Kirby Lonsdale to Appleby.

Bit of a late start as breakfast wasn’t till nine at The Snooty Fox, Kirby Lonsdale. Our exit from the town was across the old bridge, no longer used for traffic. It gives a great view of the tan coloured River Lune flowing briskly between the rocks below. Our route for the day could be divided into three roughly equal parts of about 11 miles each. The first section to Sedbergh was relatively easy going, following the quiet main road along the pleasant rolling side of the valley. At Sedbergh we found the obligatory cafe for tea and cake. It was needed too, for leaving the town we took to the lanes on the same side of the valley. We could have switched sides and stayed on the main road but the M6 took the prime route and the B road was much higher up. This didn’t mean we got away with it. The route along the valley side climbed and dropped continuously and this second phase was pretty hard going. I’ve driven the M6 many times up this spectacular valley and always wondered what the lane on the opposite side was like. Now I know.

At Tebay we found a pub for lunch before leaving the River Lune behind and passing through Orton then tackling the big climb up Orton Scar onto Bank Moor. The first part of the climb was too steep. We nearly made it but came to a wobbly stop. Karon dismounted and walked for a while as I cycled the Beast on my own to a point where the gradient was less. As we remounted a cycling couple came up and the young chap did a perfect track stand in the road while he chatted. The he was off up the road like a whippet, after his partner.

Yorkshire

Yorkshire

We made the top and stopped again for photos and to admire the views of all the surrounding hills. The M6 and Shap weren’t far away and it felt quite bleak compared to the countryside we’d left far below. The 9 mile ride across the moor was a bit of a roller coaster that saw us flying along one minute and grinding away in bottom gear the next. Then we were dropping into Appleby. Into the town centre, I spotted the Tourist Information office and went in to ask directions to The Royal Oak, our bed and sustenance provider for the night. Then I spotted a bank and walked the Beast over and onto the pavement to withdraw some cash. A police car was reversing into a space off the pavement but PC Blindside hadn’t spotted me ir the bike and kept reversing, presumably waiting till the tires made contact with the kerb. Of course, long before that, the back of the car, overhanging the pavement made contact with The Beast! I yelled and struggled to keep the Beast upright. As he got out he muttered something about the bike being on the pavement and Karon didn’t mince her words in telling him we were perfectly entitled to use the cash point without being accosted by police cars. He sat and chatted a while in an effort to defuse Karon’s anger and hide his embarrassment. With peace established he trotted off over the road to hide. After that it was off to find the pub – would you believe it – another climb, albeit a short one.

Morecambe to Kirby Lonsdale

Short ride today. I meant to book somewhere to stay in Sedbergh but somehow managed to book The Snooty Fox in Kirby Lonsdale, 11 miles closer. No matter. We’re both quite tired so an early finish would be good.
The ride was in two distinct flavours today, the first part being flat and easy and the second quite a bit more strenuous. From our B&B we crossed the road to ride along Morecambe promenade as far as it would go Northwards. Wide, flat, almost empty and with the wind at our back. We ride at a very sedate pace, enjoying the views across the vast expanse of sand to the hills of the Lake District in the distance. When it ran out, we rode a short stretch of path beside the busy road and then turned off to pick up the Lancaster Canal to Carnforth. Maintaining an easy pace, we enjoyed the views as the canal contoured around hillsides overlooking the Morecambe Bay.

At Carnforth we left the canal and were immediately working hard to get The Beast over the hills. It was like being back in the West Country – a hard climb followed by a nice fast descent, again and again. A dozen or so miles into the ride we were flying downhill and whizzed past a farm shop. The word ‘cafe’ caught my eye so I jammed on the brakes and we enjoyed tea and caramel shortcake with the resident pair of Pugs sitting patiently under the table waiting (in vain) for the odd crumb. After half an hour they had given up and fallen asleep, one resting on each of Karon’s feet.

IMG_0491

It seemed a shame to disturb them but we are on a mission, so it was back on the bike for the remaining miles into Kirby Lonsdale. We arrived at lunchtime, checked in, showered and changed then had lunch in the bar downstairs. Then we went for a walk around the pretty little town, stopping in the churchyard to paint.

DSCF1677

The sunshine promised by the Beeb never materialised and it actually felt distinctly cool in the strong breeze. Time to finish wandering the town, find a cafe for a warm drink then back to our room for a brief kip before dinner.
I can’t see us staying up late tonight. We’re both tired and there are some seriously big hills to get over tomorrow as we ride to Appleby in Westmoreland.

Preston to Morecambe

Another start under grey skies and in drizzly rain. Preston is not the easiest place to cycle in. Many streets are one way and the street our hotel was on was no exception. The way we wanted to go was against the flow but it was Sunday morning and there was little traffic here. Soon we found ourselves on busier roads going the way we wanted to but we still weren’t on the planned route. An Irish roadie came alongside, wanting to chat about The Beast and gave us some help with picking up our intended route, so it didn’t take long and we were back in our territory – the back lanes. I was worried about flooding but the friendly Irish man had ridden the way we were heading the day before and reassured us it was ok. The drizzle kept coming and going, making waterproofs a necessity all morning. The fields either side of the lanes were sometimes full of water but it didn’t encroach onto the road. After about 12 miles we passed through Great Eccleston and spotted a cafe.

