Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Glastonbury to Exford - Day Two - Bristol to Cornwall round trip

Glastonbury Tor

The Somerset Levels 
We were up and out early the next morning, not wanting to tarry in Glastonbury any longer than we had to, grabbing some bread and fillings to take with us. 
As we headed onto the Somerset Levels and Moors the sun was shining and we began enjoying ourselves. The Levels (as we locals call them) are great for cycling on, practically traffic free and completely flat. they are also one of the largest areas of wetland in the country. We cycled through the nature reserve of Shapwick Heath which was glorious.  It wasn't the most direct route to Bridgewater but it was lovely. Naturally I was navigating.

"That's odd," said Mick suddenly.
"What?" I asked.
Shapwick nature reserve
"There's Cheddar over there, in line with us."
Damn. I had not let Mick see the map, and was hoping that he would not realise that we were now travelling exactly parallel with the road we had travelled along the day before from Axbridge to Glastonbury.
"Thing is, it's important to take the scenic route," I said. "And at least its flat!"
He gave me a hard stare. As long as the scenic route isn't too far out of our way," he said sternly.
The course of the River Parrett as it flows to its mouth at Burnham-on-Sea means that it is necessary to travel into the centre of Bridgewater to cross the river.  After crossing the town we headed back out towards the coastline of Bridgewater Bay rather than stay on the busy A39. At Combwich we decided we would like a rest and so we decided to swing into the village and see if the pub was open. It wasn't, not sure why. We were either too early, too late or on the wrong day. Still, the village was very pleasant, situated on the edge of the estuary. This had once been the site of an ancient river crossing, and is mentioned in Domesday Book as Comich or "the settlement by the water." In lieu of a pint of beer we had a Magnum ice-cream each from the village shop before heading off once more.

A few miles on we reached another delighful village, Stogursey. It was, we decided, time for a cup of tea. No wonder we were always so slow getting anywhere! Another local shop came to the rescue with one of those lttle drinks machines, and so we supped a cup of tea on the bench outside.

"Better make the most of it," said Mick gloomily as a supermarket delivery van trundled up the street. "No doubt the supermarkets will finish it off soon."

We had a quick mooch around the village and had a look at St Andrews Well, actually two springs which allegedly never failed to provide the village with fresh water. just down the road is Stogursey Castle, built by William de Curci in the twelfth century. The castle is in ruins but the gatehouse has been restored by the Landmark Trust as a holiday home. I could think if worse places to spend a week.
Cleeve Abbey, Watchet

Time, as always, was against us and so we decided to rejoin the A39 and press on. Our goal was Exford Youth Hostel in the middle of Exmoor. It was not long however before the traffic got too much for us and at Washford we turned off the main road. We had no idea, until we found it, that just around the corner is the impressive Cistercian monastary of Cleeve Abbey, which according to English Heritage is one of the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastic sites in Britain. Once again, only five hundred yards away from the racing cars on the main road, it was like another world. A slower, more timeless world. For the thousandth time I reflected how much nicer it was travelling around by bicycle.

For some reason Mick thought this
street near Watchet was amusing
And so, to a different tempo, we headed up onto Exmoor along the quiet road that ran alongside the Washford River to Luxborough. It was here that we found The Royal Oak Inn. From the outside it looked fabulous, an old country inn. Mindful of past disappointments (including just about every rural pub in Berkshire) we entered with trepidation, fearful that the interior may have converted into a ghastly bistro or wine bar. Our fears were unfounded however - hurrah!!! A lovely unspoilt bar which looked like it had not been mucked about with for centuries awaited us. We noted with approval that the prices were clearly displayed on boards above the bar and that we were served a full measure of Exmoor Gold, not a 90% full "pint" as so often happens. Lovely!

It was only a shame that we could only stop for one pint. but it was now getting dark and we still had a few miles to go on hilly Exmoor terrain so we decided to press on to Exford YHA. Still, we managed to squeeze in a couple more pints at the local pub in Exford before turning in.
We had a private room with bunk beds and a single. Mick elected to have the single bed whilst I decided to go for the top bunk. Unfortunately in the night I decided I needed the loo and hauled myself over the rail, somehow forgetting that I was sleeping in a bunk bed. The beer may have been a factor...

"What the fuck are you doing?" said Mick blearily, as I noisily crashed six feet to the floor below.
"Forgot I was on the top bunk," I whimpered, as I limped off to the toilet.

Miles cycled today: 59
Total Miles: 92

You can check our route here

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