre of Exmoor National Park, the Two Moors Way becomes extremely eroded and muddy. Walkers cling to tree trunks while navigating the exposed tree roots and mud. This is the worst stretch of the whole long distance route. There is a much better, wider path on the other bank. Unfortunately this bridleway is generally impassable at one section unless you can ford it on horseback because it requires a river crossing.
We need your help to create a brand new bridge across the River Barle at Great Bradley. The landowner has agreed to help, and a suitable bridge has been sourced from a previous project - now it needs to be refurbished, transported and fixed in place so it can be enjoyed for generations to come. That's why Mend Our Mountains has teamed up with the Exmoor National Park to raise funds for repair through Mend Our Mountains (donate to the effort via Crowdfunder here).
Sarah Stirling talks to Sue Viccars about the local area, the problem and the solution:
SS: Were you born in the region, or when did you move, and what do you find special about it?
SV: I was born in the New Forest, but went to Exeter University before finding a job as an editor in book publishing in Devon. I’ve now been freelance for 18 years, editing books and magazines and writing walking and guidebooks all over south-west England, with particular reference to Dartmoor and Exmoor. Two great moorlands and an amazing coastline to explore – what could be better!
What particular conservation challenges does the region face?
Pressure from an increasing number of visitors pursuing a wide range of different demands on the moors: mountain bikers, walkers, wild runners, horse riders, daytrippers etc. In an area of relatively high annual rainfall, this leads to erosion issues on the most popular routes.
WATCH Mend Exmoor, featuring Sue Viccars:
Tell us a bit more about your work - I understand you've written a Two Moors Way guidebook?
Yes, the book is called The Two Moors Way – Devon’s Coast to Coast (published by Cicerone Press). I am the editor and owner of Dartmoor magazine, and have written and/or contributed to around 20 walking and guidebooks, mainly in south-west England. I also write walking routes for Dartmoor and Exmoor Magazines, and edit outdoor books for a range of publishers.
I'm also told you're an active member of the Two Moors Way Association, can you tell us a bit about that?
The Two Moors Way Association was rebooted in 2016 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the setting up on the Two Moors Way. The previous 102-mile walking route has now been linked to the Erme–Plym Trail to produce a 117-mile trail right across Devon, from coast to coast. The TMWA has worked closely with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and Devon County Council and has set up a website, published leaflets, established a new passport and stamp system, held business engagement workshops and so on, and is doing all it can to promote the route to a wider audience. We also have a team of volunteers who work as route wardens.
What would you say to anyone considering becoming a member of an association like this?
Remember that it’s all unpaid, but that this voluntary work (if you want to be a route warden) comes with the benefit of exercise and fresh air and getting out into the glorious Devon countryside!
What's your favourite local walk?
I love Exmoor’s atmospheric and remotest ground – The Chains – and the Two Moors Way from Exe Head to the Hoar Oak tree and then along the Cheriton Ridge. It’s a great area in which to work out all sorts of satisfying circular walking routes, and you’ll probably not see a soul!
The Mend our Mountains appeal, which is generously supported by headline sponsors Cotswold Outdoor and Snow+Rock, is on track for its £1 million target with eight months still to go. So what can you do to get involved? From organising your own fundraising challenge (check out BMC member Richard Duckworth’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ challenge to walk all the projects supported by the appeal here) to donating money or buying something like a box of Cliff bars, there are plenty of big and small ways you can do your bit, depending on how much time you have! You can either donate specifically to one National Park or generally to the greater cause.
Check out the Mend our Mountains website for more details of the campaigns currently going on in our other National Parks and how you can help.
For more information on the Two Moors Way: www.twomoorsway.org
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is a BMC campaign to raise £1 million to repair paths across the UK's 15 National Parks.
If you love the outdoors, we're asking you to support your favourite mountain by donating to Mend Our Mountains. You can donate online here.
WATCH: Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million