After a good shower – the camp site charged for hot water, so I splashed out and had two 5 minute showers at 50 pence each – followed by a Thai green chicken curry, I slept well that night.
For some reason, I found it really hard to get going in the morning and did not leave the site until gone 11 am. Still, it was sunny with a blue sky although the cold Easterly would be with me all day. Almost better than that, a lot of today’s cycling would be across the Somerset levels (which are, as Black Adder may have said, “flatter than a flat thing”) – here is my route:
I decided to detour slightly and cycle through Glastonbury, hoping to get a cup of coffee in town. Glastonbury is very alternative (much like my local town of Totnes, but larger) and it certainly lived up to its expectation as I cycled into the town. My expectations were exceeded when I saw a horse-drawn caravan parked up and a guy busking in front of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere to leave the bike and get my coffee (and maybe some lunch), so bade farewell to Glastonbury. However, a couple of kilometres out of town I came across this memorial garden to a young lady that died a couple of years ago. It’s a delightful spot and well-kept:
It was a very pleasant place to stop for an early lunch.
The sun remained shining as I gradually descended onto the Levels, which provided little shelter from the wind. The land is criss-crossed by drainage ditches, with straight roads, although they don’t continue for miles and there are a few sharp bends.
As it was Saturday afternoon, there were few vehicles on these small roads. The activities of the peat industry were very noticeable. Large volumes of peat were being dug out and processed, with mountains of peat ready to be bagged up for the British gardener.
About 7 or 8 kilometres from Bridgwater, I stopped for a rest on a small path. It was a pleasant place to have a rest and something to eat, especially as it was out of the wind.
After about 10 minutes, three cyclists stopped and had a chat. I knew that NCN3 went into Bridgwater to cross the river Parrett at a road bridge, but the route I chose did not go into town. I hoped to save a few kilometres by not going into Bridgwater, instead using a footbridge over the river (I had already forgotten yesterday’s experience of the footbridge in rainy Bristol…). Still, local knowledge is a good thing, so I asked about the footbridge in Bridgwater. The answer was, “..don’t bother, it’s closed, Anyway it’s hard to walk up that bridge let along get a bike across it. Tell you what, we’re going that way, we’ll get you there, just follow us”!
So 3 road bikes and a heavily laden tourer set off for Bridgwater. It was great to just cycle and ignore the route my GPS was telling me to take.
We cycled under a railway using a tunnel that was so narrow we had to crouch over the bars to get through and then past the now-closed footbridge. The riverside path led onto a road and we stopped at this junction to discuss my options for cycling the 15 km to Creech St Michael and my next campsite.
One of the three left us here, while the other two had a chat and decided they fancied some tea and cake at a cafe on the Bridgwater-Taunton canal, which happened to be on my route. They also knew the canal towpath was a quagmire for a couple of kilometres; but there was no problem to divert round that.
I could not believe my luck!
We set off, crossing the river by the road bridge in Bridgwater and cycling back towards the railway line with the low tunnel, but on the opposite side of the river. After a few kilometres along the A38 cycle path, we were close to the canal, and more importantly, the Maunsell Lock tea room! I was so grateful to my fellow cyclists for not just pointing me in the right direction, but ensuring I was at exactly the right position to continue. But only after a very welcome coffee and cake.
It was about 4:30pm when I set off in this direction, along the canal towpath towards Taunton:
The locks on this canal are interesting. Normally, the water level of canal locks in the UK are controlled using a handle to open and close a “door” in each lock gate, or side culvert.
This canal uses a counterbalance arrangement. In this photo, the white balls are the counterbalances attached to chains routed over a large pulley to control the side culvert that fills and drains the lock:
This photo shows an alternative arrangement, where cylindrical counterbalances operate “doors” in the lock gates.
The Bridgwater-Taunton canal is home to the Somerset space walk, which displays a proportionally correct model of our solar system. The Sun is located at Higher Maunsel lock, and one set of planets is installed in each direction along the towpath. The scale of the space walk is one millimetre to 530 kilometres, so at this scale, the distance on the towpath between the Sun and Pluto is 11 kilometres. Here is the 2.5 metre diameter model of the Sun:
The model does not show our nearest star, which at this scale would be around a third of a metre in diameter and 76,000 kilometres away.
Mercury (the planet nearest the Sun) is a few tens of metres away from the model of the Sun.
The late afternoon gently became early evening and the towpath gave way to quiet roads that took me to my campsite.
It was a great day!