Friday, 23 November 2012


Wild, wet and windy.  This describes my buddy, Andy and my ride across Exmoor and into Somerset.  The rain brought the trains to a standstill while motorists struggled with the floods.

This was a four day ride, the first of which was bright sunshine on Dartmoor. As we cycled up Devon's C2C to Barnstaple a kingfisher darted out, then flocks of starlings performed wheeling and turning at our sides. We passed the ancient mint at Lydford and saw a splendidly restored train at Okehampton.  I was glad of my new powerful LED lights that lit up the Tarka Trail for the final 12 miles into Barnstaple.

The remaining days were as dramatic as the first was pleasant.  The rain lashed down and at times the wind smacked into our faces.  We peddled along the ridge road to Dulverton and on to Bampton.  We could see the moors looking forbidding and did not envy the sheep and wildlife that lived on them.  I imagined that reading a book in front of a roaring log fire might be preferable to this.  The minor roads were torrents of mud and stones.  The following day was the same as we came off the hills into the Levels of Somerset.

Beyond Bridgwater, the rivers were not able to take the rain away so we peddled through floods.  The most extreme was at Bawdrip where we found a water spout at the end of a cycle path.  Having navigated that, we cycled up river with bow waves either side of us.  Around here fire engines were hard at work pumping out flooded properties and attending to accidents.  Journey's end was Yatton where we planned to catch trains home but the adventure was not over.  The rail service had collapsed.  Most buses had given up as well.  Huh, this is too difficult to tell here

On the way, we discovered some of Somerset's secret gems.  Our cycle route took us into an ancient river bed set in a gorge.  The soft red sandstone had been eroded into a gorge during what is believed to be the Triassic Period when Somerset could have been a desert near to the Equator and subject to flash floods.

At Appley, we discovered the best little shop ever.  Despite the rain, we could hear the sound of children playing even though we were in countryside.  The little shop seemed to be a primary school, post office, shop and cafe all in one.  Moreover the coffee and cakes were delicious. A bouquet of wild primroses were on the counter giving a hint of spring although still 6 months off.

We followed National Cycle Network Route 27 to Barnstaple, Route 3 to Cossington, an unnumbered route to Winscombe and Route 26 to Yatton.  The gorge is on Route 3 just west of Nynehead and Appley is about 4 miles further west.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Yesterday while out on my bike I saw a sign that made me laugh.  I wished that I had my camera with me.  I decided to return again this morning with my camera.  It was cold but the sun was shining brightly.  Earlier the fields had glistened with a heavy frost.

I peddled through the little lanes south of Ivybridge in Devon.

When I reached the tiny hamlet of Westlake, the road was blocked by a Landrover.  The driver said "Hello Graham. Sorry but you cannot come this way as we have a herd of cattle coming.  Can you go another way?"  I realised that it was one of my farming neighbours. " No" I replied "I am searching for a mini-farmer and I am told that he is this way."  " You would be right. There is a mini-farmer this way.  He is not far" said my neighbour.  " How many cattle have you got?" I asked.  "Ahh, it is about 90 bullocks.  We are driving them about 6 miles along this road.  We are lucky.  We have lots of helpers".  At this moment, a fresh faced young girl appeared wearing a tight fitting sweater.  It was emblazened "Need New Boyfriend".  She did look like a cattle drover to me but then what do I know?  This cattle drive was getting interesting.

Along came the cattle, all 90 of them.  I took out my camera and took position for what I hoped would be a good photograph.  Four more drovers appeared and just as I was ready for the shot, one of the drovers came over and asked me to block a house entrance from the cattle.  There was no time.  I did as I was told but it was not a great position for a photo.  There was too much sun so apologies for the bleached out picture.

The Landrover had gone and so had the girl in the tight fitting sweater as well as all the other drovers.  I pedalled off to find the mini-farmer.  It appears that there may be more than one.

If you like me want to find a mini-farmer, follow National Cycle Route 28 and they could be lurking about 3 miles east of Yealmpton.   The next cattle drive will sometime in the spring.