Thursday 6 June, 2013
Like pictures from a children's book – Gorgeous landscapes, charming place-names – Best riding so far – Up and down to Tiverton
Like pictures from a childrens' book
“ Why have you come all this way to see England? Your own country is so beautiful.”
We heard this often. And, yes, New Zealand is wonderfully and variedly scenic. Like lots of places. Like Devon, in fact. Today I rode through landscapes so gentle, so composed, so park-like, so freshly alluring that they could have been illustrations from a childrens' book.
|Devon countryside: intensely cultivated,|
Devon. The glowing yellow of Canola/Rape-seed,
the white flowers of Cow Parsley.
Gorgeous landscapes, charming place-names
It was a glorious day's riding. After an ample breakfast and some good advice from one of the other guests, a nutritionist ( bananas are ideal cycling food – they release their goodness slowly during the day), I scurried across the four lanes of the A30 right beside our B and B, and, keeping as far left as I was able without actually riding on the grass verge, launched myself down-wind and down-hill.
I did 20 kms in the first hour, left the A30 for quieter lanes, through villages with appealing names….Liftondown......Tinhay......Sprytown..... over a wonderfully crinkly landscape, singing to the cows and the sheep ( the least critical audience ever), sniffing big breaths of the earth- aromatic landscape, not even concerned when the friendly breeze faded. The farms are compact (most smaller than 20ha) the dairy herds around 80 animals and the impression is that Devon is a landscape of carefully cultivated gardens.
Before landing in Britain and without giving the matter much thought I had imagined that because of the centuries of cultivation, much of the landscape would look tired, the colours faded, the crops gasping to draw sustenance from the soil. I was wrong. The English landscape is the product of years of careful, even loving cultivation, of centuries of tireless improvement. And it is magnificently beautiful.
The day got even better!
Best riding so far
In Bridestowe, not paying enough attention, I dreamily followed a sign for Tavistock, thinking it was my destination ( rather than Tiverton, where I should have been going). I stopped to check my map and was joined by Pam and Mike, two touring riders from Cornwall who redirected me, trying to keep straight faces ( how is this guy ever going to find his way to JOG when he gets Tiverton confused with Tavistock?) and suggested I try National Cycleway 27, the old Granite Railway Line to Okehampton.
Following bright Cycle Track markers I climbed up onto Dartmoor, first on a one lane road, then on a bush track, finally onto a rail trail. The next hour was the best riding of the trip so far: panoramic views over sublime landscapes; level riding through bush, under viaducts, across viaducts, through churchyards, with fellow riders keen to talk. Cycle touring at its best. I was sad to leave the trail at Okehampton but I did enjoy the steep brake-juddering ride into the town.
An overbridge on the Granite Line, a rail trail into Okehampton.
Old church and graveyard, right alongside the Granite Line.
Up and down to Tiverton
The big climb out of Okehampton set the tone for the afternoon's riding. The wind woke up after lunch, though, as much of the riding was in country lanes, it was less irksome than it could have been had I been riding across open landscapes.
I really was trying hard with my navigation today: you need to refer often to the map – I had a plastic folder on top of my handlebar bag with the current maps displayed – and you have to be always watching for signposts. I was never be reluctant to ask, either. Some of my most interesting conversations with locals started with a plea for help.
North Tawton, Devon. I sped of downhill to the left
when I should have taken the turn to the right.
This afternoon I got off-track: at one, I rolled into North Tawton, found no road signs, saw a downhill and took it. The barman in the Copper Key Inn put me back on track but outside the town, I found the spiders web of unsigned roads........ exasperating.
Here's I got to Tiverton.
1. “ Can you please point me in the direction of East Leigh?”
:“ Look, I've farmed round here for years and I know East Leigh is three miles over there, but I honestly don't know the best way. Sorry.”
2.Me: “ Look, I know this road is closed for repairs but could I squeeze my bike past your truck?
Road workers: “ Go ahead.” I thrash past, waist deep in nettles and get back onto the road. I itched for hours.
3.Stopped for an apple break. A smiling woman comes and offers her help.
Me: “ Hello, can me help me get to Lapford?”
Lovely woman: “I'm really sorry but the best way is to go back up to the top of that (enormous) hill you've just come down.”
Me ( alarmed at the prospect of climbing back up the hill): “ Is that the only way?”
Lovely woman: ' Well, you could go downhill to the T junction, go right then you'll soon find the road to Lapford after a mile or so.” She was right: it took me 10 minutes.
4.A council truck pulls up. “ You ok there?
Me: “ I want to get on the B 3137 to Tiverton.”
Council worker, fishing in his pocket for his i-phone, then giving me precise instructions. “ Tell you what, I'll follow you up in a while to make sure you're set.” And an hour later he did, holding up a tail of cars as he stopped and confirmed that I would soon be in Tiverton.
Lovely people. Who gives a hoot about headwinds when you meet kindness like that, all in the space of a couple of hours?
You'll get bored if I go on about the ups and downs of the geography this afternoon, so I'll just say that there was very little level riding, that the passing scenery was a true delight, that the names of the local villages continued to charm ( Nomansland, Black Dog, Little Silver) and that the final, long, headlong descent into Tiverton had me whooping with exhilaration!
|One of the many film-set-quality houses|
on the road between Launceston and Tiverton
One night in......Exeter
With my nephew, David, on the quayside, Exeter.
We didn't stay in Tiverton that night. My nephew, also named David, lectures at Exeter University, so my travelling mate, David, had organised a Backpackers in Exeter and a dinner on the quayside for the three of us. Perfect!
Mostly fine, in fact a good riding temperature. Tail wind early. No wind in the middle of the day and a head wind into Tiverton.