I had been planning to walk from Braunton to Instow but felt that I had to cut it short as my knees were really sore after the last couple of days' walking. This is often a problem for me and so I'm used to having to re-jig my plans. I decided to walk only as far as Barnstaple and as this is mainly flat it would give my knees a chance to recover.
I parked at the Leisure Centre in Barnstaple (£1.60 for the day) and crossed the river to the town and the bus station. I got the bus to Braunton getting off at the stop where I'd got on on Monday when I caught the bus to Woolacombe. I went back into the lovely deli and bought a spinach pasty for my lunch. I also sat inside with a coffee and a piece of delicious apple cake before starting my walk.
I backtracked along the river and the Tarka Trail to where I'd finished on the Coast Path on Monday. Today the whole walk was inland and I wouldn't get to see the coast at all. It was still a lovely walk though, along the former Brauton to Barnstaple Railway. The path is shared with the Tarka Trail Cycleway and so is very easy to walk along.
I'd only just started walking on the official path when I spotted a a hidden pond to the left. I followed a boardwalk down to it and found this lovely oasis with ducks, swans and coots. They had their young with them and I spent some time trying to get a good photo of the cygnets. A family was stood on the boardwalk throwing bread to them and they were all over the place trying to snap it up. Fun to watch, but not easy to photograph. One of the cygnets seemed to have a leg growing out of its back. I worried that it was deformed but maybe it was just resting it. A search on google reveals several pics of cygnets with a leg like this so hopefully it was just relaxing and practising a bit of swan yoga.
Next the path passed the Chivenor Barracks. These stretch for quite a way and are a base for the Royal Marines. I could see houses, buildings and an assault course through the wire fencing. A seat had been conveniently placed so passersby could stop and watch the Marines training. A few were exercising and running but I didn't get to see them use the assault course.
Moving on from the barracks I came alongside the River Taw which was wide and full of sandbanks, similar to the Torridge yesterday. The weather was much better though and I stopped several times just to sit and enjoy the view.
After 5 miles on this path I reached Barnstaple. I followed the river into town and crossed what I thought was the Long Bridge and the official path bridge. Looking at my map later I realised it might actually have been a bridge a little further up that I should have crossed. I could see the thick dotted green line on the map going as far as this further bridge but was unsure as to whether this was the coast path or the Tarka Trail or both.
I wasn't too worried at missing part of the path as by this time by knees were sore and I was ready to take my boots off and get in my van.