Day 4: Okehampton to Taunton

Distance: 53.44 miles
Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Average speed: 10.3 m.p.h.
Distance from Lands End: 178.13 miles
Distance to John o’Groats: 841.87 miles
Number of county boundaries crossed: 1
Unsolicited donations from the lovely people of Bradninch: £15

We had a chaotic, but very good curry last night in Okehampton, having decided that the White Hart was just too noisy – for some reason it was full of blokes celebrating and/or mourning Leeds losing their football play-off final against Doncaster. They were obviously locals, judging by their accents, so quite why they would care so much either way was a bit of a mystery. So a curry it was, chaotic because they were busy and understaffed, but very good all the same, especially the butter chicken.

We didn’t wake until the alarm at 8 again this morning, and after a quick breakfast and a little on-going tandem TLC we set out into the drizzle. There was a very strong headwind (grrrr), and an early leg-stretching hill to contend with, but the rain was not as bad as we’d feared, and we were soon into little green lanes. It seems to be a feature of the lanes around here that they are bordered by really high green hedges, at least 8 feet high, which gives you the feeling of cycling through a maze. It can really help to shelter you from the wind, though, which is good.

We’d heard and read many warnings about the hills around Crediton, and so we decided to gird our loins with a cup of coffee there before heading out. It also gave us a chance to dry out after the sudden two-minute torrential downpour which arrived as we coasted down into the village.

The hills didn’t really live up to their fearsome reputations, and we enjoyed cycling through the green lanes, popping out every so often into little villages with thatched houses. We arrived in Bradninch at around 1:30, and the White Lion was still serving food, so we parked up and went in. What an amazing place. It was quite small, and there were six or seven locals in, chatting with the landlord. In some pubs like that you could expect to be treated very much as an outsider, but everyone was so friendly and interested in how we came to be passing through their village, and completely without any prompting we were given donations and helpful advice for the next part of our route. Really lovely people.

After Bradninch it was up a more fearsome hill, although still not as bad as we’d expected, through Cullompton and a good flat section, then over the M5 for the first time, and back into little lanes until we recrossed the M5, and rode into Somerset. It was raining quite hard now, and we decided to cut our losses and take the A38 into Taunton for speed, and since all the traffic would be on the M5. It was a good call – we sped into Taunton at a good clip, earlier than expected, and started looking for somewhere to stay.

Taunton – what an odd place. Maybe we didn’t find the centre, it was difficult, as the place seems to be constructed almost entirely of roundabouts. Eventually we stopped to ask in a petrol station, where it seemed as if we were the first people ever to try to stay in Taunton! Very helpful people though, and we are now settled into a Premier Travel Inn – probably the first time they’ve stored a tandem in the laundry room…

So we survived Devon and Cornwall, and we are pretty much on the Somerset Levels now. Mmm – level – what a lovely word that is! We’re heading for Bath tomorrow, with just the small matter of the Mendips between here and there.