“Them Thar Hills” Day 12: Bridgwater to Okehampton

Last night was spent at the Tom Mogg Inn at Burtle about 10 miles from Bridgwater. Firmly in the budget category, photos of the pub on the bar wall from previous years hark back to a better time. Nevertheless, the landlord was friendly and the room was fine for an overnight stop. We went back to Bridgwater for an evening meal, stock up on essential supplies at Morrisons, and refuel the van. We stopped to take some photos at the Edington Holy Well on the way back to the pub, more out of curiosity than anything else, and rode the roller coaster lanes to the inn. It’s caused by all the peat subsiding in case you were wondering.

Breakfast was served promptly at 7am the next morning and before we left, Jer had some maintenance to do on the bike. This involved replacing the brake blocks on the rear wheel before setting off today. They’d been fine all the way down to Somerset but with expected hilly terrain, Jer thought it would be a wise move to change them. A few rides round the pub car park and several adjustments later, we were off back to Bridgwater and the start point. We were running a little behind and it wasn’t helped by rush hour traffic and temporary traffic lights in the town. Still, Jer managed to get going around 8:40am – our target today was Okehampton in Devon, some 60 miles away.

The weather was glorious for the start – clear blue skies and warm sunshine. The forecast, though, was for showers too and as Jer left, a band of cloud loomed on the horizon and it wasn’t long before it had overtaken us.

The first part if our route would take us on the A38 through Taunton, around Wellington, and on to Tiverton. Skirting round the town on the B3391, we would follow the A396 towards Exeter before sliding onto the A3072 towards Crediton and down to Okehampton.

Our first stop was at 19 miles just short of Beambridge. Jer made it in 1 hour 45 minutes, a creditable average of 11 miles an hour. The road was moderately flat and presented no problems. After a cup of tomato soup and a cereal bar, Jer was off once more. We calculated that our next stop at 40 miles would be over rhe border into Devon, between Tiverton and Crediton.

I set off just after Jer for the next stop. The road to Tiverton seemed to me to be much the same as the stretch we had just left behind although from here it was a very different scene. Almost immediately out of town  the terrain and the landscape began to change. As beautiful as the Somerset countryside is, this part of Devon was serene, a leafy avenue out of Tiverton opened up to reveal wooded slopes on either side, in some ways reminiscent of the loch countryside in Scotland. The roads twist and turn and rise and fall to match. The road splits at the bottom of a valley at a wonderfully picturesque junction near The Trout Inn and Fisherman’s Cot, both public houses. From here, it rises sharply and keeps going, bending it’s way up to a summit with glorious panoramic views across farmland for miles. Despite being overcast, it was bright, and views could be had to the distant horizon. As pretty as this was, I knew Jer would have to push exceptionally hard up these hills and with over 20 more miles to go, I feared that if this terrain continued, it would draw a lot of energy out of him, energy that he was running out…fast.

Jer averaged a little less than 11 miles an hour in reaching me at the lunch stop and sure enough, climbing the hills had taken it’s toll. We always knew that Devon and Cornwall would be difficult and it was living up to all the stories we’d heard. Jer cycle legs had not let him down yet though and he was fairly stoical about the rigours ahead. We kept talking about the how little there was left of the challenge to do and that seemed to lift his spirits. After today he would have less than 100 miles to go to the finish. Split over 2 days, it would mean that today would be the last 60+ mile day.

There was still a little matter of getting through today first, and not knowing if there were lots more hills to come, Jer wanted me to stop every 5 miles for the rest of this leg in case he needed more frequent breaks.

Jer did decide to stop at the next 5 mile point which was just beyond Copplestone, but only briefly for a banana. The road from there to the next stop at Stone Cross was gentler but still rolling. He stopped just to refill his water bottle and with only 8 more miles to go, we would make a final stop after another 4. The weather was still holding – no rain but a fairly strong wind had picked up and it was against him. Jer only paused at the final 4 mile point to take a quick drink and never got off his bike. He made it to Okehampton just before 4:30pm having completed 61.5 miles in a little less than 6 hours of tough cycling.

If there was any thought that the final push to Lands End was going be a gentle ride it was cruelly dispelled today…

2 Responses to ““Them Thar Hills” Day 12: Bridgwater to Okehampton”

  1. Wellden family says:

    Imagine the pom poms shaking cheerleader style :

    “Yay Jer, Yay Jer, Yay yay yay,
    you’ve been cycling everyday,
    only 100 miles left to go,
    fingers crossed that it wont snow.
    Battling hills though wind and rain,
    you’ll soon be home to ease the pain.
    Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy Jer!
    Courtesy of Pip (with some help from mum)

  2. Geoff and Jackie and crew says:

    Hi Jer – we’ve been following you across cyberspace and so impressed! Way to go! I reckon down the middle is best! You are a real ambassador for Never Give Up and never giving up. Hope you have some bananas left for tomorow. The five of us will be rooting for you. G,J,D,R&E xx

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