Graham's End to End - Part 9
GRAHAM’S GREAT BRITISH JAUNT - The lanes of Devon and Cornwall
We had a later start than usual from Castle Farm after viewing the ducklings, taking photographs of our hosts and contacting Annabel at headquarters to find that she had booked Bed and Breakfast near Crediton.
The fine morning was marred by a puncture in Hazel’s back tyre caused by a drawing pin. It always happens to the back tyre, but Hazel's diary compliments me on the speed of the repair and we were soon on our way westwards through villages with names conjuring up the best of English countryside – West Monkton, Kingston St. Mary and Bishops Lydeard where I caught the sound of steam and the smell of coal smoke. We had chanced upon the start of the best and longest steam train line (their claim not mine!) in the country running along the Quantock Hills to Minehead on the Bristol Channel. We passed a good half hour here admiring the GWR locomotive before cycling onto Wiveliscombe for a café lunch. It was uphill work out of the town and foreign visitors probably and rightly were thinking that the English are a strange race because road side signs proclaimed “Cats Eye Removal.” Roadmen were doing exactly that with crowbars! The summit of the climb heralded a long downhill swoop to Shillingford and Bampton to follow the River Exe.
The policy of keeping to the lanes and minor roads has serious disadvantages and this was especially true for the next six miles to Tiverton. The main road on the east bank took the level and easy way whereas the west bank was hard as marked by the arrow heads on the map showing steep hills, but the scenery was grand through woodland with bluebells and wild garlic and centuries old farms. Morrisons at Tiverton provided a local cream tea before we set out on the final stage of some 20 miles to Crediton and beyond to Hollacombe Farm for a late arrival at 8 o'clock in the evening sunshine. The farmer's wife (Angela) drove us to the New Inn for a superb dinner and some excellent English wine from Down St. Mary. Also the beer was good! We ordered a taxi to carry us back to the farm and this gave us the opportunity to chat with mine host at the inn: a commodity trader from the City who had exchanged the hectic life for the busy, but peaceful one to be found in the Devon countryside. Hazel and I could easily get used to the life experienced over the past few hours – at times the cycling sections were the snag.
At long last – an easy day of only 26 miles as Annabel had booked us into a Bed and Breakfast at Bridestowe. We headed west in bright sunshine through Hittisleigh, South Zeal and Sticklepath to halt at the National Trust's Finch Foundry. This is probably one of the Trust's lesser known properties, but it provided coffee and cake. It is a 19th century water-powered forge used to make implements for farmers and miners.
The road into Okehampton was formerly the old A30 which explained the good surface, wide road and good gradients – we crossed the new A30 superhighway to reach the town where we took beer and lunch at the Fountain Inn.
We had to struggle up to the old railway station to reach the cycle route on the bed of the former railway with one line continuing for two miles to a quarry and a graveyard for old rolling stock. The route was gloriously level on the edge of Dartmoor and probably just downhill as very little pedalling was required. Here we met a party of young ladies from Bristol – train to Bridgwater, cycling for three days to Truro and then home by train – but we had to leave them to drop down to Bridestowe. Our needs were excellently met at the Bed and and at the White Hart Inn opposite St. Bridget's Church – Bridestowe means the town of Bridget named after the saint from Ireland. I plan to return to this area as our former president, F. T. Bidlake, had intended to retire to this area as his ancestors originated from here which is witnessed by the many small places bearing the name such as Bidlake Manor, Little Bidlake, Bidlake Mill, and Bidlake Vean among others. He had chosen wisely as the area is one of outstanding natural beauty with Dartmoor to the east and the coast to the west. The local hotel, long closed and now a grand private house, sported a large clock and an old CTC winged wheel sign, which I deemed to be appropriate as he was a vice-president of that club.