Tale Of The Apologetic And Polite: Nine Miles North of Dorchester to Mendip Hills - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

April 21, 2014

Tale Of The Apologetic And Polite: Nine Miles North of Dorchester to Mendip Hills

Down the hill by the quarry gates I hear a car stop and a car door open with a mute thump-thumping bass-speaker. I continue what I'm doing; at that moment, I'm crouched down inside the tent packing and organizing my stuff. Then I come out of the tent and pause looking over the yellow gorse brushes, across the valley at green rectangle wheat fields on the steep hillside opposite. At how the hedgerows run across the slope where it was always too steep for cultivation, meeting in a copse of woodland on a near vertical bit. And as well, after yesterday's rain, there isn't a cloud in the sky. It is a wonderful Spring morning.

With startling rapidity, in corner of my eye I spot a youth, dressed and looking like a mechanic, striding down the path from the quarry. I assume it is his car that is stopped; he must've got up pass unbeknown to me, when I was in the tent. "Morning!" he calls out, and adds "Nice day!" I return the greeting and he pauses and adds "Ay thought I'd call up and get me goggles, before someone else nabs them" he has motorbike goggles suspended from his hand "They fell off yesterday and ay didn't miss them until ay was home."

From starting off, the road continues uphill, then levels out upon a high plateau with a view across fields of sheep and their lambs, before going down a ridiculously steep twisting descent to Crewkerne. Throughout the morning, I spend a lot of time consulting with my new atlas, working my way around the main A road to the west, along quiet B roads. I pass through the village of Somerton, then sweep downhill across a valley and up the other side with bright yellow rapeseed across the hillside on the right-hand side. Riding pass Glastonbury, I pick up the cycle-route again, which is a pathway alongside the A road north to Wells. There's a family group cycling on the path in front of me. The young woman to the rear shouts forward to her companions "there's a man behind us! Let him by!" They veer to the side and the woman says "Sorry" as I pass. Why sorry? I tell you I done nothing wrong.

The blue cycle route sign sent me along this quiet lane.
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I'm feeling seriously famished on reaching Wells coming up on one o'clock. At a Lidl on the way in I stock-up and snack, then ride into the dainty Old English town centre, where it being an Easter Monday and warm and sunny, is full of day-trippers. I look for a fish and chip shop, but finding none, settle for the Cornish Pasty shop on the corner. A large cornish pasty is small, barely enough to fill me and is expensive at five pounds. I then push my bike along to a Barclay's bank and use the Wi-Fi. Its difficult seeing the screen with the bright sunshine. Moving along, next door there's what looks like a café and I'm just about to enter, when I see a sign above the door "Wells Conservative Club", so make an about-turn and go to a café a few doors further along.

I sit basking in the sunshine outside the cafe with a baby belonging to the couple at the next table fast asleep in a pram tight against my table. The woman asks "I hope he doesn't annoy you" "As long as he doesn't wake-up and start screaming" I reply, pleasantly. Then the girl come out. "Have you cycled far?" she asks, whilst transferring the teapot from a tray down upon the table; it seems part of customer service these days, asking cyclists how far they've cycled; and when I reply "Dorchester" she takes a deep intake of breath, blushes and becomes speechless.

Only in England can food be called bangers.
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I remain soaking in the sun outside the cafe for quite a while, eventually resisting the lethargy that is setting in, get up and take the bike, wheeling it leisurely along to the tune of "Whisky In The Jar" from a tin whistle busker sat in an archway I proceed through; then, continuing up across the green in front of Wells Cathedral, a mountain biker wheels his damaged bike towards me. His chain is dangling on the path and on reaching me, he spouts out "Excuse me! You wouldn't have a chain-tool, I could borrow." and points out the broken chain. I stare blankly. Then say I'll have a look. At first, I couldn't recall ever breaking a chain while out riding. Then remember once riding up a one-in-four hill and feeling the chain suddenly begin stretching, then snap with a jolt. The two broken ends falling on the road. I voice this experience whilst digging into the bag I keep tools in, and fortunately for him, I find my chain tool.

Day-trippers enjoy the sunshine on the green in front of Wells cathedral.
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I leave him speaking on the phone, explaining to his wife why he's late and ride on towards Cheddar through a valley with a formidable barrage of hills to the right. I can see that the hills are where my road is headed by way of the famous Cheddar Gorge. The village is small, but then at the narrow opening into the hillside, The Gorge, there are souvenir shops, an original Cheddar Cheese shop and even a Costa Coffee; together with lots of overseas visitors, seemingly it is a big tourist attraction. And there's also lots of cyclists judging by the number of riders that sway their bikes from side-to-side, standing out-of-the-saddle riding pass, as I tackle the steep climb up through the ravine.

The road twists up and still more cyclists pass. There is one bend where the gradient looks like its halfway between horizontal and vertical. Here I'm caught out in too big a gear, causing a struggle to turn the pedals. Then gradually the road levels out upon a hilly upland with rocky outcrops and ferns in fields to the side.

I finish the day riding eight or nine miles more along narrow single track road across rough upland. Then descend down a gorge where I come to an opening in the woodland to the side and because of the lack of a suitable campsite low down, I end up portaging the panniers, then returning and pushing the bike up a steep slope through nut trees to the hilltop and find a level spot amongs last years brown and withered brackens.

In Cheddar.
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In the Mendip Hills.
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Today's ride: 75 km (47 miles)
Total: 14,839 km (9,215 miles)

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