Great Torrington to Tiverton: a look at livestock and a change in the weather - Southwest England in April - CycleBlaze

April 20, 2014

Great Torrington to Tiverton: a look at livestock and a change in the weather

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827 metres (2713 feet) up, steepest grade 21%


We set off downhill from Great Torrington at 8:30—our earliest start yet. The temperature was only 7C. We rode through woods and past the Rosemoor botanical garden, very pleasant on the B-road with hardly any traffic. The sky was cloudy and rain was predicted for later, so we hoped to get as far as possible before it started.

We planned to stop for lunch in Chulmleigh, where Al knew there was a pub serving Sunday lunch. It seemed we were deep into the English countryside, riding on small lanes and passing through tiny settlements with no services. Just after the hamlet of Riddlecomb, we were stopped by an older woman wearing wellies and calling her dog to heel. She said there would be sheep coming up the road in a few minutes and we wouldn't be able to pass. We chatted with her and waited until a flock of woolly baaing creatures hurried right past us and into a corral, herded by the woman's husband in a Land Rover. After the sheep were safely enclosed, we were introduced to the driver and talked a bit about Canada and bicycle travel. Suddenly the couple asked us if we'd like to see their prize Charolais bull. They waxed so eloquent about the gentle charms of this animal that we couldn't say no, and they led us into a large barn. The white bull must have weighed 1000 kilograms, and we admired it effusively. The couple was obviously very attached to the bull and sadly told us that they had to sell it since they were retiring. We wondered how many of the nearby farms were owned by similar older farmers who wouldn't be able to keep working the land for many more years.

Here come the sheep
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Since the lane below was narrow with high hedgerows, it would not have been good to be speeding downhill into this flock
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The farmer's wife and reluctant "sheep dog"
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The much-loved gentle prize bull
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Shortly after the sheep and bull, we descended steeply downhill, then steeply uphill into Chulmleigh. It was about 11:45, and the main pub advertising Sunday lunch didn't open until 12:30 and didn't serve food until 1:00. With the clouds gathering, we didn't want to wait around, and found the Green Dragon, a smaller pub further along the main street. The barman there said they could make us sandwiches, and we took a seat, glad to get inside to warm up near the wood fire. The place was crowded with locals, mostly seniors, obviously enjoying their first pints of the day. They were a friendly bunch, interested in these two strangely dressed travellers, and bantered with us as we ate our lunch. Eva felt like she was in an episode of “Heartbeat” except that this wasn't Yorkshire.

Leaving Chulmleigh, we rode steeply downhill on a marked 20% grade, crossed a stream and then started up a 16% grade. Partway up the hill, Al noticed that his front tire had gone flat. He decided to fix it right away instead of walking up to a flatter spot, because it looked like the rain would start any minute. He replaced the tube, and off we went to the top of the hill where the terrain became gently rolling. It would have been great, except the rain did start then in earnest, along with a ferocious headwind which blew streams of water into our faces. We could hardly complain since we'd had no rain since our day off in Plymouth, and all the natives had been remarking on how amazing the weather had been for the past two weeks. Perhaps that made it seem all the more unpleasant. The rain and wind continued without letup for the last one and a half hours to Tiverton, and we knocked on the door of the Angel Guest House exhausted and dripping all over the mat.

On the guest house website hosts Chris and Sue welcome ramblers and cyclists to their B&B, and they advertise secure covered storage for the bicycles. Chris told us we were their first cyclists of the season, and he had turned on the heater behind the drying rack in our room, so we could hang up all our wet clothes and gloves. It was lovely to warm up with a hot shower and to rest awhile on the canopied bed. The rain was still pouring down when we went out to find dinner. Since it was Easter Sunday, most small places were closed, but the nearby Wetherspoons was open and very busy. We found a table and ordered their Sunday special, which turned out to be a great bargain. Seven pounds for half a roasted chicken, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and not overcooked vegetables. A glass of decent Merlot was included in the price. We returned to the guest house through the still-pouring rain feeling greatly restored.

Drying out in front of the heater in our room at the Angel Guest House as the rain continues to pelt down outside
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Today's ride: 57 km (35 miles)
Total: 431 km (268 miles)

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