See the pictures
Since this was to be a two day journey with an overnight stay, the start more leisurely than normal. I caught the 1012 Cross Country train from Birmingham New Street, arriving at Taunton on time at 1215. I dashed from the train, clutching my folded bike and just managed to catch the 1217 bus to Minehead. There ensued a white knuckle mystery bus ride through the Somerset Lanes that eventually deposited me in Minehead at 1332. I spent a few pleasant minutes observing the Higher Town, the activity on the beach and the happenings at the Minehead terminus of the West Somerset Railway. The Lynton bus arrived at 1404 and soon I was on my way over Porlock Hill to the Somerset / Devon border at County Gate (1404). It was here two years earlier, on a wet and gloomy afternoon, that I abandoned my walk from Minehead, having judged it unwise to continue to Lynton under the prevailing conditions.
By contrast, this time the weather was warm and sunny with little in the way of wind. I could have taken the route through Countisbury, then down the hill into Lynton in all of half and hour. Instead, I opted for the scenic route and turned away from the A39 at the first opportunity, dropping past gushing streams in wooded valleys to the picturesque village of Brendon (1530 - 3 Miles) with its whitewashed stone houses and lovely village pub. There followed a steep climb of about a mile via Rockford to Brendon Church which literally towers over the road. A little later, I rejoined the A39 for the downhill descent through the lovely wooded valley of the East Lyn River into Lynmouth, passing the Idyllic setting of Watersmeet House (1630 - 6 Miles).
Lynmouth (1700 - 8 Miles) was busy and I made my way past the ice cream parlours and souvenir shops to the seafront where I consumed my customary fish and chips. By the time I had finished eating it was becoming overcast, so I took the cliff railway up to Lynton after negotiating a special fare for my folded bike. Since the weather was now even more threatening, I headed straight for Longmead House B&B where I was to spend the night. After a welcome cup of tea, I had time for a wander round the town before turning in for the night.
A restful night and a splendid full english breakfast fortified me for the day ahead. The weather forecast was bad, so I deemed it advisable to be well nourished before setting out. I also made an early start and the sun was unexpectedly shining when I left at 0830 and rode along the Valley of the Rocks Road. The rock formations were as impressive as I remember them since we holidayed in the area as a family quite a few years ago. On those holidays, we did walk the coast path as far as Hunters Inn and Trentishoe. Somehow the Lady of the Rocks proved elusive, or I didn't find the right place for a photograph.
The weather couldn't last and, by Lee Abbey, I was on the receiving end of a few drops of rain. Barely had I time to stop and put my waterproofs on and the heavens opened, raining for most of the remainder of the ride except for one or two bright spots. I pushed on and reached a wet Lee Bay at 0850 (2 Miles).
The journey to Hunters Inn (0930 - 6 miles) was hard work and I had little opportunity to enjoy the lovely countryside. Outside the Inn, a group of walkers were debating whether or not to set off or not. I stayed out of the conversation! Onward then and upward on the steep climb (walk) to Trentishoe. At that point, the rain stopped and the sun came out briefly and people came out of their houses. They soon went back inside again as the rain continued for a time with even greater severity.
A little more effort and I was soon hurtling down the hill into Combe Martin (1050 - 12 miles). A gentle ride through the village and a few moments observing life on the beach and I was boarding the bus to Ilfracombe. As we were approaching the bus station, the driver called out for any passengers to Barnstaple to get off the bus onto the road and catch another one that was pulling out of the bus station. I therefore had to hastily grab the bike and rush across the road to board the Barnstaple bus. The reason for this manoeuvre became clear as we journeyed towards Barnstaple. It was to prevent passengers travelling with a competitive operator as we played cat and mouse with another bus all the way to Barnstaple.
It was raining in Barnstaple when I arrived and the bus dropped me conveniently outside the Wetherspoon pub where I had something to eat. It was raining when I left the pub so, instead of waiting for the train, I opted to take a bus to Exeter. This proved to be yet another white knuckle ride as the driver enjoyed the thrill of throwing his bus (and the passengers inside) around the Devon lanes. I arrived at St David's Station in one piece and waited for the 1825 Cross Country service. The rail journey was smooth in comparison and I arrived home at 2130.
See the pictures