Great Ecclestone cafe. Popular with cyclists.

Great Ecclestone cafe. Popular with cyclists.

Tea and coffee an walnut cake for me and chocolate cake for Karon. A stack of road bikes outside had signalled this place was popular with cyclists and sure enough, an cacophony of cleats on the stairs announced their imminent departure. The Beast received quite a bit of attention as they readied themselves for the off. About an hour later we saw them heading back the other way and there were various greetings exchanged as we passed.

As we neared Lancaster we picked up another cycle path along a disused rail line. It would take us right into Lancaster and across the river Lune. Better still, it had no restrictive gates!

Once across the river we picked up another cycle path heading back out along the opposite bank, making for Morecambe. We almost followed it right to the sea front but at a rail crossing we were thwarted by a kissing gate. No way was The Beast going through there. So our last half mile or so was along roads that spat us out onto the promenade. The clouds had gone and the sun was shining from a deep blue sky. Life is good! Wonderful views across the bay to the hills of the Lake District beyond.

The Midlands Hotel, Morecambe. We stayed elsewhere but came back for a slap up meal in the evening.

The Midlands Hotel, Morecambe. We stayed elsewhere but came back for a slap up meal in the evening.

We were early for our B&B so cycled along the prom to a cafe for soup and pavlovas (not together 😛 ). As we ate, we were entertained by a bunch of para surfers streaking back and forth across the bay. How they all do that and not get tangled is beyond me.

We checked in, parked up The Beast and then showered and changed. We’re now sitting in the bar at the ‘Art Deco’ Midland Hotel, enjoying the views and a drink before eating in the restaurant. And it’s nice to be able to say, this one’s on ‘The Stream’ – a birthday present for my recent 60th from the guys and gals I work with.

Thanks ‘Stream’!!! Xxx. See you all around the end of July.

Liverpool to Preston.

The Kop – for all you football fans

The Kop – for all you football fans

We said our thanks and goodbye’s to Rita and crossed the Sheil Road before mounting the Beast for our next leg on it. Along through streets ever more neglected and abused, towards the Liverpool Leeds Canal. Getting down to the towpath was a real problem as all the access points were down or up steps. After running parallel for about a mile with no luck, we tried and succeeded in getting the beast down a flight of steps that were wide enough for us to try it.

Steps to cycle down on to the Liverpool Canal.

Steps to cycle down on to the Liverpool Canal.

Our problems didn’t end there though, for every so often alongside the forlorn and flotsam filled waters, we encountered the same type of narrowed gates that have plagued us all along on our canal stretches. It meant taking the low bags off and leaning the beast right over then dragging it through the tight gap. Not something one wants every mile or so.

Eventually the canal became cleaner and more people were using it but it was time to come off it and head for the Trans Pennine Trail at Maghull. More gates, more frustration but now we were out in the country and the wind was on our back. We made good progress and by 12 we were at Ainsdale on the coast between Formby and Southport. Karon suggested it was way past tea time, so I came off route to find a tea stop. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Room sufficed, made more enjoyable with very nice Carrot Cake and the silky voice of Ella Fitzgerald.

Through Ainsdale we reached the coast road, running between the dunes. There was a cycle path alongside but with the strong tailwind we were running at 20mph+, so stayed on the road, which was acceptable to all but one driver, who sounded his horn as he overtook us and pointed to the path.

When the coast road ran out, we ran along lanes bordered by salad crops and then came to the A59. I had intended to use back lanes but the road wasn’t to busy and was nice and wide, so we headed down it towards Preston. It was now lunchtime and, conveniently, a classy looking Italian restaurant appeared roadside. We pulled in, parked the beast and went inside to refuel. Posh or not, we needed carbs.

Chatting to a local cyclist, it turned out that the back lanes were flooded, waist deep, so the choice to stick to the main road was a good one. Someone up there is looking after us. An hour after leaving we were in Preston. Not a cycle friendly town and one-way systems and bus only lanes had us walking into the town centre to find somewhere with a free wifi. Cafe Nero assisted and we found a hotel room for the price of a B&B. 43 miles and, apart from the odd drop, no rain to speak of.

A day off in Liverpool

Breakfasted and togged up in our waterproof jackets we left Rita’s B&B and went round the corner onto the West Derby Road for a bus into the City centre. The Magical Mystery Tour started at the Albert Dock so we headed there. It’s pretty big and we thought we’d kill two birds with one stone by heading for the information office – out of the rain and they’d know where the tour went from. Turned out the information office was the meeting point. We were half an hour early so went next door for a Starbucks.

Roll up, Roll up for the mystery tour. The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away.

Roll up, Roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away.

The tour was ok. Rain on the outside meant steamy windows in the bus but there wasn’t that much to see. The chap doing the commentary was very good though. His presentation was slick, funny and he sounded enthusiastic too. We ventured out now and then to see a house where one of the fab four lived, or to pose next to the gates of Strawberry Fields.

The tour ended just round the corner from the Cavern Club but before we went to toast a bygone era in their old haunt, Karon and I checked out the Hard Day’s Night Hotel.

Liverpool. Karon meets John Lennon.

Liverpool. Karon meets John Lennon.

