Last weekend, we woke up early to a chilly Saturday morning, jumped in Vicky's car and drove off for an adventure.
Exeter was still sleeping under a veil of frost; there were no signs of student life anywhere.
We parked the car near the train station of a little village and wrapped up in hats, boots and scarves.
Michele recently bought a book of country walks that can be done from various railway stations along the Tarka Valley line. Seeing as we don't have a car of our own, it will come in pretty handy over the next couple of years.
We chose an 8 mile circular ramble from Newton St. Cyres, just outside of Exeter. Our walk began a little after 10am yet it felt so much earlier in the pale, frosty morning.
Luckily the sodden ground was frozen so our boots crunched easily across the grass and mud formations. The cold seeped through our clothes, so we pushed on through fields and up lanes and across ditches.
There was also plenty of dream house fodder for us to gaze longingly at along the way. Even the barns were giving us serious house goals.
I couldn't believe how visible the ice crystals were that clung to the leaves and blades of the greenery. Stopping to take photos of them was a great excuse when we began to climb and my legs complained too much.
We came across this little shed on the edge of an orchard. Inside, a BBQ and a few boardgames hibernated, waiting for the summer. What a wonderful little place to be able to spend long, hot, summer evenings with a cool glass of fresh apple juice.
After a nice causal amble along the quiet country lanes, we turned off onto a footpath and began to climb up and up to the highest point around.
We met all sorts of naughty animals along the way including a ewe who had slipped through a gap in the fence and was running all over the footpath whilst her lambs bleated nervously back in the field. Michele turned into human-sheep-dog extraordinaire and shepherded her back into the field. Then just further up the road, we were accosted by a very indignant little Jack Russell who didn't like us walking past his home one bit! They say things come in threes and sure enough, as we made the last strenuous climb up and across a steep field, a sheep began to prowl around us, making the strangest, raw growling noises in her throat.
We made our way hastily past and jumped over a stile at the top, where we were finally rewarded with views of Devon that stretched for miles and miles in every direction.
To my disbelief, Michele and Vicky pointed Exeter out in the distance. How funny to think that I've probably seen this hill on the horizon many times before yet never thought to climb it and look back the other way.
To my relief, it was all a gentle ramble downhill from there. All the way downhill to the pub we'd located in Shobrooke.
We came back onto the roads and began to wind down. Vicky and I were starving and began to discuss how we could recreate Tim Tams which she misses from her year abroad in Australia. We're thinking of trying to create our own versions soon which is bound to result in obesity.
At one point, we came across an odd sight; both sides of the road were scorched black. It must have been a car on fire as there seemed to be the remnants of some old tires in the black dust at the roadside.
It's quite scary to think how easily a car can be defeated by the hills of Devon!
We carried on trotting down the hill, with the goal of lunch in mind. In Shobrooke, we made a beeline to the Red Lion where I had a delicious aubergine and halloumi stack with homemade pesto (I felt quite virtuous eating vegetables and salad after such a long walk - the halloumi and side of fries don't count!)
And before we'd barely had chance to warm up by the fire, it was time to press on and get back to the car!
We walked along the lanes, past tiny little cottages and fields of sheep.
Catching up with an elderly gentleman out for a little walk of his own, we paused to say hello. He told us how he'd been living there for nearly all of his eighty years and took the same walk most days to enjoy the glorious countryside around us. We stood there together, listening to the deep silence punctuated only by the calls of birds and creatures and looking out across the valley.
I like to think we'll be taking the same walk for many years to come too.