Posted by: Emily | September 27, 2010

My South West adventure (day three)

Day three: Barnstaple -> Bodmin (87 miles)

As day three was to be one of the biggest days from both a miles and hills perspective, I wanted to be on the road relatively early so after a quick, but hearty, breakfast I set-off. It was looking like another glorious day, but notably colder than previously and I’d cycled less than 2 minutes when I stopped to put on my leg and arm warmers. At that point I was very grateful to Stu who had been the one to convince me to bring my leg warmers when I’d been thinking of leaving them behind in an effort to pack only the essentials. Feeling warmer I continued.

Route 3 follows the Tarka Trail all the way from Barnstaple to Petrockstowe. After all the hills from the day before, not to mention my ride along the A361, it felt great to be cycling on a flat, traffic-free path, in beautiful surroundings with only the odd dog walker or runner to slow me down. I sped along, passing Bideford and Great Torrington, and it wasn’t long before I’d done the 23 miles to the end of the trail. At this point I was back on proper roads again and what The West Country Way map describes as “the rolling Devon countryside”. Rolling was right. Although all the climbs were very achievable it was still exhausting and my pace had slowed down considerably at this point. I had planned on stopping for a cup of tea and hopefully a scone at Sheepwash which was 26 miles from Barnstaple and roughly the half-way point to Bude, my designated lunch spot. Unfortunately I reached Sheepwash before midday and there was nowhere open. My tea and scone would have to wait.

The rest of the ride to Bude was done at a steady, aka slow, pace. By the time I got there I was more than ready for lunch and looking forward to having a break. I wanted to give my tyres a boost first and wasted 10 minutes trying to find a bike shop before deciding my tyres would have to be fine as they were. At this point it was a little later than I would have liked so I decided to forgo the relaxing lunch and within 30 minutes I was on the road again, headed for Bodmin.

Everything was going fine, or so I thought, until I realised that I’d inadvertently followed the wrong signs and was taking the inland route to Bodmin as opposed to the one that went along the coast. I didn’t have time to retrace my steps so continued on my new route. According to the map, the inland version of route 3 is supposed to be flatter than the coastal one. I can’t begin to imagine how tough that route must be because even my flatter version felt like a never-ending succession of hills. That said, the scenery was magnificent, the sun was shining and I pretty much had the roads to myself for most of the time. It was wonderful.

By late afternoon I’d managed to successfully follow the signs all the way to Bodmin Moor. It was quite different to the moor I’d crossed with Ian the day before. This was much flatter and somehow more barren. Again, animals were all around and watching me as I cycled by. Were it not for the fact that I was very conscious of the time I think I would have enjoyed this part of the ride more than I did. I still had over 15 miles to go until I’d reach Bodmin and I could see the sun gradually getting lower in the sky. I didn’t fancy being caught on the moor in anything other than full daylight so concentrated on cycling as fast as I could. It was about that time when I got to a crossroads only to find the route sign had been vandalised and there was no way to tell which road I was supposed to take. It was back to my iPhone/Google Maps navigation. After much wiggling around on tiny little roads I found myself on the B3266 headed for Bodmin. It wasn’t quite National Cycle Route 3, but it was a big improvement on the A361!

My Yukon and I finally reached Bodmin shortly after 6.30pm. I’d been warned it wasn’t the most scenic of places and I can certainly vouch for that, but given the beautiful countryside I’d spent the last three days cycling through I wasn’t in any position to complain about lack of scenery. Besides, all I was interested in was a shower, food and bed.

In total on day three I cycled 87 miles with over 5,700 ft of ascent. Who knows what that would have been had I not taken the flatter route. Hopefully one day I’ll find out.

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