Sunday, August 4, 2013

Leaving the Coast Behind: Newquay to Launceston

Wednesday 5 June, 2013
Chynoweth Lodge B and B – Today's route – Inland from Padstow – Bodmin to Launceston – Why a friend like David is of especially good value on a bike ride – Weather – Statistics for the day

Chynoweth Lodge B and B

Not much chance of sleeping in at this time of year. It's light around 4, especially on this day of already blue sky: by 6.30 we're up and ready for the road.

Breakfast is not officially till 8 but Allison has already laid out a tray of fruit, cereal and toast for my early departure, a gesture totally in tune with the quality of the rest of our stay. We have been treated like friends rather than guests in this B and B, a terrace house totally renovated by Peter and decorated by Allison with taste and flair. Our beds were sumptuous, the sheets lavender fragrant; in our room were bowls of tea, coffee and chocolates and in the ensuite bathroom enough little jars of shampoo and soap to start a beauty salon.

Clip on the panniers, check tyre pressure, spin the wheels to make sure the brake pads are not sticking, and we head up through Elliot Gardens in the cool air.

Today's route

It's a hilly start to the day with enough dips and rolls to make you seasick.” - from the Lonely Planet Guide on today's route. I took careful note, so, wisely didn't order fried sausages and eggs for breakfast this morning.

David on the cliffs above Newquay. Behind, the coast north, towards Padstow and the Camel Estuary in the distance.

It's 20kms along the clifftops to Padstow, then 8 kms inland along the estuary on the Camel Trail to Wadebridge, then along mostly quiet roads to Launceston about 80 kms from Newquay.

One of the dippers between Newquay ( in the distance) and Padstow.
The guidebook was right about the dips and rolls. There are four big swoops and grinds, into and out of little villages in the vallies between high cliffs. The slopes are steep so I push a lot. The descents are exhilarating but too brief. From the cliff edges I can see Newquay in the south and Trevose Head at the entrance to the Camel Estuary in the far north.

Steven, a runner but at this moment walking and puffing, catches up with me on the slopes above Trenance,

I used to live in Essex near London and never stopped to walk when I was on a run. Since I've moved here I stop often. It's so steep.”

Steven is another import to Cornwall who had come to love its jagged coast-line, sharp breezes, its sense of separation from the rest of England.

Inland from Padstow

At 10, I crunched onto the flat gravel trail beside the Camel Estuary, happy at the prospect of 8 kms of flat riding along the track of the old Bodmin – Wadebridge railway.
The Camel Estuary: the trail runs along the bank from Padstow, in the distance.
It would be romantic to think that Camel was named after those bumpy, grumpy, sand- loving beasts but it wasn't: Kammel in Cornish means 'crooked river' and it's a good description for the twisting channels that I rode alongside for the next half hour, often dodging riders heading to Padstow from Wadebridge where a bike hire at the entrance to the trail was doing lively business, even on this week-day.

Ian came over to chat while I was checking the route map beside the river in Wadebridge.

You want to go to Camelford? Hope you've got all day. I biked there once and there's lots of hills. Biking days are over now. Knees are gone."

He pointed me onto the A39, the so-called “Atlantic Highway” and wished me luck as if I was setting out to row the Atlantic. I was often puzzled at the insistence of local people that getting to a neighbouring village would take an hours-long journey.

The guide advises you to turn off this main road and take quieter roads to Camelford, 20 kms away but after fifteen minutes on the A road, I decided to stay there, a bit reluctant to get into the unsigned backroads after my wilderness wanderings of yesterday.

A good decision. The traffic wasn't scary, the hills were rolling rather than abrupt, the landscape a mix of wooded glades, the road through green tunnels and fresh pastures.

90 minutes to Camelford, a coffee in the “Camelford Arms” pub, with the best display I've yet seen of bottles and glasses and jugs hanging from the ceiling, a big climb out of town, five more kms on the A then the Altarnun right- turn onto Bodmin Moor, and what the guide promised was to be “15 miles of cycling bliss all the way to Launceston.” 

What they should have added was; “ unless it's blowing a gale in your face and spitting with rain, in which case, it'll be a pain in the backside!”

Bodmin to Launceston

The moor was bare, bare of traffic, of trees,of fences, of shelter so the wind could roar unimpeded down the straight roadway. I hunched, squinted my eyes into the driving damp and pushed on the pedals : there was no escape from this breeze. Even the sheep looked bleak, huddled in the lee of rocks, wishing they could be inside watching 'East Enders', moving only when my passing scared them into bouncing to their feet, bleating pitifully and scattering to safety.

On Bodmin Moor. The old runway cuts across the roadway.

The road levelled out and old concrete buildings, a cracked runway appeared through the drab: they seemed to indicate that there had been a large military airfield here. Second World War, perhaps?

After an hour of plugging into this, I spotted National Cycle-way markers on a track to the left. I know.  I should have kept on the road but it took me all of five seconds to give in to temptation and veer away from the wind to slide off down a hill between sheltered hedges.

Good move. I quickly got onto the main road into Launceston, the route helpfully marked out with the sort of old fashioned stone markers that I first saw in a favourite book of my childhood : Dick Whittington and his cat were standing beside a milestone marked “London 5 miles” when he heard the Bow bells ring out - “Turn again, Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London.”

The wind was making too much noise for me to hear any ringing bells but five miles outside Launceston, I did hear a loud tooting behind me. David stops. Happy reunion. He's booked a B and B, it's outside town and he directs me. “ It means that you will have extra kms to do tomorrow. But I've got doughnuts for your lunch !”

Twenty minutes later, I rolled into the front yard of the Oakside B and B, sluiced myself clean in the tiny shower the size of a shoebox on end in the corner of our bedroom, and met Janet, on her way to stock up on supplies for our breakfast.

Why a friend like David is of especially great value on a bike trip

I left David before 8 this morning and before we met again at 4 in the afternoon:
  1. He'd booked a great B and B.
  2. He'd bought my lunch for tomorrow.
  3. He'd got me a UK sim card and a new phone.
Then, once I was clean and socially presentable, or as presentable as I can get these days:
  1. He drove me along the first 5 kms of tomorrow's route so that I would not get lost.
  2. He took us into town to stroll, in a warm dusk, through the grounds of Launceston Castle.
  3. We dined in a local takeaway bar
  4. He loaned me his i-pad to catch up on emails.

Distance today
73.96. Less than expected because the B and B was out of town.
13.6 (blame the wind!)
5h 25m


Fine in the morning and some rain in the afternoon. All day there was a strong wind from the north east (ahead), very irritating in open areas, less so when I was skulking along sheltered wooded lanes.
The entrance to Launceston Castle, built around 1067
and for centuries the administration centre for the Earls of Cornwall.

The lookout of Launceston Castle.

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