The Cavern Club was just as I expected and I could easily imagine it being packed and hot with The Beatles in full swing on the tiny stage area, as it would have been 50 years ago.

After we surfaced, we headed back to the dock area and ended up in one of the rather small gondolas on Liverpool’s equivalent of the London Eye. It was pretty blustery and we were swinging around a bit. I don’t do heights but wanted to see the views do put up with the first few minutes of distinct discomfort until I’d accustomed myself to the situation. Even so, each time we approached the ground, I was half hoping it would stop and let us off.

The meeting with relatives didn’t happen. I think, with the bad weather they decided to just go home. So we were at a loose end for the afternoon. We lunched in a Liverpool pub, went to the cinema and finished off the evening at Yo Sushi!

Heswall to Liverpool

For the first time in our Lejog the weather got the better of us and we took a shortcut. The plan had been to continue along the Wirral Way from Heswall but the air was full of that fine rain that cuts visibility right down and we could see little point in prolonging the soaking we were about to be subjected to, so we headed straight down the main road for Birkenhead and the ferry. The roads were busy so we spent quite a bit of time riding along on the path, whether it was officially a cycle path or not. Sometimes self preservation takes precident over local bylaws.

Liverpool from Birkenhead. We rode straight there from our B&B as it was just too wet to ride the longer and more pleasant route we'd planned.

Liverpool from Birkenhead. We rode straight there from our B&B as it was just too wet to ride the longer and more pleasant route we’d planned.

By the time we got to the ferry terminal we were both pretty damp but dried out a little as we supped hot drinks in the cafe waiting for the next departure. Soon enough the boat turned up and we boarded, leaving the beast parked up out of the way as best we could. The trip across the Mersey outside of commuting times is actually more of a sight seeing trip, with the boat calling in at another terminal before crossing. There’s also a running commentary on what can be seen. Despite the weather, Karon and I headed for the upper deck for the best view through the drizzly gloom across the Mersey to the waterfront, which is impressive.

A short time later we were offloading at the Albert dock and trying to figure out which way our B&B was on Google Maps. It didn’t take too long to find Rita’s Bed & Breakfast on Sheil Road but we were way too early. I’d said we would be there mid afternoon but it was barely midday. Never the less Rita welcomed us in and made us tea. We sat supping our tea and telling her about our ride and the reasons and she kindly returned some of our B&B cost as a donation. And when we asked about a local laundrette Rita took all that needed washing off us, saying we didn’t want to be wasting time sitting in laundrettes! So, after a change of clothes we headed off to Liverpool One, a big new shopping area where I finally got my phone replaced and restored (from the iCloud back-up).

It took a while so Karon spent a couple of hours wandering the shopping area. We had some food then went back to the Apple store to get my phone and, as we came out, the heavens opened again and the rain fell heavily. By the time we eventually found the right bus stop to get us back to Rita’s we were soaked (again).
Tomorrow is a day off the bike to do the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and hopefully meet up with some family who are in the area too. I wonder if it’ll still be raining.

Whitchurch to Heswall (on The Wirrel)

Another long day today with 50 miles added to our total. When we left Whitchurch at about 9.30, it was under a hazy overcast sky but the sun soon broke up the cloud cover and for much of the day we were in clear sunshine. So nice after all the time we’ve been riding in waterproofs and getting caught in showers or downpours. It makes it easier to ride for longer, though it does come at a price… The amount of flies Karon and I have swallowed between us!
We mised our exit lane from Whitchurch but soon realised and the road was quiet enough to do a U turn on the Hase – not the easiest of manoeuvres as riding it at low speed, it has the turning circle of an oil tanker!

After a few gentle ups and downs the countryside levelled out and we made a pretty good speed. Our rout was a bit zig-zaggy as there were quite a few watercourses that needed avoiding or crossing. Chester was about 30 miles away, so we stopped mid-morning to take on some KitKat and Starbar with water to tie us over. I’ve found it’s easy to let the sugar levels drop without realising it. The first indicator it usually a map reading error, so if that happens now, we stop and eat something.

Later, we popped into Beeston Castle and enjoyed a soft drink and some chocolate. The approach to Chester, was, as with many of the towns we’ve passed through, along a canal towpath. There were a few cafes and restaurants alongside the canal so we stopped for lunch at one. After, we continued along the canal and passed right through Chester without straying from it.

Chester. We stayed on the canal without seeing the town or really knowing we'd passed through.

Chester. We stayed on the canal without seeing the town or really knowing we’d passed through.

At one point it was crossed by a cycle path along a disused rail line and we transferred to this, following it Westwards quite a way before turning North to head for the Wirrel. The indirect route was on account of the major roads in the area that needed safe crossing. There was a lone cyclist ahead negotiating all the overpasses and crossings and when we caught him, he asked where we were heading. “The Eureka Cafe” I replied – it’s a bit of a Mecca for cyclists near and far, and they have a visitors book especially for all end-to-enders passing through. He was heading there too so we rode together for a while until he spotted a friend on the roadside with a puncture. We carried on to the cafe and ordered to giant mugs of tea. The bike came in for quite a bit of attention from many of the riders there and we struck up conversations with several.

After leaving the cafe we had some lanes, one long climb then a stint on another rail line before a really steep push up to our B&B for the night in Heswall. And here’s me thinking the Wirrel was pretty flat!

