Posted by: Emily | September 26, 2010

My South West adventure (day two)

Day two: Taunton -> Barnstaple (68ish* miles)

Having spent the night in Taunton with Ian and Paula, I had slept well and was looking forward to the day ahead, which began with breakfast. There’s nothing quite like a large helping of porridge together with banana, raisins and honey to really set you up for a day of cycling. Fortunately for me Ian shares this view and I got my porridge! Having been very helpful in the planning of my trip, and taken me on many wonderful rides in Somerset previously, I was very glad that he was joining me for part of day two. The plan was we’d cycle the 40 miles to Dulverton together and then separate soon after. He would return to Taunton via a shorter/more direct route and I would continue to Barnstaple.

As we headed out of Taunton the sky was clear and the sun was shining. In the run-up to taking this trip I’d been checking the weather forecasts with a regularity that could almost be classed as obsessive. I learnt two important things. Firstly, any weather forecast for more than 24 hours away should be ignored as it can, and in my experience does, completely change from one day to the next. Secondly, you’re almost better off not checking at all. If the forecast is rain it’s miserable. If it’s sun, there’s always that worry that you could be setting yourself up for false hopes, disappointment and torrential rain due to an unexpected weather pattern from the west. I can’t remember what the forecast had been for the Taunton-Barnstaple day, but I know it hadn’t even hinted that it was to be one of, if not the, nicest days of the year. Blue skies, sun and a gentle breeze. There couldn’t have been a more perfect day for cycling.

We made good progress and I was grateful to have Ian helping with the navigation. He had previously done this same journey with Zoe and as we climbed hill after hill, the thought that a 13 year old Zoe had been able to do this route was impressive. Ian was riding his Van Nicholas Amazon which is a great deal heavier than his Felt and has a rack. This came in very handy (for me) because for most of the day he was riding with my panniers. I don’t even want to think about how much the combined weight of his bike and my bags must have been. Seeing him power up the hills you wouldn’t have known it.

Apart from the fact we managed to cycle in a complete circle at one point due to very ambiguous signage, everything went according to plan and we arrived at Dulverton hungry for lunch, having had an incredible ride. We stopped at a pub and sat in the sun whilst eating. It was so warm – it was hard to believe it was the end of September.

The next part of the route involved a very steep hill which would take us up to the moor. Ian was going to do this last bit with me before turning back. At the point when he was going to leave the route, I decided to cycle to the B3227 with him. He would follow it to Taunton and I’d head towards Barnstaple, finishing my day on the A361. It took longer than expected to find the main road (mobile phone reception is far from ideal on the moor so relying on Google Maps wasn’t always an option) but we got there in the end. At this point I was feeling quite bad because Ian’s journey had turned out to be much longer than expected and he ended up doing more miles than me in total which had definitely not been the plan. Had I stuck to the route I’d have clocked up an extra 10 miles or so, but the A361 got me to Barnstaple in under 20 miles. It was, however, one of the worst/busiest roads that I’ve ever cycled on. I’d strongly advise anyone thinking of taking the shortcut to reconsider.

I arrived at Barnstaple more than ready for a hot shower and food. My fun on the A361 aside, It had been a fantastic day.

*My Garmin is reporting the ride as being over 13,000 miles. I’m not entirely sure how far I cycled, but I think it was closer to 68 miles. The part I did with Ian had over 4,000 ft of ascent.

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