To Taunton - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

June 5, 2024

To Taunton

This was really a pretty easy day, as far as travel days here go.  The weather was fine again, there weren’t any soul crushing climbs between here and Taunton - which isn’t to say that there weren’t a few spots along the way where walking felt like the most sensible option, because there were.

The day began with one last fine breakfast at Angel Guest House, and then we headed back up to the canal.  The best route from here to Taunton - the one Caltrans recommends -leverages the canal as the quietest, easiest way to get out of town before leaving it for the farming roads we’ll ride most of the rest of the day.

Riding those first few miles on the canal, Rachael was tickled to see her new favorite cat walking toward us again - but then it turned off into the weeds when we got closer, probably no big fan of bicycles.

This is more like it! It’s about time the sun returned. We were starting to feel aggrieved.
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A last look at Angel Guest House, for Eva and Al who stayed here a decade ago.
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Eva WaltersThanks Scott!
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2 weeks ago
One last time on the Grand Western Canal.
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Demonstrating the proper underpass technique with a bicycle. You never know when a walker or runner or another biker or a draft horse will be coming the other way crowding you for space.
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After leaving the canal, the rest of the day’s ride is much like my loop ride from Tiverton two days ago was - nearly the entire way from here to Taunton we’re riding on narrow farm roads with so little traffic that the middle of the road is a strip of dirt or grass or sand.  Riding is fairly slow regardless of whether you’re going up or down - slow up, for the obvious reasons; but nearly as slow going down because the surface is irregular and at times rough or potholed; and the strip between the hedgerow and the dirt/mud/sand/grass median is narrow and irregular so you have to be careful with you’re steering so you don’t hit a patch of sand or mud and take a spill; and because as infrequently as they show up the occasional passing car or farm vehicle commands all the space so someone needs to yield.

It was only ten thirty when we left the inn; the only stop we took along he way was for a few minutes to look at a hilltop church and admire the views; and looking at the ride profile, you’ll see that it’s a pretty tame ride that’s more down than up.  But given that, we still didn’t arrive in Taunton until two.  So, 3-1/2 hours to bike 25 miles.  That tells you something. 

It’s pretty windy today, but it’s not a problem. Most of the time we’re biking between hedgerows doing double duty as both view and wind blockers. A fair tradeoff.
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Keith AdamsLooks more like a cycle and walking path than an actual road...
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsAnd this is one of the more substantial ones. Oftentimes the middle 1/3 is unridable because of the residue.
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2 weeks ago
At the high point of the day, one which took just a bit of off-the-saddle work to attain. We’re getting our last looks at the beautiful Devon countryside today - tomorrow we take the train to Wales.
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I liked this little bridge crossing the River Tone before beginning the second climb of the day. I also really liked all the iridescent blue damselflies flying around but couldn’t get one in focus before it was time to move on.
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Saint Peter’s Church at Langford Budville, at the top of the last climb. It’s all downhill from here to Taunton now, except when it isn’t.
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We’ve earned a break, and this looks like a good spot for it. Just a brief one though, not like these folks.
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A resting place with a very nice, calm view. We’re out of Devon now, just inside of Somerset.
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Even tiny places like this one often have an impressive church. This one, a Grade I listed heritage building, dates from the fifteenth century.
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The church’s modest gargoyles are showing their age.
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Keith AdamsI recall being very impressed with the weight of years in England. Seemed as if nearly every tiny hamlet had a church or other building dating back somewhere between 800 and a thousand years. Ho hum, another thousand year old church...
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2 weeks ago
Suddenly, out of nowhere we’re biking uphill through this narrow, steep-walled gap. This is Nynehead Hollow, a gap carved through these rocks two centuries ago to build this road. Even tiny places like Nynehead have features of interest - in this case, in addition to the road there’s a 14th century heritage church and a boat lift to the Grand Western Canal.
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We arrived at this train crossing just seconds after the lights started flashing and the crossing arms started lowering. Jokingly we talked about going around the arms and beating the train, a very bad idea. It soon arrived, racing at maybe 100 mph.
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Keith Adams"Never race a train to a crossing. You could end up in a tie."

The pun doesn't work in the UK though, where the lumber that holds the tracks in place is called "sleepers".
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2 weeks ago

Video sound track: Samba Trieste, by Charlie Bird and Stan Getz

We’re in Taunton for just the one night, as our base to catch the train to Newport in the morning.  It’s a larger place and not really the most inspiring one we’ve come to, but it does have an excellent hotel just two blocks from the train station -  the Royal Ashton Town House, highly recommended.  The staff are all very accommodating and upbeat, the bikes go in their office, and the only downside is that we’re on the third floor and there’s no lift - not unusual in this country, of course.  It definitely helps that the host, a solidly built young woman much stronger than me carries one of my panniers up for me.

Another feature of our place is that its layout is a real maze.  It’s quite confusing finding our way to our room, and Rachael doesn’t do confusing mazes particularly well.  In the afternoon she’ll go out on a shopping expedition (new walkers!), and can’t find her way back to the room.  She’s rescued by one of the staff who apparently sees her wandering aimlessly on the CCTV and comes to set her straight.

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Today's ride: 26 miles (42 km)
Total: 1,926 miles (3,100 km)

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