The Wirral. From here we rode to the Eureka Café, a mecca fro cyclists. Got to sign the Lejoggers book too.

The Wirral. From here we rode to the Eureka Café, a mecca fro cyclists. Got to sign the Lejoggers book too.

Tomorrow we go into Liverpool across the Mersey and we’re having out first rest day on Friday – so we can take the Majical Mystery Tour and see the Beatles sights, ending up for an evening in the Cavern.
“It’s been a Hard Day’s Ride, and I’ve been pushing like a dog”.

Ironbridge to Whitchurch

First port of call in once we were away was a little food shop called Bonnies of Ironbridge. We popped in the afternoon before to buy a couple of large merangues and the chap running it suggested we give him a call in the morning to place an order for a picnic. He had some really nice looking ‘ploughman’s lunch pies’ and some full baguettes so we took one of each, halved, plus drinks each.

Bonnies of Ironbridge. A MUST visit!

Bonnies of Ironbridge. A MUST visit!

We left Ironbridge on the main road through and stayed on it for a whole, gradually climbing high over the River Severn valley. Below the river meandered across meadows full of sheep and cows. We pulled off the main road into a narrow lane but soon had to beat a hasty retreat as a huge tractor ‘thing’ bore down on us. We backtracked as there as no way for us to pass, and took refuge in someone’s drive. The rest of the ride was uneventful as we passed farmyards and solitary houses with wonderful views of the distant Welsh mountains. A map reading error made me realise I was low on energy levels so, backtracking, we stopped for a while to eat the remains of the merangues we had bought at Bonnies the afternoon before.

After Ironbridge, the River Severn. Doesn't look like we are high at all, but there are sheep in the fields.

After Ironbridge, the River Severn. Doesn’t look like we are high at all, but there are sheep in the fields.

At around 12.30 we came across a ruined house. A very large one. Moreton Corbett is now owned by the national trust but there had been a dwelling there since Saxon times. It evolved onto a large stately home but was severely damaged in the civil war. Some walls still stood, with grand windows, but there was little else. A nice place to sit in the SUN and eat our lunch. Karon even managed a quick sketch.

Moreton Corbet ruins. A nice place for a picnic – apart from the constant noise from helicopters on training flights.

Moreton Corbet ruins. A nice place for a picnic – apart from the constant noise from helicopters on training flights.

From there it was only a few miles to Wem. We needed a reasonable sized community to find a wifi signal so we could hunt for a bed for the night in or near Whitchurch, our day’s destination. The town hall cafe provided the wifi and a bottle of Crabbies each. That set us up for the last ten miles straight down the B road into Whitchurch where we easily found our B&B. It was actually a small hotel but the rates were similar to some B&Bs we’ve stayed at. A soak for tired muscles in the bath, meal in the bar and the last half hour of the England/Ukraine match, then bed.

Kidderminster to Ironbridge

An earlier start today from the Gainsborough House Hotel. The beast had been parked up overnight in a back room and I had to wheel it through the breakfast room and foyer to get it outside. Thought I might have problems but the breakfast waitress held all the doors open for me.

Weaving through the town with the morning traffic wasn’t ideal but after a mile or so we escaped onto the lanes. Went past some lovely houses out in the country but all had sturdy iron fences and gates. The hills slowed us down as usual but apart from one they were all manageable. When we got to the exception we stopped at the bottom and both looked up the sharply rising lane. Neither of us felt like a challenge, so I checked the map for alternatives. It meant a couple of miles on an A road and was longer but we were both in agreement – anything to avoid the climb we were facing. It’s on the A roads we feel most vulnerable – especially when we’re climbing slowly on a left hand bend, so hidden from traffic approaching from behind. We had another A road stretch coming into Bridgenorth.

The town is on two levels. The lower town, on the banks of the Severn and the higher town which occupies a steep sided hill overlooking the river. We walked over the bridge looking for a potential lunch stop and found a nice little place right next to the river. It wasn’t yet 12.00 so we had a wait while the kitchen came on line. Eventually we were fed and watered but to leave the town, we had to push the bike up a steep, narrow street to get up the the ‘high street’. We had spotted a fernacular(?) rail car as we’d entered the town but just knew the beast wouldn’t be accepted.

Bridgenorth. The 'higher' town and the Beast gets yet more attention.

Bridgenorth. The ‘higher’ town and the Beast gets yet more attention.

Walking the high street we chatted with several folks before mounting the bike for a fast descent back down to the riverside. There we got onto another disused rail line that would carry us all the way to Ironbridge. We arrived not long adter 3.00pm. Bathed and changed we took our paints nack to the bridge and sat in the afternoon sun (yes, sun!) to sketch. The pub we’d booked B&B with was a bit rough sp we ate on one nearby before retiring to ours.
Tomorrow we’re aiming for Whitchurch, past Shrewsbury. That’ll line us up nicely for Chester and the Wirrel, so we should be in Liverpool in a few day’s time.

Ironbridge. In the evening, we sat and painted here.

Ironbridge. In the evening, we sat and painted here.

Tewksbury to Kidderminster

Thanks Beeb! You promised sunshine with the odd shower. What we got today was shower with the odd sunshine. Left Tewksbury a little later than our usual start time. Sunday I guess. Later breakfast made more pleasant by having a birthday card from Hannah to open.

