Holfold (nr Bridgwater) – Ilfracombe
5810 feet climbed
2998 calories burnt
Total cumulative miles cycled = 2,659.65 miles
As I woke this morning, I tentatively tensed my quads to see whether there was any residual pain left from yesterday’s problems. I was pleasantly surprised and it was just a bit of tenderness in my neck on the right hand side.
It was nice staying in Moorhouse Campsite, as opposed to the usual lay-by, as we had full use of their facilities meaning we could shower and wash in something bigger than a postage stamp. The Motorhome is absolutely fantastic and definitely fit for purpose, but after yesterdays tiring day, it was nice to have a little luxury!
Over breakfast, Dad and I decided to cycle across to Lynmouth for lunch, around 30 miles. The weather with us, as with the rest of the country is not doing too well, the forecast for the afternoon was squally torrential rain, so we set off as early as we could. It also meant that I got to test my new Gore jacket out again!
This morning, instead of doing the usual cyclists trick of warming up in the saddle, I was conscious not to forget the stretches Tony had shown me, I hate to admit it, but it did help! We cycled out of the campsite and on to the A39. Dad had a slight panic as he couldn’t get his bearings and he thought I was heading in the wrong direction. This was the first time after 2,600 miles that he has doubted my navigational skills, so I guess I’m not doing too badly. There was a great deal of laying water on the road surface, but as the road was relatively quiet, passing cars didn’t spray us.
After passing through Kilve and West Quantoxhead (such an impressive sounding name, for such an unremarkable village!) we dipped off the A39 and went on some back roads towards Watchet. As we neared Watchet we could see out to Bridgwater Bay and through the mist over to South Wales, where we had cycled a couple of days before. We were quickly closing in on Exmoor National Park where the hills were waiting for us.
Dad and I had planned to have a pitstop in Minehead, unfortunately traffic works were happening so we had to proceed through and find a lay-by. We were stopped in our tracks because the heavens opened, so as not to get soaked we pulled over into a small lane to take cover. Whilst waiting for the rain to pass, we ate our bananas and tried to keep warm – although the heavy rain passed, we had to set off again in drizzling rain, very demoralising.
We stopped in Porlock to use their ‘facilities’, whilst waiting to use the conveniences a kind council worker stopped to chat to us. As we were approaching Porlock Hill, he asked which route we were taking – he agreed we were on the right course, so we set off safe in the knowledge that we’d at least picked the ‘easiest’ ascent. Dad and I dipped down to Porlock Weir, I was struggling because my brake cables have stretched and no matter how hard I pulled nothing seemed to happen. This meant that down some of the steep descents I had to get off and walk; as I was unable to squeeze much stopping power out of the brakes and my poor forearms were killing me from all of the pulling on the levers.
Once we’d reached the Toll, Dad thought we had taken a wrong turn, as the Toll House looked like a private property. We snuck through the gate and holed up for a while as it had begun to rain again. Little did we know what was ahead, the snaking toll road certainly took its toll on us, we struggled from sea-level up to god-knows how many feet. The rain soaked road and gravel on the steep ascent made it difficult to climb without our back wheels slipping, it was a tiring couple of miles.
When we got back on the A39 I thought that would be it for treacherous riding before lunch, how wrong I was! To me Lynmouth just sounded like a lovely sea-side town, little did I realise it was 700ft down in a gorge. We had an incredibly steep, treacherous descent into the town, again the brakes weren’t working so I had to get off and walk. They probably wouldn’t have been such an issue if it was a fine, sunny, clear day, but the rain and debris on the road did not make for safe cycling.
Over lunch, the rain got heavier and heavier, we took our time eating, we wanted to see whether the clouds would clear. Around 3:00pm there was a bit of a window, so Dad and I quickly got dressed into leggings and full waterproof kit. The weather was set to really close in around 5:00pm so we didn’t want to do too many miles so we decided to aim for Ilfracombe as our overnight stop.
We set off from the stunning Lynmouth harbour and got back on our course. Thankfully we’d had time to let our lunch settle as what was around the corner, a 25% hill would have definitely helped me to see my lunch again if we’d set off straight away.
Now I love climbing, but after yesterday’s problems with my quads and today’s weather, this hill completely caught me unawares. I normally grit my teeth and get on with it, but this was crazy, by the top – my lungs were screaming, I’ve not had to work that hard on a climb on this whole trip. It was like this over the whole afternoon, sharp harsh ascents and then dramatic descents, absolutely knackering. Saying that, we were treated to some of the most spectacular landscapes we’ve seen since Scotland, high craggy cliffs dropping dramatically off into the sea, just google some images from this area and you will get an idea.
The rain started again, and so too did the wind – we really had to dig in and churn through. When we got to Combe Martin we joined the A399, which meant we weren’t that far from our night’s stop so that helped mentally.
We finally arrived at the Motorhome, in a lay-by perched on a cliff, about a mile before Ilfracombe. Even if we’d have had better weather, I’m not sure we could have cycled many more miles because of the amount of climbing on the route. Harry and Mum had been shopping, so we had Harry’s special pork schnitzel, exactly what we needed after such a tough day. We also tasted some of the ‘Mad Cider’ that we had bought last night from Moorhouse campsite.
Finger’s crossed the weather improves for us tomorrow, we desperately need some high pressure!
Please remember that Kirsty Medlock and her Dad, Stephen are cycling the 4,400 miles round the coast of Britain to raise £10,000 for Clifton’s Children Society (CCS) Adoption, the agency that facilitated an adoption for family friends. Please follow this link to donate as much as you can http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/cycling4adoption
Many, many thanks in advance!