Although it was Sunday, I intended to get an early-ish start as I had to cross the Blackdown Hills to get to my last overnight stop, just East of Exeter. Here’s my route:
I had a decent breakfast and took advantage of the spotless, heated, shower block.
My good plan was undone while doing my little bit of dish washing. I got talking to the site owner. About an hour-and-a-half later, we parted company having had wide-ranging discussions on farm diversification (a campsite was good), incompetence of local councils (inability to state where a new road was to pass through their farm, so planning for the future was impossible), making teenage sons cook evening meals (excellent life skills), the importance of outdoor pursuits for kids (very), and a few more topics, too.
Actually, by the time I left the campsite, it was midday. Breakfast was a long time ago and I was soon suffering from zero energy.
Pedalling uphill on a very long road was energy sapping. Fortunately, the road was extremely quiet as I was zig-zagging considerably. The weather, too was brightening up and I was glad I was cycling through an extensively wooded area that provided shade.
There is never anywhere to pull-in immediately, so I stopped and pushed the bike uphill, until I spotted the only gate in the area. This was to be my lunch stop! The bird song here was delightful – only disturbed by a single car in 30 minutes. I would like to have stayed longer, but I was way behind schedule.
Another kilometre of uphill pedalling immediately followed lunch. Not much fun! However, the road flattened and I passed through the village of Culmstock. Pretty, with a stream flowing by the road and a nice looking cafe, that despite the Open sign, was definitely closed on this Sunday afternoon.
It was time for something to eat, so I took advantage of a seat in the sun, which happened to be opposite the local war memorial.
I’d cycled through a lot of small villages since leaving Bristol and have walked and toured in many parts of England. A war memorial is almost always present in a village. They commemorate those fallen in the First and Second World Wars, with many having additional plaques for other conflicts since WW2; although a few (and only a few) also celebrate those that returned.
I thought Culmstock’s war memorial to be quite poignant. The painted stones from the local primary school showed those men are, rightly, still remembered – some may be distant relatives of those that painted the stones. Indeed, the large number of men that did not return after WW1 must have devastated the village and its surrounds.
I left Culmstock in a contemplative mood.
The road was a lot flatter and I was able to make good progress – in the sunshine, too!
Crossing the M5 was a marker, a bit like crossing a river. The late Sunday afternoon traffic on the motorway was noisy and I could still hear it a kilometre away.
I was soon cycling up, what was I hoped, the last hill and looking out for the pub where I was to camp overnight.
Well, the pub was interesting.
When I arrived there was no hot water for a shower as the kitchen had used it all. I had a drink and killed some time for an hour, but the shower was still cold. I had a (good) meal, but still no hot water. I got up early for a shower, just in case…
Here’s the route of my last day:
The day started overcast, but the sun soon came out. Unfortunately, the East wind also re-appeared as a gusty side wind. The traffic in Exeter was not heavy, but there were more vehicles than I had seen in a few days.
Exeter has a good system of cycle lanes and shared pavements, and I only once briefly shared a road with vehicles. A navigation failure meant I got on the River Exe cycle path later than I hoped. Although I had determined a new route before I left the pub, I could not upload it to my GPS and I decided to continue with the original route. There was no real saving in distance or time, it meant more cycling on riverside tracks than on the road. It was a useful experience and a reminder to sort out uploading GPS tracks for June when I go touring in Europe!
Coincidentally, I reached Turf Locks, where the Exeter canal joins the river Exe, at midday. It seemed a good place for lunch – I opted for a large bowl of nachos at the Turf Locks Inn:
I was heading to Starcross. By now the wind direction had changed. Guess where it was coming from:
… Exeter is that way
There are a few bike racks on the other side of the river – it was an easy decision not to try and get my bike over the lock gates!
Heading inland from the Exe was a climb, but I was rewarded with this view:
I thought it would be downhill to Newton Abbot, but that was not the case and there were a few more kilometres of up and down along narrow lanes before I arrived at Newton Abbot. Familiar territory for me, but bad timing meant I arrived at evening rush hour and there was a combination of cycle tracks and busy roads to get home.