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The West Country

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team orson recently had the opportunity to escape the blistering summer heat in Saudi for some cooler climes in the British Isles. Arrangements were made to meet with ST.N member and fellow Guzzisti, Martin Barret. Martin is entered into the Round Britain Rally which is sort of like a photographic scavenger hunt with landmarks all over Great Britain. So, I would tag along while Martin nabbed a few of the landmarks.

As I left Nottingham, weather was “unsettled” as the English tend to describe weather that can change from sunshine to downpours to sunshine and downpours to sunshine, all within one hour. A late start and a wrong turn meant I was “only” an hour and a half late when I met up with Martin at a rest stop just south of Birmingham. We made our way west towards the Welsh frontier. A missed turn led us into the maw of a torrential downpour for about 15 minutes. Not knowing any better, I thought this was “typical” English biking weather and dutifully followed behind Martin. Shortly after, we were back on the correct path to our first landmark.

We must have paid some sort of penance for afterwards, the skies cleared up and we enjoyed glorious sunshine for the remainder of the day. One small set back occurred when my gloves mysteriously went missing at a gas stop. Fortunately, I had some back up winter gloves to use. Our last landmark for the day was the Blaenavon Iron Works in southeast Wales. This was the spot that marked the birth of the Industrial Revolution. It was here that new smelting procedures were used that led to the widespread use of iron for industrial uses. This would lead to trains, ships, skyscrapers and yes, motorcycles such as Triumph and Nortons.

The remains of the Blaenavon Iron Works

By then, it was getting late in the day. We made our way to Brecon, the gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park. We sat down for a dinner of fish & chips before Martin began his ride home & I sought out a bed & breakfast.

As I watched the weather forecast the next morning, I saw the weather down south would be much sunnier so, I made the spur of the moment decision to head southwest…to the West Country. This is the term the English use to refer to the finger of land that juts out into the Atlantic culminating at Land’s End.

In the county of Somerset, I passed through the Cheddar Gorge, the largest gorge in the United Kingdom.

While riding with Martin the previous day, the Triumph felt flustered and out of breath as it tried to keep up with Martin’s mighty, mighty Goose. However, riding without the pressure to keep up, the Triumph felt transformed and in its element. trundling along the narrow English backroads at around 70 mph, the Triumph was a joy to ride and that sumptuous soundtrack only added to the enjoyment. After the previous day’s showers, this day was turning into a glorious display of English sunshine.

Somewhere on the backroads of Somerset…

Continuing in a southwesterly direction, I entered the Exmoor National Park which straddles both Somerset & Devon along the Bristol Channel.

rolling terrain near the entrance to the Exmoor…

Turning north, I headed towards the coast and the picturesque village of Lynton, where the Exmoor meets the sea. Lynton is a quaint if not a bit touristy and a nice place to stop for an ice cream made from fresh Devon cream.

The Devon coastline near Lynton

Continuing west along Barnstaple Bay, I ended the day in Horns Cross where I found the delightful Hoops Inn. Built during the 13th century as a traveller’s inn.

Of course I had to partake in the local liquid mead. The Golden Pig ale is guaranteed to pound yer head in the dirt and make out with yer little sister before the night is through.

Followed by a dinner of pan fried duck in a raspberry reduction with some fancy, schmancy potatos and local veggies

The following morning I set out to explore the nearby fishing village of Clovelly, famous for its steep, cobbled streets and picturesque harbor.

The village is closed off to vehicle traffic. The view of the harbor…the white building at the far left is the village hotel.

The view from the weir looking back at the village…

From the coast, I began to make my way south through the rolling countryside of Devon. Again, the Triumph was in its element. Long queus of vehicles stacked up behind slow moving farm machinery were dispatched with ease.

By mid-afternooon, darkening skies were beginning to make their presence felt. I was sprinkled on a few times but continued to enjoy mostly sunshine.

Dodging rain showers in the distance…

I passed through the Dartmoor National Park on my way south…

The arch spanning the middle of main street in Totnes. Saddly, the original Elizabethan arch was destroyed by fire in 1990.

Time was beginning to expire on my journey so I turned and headed north through the pastoral Devon countryside. Again, the Triumph…in its element…narrow country lanes and thatched roof farm houses.

thundershowers threatening the quiltwork Devon countryside…

The beautiful village of Bickleigh. I swear, sometimes I think the English hire Disney Imagineers to make achingly picturesque villages for us tourists.

Leaving Bickleigh…the town church steeple in the distance…

By now it was almost 4 P.M. and the showers continued to try to pen me in. Showers to the east blocked my path so, my only alternative was to head north on the M5 Motorway. I proceeded north, with blue skies ahead yet, the dark, ominous clouds in my rear view mirrors following me all the way. Not wanting to end the trip one day early, I opted to take a hotel room just south of Birmingham in hopes that the weather forecast for the next day was wrong. I was hoping against hope that I might enjoy one last day of riding. Alas, I woke the next day to rains pelting down.

Time to pay the piper for all my frivolity. I suited up and headed back onto the motorway accompanied by steady showers along with the spray thrown up by the lorries. By the time I made it back to Nottingham, the rains had eased up. Down south though, the rains were wreaking havoc. I just made it into Birmingham on the last train before all the trains were cancelled due to the weather…a narrow escape.

Summary:

Total mileage: 950 miles in 3 days.
Puckers: 0
Police interaction: 0
Bee stings: 0
Drenchings: 1

Route map:

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