Exploring Eccentric Exmore

As I stood waiting for my train at London Paddington Station, I had a light bulb moment. Instead of taking the bus for an hour from Barnstaple Station to my hostel, why not cycle?

I quickly googled bike rentals in Barnstable and phoned the first one. A gentleman picked up and told me he had bikes available for the weekend. However, he might shut early due to heavy rain.

‘Oh dear,’ I replied. It looked like I would be taking the bus after all. Never mind, that was the original plan.

‘Pop by anyway to check,’ he chipped.

I am going to spend the week with the Back Up trust volunteering on one of their residential courses for people with spinal cord injuries at the Calvert Trust in Exmore.I had decided to utilise the weekend before-hand exploring the area.

I had decided to utilise the weekend before-hand exploring the area.

My train from London pulled in at Exeter 2 hours later. I changed to another train that took me to Barnstable. The journey was lovely. Green fields lined the way. The sky did look somewhat grey and at times rain trickled down the train windows. I was so relaxed that I fell asleep and before I knew it I had arrived.

Walking out of the station the weather looked amicable. Tarka bike hire was open – result. Before the weather could change its mind I ventured in the shop.

Ten minutes later I left on a bike. The gentleman in the shop was very friendly, advising me on the route to take. He even chose me a bike with a rack and tied my bag to it with a bungi.

I began my cycle on the national Tarka Trail route.This took me to Braunton, the cycle path was fairly flat. It followed the river Taw. On the banks was a white sandy beach. Very scenic. I didn’t pass many people. Despite being sunny it was rather windy out. In the picture below you can see the trees being dragged towards the river on the left.

This took me to Braunton, the cycle path was fairly flat. It followed the river Taw. On the banks was a white sandy beach. Very scenic. I didn’t pass many people. Despite being sunny it was rather windy out. In the picture below you can see the trees being dragged towards the river on the left.

From Braunton Town it was necessary to journey to Ilfracombe by road on the 27 cycle network.

The views were magnificent. So were the hills! At a couple of points I had to get off and walk the bike up some extremely steep inclines.

In the far distance I could see wind turbines spinning.

The 27 route then took me off the roads and back onto a non-vehicle cycle path. This went along an old railway line built in 1874. It closed in 1970 due to being a less popular tourist journey. Today it serves as a biking or hiking adventure.

I passed through stone arches and even a dark tunnel with a brilliant echo.

I stopped by a reservoir for a banana break. It was so peaceful. A couple of dogs splashed around enjoying themselves.

I then jumped back on the bike and reached the outskirts of Ilfracombe where my hostel was situated.

At one point the 27 route went through a church graveyard. Luckily I wanted to check out the graves, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen the route sign inside.

On the whole the signposting was great. I only looked at my map in Braunton when the Tarka trail ended and I needed to get on route 27.

Very close to my hostel musicians were signing at a bandstand, while people were dancing. They were dressed up in gothic clothes. I later learned this was for Victorian week.

I arrived at Ocean Backpackers hostel where the host was delightful. She helped me with my bike and told me about the area. She showed me to my dorm room (which turns out I have all to myself) and then invited me to the pub garden next door.

I had a quick shower before joining her and her friends. It was a delightful evening. We shared travel and life experiences.

Before the sun set, I had time to wander around the harbour.

Ilfracombe is a quaint seaside village with a handful of pubs, chippies and gift shops. Overlooking the ocean is a 20m lady, weighing 25 tones, named Verity. She is one of Damien Hurst’s creations symbolising truth and justice. Half of her body is a skeleton with her fetus carved into her stomach. The other half of her has skin. Her arm is outstretched holding a sword reaching into the sky. She is stood on legal books. Standing out in the landscape she is an impressive piece of art.

Overlooking the ocean is a 20m lady, weighing 25 tones, named Verity. She is one of Damien Hurst’s creations symbolising truth and justice. Half of her body is a skeleton with her fetus carved into her stomach. The other half of her has skin. Her arm is outstretched holding a sword reaching into the sky. She is stood on legal books. Standing out in the landscape she is an impressive piece of art.

I strolled back to the hostel ready to chill and have an early night.

I was so lucky with the bike, weather, hostel and friendly folk.

Having cycled a good hilly 17 miles I was ready for some well earned sleep.

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