Kenn had an appointment at Launceston today, which is roughly half way between ours and Bideford. We’ve been planning to ride on the Tarka Trail and a hospital appointment seemed as good a reason as any. We checked the weather forecast before deciding, then packing the bikes, as it was raining here, quite hard at one point actually. The weather was given out, by the BBC, as raining until about 10am, then overcast for a couple of hours and then cloudy with sunny spells with a temperature of 18 degrees, for the afternoon. That sounded fine by us so CX bikes loaded up, all the info that Kenn needed for the doc was in the car and we were away.
The hospital appointment only took an hour and then we were back in the car for an hour and into Bideford and found a car park close to the trail. £3 for the whole day parking. We could have paid £2 for 4 hours but, as we didn’t know how long we would be, we didn’t want to take the risk. Coffee, cake, ice-cream etc, cannot be rushed and we didn’t want a ticket for being 5 minutes over due.
While Kenn was putting his bike together – the Whyte doesn’t have QR skewers so takes a fortnight to put the wheels back on – I took a nice pic of a rotting hull on the river bed. Low tide, obviously.
Again, totally forgot to take a camera, even though I put it out to bring so my trusty old phone did the honours again.
We did pop over the bridge to get some money and buy a sarnie, as we were hungry. Not a great way to start a ride so we were underway after a nice chicken salad sandwich each. Kenn had bought 2 packs so he had the 2nd pack in the back pocket of his jersey. We then rode back over the bridge, taking our lives in our hands with close passing BMWs, up the road and across to the start of the trail. Actually, it’s not the start, it’s the middle. We looked at the map and found there was nothing helpful saying ‘Meeth this way’ or ‘Barnstaple that way’. I said that I remembered that the river was on the right, when looking on the map so we turned to the right and started riding.
The first place we came to was Bideford Station, where they do tea and cake on an old railway carriage. We didn’t stop and carried on a bit.
We rode for a mile or two and came across a bridge with nice views of a folly. We stopped and took a couple of pics and Kenn had a breather. He suggested, at this point, that we rode to Torrington and then back to the car. I said that if I’d just wanted to ride 10 miles, that I might have ridden at home and not driven all the way out here. The bridge and folly were nice though.
Riding on again, we came to a tunnel, with lights in it, which was handy as we didn’t have them on our bikes today. I thought that it looked pretty. It was really echo-ey in there. I resisted the urge to yell ‘Allez allez allez’ as we rode though. Such a child. It was only a couple of hundred yards long and we were the only people in it at the time we rode though it. There was a little sign just before it saying ‘please remove your sunglasses’. I wonder how many people don’t and ride in the walls, or another cyclist and cause a crash. Quite a few I shouldn’t wonder.
The next little stop we had was at a viaduct. I can’t remember the name of it, I did take a pic but I managed to obscure most of it with my thumb or finger. That’ll teach me not to pay attention to the camera, I was enjoying the view too much.
Just after the viaduct, we stopped and watched the water going over a weir. No ducks or anything bobbing about today. It’s been our experience that ducks seem to like weirs and will ride down on them. The ones at Dovedale did, very often. Maybe Dovedale ducks are more playful than their Devon cousins.
Soon after this we got to Torrington, sat on the edge of the station platform and ate the other sandwich, while it was still edible. There is a bike hire place here, that serves tea, coffee, buns etc. I bobbed in to the shop area and bought Kenn a Calipo and a Mini Milk for me. We were sitting on a chair, munching away when a child refused to get into the trailer on the hire bike. His or Her Mum was doing her best. Her friends came to help, their children were all in the trailers, but that child was not having any of it and was wailing like a banshee. Naturally all the other children thought that this was obviously the way to go and all joined in with the yelling, screaming and general tantruming. One was trying to get out, another rocking side to side and screaming fit to burst. We decided that it was too noisy and environment to enjoy an ice-cream so got back on our bikes and headed on to the trail again. We don’t have kids, never wanted them. Can’t think why. Oh, maybe I can.
