To Okehampton - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

May 25, 2024

To Okehampton

An unexpected vision greets us when we enter the breakfast room and take our seats this morning: a clear blue sky to the west.  I start to comment on it when Paul enters the room a few minutes later, but he instantly shushes us.  Don’t scare it away, he cautions.  Later, he’ll repeat to the ladies at the next table the story he told us the afternoon we arrived, of a freak weather event the day before that brought an intense downpour and hail - a river rushed down the street out front, and every passing car raised a wake that washed toward his house.  We’re lucky we hadn’t arrived a day sooner!

And he continues on the same vein, telling of how horrible and dreary the weather was last year - nine straight months of rain, as he tells it.  Hopefully it’s not the same story this year, but it’s too soon to tell.  For today though we’re grateful for the timing - it’s a travel day for us, we don’t have a long or difficult ride ahead of us, and we can hope to arrive dry.

We’ll get an early start because checkout here is by ten; and with only twenty miles between us and Okehampton (pronounced oak-hampton, OK?), we’ve arranged an early check-in at the other end.

Leaving Tavistock. Our B&B is just off the frame to the right. Note that the blue sky is quickly disappearing.
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Keith AdamsHere's a link to a wonderful British tale of rotten weather:

https://allpoetry.com/Three-Ha'Pence-A-Foot

And here's a link to a recording told in more-or-less authentic style and accent:

https://youtu.be/RyzNep0NAhA
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4 weeks ago

First though, a quick detour through downtown to Tavistock’s small outdoor equipment store to pick up a hiking pole for myself.  Were going to be traveling through some outstanding hiking country in the coming months, and even if I can’t go as far or as fast as Rachael I’d like more of a walking experience than I’m capable of now.  Hopefully a pole will help, assuming I can find a folder that will fit on the back of the bike.

I do find the pole I need; but I’m not surprised that we don’t find the other impulse item we’re looking for, a new pair of bicycle gloves for Rachael.  Pretty funny - after just bragging that we made it through nine months of Spain without losing anything we’re only a few days into the UK when one of Rachael’s gloves turns up missing.  It disappeared sometime during the chaos of our arrival in town in the rain and our B&B.  Not an auspicious start to our three months here.  Hopefully my glasses or wallet isn’t the next thing to go AWOL.

Main Street, Tavistock. Somehow even though we were here three nights I never took any shots around town. Sorry.
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The central courtyard is a den of thieves, with jackdaws perched everywhere scrounging edibles left behind on the plates of sidewalk diners.
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Caught in the act.
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Finally we’re off, happy to see that the sky is starting to cloud over but is still promising.  The ride begins with a steep lift up to the viaduct level - short and steep enough that neither of us thinks it’s worth straining a muscle over so we walk a chunk of it.  Once up though we face a more civilized climb for the next four miles to the high point of the day.  To my surprise because I hadn’t really noticed on the maps we’re reversing the last miles of my day ride yesterday - nice, because it ends up with Rachael getting her own look at Brent Tor and its dramatically sited church.

Blue skies!
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Enjoying the typical view on a British road. If you don’t like hedgerows, you’ve come to the wrong place.
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Another look at Brent Tor, with more sun in the sky this time.
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Overall, it’s an excellent ride today.  The break in the weather lasts us all the way to our destination, roads and pathways are quite bike-friendly, there’s plenty of interest along the way, there are only a few spots where we come to a 15% grade that pushes us out of our saddles, and we see many other cyclists and walkers out.  It’s a day that makes us both glad we’ve come back to England again.

Except for that scary dog that chases me for a ways - but you’ll have to watch the video to see that narrow escape.

We’re following an NCN (National Cycle Network) route the whole way, which here is also part of EV1. As is the norm for NCN routes it’s a mix of paved roads, paved bike paths, and more textured surfaces.
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Looking northeast into the high country in northern Dartmoor.
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Partway through the ride we pass through Lydford, a pretty village with enough to linger over that if I get the right day for it I might bike back to.  From the information board beneath its castle: “Lydford Castle is a remarkably well-preserved medieval prison and courthouse, built in 1195 and later enlarged in 1238 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall.  Lydford had been an important town since the Saxon period, when it was protected by defensive banks. Surrounding the older part of the village, these substantial earthworks are still visible.  In the field to your left are also the remains of a Norman ringwork castle.”

