East Devon Excursion
2nd March 2008 - John Rowland
The first decision was whether to cycle in from Aylesbeare, one I soon regretted when met with a strong headwind and light rain all the way. But the clouds soon lost their edge and after the start from Exeter’s the Barn Owl pub at Honiton park and ride we only had to contend with a varying wind that helped us on the first leg to Budleigh Salterton. The fact that the trip to France had been postponed for two weeks helped our numbers so Exeter DA was represented by Robin, Roy, Roger, Arthur, Debbie, and Kirby plus me. We were among the 60 plus participants content with the 106k route. I had also met the 200k riders as I passed Exeter airport on the way in and saw Pippa amongst the few small groups of professional looking travellers cruising along in an impressive manner. Quite depressing really.
Our initial leg to B Salterton was quite short but while our first four steamed ahead we all soon arrived at the Lime Kilns car park for our first check in and a quick cup of fruit juice. Not wanting to lose the pace we wasted no time in heading off northwards aiming for Woodgate and lunch some 41km away. Roger at this stage left us to join the faster group disappearing way ahead, but we caught up much later after had he stopped to enjoy a snack. This perhaps was the main bulk of the ride leading us through well known terrain but on delightful winding country lanes that initially gave us splendid views of the Otter Valley. It was during this section we saw two other fairly large cycle groups both looking professional with impressive bikes. Also it was pleasing to see a number of individuals and small groups all out enjoying a ride in the wintery sun. The sun in fact came out as we passed through Ottery, then we continued to Payhembury, Kerswell on to Ashill continuing the undulating theme. Here Robin suffered the first puncture of the day, but like good team members we left him with Roy to undertake technical tasks while the rest joined up and pressed on to Culmstock, after which we climbed up a long and unforgiving if not too steep hill to Woodgate and lunch. What a welcome, there was hot soup, tea, coffee, buns and cake all with a smile. Later Robin and his repair team caught up, he having suffered a second puncture and looking frustrated with very black hands!
After a much needed food intake and a well earned 20 minute rest, the second group set off again heading down to Uffculme then taking the straight B road for Willand. Along here we passed Peter Luxton heading the other way and a few minutes later were passed by a sports car thundering along at excessive speed. It was motoring at perhaps over 80 mph well above legal limits and the more dangerous because of the several cyclists on the road. Passing our regular coffee pot stop at Willand we crossed over the Motorway and down to the turning for Brithem Bottom. The wind had made its self felt along the latter stretch and we were grateful to turn under the shelter of the hills at BB to climb slowly up the back of the Bickleigh feature on a long if gradual climb before undulating along the ridge with the best views of the day over the Exe valley. It was the first time I had passed along this ridge when it has not been raining hard, so the experience was different and most rewarding. All this height was soon spent in the steep descent to Bickleigh church for the third check point. All we had to do here was note the church title on our official route cards, but it gave us an excuse for a brief respite and chat as all our team plus one or two gathered once more.
And so to the last leg through Silverton, Killerton, Poltimore, Pinhoe and home. A route that was quite easy really with few serious hills and travelling over even more familiar territory. Unfortunately this is where my cramp set in and slowed me down, so the others soon disappeared ahead while I walked any steepish inclines. Most frustrating, but on the bright side, much of the route was down hill or level anyway. Shortly before arriving at the Barn Owl I realised that I was victim of a slow rear puncture as well. In the pub garden I found our whole team enjoying a pint. When I asked them how long they had been there I was told over an hour!!! by one and just 5 minutes by another. How nice it is to have friends who are so helpful. So I duly checked in and joined the drinkers with a pint that tasted extra good. And I was offered a lift home, a welcome ride that capped a hard worked but most enjoyable day.