Grant and I set off for Steeplestow, fourteen miles distant, at the usual nine/nine-thirty time. We took a B-road out of Hengarrow and were soon sweating, trudging, clumping up a steep road in hot sun. I was so tired, but just as we reached the top, Grant was accosted by a Frenchman, who offered us a lift as far as Scahampton. We gratefully bundled into his Renault and were driven three miles through boulder-littered moorland.
By the time we reached Steeplestow after walking the miles from Camcannow and through Middle Hallacate we were dying for something to drink, only to find that Steeplestow was a collection of houses and little else. We felt utterly dry, but eventually Grant found a place open at nearby Broxdon Wood.
The youth hostel at Steeplestow is quite a good one, with a rustic interior and much wood. The dormitory is in a converted barn, hung with repro Picassos, Turners, Corots. . . It sits next to a plantation of fir trees, and everything seems to be run with vaguely military precision, to the accompaniment of Beethoven piano concertos. The Queen’s portrait hangs over the warden’s hatch, along with a neatly polished brass barometer, and there are outlines drawn on the wall where pans should hang.
In the evening we walked once more, midges everywhere, talking again of the usual; art, God. . . . I must read up on more things for next year. I still don’t know much of anything. On the way back to the hostel we watched a large bat wheeling and catching insects on the edge of the plantation, its shrieks high-pitched and metallic. I’ve never seen a bat for such a long period of time and so close before. In a strange sort of way, it seems the holiday is over already, as if we are just now filling in time until Abbencaster and home. The coast section seems so long ago, so remote, that I wish the holiday was over in case anything happens to mar it.