Lydford Castle.
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Below the castle is Saint Petrock’s Church.
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Saint Petrock’s Church.
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Karen PoretSorry..can’t escape this notion of the name. Pet Rock…;)
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Karen PoretYes, I saw that myself. Pretty odd name for a Saint, imho.
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4 weeks ago
Its cemetery.
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“Wheel Wright Stone, used locally prior to 1920.”
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In Dartmoor.
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One of the more pleasant stretches on NCN 27.
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A bit further on I’m startled to be passed by a your boy pedaling like mad, quickly leaving me behind.  His dad follows, but we catch up to them when they’re stopped looking over a stone wall.  Others are gawking as well, so we stop and join them for our own look.

Must be a reason to stop here. This is the Lake Viaduct, part of the old train line we’re following.
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Looking over the edge of the viaduct, with my arms outstretched for a better look.
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The view to the east into the national park. I believe the highest point we’re looking at is the High Willhays, the highest point in Dartmoor.
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The view off to the west from the Lake Viaduct.
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The church of Saint Thomas a Becket, Sourton. In front is one of the Sustrans navigational markers that you come across at junctions throughout the NCN network.
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A few miles on we come to another impressive span, the Meldon Viaduct.  Both of these would be worth a trip back for a look from below.

Crossing the Meldon Viaduct.
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The view east from the Meldon Viaduct.
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Plenty of company on the trail today.
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Approaching Okehampton. It’s almost startling how abruptly it arrives. One minute we’re riding on this path, stopping periodically to let ourselves through livestock gates - and then suddenly we’re dropping out of the trees and into downtown, just blocks from our hotel.
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Video sound track: A Breath Away, by Aires Tango & Ralph Towner

We’re stying at the White Hart Hotel, a large place that’s a combination hotel and pub.  It’s a JD Wetherspoon establishment, one of many throughout the country.  It reminds me of a McMenamins property back in Oregon, if you’re familiar with those.  Our first impression is a little frustrating as we try to figure out how to get our bikes into one of the six bike lockers out back.  Its great that they have bike lockers obviously, but it’s a head-scratcher figuring out how to unlock them, and how to get the bikes inside (I have to fold mine) and then how to lock them again.  I’ll have to take a photo of the lock one of these days to give you the idea.

Beyond that learning experience though, we’re quite happy with the place - in particular with our room itself, which is easily twice the size of where we’ve been crowded into for the last four nights.  its got a large bed, a desk, two comfortable chairs, room to spread out in, and even a large tub that Rachael soon makes use of.  We’re well conditioned to be appreciative.

Wow, all this space!
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And that’s just the half of it. Rachael won’t need to sit in the bathroom to enjoy a cup of coffee. She can have her coffee on her side table by the bed, or the desk, or that round table, or even go downstairs and order a bottomless one at the bar. Spoiled for choice!
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Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 1,724 miles (2,775 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Bob DistelbergWatching the video, it occurred to me that I would be more worried about the 'riding on the left' thing on the bike paths than I would be on the roads. At least on roads, you're consistently on the left. On paths, you tend to ride in the middle until someone approaches. I can just see myself making the wrong split second decision and veering right into an approaching cyclist. Rachael, great video by the way!
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4 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Bob DistelbergActually, the bicyclists are great here! Thanks for your comment about the video.
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4 weeks ago
Polly LowSpoons hotels are my guilty pleasure. If you donwload the Wetherspoons app I think you could order the bottomless coffee to come to your room -- or, even better, CB readers could use their app to order stuff to be delivered to you. What a world!

(Also: welcome back to our cold and rainy island! I hope that the long-delayed spring arrives before too long...)
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Polly LowHey, Polly. We’ve been here for three nights now, and we’re both pretty favorably impressed with the place. It’s easy on the budget but maintains a reasonable quality and makes a nice base for a multi day stay. It’s especially nice to be able to walk downstairs and find a reasonable breakfast and comfortable place to hang out while the day’s weather improves.

And so far at least we have no complaints about the weather - we’ve gotten some breaks at the right time and are really enjoying our time here. Anxious to see your corner of the country later this summer.
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4 weeks ago