Out of Tewksbury on busy roads was not so nice but after about 3 miles we turned off onto lanes for a while. We’ve left the flat lands behind and although the hills aren’t that big, they still need conquering. Near Worcester it started to rain heavily and got progressively heavier still. By the time we were on the river tow path heading in to the town centre, it called for a pause under a big tree in the hope of shelter. After a few minutes we carried on and made our way into the town centre where we found a cafe in which to eat, drink and dry out a little. The ginger pig. Nice food finished off with ginger flapjack with stem ginger ice cream.
Back on the bike we made our way out of Worcester following a national cycle trail, first through parkland then residential streets before reaching back lanes.

National Sustrans route needs maintenance.

National Sustrans route needs maintenance.

We pressed on toward Kidderminster, twice coming to major A road with no provision for a safe crossing. Scary. As we neared the town we picked up an old railway line. The unsurfaced track was wet and a little muddy now and then and it was a job to keep the bike from sliding. From this we dropped on to the canal tow path. Not much better and now we had to skirt under low bridges and get through ridiculously narrow gates – put there to stop horse riders and motor cyclists getting onto the path but equally effective at making it very difficult for us. At one point we recruited the help of a couple of lady mountain bikers to manhandle the loaded bike over a ‘stop’. Later gates had us taking the lower bags off the bike and dragging it through the gap almost on its side.

 

Kidderminster. Riding right into the town centre along the peaceful canal.

Kidderminster. Riding right into the town centre along the peaceful canal.

We were tired and getting a bit crotchety by the time we came up from the canal path to find our hotel near the town centre. Disappointed too, to find that the restaurant was closed. This meant a walk into town to find a meal to celebrate my birthday. After a good 25 minute walk we came across a Balti restaurant. Excellent food and a taxi back to finish with a Laphroaig in the bar 🙂

Almondsbury to Tewksbury

Continental breakfast this morning in Crossways House and the owners kindly gave us a reduction in the bill as a donation, so we’ll pass that on to Arthritis Research UK. The skies are stormy and the wind blowy again but in keeping with previous days, mostly behind us. We’re both riding with waterproofs as it keeps trying to rain. Trouble is you just get damp and clammy with the effort of each little hill. On the flat we’re running well with the following wind.
Stopped at Berkeley Tea Rooms for tea, coffee and coffee & walnut cake at 11.00 after leaving the B&B around 9.15.
Flattish lanes, a stretch on the Gloucester Canal tow path and strong tail winds all helped to get us to Gloucester by 1.45pm. It was lunchtime we decided, so came off the towpath and lo and behold – there was a pub right there. A bit of a Berni Inn (Marsons) but the fuel we need – food and drink. God is obviously looking after us for it had been spitting all morning but as soon as we put the cover on the bike and got inside, the heavens opened and there was torrential rain of Biblical proportions. The pub was busy so our food took some time to come but no matter, it was still bucketing down.

Gloucester downpour. Just as we got inside for some lunch the heavens opened. We stayed put till after.

Gloucester downpour. Just as we got inside for some lunch the heavens opened. We stayed put till after.

After an extended lunch the rain lifted to reasonable levels so we moved on. A cycle track with very narrow gates was our way out of Gloucester. Each hate was a struggle to get the loaded bike through but we weren’t going to double back. Out of the town the hills returned, but nothing serious and we made good time. It was too wet to consult the maps on my phone to often so we relied on sign posts and national cycle route signs. We ended up crossing the river at the Northern end of Tewksbury so had to double back through town to our B&B.
Showered and changed we went off to a landlady recommended pub – The Nottingham – REAL faggots and mash for Karon and BBQ pork ribs for me.
Tomorrow we head up through Worcester towards Kidderminster.

Weston-Super-Mare to Almondsbury

6.30am and a tap on the bedroom door heralded another day plus two cups of tea. Later there was porridge with raisins and banana in plus more tea. Eventually, around 9.30, we were ready to be led out of WSM by Linda and David on their tandem. As we neared the fringes of the town the rain came down – again. So much for summer and droughts and hose pipe bans.

We threaded our way along narrow lanes heading back to pick up the Stawberry Line, stopping for a while to take a look at a C12 church with a leaning tower. We picked up the Strawberry Line and headed North. Easy riding again and now the sun was out sporadically too. At Congresbury Linda and David turned back for their home, so we said our goodbyes. They had done more than enough for us and we were both very grateful for all their help.

With Linda and David Bailey who met us on route, guided us back to their home on the fringes of Weston-Super-Mare and put us up for the night. The next day they led us part-way along the Strawberry line befor saying goodbye.

With Linda and David Bailey who met us on route, guided us back to their home on the fringes of Weston-Super-Mare and put us up for the night. The next day they led us part-way along the Strawberry line befor saying goodbye.

At Yatton station the cycle path ended as it rejoined a working railway line, but there was a nice little cafe on the platform so we popped in for tea and cake. As we left and headed for Clevedon the rain came down again. We passed under the M5 – we’d crossed paths several times over the last couple of days – then followed a little lane North East along the lower slopes of Tickenham Hill. Above us the traffic on the M5 rumbled past. We ran parallel with the motorway, one side or the other right into Pill on the mouth of the Avon. From there we took the cycle path that joins the M5 to run over the bridge into Bristol. By now it was lunchtime and we were both getting hungry but we hadn’t passed any potential food/drink stops. Off the bridge we checked a couple of pubs out but the area was a bit rough – as we’re the pubs.

