Breakfast consisted of croissants, fresh bread, cereal and toast with a strange selection of jam flavours made by the owner. Don’t get me wrong, kiwi marmalade is a delicacy not to be missed but then so is a sausage, bacon and eggs. No cooked breakfast today then. Despite the excellent planning of accommodation by Mrs W for the entire route, neither of us had really given thought to where we were staying when the JOGLE was over so a frantic hour was spent on the computer trying to find somewhere in St Ives for tomorrow night.
I made a late start setting out from Watchet and the weather could not have been different from when I had arrived the night before. The beautiful warm sun more than made up for a stiff wind but I was taking no chances and went for leggings and the extra top. A text from Peter confirmed that I should have no rain the whole day and he turned out to be right! Amazing. I had always known that today would have more elevation that any other, and I had been building up to this. Preparing the mind well in advance paid dividends as I started taking the hills at a very relaxed pace, to ensure I didn’t burn out my energy for later.
Great scenery, great weather and knowledge that this was the penultimate day all added up to a strong feeling of happiness and the hills made little dent in my resolve. The elevation was truly impressive, bringing me and my trusty steed up to 1500 – 1600 feet. The quiet, more inland road was a great choice and avoided the crazy climb out of Porlock that I heard so bad things about from bingo Tony (and when bingo Tony says its bad, it is). After a two mile race with a tractor (I won) I was up on Exmoor and looking for a setting for one of the last Lego Men adventures. A suitable location found, I set them free and almost lost them forever. I had a bit of a mishap myself just after saving them – you may notice me almost fall over.
Progress was slow but it didn’t bother me since I was enjoying the experience knowing that soon it would all come to an end. Cycling down to Ilfracombe I found the car park where Mrs W had parked up and we headed to the town to have some lunch. After a suitable feed we headed back to the car only to spend the next half hour looking for the little cloth that I clean my glasses with, to no avail. It must have gone to bike-kit heaven like one of my fingerless gloves. By the time I left it was 3.40pm, which was a very late start indeed for the second leg and not very well planned at all. The climb out of Ilfracombe went on for a while but was by no means arduous, yet what followed was just insane. Like a real life Eschers staircase the downhill that resulted went on for over 30 minutes! I kid you not: half an hour of downhill! I didn’t believe what was happening at the time but looking at the elevation map it is there in black and blue – a perfectly straight downward gradient for around 10 miles. Not steep, but enough to maintain a fast speed, and boy if you had a big ring and wanted to you could cover those 10 miles in no time at all! I took it easy remembering my accident of the day before (the bruise has developed impressively).
Cycling through Barnstable I realised that I had been spoilt with the roads so far – they had been quiet and interesting – perfect for travelling on two wheels. The A39, a major road in Devon was looming and I didn’t fancy it at all. When I finally did pull on to the dual carriageway it reminded me of those other nasty A roads I had been unfortunate enough to experience recently and I decided enough was enough. Despite the cars actually being very reasonable, I started scrolling around the area map on the iPhone to see if there was an alternative route I could take. I soon located a small road from Roundswell that followed the A39 closely so I came off and joined this all the way to Bideford where I skirted back on the A39. Once more, fed up of these large intimidating roads I looked for another route. I figured that I may be able to cut the corner from Woodtown to Bush, removing the need for the A39 altogether and made an immediate decision to give it a go. This was going far off-piste and would require a lot of on-the-fly navigation around what turned out to be tiny and bumpy roads. However, it was a great decision – me on a bike, on a quiet road making my way to the end – just what this whole challenge was supposed to be about. Despite far more hills and poorer roads the mileage was a little shorter. It was great riding, with the sun setting and just a few horses and sheep in the fields that I passed. The stomach was feeling a little unsettled – it appears there is a limit to how many fastics it can take, and the last few miles were pretty uncomfortable as a result. I finally rolled into Bude at around 7.45pm – the latest arrival so far and ready for my fish and chips.
I cannot believe that tomorrow is the end of my trip. I’ll miss writing these blogs. I’ll miss the Lego Men and I’ll miss just having to worry about cycling from A to B each day rather than all those other things that work and life throw at us. It’s amazing to think that a wandering thought back in March has led me to this point – having covered more than one thousand miles in 11 days and with only one left before I reach the end of the road. The support everyone has given me has been truly fantastic and please watch out for tomorrows final blog for a big thank-you! I keep thinking how great it would be if by the time I cross the line the online donations have exceeded my goal of £2000 so if you havnt supported the cause yet, then nows the time! So, for the penultimate time: distance travelled: 86 miles, total so far 1011 miles. Here is the route and photos: