Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Landscape Flattens Out: Tiverton to Glastonbury

Friday 7 June, 2013

Backpacker hostels– Back to Tiverton – We meet a man who doesn't unreservedly love New Zealand - And so into Glastonbury – Why I loved the Beckets Inn and its feisty women

Backpacker hostels

Last night we stayed in the Globe Backacker, Exeter, bedding supplied, shower and toilet just down the hallway. Cost for two, 45 pounds, twin room. We chose to dine out but could easily have cooked our own meal and did get our own breakfast. In New Zealand a cyclist couldn't do better than stay in backpacker hostels, which are much more common than in England and can be found in all but the smallest towns. You supply your own bedding, have lots of people to talk to, get access to a shower and cooking facilities. A night in a dormitory will cost about $30 ( 14 pounds) but be warned - if, on waking, you find that your bed has been quietly trundled out into the corridor, then you've probably been snoring like an unmuffled chain-saw

Back to Tiverton

Tiverton was a brief acquaintance, sadly: the zoom into town last night, a narrow main street then up a rise to the Tourist Centre car-park from where we left for Exeter. And returned to this morning after the 12 mile (20km) trip back from the coast.

Tiverton and the River Exe. I got this from the internet and have included it
 out of guilt because I should have spent more time in this little town.

Cooler today and, as always, a pleasure to be back on the road, pedaling this morning on the A396 alongside the Exe River, the going flat. Through tunnels of woodland, onto the B3227, a little up and down but nothing like the past few days. In fact everything about this morning's ride was more subdued – the village names (Bampton, Petton) less exotic, the sky grey shrouded, the breeze, though in the face, quieter. And I was sore this morning: my backside and back aching after several days of effort combating the wind .

Buttock Alert! Sensitive readers should skip this paragraph in which I discuss the effect of cycling on my backside/buttocks/derriere. A numb behind is hard to avoid for cyclists: your body weight is supported by a small unyielding area of saddle for hours each day and the result can be a pain in the backside. I have yet to find an ideal solution -I  wore two pair of padded nicks but found that frequent rests were the best response: that's why I don't too much mind having to push up hills.

I'd emailed my brother, Geoff, a chiropractor about the pain in the back of my neck which extended down beside my shoulder blade( being my brother he asked if I was ....or if I had a pain in the neck) It's common. His solution: restore the flow of blood to the neck by putting a hard roll under the back of the neck when resting; and massage firmly across the neck with heat cream to soften the hard muscles. I bought a big tube of Voltaren cream and rubbed it in whenever sore. It worked well!

We meet a man who doesn't unreservedly love New Zealand

We were getting smugly accustomed to a familiar line of comments about New Zealand: “it's a lovely place, I have heard wonderful things about the scenery and the people; I would love to go but it's too far away.”

At lunchtime I stopped in a car-park outside a beauty salon in Norton Fitzwarren , soon got chatting to Alan fixing a window for his daughter, the salon owner.

I really love South Africa. Been to Cape Town 8 times and can't wait to go back. New Zealand? Don't think I'll go there. Don't like the way the All Blacks always beat us at rugby, ha ha. And, New Zealand's too expensive!”

Too expensive?

My experience so far with comparative costs:
  • clothes and shoes of good quality certainly seem cheaper in the UK
  • In NZ, a Mars bar can cost around $1.80 but for this amount in the UK, you can buy a pack of four.
  • I could buy ten custard and jam filled doughnuts from Tesco's Supermarket in the UK for less than $2, much cheaper than in NZ. I'd emigrate to the UK just to ensure a steady supply of custard doughnuts!
  • Dearer in the UK: petrol, women's haircuts; movie tickets
  • Cheaper in the UK: bananas, bread, mince, big macs, coffee. And a visit to the doctor is free over here.
So, Alan, I'm glad I didn't argue with you. By the way, you were right about the rugby, too. The All Blacks rule! 

And so into Glastonbury

The afternoon was a little ho hum: rain poured for an hour from 2.30 and for the first time I togged up in full wet gear, with plastic bags over my shoes. I looked like a total hobo but kept dry. And the going was flat – mostly over wetlands sliced by canals and dotted with sad looking sheep: why do some English sheep appear to be moulting, their fleece dropping off to uncover pink, tender skin? It's like seeing someone undressing in public.
How to look like a complete prat on a wet day:
 tape plastic bags round your shoes!

Riding into Glastonbury across a damp plain split by the occasional canal. The rain was a dismal drizzle.

I was only 20 kms from the coast again, close to the town of Bridgewater  a name with poignant associations for me ever since I heard about Donald Crowhurst, a novice offshore sailor who entered the 1968 Round the World Solo race. A tragic story: he never left the Atlantic, while sending false reports back to base that he was crossing the Southern Ocean. In the end he jumped overboard. His yacht was found adrift weeks later. Crowhurst? Never.

I saw the Glastonbury Tor first, a cone rising from the plain and on top a tower; some swear it's the Isle of Avalon, the resting place of King Arthur. 

The Glastonbury Tor, a mystical site for many
 over the centuries and still today.

Glastonbury is a mecca for music lovers ( if we'd been there a few weeks later, we could have seen the Rolling Stones perform at the festival for the first time ever ), for old hippies and for lovers of 1960s' nostalgia so naturally David and I loved it: the main street really is flavoured with the aroma of smouldering joss sticks, the shops are filled with flowing long dresses and headscarves and I've never seen more shop window ads for psychics and tarot card readers.

Within a few minutes we felt very much at home in this lovely place, the English capital of alternative culture: I swear I heard David softly whistling; “If You're Going to San Francisco...” as he tied on a bandana!

Why I loved the Beckets Inn and its feisty women

We came back into Glastonbury after settling into our B and B (Amber House/ top hosts, Jenny and Cliff Cooke) at Coxley, 6 miles away, strolled the streets checking out the menus and decided to favour the Beckets Inn with our custom.

It was a very happy decision. Here are five reasons why.

  1. The hostess and the cook were warmly friendly, straight- spoken, chatty ladies who called us “me darlin's” Gave me goose bumps every time.
  2. They had taken over the pub when it was a failing business and were steadily improving it, varying the menu, renovating when money allowed.
  3. Most eating places have a sign telling you not to bring your own food inside. Their sign invited guests to bring in their own food and the pub would even supply them with cutlery and plates . I asked the ladies why.
    We get lots of bus tours with pensioners coming to town. They can't afford a big lunch but if we get them in with their sandwiches they'll always buy a coffee or a beer and I hope will tell their friends about their welcome!”
  4. I drank Somerset Cider and the best Rabbit Pie ever. It cost only 5 pounds ($8)
  5. At the end of the meal, the ladies asked if we would like to meet their dog, Bruno. He was almost as entertaining as they were, turning circles on command and sitting up at the table like a well brought up child. I overheard David telling the ladies that Bruno was more polished than me at using his knife and fork. Huh!
     We dine with a dog in the Beckets Inn.. Bruno is asking for the menu and the wine list.

    The weather
    Overcast all day with rain for an hour in the afternoon. Wind still from ahead but light to moderate today.
Distance today
Average Speed
Max. Speed
Riding Time
4h 53m

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