London to Plymouth by train: Fortunate timing - Southwest England in April - CycleBlaze

April 6, 2014

London to Plymouth by train: Fortunate timing


After breakfast we loaded up our bikes and headed for Paddington station, about four kilometres away. We hadn't cycled in London before, so Al plotted our route carefully along bike lanes and quiet streets. On this drizzly Sunday morning there was very little traffic, and we arrived at Paddington without incident. Our daughter, who was taking the same train part way with us, walked to the station and arrived shortly after we did. We had pre-booked our tickets online and picked them up at one of the self-service ticket machines. The bikes had their own (free) reservations for the bicycle car. We picked up some baguette sandwiches for the journey and had time for a cup of coffee while waiting for our platform number to show up on the announcement board. The train was delayed, so when the number finally appeared, all the passengers rushed to the platform.

Paddington station
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The loaded bikes with the train platforms just beyond
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The bicycle car was a long way down the platform, the first car after the engine. We removed our panniers and handlebar bags, and Eva ferried them to the luggage rack near our reserved seats in the “quiet” car while Al loaded the two bikes and strapped them into place. Luckily the quiet car was right behind the bike car; otherwise it would have been a scramble to load everything before the train was ready to leave.

Once on our way, we enjoyed the comfortable seats and uncrowded carriage. This was the first weekend of Easter break, and we had thought the Penzance train would be packed with families heading south for the holidays. This route had been disrupted in mid-February when the line along the coast at Dawlish in Devon was washed out by storms and high tides. National Rail had provided bus service to get past the washout, but shifting our bikes and baggage into and out of buses would have been a real pain. The railroad worked flat out to restore the line in time for the spring holidays, and it had only reopened two days before we travelled. Perhaps fewer people were travelling this route because they thought it was still disrupted.

It rained for most of the journey and was windy and still raining steadily when we arrived in Plymouth about 3:00 pm. We were glad it was only two kilometres to cycle through the pedestrianized centre down to the Hoe and our B&B, Barbican Reach. We locked our bikes behind the house, and were shown to our nice room overlooking the blossoming cherry trees in the park across the road.

Our hosts, Rob and Sue, were welcoming and helpful with nearby restaurant suggestions. In London for dinners, we'd picnicked in our hotel room, so were looking forward to a good hot restaurant meal tonight. We found it at Platters, a seafood place near the water, where we each had a huge plate of lovely fresh scallops, perfectly cooked, with rice and mixed veggies, along with a large glass of decent sauvignon blanc. After dinner, we checked the weather forecast for tomorrow—more rain and wind—and were relieved that we would not be cycling. The prediction for the day after was much better.

Today's ride: 6 km (4 miles)
Total: 6 km (4 miles)

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