Sunday, 24 March 2013

Part Two: Cycling in Devon, A Climb or Two

Our Tour of Devon continued....

For a start the weather was slightly better, no frost or fog and the the red surfaced roads that existed at that time throughout Devon were a joy to ride on. Even in the mid winter there were no pot holes to be seen. We reached Ilfracombe and stayed in a very nice private hotel on the top of a massive climb (hill) which had great sea views.

The next day was a short ride, only forty one miles to Watchet, but a memorable experience. The Lynmouth floods that had occurred the year before in August 1952, making world headline news, had prompted us to visit the scene of the disaster. When we arrived at Lynton we found the road down to Lynmouth still closed to all traffic. We climbed over the barrier across the road and then carefully descended the 25% gradient that is Lynmouth Hill.

We had of course seen TV and newspaper pictures at the time of the floods but seeing the destruction even some six months on was horrendous. Complete houses had been washed away and the size of the rocks that had been left on the river bed were gigantic. Repair work was underway but slow progress and there was a temporary bridge, put in place by the army.

All round the village there was noise of rebuilding to be heard but eerily not many people to be seen. One local approached us and told us that we were the first visitors who had managed to arrive via Lynton Hill. We turned out to be something of an event so when he said he was cooking a rabbit stew, and did we want to join him, we jumped at the chance! It was delicious.

Having enjoyed the stew we headed off westward up Countesbury Hill. There are two 25% sections on this climb and I was left behind by my companion Pete who was something of an expert climber. I ended up chasing him for the whole journey over Exmoor (thanks for that Pete) and finally caught up with him at the top of Porlock Hill where there was a sign telling cyclists to dismount and walk down the descent. Ignoring this advice we rode down the road using our one front brake and controlling our speed with our 65 inch fixed gears. We were soon in Watchet for our overnight stay.


(I found this video on YouTube. You'll like it if: you enjoy OAP running commentary & passengers of a nervous disposition (ooh the drama of it), lengthy periods of congestion, the beautiful English Countryside, and bus rides. I must say I love this sort of glimpse into people's lives... and the gradient hasn't changed a bit!)

On our final day we went our separate ways, Pete turning west to visit some friends in Wales and me back towards London... only 109 solo miles from Bath...

But things picked up as did the wind, which was luckily on my back, as I began my journey along the old Bath Road. All those hard miles in my legs helped the easy miles fly by. For part of the journey I had the company of a rider from the RAF who was off home on weekend leave. He assured me that the RAF was cyclist friendly and I should take my bike with me as soon as the six week basic training (square bashing) was completed. Great news!

In just over five and a half hours I was home! A great finish to a most memorable week, but now national service loomed... what was that going to bring?