We continued along the trail, it was gently rising by now and I waited for Kenn every 1/4 mile or so and we were overtaken by a cheery bloke in bright red shorts riding a bike with a tall flag on it, while we were stopped and swigging a bit of water to rinse out the big fly that I’d eaten. We kept seeing signs for The Yarde Orchard and Kenn said that we would head for it and then think about riding on or back. It was uphill to the Cafe so stopping every 1/4 mile was imperative for Kenn to catch up. I saw some cows, I seem to see a lot of cows on trails. I took a pic, it’s becoming a habit. The trail is very pretty to look at while waiting anyway. That’s Kenn in the distance there.
We got to the cafe at around 3pm. Kenn decided to stop for a coffee and I decided to push on. I said to Kenn that if I wasn’t back for 4pm, to grab me a coffee before the place closed and that I’d drink it when I got back to him.
I had a brilliant ride, gently downhill again, and I was spinning along wonderfully when a suicidal lamb jumped out in front of me. I was very glad of my disc brakes, I might have had a bit of an ‘off’ if Eric had had rim brakes. I took a pic of Lamsykins, after he stood and baa’d at me a bit. He was right, I was going to fast.
There he goes, wandering back to his Mum. The fence looked good about there, so not sure where he came out of. The surface of the trail changed to a sort of hard clay, dark grey coloured stuff. It was quite hard work to pedal on in some places. I stopped a couple of times to check my tyres as the surface made them feel odd. Still going downhill though, I thought that the surface would be ‘interesting’ to ride back up on. I meant to only go a couple more miles or so, after the cafe, but at the 13 mile point I came across this wooded bit of the path and thought it looked a bit like a fantasy woodland, Tolkeinesque or something out of a Lewis book.
I expected to see Mr Tumness in the woods, or to be chased by a bear, a cross bear because someone had eaten his porridge and slept in his bed. Actually, I’ve often wondered about the thermodynamics of porridge. The too hot, too cold and just right thing with porridge out of the same pan just doesn’t work for me. I reckon that there was a 4th bear who had snuck in, stuffed the porridge and had eaten Mummy Bear’s porridge, replaced it (hence it being cold), eaten baby bears porridge and replace that, and only just eaten Daddy Bear’s porridge which was why it was too hot. That’s my theory anyway.
Anyway I was not chased by a hungry bear, didn’t see Mr Tumness or anything, just listened to the birds singing as I rode along. I decided not to stop at 15 miles as I figured that would give me a ride of less than 30 miles and that I’d push on to Meeth as I may as well do another 50km for the 50km challenge thing that I’m participating in. Another point is always welcome. The 17 and a bit mile mark had me at Meeth so I turned back and rode for the cafe.
I’d only gone a few hundred yards when I saw cyclist with red shorts and big bike flag. We got chatting and rode to the cafe together. He was riding at my pace and it was good to have someone to pull (not literally) me up the long draggy hill with the funny clay type surface. My legs were protesting and Dave, the man with red shorts, said we could slow down but I said I was happy to keep on as I wasn’t going to get fitter if I don’t get out of my comfort zone. He was a nice chap, living in Devon but had family in Barnsley, where he grew up. Nice chap, bright and funny and a big fan of Tommy Cooper. The 7 miles flew by.
At the cafe, Kenn had got me a takeaway coffee and saved me half of his cake. Dave and Kenn chatted while I stuffed cake and drank my coffee. It was super hot still so I added bidon water so I could get it drunk and carry on before my legs decided to stiffen up, as they will do that, on purpose, to annoy me. We rode back with Dave and parted company at Bideford Station as he was back off home and we were back off to the car. I rode in a couple of circles around the car park to make up a .5 of a mile, as you do.
That hull was still there. It hadn’t sailed off anywhere.
52.3km or 32.54 in real money. Metres climbed, 448 and a nice 2 hours and 40 mins, riding in the sunshine. Perfect day.