Pushing on through Avonmouth we got to Hallen and at last found a pub that looked inviting. My pork loin with a creamy Stilton sauce and loads of fresh veg was just the ticket. Karon’s smaller appetite was satisfied with battered prawns and a sweet chilli dip. We shared a sticky toffee pud and custard. As the pub had WiFi I used Google Maps to find a B&B about 6 miles up the road at Almondsbury.

Once there it was the routine of luggage off the bike, bike away, luggage to room, strip, shower, change, phones on charge and wander out to find the local pub for our evening meal. In bed by nine and writing this.

Taunton to Weston-Super-Mare

A really good night’s sleep and porrige for breakfast set us up for the day. We chatted over breakfast with the other guests at Lower Farm, Thornfalcon, near Taunton. Karon and I had managed to sit and paint the farmhouse door the evening before so we had a mini painting show too. Knowing we had more mileage than usual to get through, we left the farm at about 9.30am. We only had a mile, if that, to get back on the Bridgewater Taunton Canal towpath then set off at a good pace. Traffic free and level! Must be cycling heaven. By 10.40 we were in Bridgwater and in search of a cafe. Conveniently, one presented itself right by the cycle path so we dived in for a quick cream tea then it was cross the river and back out of Bridgwater on the opposite bank to the one we’d arrived on. Under the M5 – such a contrast to our mode of transport as we passed below.

Roadside sheep shearer in Devon.

Roadside sheep shearer in Devon.

A short way on and we took to the lanes across the Somerset Levels to the North East of Bridgwater. With a mostly following wind progress was good but we realised that we were not going to make the 1.00pm rendevous with Linda and Dave from the Tandem Club, who had kindly offered to put us up for the night. We were aiming to meet them at Winscombe. I texted to say we’d be late and a little later Linda called. The handlebar mount meant the phone was really easy to get to and I chatted briefly before handing the phone to Karon as we’d hit a descent and were picking up speed quickly – I needed to get to both brakes!

South of Winscombe we were going to join the Strawberry Line, another cycle path built over an old railway line. There was a short stretch on a busy A road and a climb to get to it but once on it we again appreciated being able to cycle traffic free. At the next road crossing, Linda and Dave were there with their tandem, waiting to guide us the rest of the way. We stopped at the only pub in Winscome as both Karon and I were needing food. Fortunately they were still serving.

While inside the rain started, though not too heavily so the remaining ride was damp but we didn’t get a soaking. Our hosts set a brisk pace and we struggled to keep up, even though the going was mostly flat for the 10 mile ride from Winscombe into Weston-Super-Mare. So, now we are bathed and fed and our ‘stuff’ is drying over various hangers, ready to get soaked in rain or sweat or both again tomorrow, depending upon what the weather throws at us, as we head North through Bristol then and start to follow the River Severn up the counrty.

Exebridge to Taunton

Sat watching the River Exe flow past at breakfast in the Anchor Inn at Exebridge. Caught sight of a spotted woodpecker and there was a kingfisher darting around too. The kind landlady gave us a packed sandwich to take with us. We were climbing almost from the off and, as the lane got steeper, Karon had to walk for a while and I managed to get the bike a little higher before I too was off and pushing to the top. Once up we were only on the bike a minute or so and we had lost all the hard-earned height. Fortunately the little lane meandered between the hills rather than cross them and riding was easier after that first push.

At Shillingford we joined the B3227 to Taunton. It was reasonably quiet but when cars did pass they were often scary fast. The odd big HGV came and went too but the road was wide enough for safe passes and if there was a layby or bus stop to move into as they passed, so much the better. At first the hills were long and the gradients gentle but just before Wiveliscombe it climbed a little steeper and chased contours around the interconnecting hills. As we entered the town we saw a bunch of riders on road bikes, stopped by a van, just readying to leave after a water/food stop. They were an organised Lejog group. We had a brief chat and the van man said there was a nice little cafe in the town so we said Cheerio and headed off to find it. Tea and caramel shortcake. Opposite was a chemist which was handy as both of us need moisturiser. Ooh my skin is sooooo rough! Karon also got a little ‘sharps tub’ to put her used needles into as she was building quite a collection. For a while after a waterproof was necessary – as much for the cold as for the odd raindrop that targeted us. The road gradually flattened and it didn’t take long to get into Taunton. The first mile or so was a bit scary as we negotiated a few roundabouts and the traffic had picked up, but then Karon spotted a cycle path sign for the town centre and after that it was plain sailing. We found a cafe beside the river and had lunch. Karon settled for some olives, humus and bread. I wanted more carbs so had a nice creamy smoked haddock and pea kedgeree washed down with a bottle of Tribute ale.
Getting out of town was easy as we cycled the towpath of the Bridgwater Taunton canal. The rain began to be a little more persistent as we cycled to Creech St. Michael where we left the canal and followed the lane to Lower Farm, Thornfalcon. Karon was desperate for a bath so the landlady gave us the top floor suite of a converted barn. There’s a pub .9 of a mile up the road but we think we’ll stay in tonight and make do with cups of tea and the sandwiches we were given this morning.

