Plymbridge Woods - Max loves paddling in the river and chasing the stones we throw for him, but never ventures any further than paddling. Max also gets very vocal if you stop throwing the stones so our stops have to be kept short so as not to annoy other walkers too much.
With our children now grown up we have to make the most of the opportunities we get to spend some time with them - although Bryan doesn't willingly like to have his photo taken anymore I wanted to capture this precious time with him!
We didn't have any plans as to how far we were going to walk and our first thoughts were to walk for an hour or so and then turn back and go for lunch either at The Harvester or Saltram House, but as we were following the river Ian said that if we carried on we should reach Shaugh Bridge - so wanting to make sure Ian and Bryan walked further I made the decision to carry on as I remembered from many years ago that there was a very nice pub at Shaugh Prior - that was more than enough incentive to keep Ian going and as we had the car keys Bryan had very little choice but to follow us.
However the trip was not as easy going as we first thought it would be - a few trees had fallen down to block a straightforward path so we had to climb over a couple and duck under a few as we continued forward. Our next hindrance was a footbridge that had collasped, but some thoughtful person had put together a makeshift cross over point with a few planks of wood and stones so onward we were able to go. That is until we reached a point where a wire fence prevented us following the river - not to be deterred we climbed up the steep bank - which did once have footsteps, but sadly I think with the bad weather and not very good maintenance has meant they had deteriorated. After an exhausting climb we got to the top and found a map which told us just where we were. By this time we had already walked 4 3/4 miles and according to the map it was only another 1 1/4 miles to go to Shaugh Bridge - so as it was less mileage to get there than go back for lunch we carried on.
There was one slight problem though - we took a wrong turning! After what seemed an eternity and a feeling of going completely round in a cirlce as well as by this time not having a clue which direction we should be going we eventually came out at a place that was familiar to us in our long ago days of scouting. To our disappointment though the next sign we came across said it was still 1 1/4 miles to Shuagh Prior. Not to be deterred though as I was beginning to feel hungry (which meant the boys must have been feeling ravenous) we plodded on until we saw the sign for the White Thorn Inn 3/4 mile - hooray we thought not long to go now. But the upward climb seemed to go on forever and it felt like the longest 3/4 of a mile ever. By this time we were just hoping that they did actually allow dogs into the beer garden they used to have or that they did at least have a beer garden still. Thankfully it is a very dog friendly pub and boy were we all glad to sit down and have a rest and enjoy some much needed food and drink. The food and service were fantastic and I would highly recommend this place.
Once refreshed and ready to move on - well I was but the boys seemed to be saying their legs were beginning to ache we walked back down to Shaugh Bridge and enjoyed an ice cream while we sat by the river composing ourselves for the return journey. This time though we decided to take the easier route home and follow the cycle path back to Plymouth. While I appreciate that cyclists have just as much right to enjoy the countryside as us walkers, I do wish they would be a little more considerate at times and just slow down a little while they passed us. For Max's safety and to avoid any unnecessary accident claims by bikers we kept him on his lead - not quite so enjoyable for him but at least we knew he wouldn't get hurt.
Once we had got past Bickleigh I managed to take a photo of Shaugh Prior church just to show the distance that we had walked - this shot was zoomed in so doesn't really show the true distance. The church is beautiful though and who knows next time we might even venture in there.
As we were walking along the cycle track we came across the largest dandelion clocks we had ever seen, still in tact. It just made me think of how precious time is and we really do have to make the most of our time and cherish those memories too.
Despite feeling tired by the time we got back to the car I think we can all say we'd had a wonderful time (well okay Bryan might not whole heartedly agree with that sentiment but....) and working it out I think we trekked for about 13 miles and made the most of a beautiful sunny day, enjoyed some much needed exercise and had fun in the process.