Perhaps the best part of walking the Two Moors Way has been meeting other people on the same path. Take Bridget, whom we've run into three times now, an almost 70-year-old German free spirit who travels with no accommodation booked and no baggage forwarded. She told us that she always finds something at the end of the day. Earlier on her walk--like us, from south to north--she ended up spending the night in an innkeeper's mobile home. We found her again at West Bowden Farm and had dinner with her tonight in Withypoole at the Royal Oak, where she has a room across from the bath. "Very comfortable," she said, approvingly. Bridget strides along with all her possessions on her back, chatting with everyone. After dinner, enjoying a half-pint of Guinness, she suddenly grinned infectiously and said, "Life is good." Clearly, this is her basic philosophy.
Then, there's Roy and Olive, who also shared West Bowden Farm with us. An English couple who have been married for fifty-seven years--a life sentence, mock groans Roy--they finish each others sentences and tease each other unmercifully. Olive is apt to break into a dance for no particular reason except that she feels like it. Roy examined Sue's walking stick, which she picked up on the River Dart, and authoritatively pronounced it hawthorne. He explained that it had once been part of a hedge, showing us how the conveniently shaped "handle" had been espaliered to make a ninety degree turn.
One of our favorite people was Mrs. Doris Snell, the doyen of Shippens in Morchard Bishop. Not an inch more than four foot six inches high and perilously close to ninety-years-old, her energy and brisk kindness were amazing. "Can I help you with yer suitcase?" she asked me, as I struggled up the narrow staircase, trying not to dislodge the dozens of china plates and brass bells crowding the wall. Coming home from dinner at the London Inn where Mrs. Snell had booked an open reservation for us for dinner, we found her doing her ironing in the kitchen. When Sue couldn't finish her second (and enormous) sausage at breakfast, she asked chirpily if she could "wrap it up for yer in a nice bit o' bread?"
In Holne, an entire pub befriended us. Jim--"just call me Darling"--gave us a lift from Scorriton to Holne when we limped into the only pub on the first day after getting lost and spending an extra two miles on Abbots Way. Bo, a displaced Swede who now runs the Dartmoor Spring water bottling operation, talked politics with Sue while Alan, a teacher passionately in love with Shakespeare, told me all about the latest Globe theater production of MacBeth. He actually went home and then returned with the program to encourage me to take in a performance when I got back to London.
There have been so many people who touched our lives on this trip. Jo, a Welsh girl in Ivybridge, tried to teach us a few words in her language as soon as she found out Sue's ancesters had immigrated from Wales. Monica from South Africa, who looked and dressed exactly like our image of Miss Marple, talked science, literature and politics with us in Chagford. It seems as though almost everyone we met has jumped into our lives as though we have known them forever, even though in the nature of rambling, we part almost immediately and permanently. There's a metaphor here somewhere, but right now, we are too busy and too happy experiencing this brief, but poignant comraderie to ponder its meaning.