Saturday 2 April 2005Across England

Across England mapCliffs at BranscombeThe idea for a run across England comes from the Across Wales Walk which David and I completed in September 2004. When combined with a mother-in-law on the Devon coast and father-in-law near the Quantocks the idea of a West Country coast-to-coast was born. Also the 'leg' of England conveniently narrows between Lyme Bay and Bridgewater Bay providing a 45 mile crossing point that also takes in two sets of hills and some great countryside.

In March 2005 I walk/run 65% from Branscombe in Devon to Milverton, north of Wellington. This avoids the steepest section through the Quantocks but, hey, it's still over 30 miles so a good start.

Section 1section 2Any run from Branscombe starts with a very steep hill. Branscombe sits at the end of a steep chalk valley and has a fine, pebble beach under high cliffs on either side. As a result you climb for the first mile and a half before crossing the main road and heading into the Southleigh hills.

These hills continue for the rest of the first 10 miles until you drop down to the river Otter after passing Honiton. The view below is typical and probably has not changed much, barring hedgerows, for the past 100 years. Early in the morning the roads are very quiet and I see more deer (5) than cars (2) in the first 2 hours.

At the 6.5 mile point the first across country section starts with a good two miles along farm tracks and through woodland.

View south from Bakers Gate
miles 7 to 9Clearing in the woodsThe woods are being cleared (left) as you approach Offwell Brook at 7.8 miles (red blob) but as you head on towards Colwell Wood the woods thicken again and there is a climb up through quite dense woodland before you join a track then the A35 outside Honiton.
miles 11 to 13Wick FarmAfter traversing around Honiton on bridleways you cross the river Otter then climb into the hills again. An off-road section takes you across another valley and up to a farm (right) underneath the Iron Age hill fort, Dumpdon Hill.

The route continues on and off the road through the hills and valleys of the Blackdown hills.

Bridge in the woodsBridge and DaffsBlackdown HillsFootpaths are good and views scenic. After 23 miles I drop down the Wellington Escarpment to West Buckland and the vale of Taunton. After crossing the river Tone at Bradford I leave my route and head west to Milverton.
Geological cross section of Devon and SomersetSo ends a 31 mile, 6 and a bit hour run and walk. The route works well with good scenery, lots of off road sections and the on-road parts on pretty quiet backroads. The next step is to complete the northern section through the Quantocks before attempting the full 'crossing England in a day' later in the year.

Geologically this is an interesting route too. Starting on the Upper Greensand Cretaceous cliffs in Branscombe the route flits between the Greensand and the underlying and older Trias. You leave the Cretaceous behind as you come down the escarpment off the Blackdown hills near Wellington and cross the wide flood plain of the Tone river valley. North of Norton Fitzwarren, as you climb into the Quantocks you move onto the much older Devonian period before finally finding some Jurassic limestone on the North coast.

The profile below shows the whole route. The highest point that I reach is 298m at Buckland Hill at the top of the Blackdown Hills escarpment above Taunton. The highest point on the whole crossing is 354m at Black Knap in the Quantocks. The overall ascent is 1700 meters in 44.4 miles (assuming that you don't get lost).

Profile of cross England route