– 4,352 miles covered by close of play today, with about a 1,000 to go.
06 July 2013
I was up early to another day of sunshine, so got breakfast, bike checks and a shower out of the way quickly, before packing up. I headed to reception to drop off my toilet block key and get my deposit back, and to do some planning via my iPad; they have free wifi around the reception building which is handy.
Polzeath looked like a good destination to head for today, and the Southwinds campsite, so I gave them a quick call to book in just in case they got busy. It was only £7.00 for the night so good value compared with some.
Before leaving the campsite I met up with Mum and Dad, who returned my phone fully charged, and donated some homemade cookies to the cause – all calories gratefully received. It had been great to see them and I waved them off as they departed for home in East Sussex. All being well I’d be seeing them again in a couple of weeks anyway.
I bid goodbye to the Hele Valley Holiday Park and their wonderful staff, who also made a donation to the Big C, thank you! Ilfracombe was my first destination, only a mile down road. It was pretty busy with a lot of traffic and holiday makers, so I cycled straight through and out the other side, only stopping to use a handy cash point, and to take a pretty uninspiring photo as I realised I’d forgotten to take one at the campsite.
Next up was a steepish ascent, followed by a long descent down to Braunton. I was able to take the cycle path for some of it, arriving in Barnstaple after about an hour and a half of pedalling in perfect weather. I had a quick walk through the town before picking up the Tarka Trail down the coast. It’s a tarmac’d cycle path running, as so many do, along the route of an old railway line.
There were a lot of other cyclists and walkers out in the sunshine, including a large group of girls on a hen party. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, although they freely admitted they were making pretty slow progress due to stopping for frequent breaks. I’m not sure their dresses were best suited for cycling, very entertaining though.
I bid the girls goodbye and sped off down the trail, before coming to a rather abrupt halt after I heard a distinctive pinging noise. The wheel destroying Spriggans were at work again, resulting in another broken spoke, and on the drive side this time which I couldn’t deal with; the cassette is in the way, I didn’t have the right tool, and I didn’t have any spokes of the correct length anyway. The wheel had immediately buckled, and pretty badly, so I pulled over to do what I could to temporarily fix it. Of course the hen party passed me shortly afterwards, which was slightly embarrassing after I’d zoomed off.
To fix the buckle in the wheel I had to tighten the spokes either side of the break, and slacken off a few on the other side. The rim had also developed a bit of a flat section which didn’t help matters. All in all it was looking like it was well and truly b*ggered, but I managed to get it into a state where I could continue, hoping there was a bike shop that could rectify matters in the next town along.
I was reasonably concerned about how I was going to get this fixed as I limped to Bideford, crossing the old bridge over the River Torridge into the town. Using my phone I located a bike shop that stocked Ridgebacks, and was also a specialist. Fortune must have been smiling on me. Cycles Scuderia was completely on route on my way out of Bideford, and I quickly found it, interrupting Malcolm the owner and his wife as they were having lunch.
After discussing the symptoms and conducting a preliminary exam of the patient Malcolm reckoned he could fix it. The flat section in the rim, as well as some of the spokes being slightly different lengths (I’d been sold shoddy spokes somewhere) meant a complete rebuild was needed. Patching it up would have just meant more spokes breaking at any given moment, but the good news was the wheel could be saved. This was especially fortuitous as he didn’t have any spares in stock. The nearest alternative shop would probably have been in Wadebridge which was miles away.
It was a busy Saturday in the shop, and they had customers backing up with new patients arriving all the time, so I was a extremely grateful that Malcolm was able to fit me in. Whilst the operation was in progress I retreated over the road to a cafe in the park, to get out of the way and grab some lunch while I had the chance.
The Cafe du Parc is run by a group of French chefs, who did me a great cheese and pâté platter. After a hectic and worrying morning it was good just to sit down and relax for a while, waiting for the outcome of surgery. I sat in the sunshine for a bit talking to my brother on the phone, before heading back to the shop.
Fortunately the operation had been a success, Malcolm having been able to rebuild my wheel. The flat section had popped out during the procedure and I now had a hand built wheel with new spokes, which I shouldn’t have any further issues with on the tour. From now on it will be hand built wheels all the way, it’s just not worth getting factory built ones which won’t last with all the weight on the bike over a long distance. The cheaper spokes they use in the factory built versions will break after a while, and after one’s gone more are likely to follow, like a zip undoing. That was probably the best £47.00 I spent on the tour, thanks Malcolm and Cycles Scuderia.
Bike back to fully working order I was ready to go again, but stopped briefly to chat to another customer who was on his way from Land’s End to John o’ Groats on his new Dawes tourer. It was his first tour and his gears had seized up, so needed Malcolm’s expert ministrations. He advised the roads ahead were hilly but good. I advised the roads ahead were much the same, and to beware the wilds of Wales if he was passing that way. And sheep, always watch out for the sheep.
I pedalled out of Bideford feeling somewhat relieved, however having spent 3 hours getting my wheel fixed I needed to make up some time. To get some miles done I took the A39 around the coast, up and down the rolling hills of Devon, before passing into Cornwall and reaching Bude, where I took a slight detour.
