Well, the weather had a change of heart today and we had sunshine…all day! It hit 20C! It was really warm riding and it was great!
Before leaving the city we stopped at a 99p store so Steve could fill his water bottles, then I walked across the road to a health food store for a look. I went to the counter to pay for my couple of things and, as I do, got chatting to the man who worked there. He commented on my Qantas debit card and asked if it was Australian. When I said it was, he asked how long I’d been in England and I told him and gave him a brief description of our trip. He asked where in Australia I was from and when I said Tasmania, he didn’t seem to recognise the place.
“It’s the little island state down the bottom,” I said.
“I have friends in New South Wales,” he said, “they’re in Sydney. I’m Lebanese so there are a lot of people there.”
“Yes,” I said, “there’s a big Lebanese community there.”
He said, “I was just saying to the missus last night that next time we have a holiday, we have to go to Sydney.”
“It’s a nice part of the world,” I said, “I hope you get there, but if you do, I’d recommend you keep going a bit further south and visit Tasmania. We have a bit of everything – beautiful pristine beaches, rain forests, mountains and wilderness…it’s a great place.”
He thought that all sounded quite excellent. I don’t know if I did much for Tasmanian tourism, but I think we need to market ourselves better. Sydney is always the draw card, but Tassie is just as good!
He gave me a warm farewell and said it was nice to meet me and wished me well on the trip. He was so nice and it was a lovely chat.
We set off from Exeter and rode through the city streets, through the town centre with the bustling early morning shoppers and then along cycle lanes, with the busy traffic beside us. It was a bit of a shock to the system after our tranquil country rides! We had to get used to urban cycling again! We are now heading north in the general direction of Bristol. Steve has relatives there who he hasn’t met, so we’re going to pop in and say hello. It will be quite a few days riding to reach there, but that’s the general direction we’ll be riding.
After we left the boundary of the city, we were once again on quiet country roads, along tree lined lanes and with farmland all around us. We had a few hills, but nothing too taxing and the views were wonderful. I had another “gasp moment” as we came up a hill. I caught a glimpse of the view through a gap in the hedge and couldn’t help but gasp, “Aah.” It was gorgeous! Luckily there was a farm gate at the top of the hill, so we could pull over and stand in the gap in the hedge and have a good look.
“It’s just magic!” I said to Steve, “just beautiful.” We were looking across fields and trees and down onto the cottages below. I said, “why do we find this so beautiful? It’s so similar to looking across a place like Gunns Planes, so why does it stop us in our tracks, yet we don’t do the same thing at home?”
“It is a lot like Tassie,” Steve said, “we have all of this at home.”
I thought about it and finally said, “I think the difference is we have it in places, but here it just seems so constant and these scenes are everywhere. We have a really mixed landscape so we see scenes like this in pockets, but not everywhere. I also think the stone cottages make it special, which we don’t have and somehow the weatherboard ones at home don’t have quite the same charm.”
“The stone cottages make the difference,” he agreed.
We stood and looked across the view and I just soaked it up, how breathtaking it was. We certainly have scenes as beautiful as this at home, but I guess we take them for granted. Right there though, I was marvelling at what was before me in the beautiful Devon countryside.
We stopped for elevenses in the grounds of Killerton House, on the edge of the village of Killerton. It was lovely to sit there in the sun, looking across the grass and up to the house. “This is how it should be,” said Steve, “this is what England is supposed to be like.” It certainly was nice to have the sunshine and see the surroundings under blue skies.
We continued cycling along the lanes and as we wheeled down a hill, a group of road cyclists passed us and gave us a hearty greeting. We had quite a few downhills today, really steep ones too. The up hills have been hard and the downhills have been scary! I just pump those disc brakes and hope the brake pads don’t wear out mid descent! We rode along a beautiful stretch of lane, with trees and forest either side and I called to Steve, “It’s just magic! MAGIC! Isn’t it beautiful!”
“I haven’t heard it today,” he commented.
“Oh,” I said, “and I love it!”
We hit another hill and as we were churning our way up it, I heard voices behind me.
“Look at that load. Oh look, he has some too. That’s the couple we saw earlier!” It was the same group of cyclists we had passed earlier in the day! They rode alongside us and one said, “That’s phenomenal! That’s just amazing carrying all that up there.” Then one after another passed us with “good effort” or a “well done.” More lovely, friendly people!
We continued on along hedge lined lanes and past farmyards, then the path became quite rutted and bumpy. I was just thinking to myself, how glad I was that we were riding along it now it had dried out, because it would have been hard going when it was mud. Then we rounded a corner and right there in front of us, across and up the road, was a huge lake of a mud puddle! Why do my inner thoughts jinx us so often! We stopped and Steve said, “Oh well, time to get muddy feet.” He went first and I watched to see how deep the water was, but Steve pedalled through it with perfect balance, straight as could be and out the other side. I knew this was no indication of how easy the mud puddle was to cross and was merely more evidence of the fact that Steve has much better balance than me, but that’s now well established! I stood and looked at the muddy expanse of water before me. I just stood and looked at it, sizing up my path through it. Well, nothing for it but to just take it on. Off I went. Oooh, some sliding and swerving in the soft mud at the edges…ooh, eeeh, some wobbling on the loose rocks hidden beneath the muddy water. Sloosh…splash…squelch… I could feel the bike slowing down…”GO,” I shouted at the top of my lungs, “Go little bike, GO…GOOOO!!!” I was willing it to think like a sturdy amphibious landing craft that would glide into the water and then emerge powerfully on the other side! “GO!!” I shouted again, “GOOOOO!!” as much to urge myself on to keep balanced and pedalling, as to encourage the little bike! Then with a final splash and squelch we made it to the other side! We were on firm ground again and without so much as a drop of mud on me! I was stoked! I’m sure the cows wondered what all the shouting was about!
We rode into the small town of Cullompton and stopped in a park for lunch while we researched possible campsites in the area. We found one that sounded nice, just another 9km away, so off we went. The route then took us back onto our favourite path…beside a canal! It was so pretty and we merrily pedalled along the tow path, saying hello to passers-by. “We’re back where we belong,” said Steve. We have certainly loved our rides along canal paths and this one was no exception, it was lovely, with the sun still shining and the trees and flowers beside the water’s edge. Perfect!
We arrived at our campsite, just north of Willand and south of Taunton, pitched the tent, had a cuppa and settled in, before taking a leisurely stroll along the canal path into the village of Sampford Peverell. It’s been another lovely day, just magic! Glorious views, friendly people, quiet lanes and…SUNSHINE! The pattern seems to be, one day of sunshine followed by rain, so we may have a wet ride tomorrow if the pattern continues. I’ll worry about the weather tomorrow though, for now I’ll just remember the magic!