We enjoyed a nice day off in Barnstaple where we had taken a small stand-alone studio flat in the grounds of the owner's house. The owner, Jane, could not do enough for us. It was Joanna's birthday and a friend of ours had arranged with Jane for a birthday cake and presents to be delivered before we arrived as a nice surprise. With a couple of nice meals, Scottish tablet, birthday cake, five pound ice-creams (yes, I kid you not; five pounds for an ice-cream) and nice surroundings to relax in and catch up with laundry etc., it was a very nice and relaxing day.
From Braunton head back down to the coast following the River Caen to Horsey island which we will go round on the western side and down to Crow Beach House. At Crow Point, the route turns right on to Braunton Burrows (beach), heading for Saunton. From there it is only a couple of miles to our destination at Croyde Bay. The profile of the walk is essentially flat until we reach a rise of just over seventy metres shortly before accessing Croyde Bay. The weather forecast is mixed and we expect to walk in quite muggy conditions, with a severe thunderstorm expected in the afternoon.
At the large roundabout below Braunton, just beside Velator, we could see the Tescos where we went and stocked up with food for the next few days. While there will be opportunities to go in to cafes, etc., we never like to do this too much and like to carry our own supplies. Having said that, it seemed daft not to take advantage of the cafe and before moving on we stopped for a quick lunch.
After shopping and packing up, there was a substantial gain in weight in the rucksacks. With the side pockets full they looked quite ungainly. Heading back down the other side of the River Caen, the walking was, at times, easier on the feet as we changed to a gravel-based path. Passing through Velator Quay, we took a couple of minutes to admire the area. Built in 1870 following the completion of a canal section from the Taw Estuary, the new developments enabled larger vessels such as ketches, schooners and river barges to ply their trade on the river increasing trade in coal, lime and other local products.
Both the island route and the diversion take you down to Broadsands, which marks the start of the Braunton Sands, home to the Braunton Burrows, or sand dunes, owned and cared for by the Christie Devon Estates. Standing up to thirty metres high, the extensive sand dunes are home to a number of different habitats that contain a wide variety of flora and fauna. Stretching from Broadsands across the bay to Saunton, they are part of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. As well as being part of the biosphere, the beach is also a major training area for the armed forces, and has been for a number of years. American troops having practiced here for the D-Day Landings. Walking through the area it is full of interest and, on the day we visited, the Saunton end of the beach was very, very busy.