Bridgewater Canal – tight gates again. Often the wider gate was padlocked.

Bridgewater Canal – tight gates again. Often the wider gate was padlocked.

Tomorrow we pass Bridgwater and follow the canals and lanes of the Somerset levels, hoping to meet up with some tandem club members who offered to put us up. It’ll be nice to be cycling in UNhilly country!

Fremington (Barnstable) to Exebridge

Today saw us pass into Somerset and then back into Devon. We’ve been riding a week now and have clocked up 255 miles. The sky was pretty clear again so we ‘sunblocked’ before we left our B&B at Lower Yelland Farm by its own access to the Tarka Trail, then headed the few miles into Barnstable. In the town we managed to lose the cycle trail for a while and passed through a business park and past a small travellers camp before picking it up again. There was a long climb out of the town into the hills to the north of the valley running inland. The road we followed was bigger than the lanes we’d been used to but almost empty and peaceful. That peace broken now and then by the odd car or HGV.

Yay! another milestone.

Yay! another milestone.

At South Molton we stopped on the edge of town at a Farm shop and each drank two pots of tea. Kaz had a huge wedge of coffee and walnut cake and I had an equally generous slice if caramel shortcake. Back on the bike and out through the town we continued the routine of slow climb, fast descent across the rolling hills.
Eventually we turned off the B road and took to the solitude of the lanes once more. Swinging round a bend at the foot of a fast descent we were presented with the opportunity to replenish our fluid levels in the form of an inviting country pub. Exmoor ale is rather nice and from then on the ride took on a much more relaxed air, stiff legs and joints oiled with alcohol.
Running in the sun along the little lanes either side of the river Yeo was very pleasant. The climbs were, on the whole, comparatively short. At one point we stopped to watch a sheep being sheared roadside. The farmer had the bonnet to his Landy open and the shears were running off the battery. We chatted a while with his classy companion. Not yer average farmer’s wife! Further still a huge tractor blocked the lane and we struck up more chat with the driver as we squeezed past, comparing the number of gears on our respective mounts.
After that it was only a few more ups and downs till the last, long and fast descent into Exebridge and our B&B at the Anchor Inn. Bags in room and shower? Or drink first? The bags lost.

Holsworthy to Fremington

Today was a good day. After a good night’s sleep at Forda Farm we chatted with the other guests and Val, the landlady, as we enjoyed breakfast. Val took a few photos of us as we were about to leave for the farm website. After a short sharp climb away from the farm the going was comparatively easy and we had a few nice long fast descents. The broken cloud cover soon cleared and, for only the second time in a week’s cycling, we had to dig out the sunblock.

 

Tarka Trail – flat running and the sun. What more could you want.

Tarka Trail – flat running and the sun. What more could you want.

After starting late it was lunchtime when we picked up the Tarka Trail just outside Petrockstowe. A few miles down the track we stopped at East Yarde for tea and cake (banoffee for me) at a bunkhouse/cafe. We stopped again at Great Torrington where an old engine shed now houses a cycle hire business and cafe.
‘Carbed up’ we enjoyed traffic free easy cycling along the trail to Instow were there’s a nice little bar that overlooks the estuary. The sunshine was too good to waste so we sat outside to replenish our fluid levels. As there was no eateries near our B&B, a mile or so further along the trail at Lower Yelland Farm, we booked a table to come back to later.
Showered and changed it we rode back to the bar on the unloaded Pino. Such a difference without 50lbs of luggage!
A week into our ride and we’ve already done over 200 miles but we’re still only in Devon. Tomorrow we skirt below Exmoor for The Anchor Inn at Exebridge in Somerset.

Blisland to Holsworthy

After a good nights sleep, and being well looked after at Trewint Farm, we headed off under dark skies. Light rain fell sporadically but it never developed into the full works. A brief stop outside The Blisland Inn for a photo and then it was a stiff climb up onto Bodmin Moor. Cycling into a headwind made progress slow and the constant changes in altitude (mostly up, it seemed) were tiring. At Churchtown, just outside the village of Breward, we passed the highest pub in Cornwall – and yes, we were climbing. Too early to stop for a drink. Out on the moor it was bleak and there were no more villages for potential tea stops, so our 10 mile stop was to become more like 18 and this only after we’d dropped down off the moor – a great long descent with good visibility ahead. It marked a change in the countryside from big rolling hills to more undulating ones with lower hedges.

Bodmin Morr above Blisland. A big climb followed by a long day on the bike.

Bodmin Morr above Blisland. A big climb followed by a long day on the bike.

Our lunch stop came at the right time as we’d been riding without a break for about two and a half hours. The pub at Hallsworth had a carvery on the go and we were among the first to show. We were damp and sweaty so it was probably a good thing that we separated ourselves, by sitting in the public bar, from the others as they filled the lounge and restaurant.

One Sunday roast plus pint plus pudding later we were back on the bike and appreciating the easier hills.
It was a tired pair of tandemists that pushed the bike into Holsworthy town center. Karon went to buy sandwiches for our evening meal as our B&B at Forda Farm was about 4 miles from the town and pretty secluded.
On finally arriving, Val, the farmer’s wife, could not have been more helpful, offering to drive us somewhere to find food, taking a bundle of smelly cycling gear to wash and making us a cream tea after we’d freshened up. She also offered us an evening meal too!