Bude was very busy with holidaymakers going to and from the beach and enjoying the various pubs, the river looked a bit manky though. I rode along the coast road, Marine Drive, to Widemouth Bay which was a lot nicer, and a big spot for surfers and body boarders.
I stopped for an ice cream to celebrate everything being in working order, and still being on track despite mechanical failures.
Post Widemouth Bay I rode around to Boscastle, ignoring Crackington Haven this time around as it was a dead end, with big hills that I didn’t really have time for after my sojourn at Cycles Scuderia. In any case there were plenty of hills to keep me entertained as I pedalled down the A39, then on to the B3263.
Boscastle is another picturesque village, and home to the museum of witchcraft which sounded intriguing was closed by the time I passed through. The village was badly flooded in 2004, and to a lesser extent in 2007. I remember seeing pictures on the news of people being rescued by helicopter, and of cars being washed down the river. Luckily no-one was killed but looking at the gorge you can see how the river gets funnelled down to the village, and how it could flood in extreme conditions. You can also see the high water mark from the floods, pretty scary.
There was another hen do out in Boscastle, all dressed in pink and sounding pretty raucous, also pretty scary so I gave them a wide birth.
I rode on to Tintagel, somewhere I’d explored thoroughly with Lu several years ago. I stopped at the top of the path going down to the castle, which we’d visited at the time. Looking out over the bay I remembered a great holiday, although Lu hadn’t been too keen on the camping side of things. I’d be passing through a lot of the places we’d stopped at back then, so there’d be a lot of happy memories to come.
Of course Tintagel Castle is also one of the places that could potentially be the site of King Arthur’s Camelot, if such a place ever existed, or is strongly associated with a lot of the stories anyway. There’s a lot of King Arthur based paraphanalia in the town, including the pub in the above photo, and Merlin’s Cyrstal Cave. One can well imagine how the countryside and coastline around here inspired some of the great tales associated with King Arthur and his knights.
I also stopped at the Old Post Office, a 14 Century stone building owned by the National Trust now.
I took the coast road out of Tintagel, having to deal with a massive and unexpected hill near Treknow where the road suddenly dips down into a gorge like cove. My heart dropped slightly when I saw the downwards slope appear around a corner, totally unexpected as it wasn’t marked on my map with the usual chevrons. I descended on squealing brakes, and had to push up the other side to Trebarwith Village, it was just too steep; my feet were spinning let alone my wheels.
With the sun starting to dip towards the horizon I pedalled on down the B3314 to Polzeath and the Southwinds campsite, a few final hills making my legs ache. It was great cycling through the countryside as the sun started to set, lighting up the sky with some wonderful colours. I arrived at the Southwinds at about 21.00, a late stop but I was feeling good after covering 85 miles, with the bike running well again.
I booked in and set up quick, then had a shower to wash away the day’s grime. This was a particularly pleasant experience after getting very hot and sweaty in the gorgeous weather.
There’s a bar/restaurant just next to the campsite, Sundowners at Carruan Farm. It’s owned and run by Matt and was a great find after a hard day. I arrived once they’d stopped serving food officially, however Matt was able to knock me up a hearty sandwich, which with a pint of cider was just what I needed anyway.
Sundowners is a lovely establishment, only having opened fairly recently. It’s a basically a big wooden barn structure, with a bar and restaurant area, and great views out over the coast. I spent a couple of hours winding down, chatting with Matt about various things. I’ve always had a slight yearning to run a bar or cafe/bar, with a theme to it, and Matt brought me up to speed with some of the challenges, such as what to do in winter time when business can fall off. Bad weather can also have a big impact, especially down in Cornwall, however it looked like the summer was starting to shape up so it should be a good one for Sundowners.
Matt is also a lifeboat man, for the boat based out of Padstow which is just across the River Camel from Polzeath. As expected most of the incidents the lifeboat is called out for are to rescue people that have got in trouble on runaway lilos, or after being trapped by the tide somewhere, rather than boats getting into difficulties. One of the big issues the lifeboat crew faces these days is land based, with a lot of the local houses being bought up as second homes. This means the crew can’t necessarily live close enough to the lifeboat station to provide a fast response. I’m not really sure what you can do about that. You can’t stop a local from selling their house to someone from London for well over the odds, but likewise it’s a shame that communities and services can suffer as a result.
Chatting through my route for the next few days Matt advised I skip Newquay, which has become a bit of a dive over recent years. I visited about 18 years ago when it was still relatively nice, but I think it’s gone a bit tacky since then. He recommended I drop in to St. Agnes. a village a bit further down the coast where there’s a cafe he owns, so I added that to the agenda for tomorrow. Tomorrow would also hopefully bring me to, or within throwing distance of, Land’s End.
After a very pleasant evening I retreated back to my tent, loaded with a complementary bottle of Scrumpy courtesy of Matt.
I’d meant to do some writing, however I couldn’t keep my eyes open and drifted off to sleep, hopeful of another day of good weather tomorrow.