So the bike was stashed in one of the farm sheds and we enjoyed a quiet evening in, in our own little cottage behind the farm house.

A shorter and hopefully easier day tomorrow as we pick up the Tarka Trail to Barnstable.

St. Newlyn East to Blisland

There are a few good things about hills. First, there are the views from the top. Stunning views across the Cornish countryside with the sea in the distance. Unfortunately it also affords a view on the next hill you’re due to encounter. The second good thing is the feeling of relief upon reaching the top. Unfortunately, West Country hills are masters of deception, for climbing them, they tease with ‘false summits’. As you pant your way upwards, looking ahead, you see what looks like the top but on reaching the crest or bend that had your hopes up, the road turns up yet more. This can happen several times over the course of a long climb and the sense of relief on reaching the REAL top is directly proportional to the number of ‘false’ summits encountered on the way up.

The third good thing about a hill is that it has another side. The downside. Unfortunately the downsides are often over within a minute or two, whereas the upside often lasts half an hour or more. So there you have it – for every good point about a hill, there is a counterpoint.

Devon Hills

Devon Hills

Our route included a few today. It was a ride of two halves as once we reached Padstow, we were treated to about 15 miles of pleasantly flat riding. Earlier we had moved our 10 mile tea stop forward a little, stopping at Columb St Major for tea and biccies in The Glebe, a nice old place where the lady serving us donated a couple of £s.
We stopped again at Padstow for some fresh crab before the Camel Trail run.

Mid afternoon the grey skies finally decided to let loose their load, though not heavily. Not long before we turned off the trail for our final climb of the day, we stopped to take on some sweets as both of us were feeling a little weary.
Then it was off the bike for a while as we climed up into the hills to find Trewint Farm. Our delightful B&B that welcomed us with cream tea.

Later we walked the mile down then up to the Blisland Inn for some really good food and some very nice beers.
Tomorrow we head to Holsworthy. No Camel Trails to break the ups and downs of the West Country.

The Blisland Inn. A must for any lover of authentic and original pubs.

The Blisland Inn. A must for any lover of authentic and original pubs.

Gweek to St. Newlyn East

Damp but not raining when we left this morning. Gweek is at sea level, being at the end of a small inlet. So, the only way was up – and it was an up that climbed for four miles! It was the first of about four long, hard climbs today. But of course, what goes up must come down and we enjoyed some cracking descents too, curtailed only by the fact that high hedges and windey lanes mean it’s difficult to let the brakes off totally and go for it.

Perranwell Pub Stop.

Perranwell Pub Stop.

Gradually the sun spent more time looking down on us and the wind stayed on our backs, helping us along nicely.
At 11.30 we’d reached Perranwell and stopped outside a pub so I could check the route (devious eh?). Of course, it wasn’t long before we were inside with Karon taking tea and me enjoying a pint of St. Austells Tribute. I took advantage of the stop to tighten my leather saddle which had sagged a bit after a couple of soakings.

Refreshed and firmly saddled up we continued on to Truro, entering it by way of a cycle track along an old rail line. Tried again to either change my phone or get it repaired. Both Vodafone and Apple dealerships being about as useful as a sieve in a sinking boat. Wandering the centre of Truro we were approached by a couple of ‘gentlemen of the street’ who worse for wear, struck up a disjointed conversation, at the end of which, they donated £1.10p – all they had. So thank you Lazarus and friend!

By now it was around 3.00pm so we went in search of food to fuel the rest of the ride. After that it was a long but pleasant climb along a narrow leafy, sun dappled lane. Once up high among the Cornish hills the wind once again helped our efforts and we flew along. Well, along the flat and downhill bits anyway. Now enjoying steak dinners and a nice pint of Betty Stoggs in the Pheasant Inn at St. Newlyn East after arriving at about 5.15 pm.

Tomorrow we head for Padstow to pick up the Camel Trail and on to Blisland.

Gweek to The Lizard

Raining when we left but soon stopped. First stop – 50 yards down the road – the village shop for some snacks, just in case we couldn’t find a pub for lunch. A few ups and downs as we skirted the inlet then climbed up onto the headland. One hill had us off the bike. Out in the open, it was hard riding into very strong headwind, especially over Goonhilly Down, past the big satellite dishes.

We stopped at the first cafe we came to at the Lizard for tea and cake. It was almost full of the occupants of a coach but the service was good and we enjoyed our snack. Outside the bike was grabbing lots of attention and we chatted briefly with a few interested folks before  heading down to the point for a photo by the sign. The wind was lifting spray off the waves and howling through the narrow gap where the signpost reside. Karon literally had to keep hold of the sign to save being blown off her feet.

Back to the village pub for lunch, Post Office for stamps then full waterproof gear as the rain was driving in from the sea. Flew back to Gweek on gale force tail winds! Spent ages rinsing and trying to dry all our damp gear before heading to pub for dinner. Short walk to look at boats in Gweek harbour then back for early night.
Some stiff climbs tomorrow as we head to Truro then on to St. Newlyn East.

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