August 20th - 31st, South West England

August 20th

Distance: 25km Total: 559km
From: Yate, Bristol To: Campsite near Bath

Had a very productive week in Yate with Ju's parents. Ju alternately rested and did physio and I did a load of work for my old employer that needed doing and earned me some useful money. I also got out for a bike ride most days with John, doing a 160km over the week which doesn't feature in the mileage tally because we didn't do it as part of the ride, or together. The knee certainly seemed to have improved although it still isn't exactly cured. Anyhow we pedaled down the cycle path from Yate to Bath today without mishap or making the knee sore so that's a good start.

August 21st

Distance: 25km Total: 585km
From: Bath To: East Harptree

Got chatting with two German cycle tourists on their honeymoon this morning. They had a pair of amazing recumbent trikes that could be used individually or connected into a tandem. All the luggage went in a bob trailer on the back making a three section vehicle.

(If you fancy one see

Biked to our favourite picnic spot on the edge of the Mendips but camped a little way down the track rather than spend another night with the youth in the car park (see 8th August). We are camped in a slightly bizarre spot by an old chimnney and adjacent to and slightly below a marshy lake with lots of dragonflies.

August 22nd

Distance: 29km Total: 614km
From: East Harptree To: Mark, near Burnham on Sea

Lovely down hill day today, came across the top of the Mendips and then down Cheddar Gorge. We had expected a lot of traffic but there wasn't too much and it was more a case of us overtaking it than it thundering past us. Cheddar itself was thronging, I could not believe that so many people visit Cheddar but don't bother to drive or walk up through what I would consider to be the main attraction! This sign was a red rag to a bull:

Camped at a pleasant and reasonably priced (three quid each) campsite near a village called Mark. I spent the afternoon hiding in the shade while the solar panel did sterling work soaking up the sun's energy.

August 23rd

Distance: 28km Total: 642km
From: Mark To: North Petherton

Spent a fair proportion of today in St Johns St Cycles in Bridgewater. They sorted Ju out with a set of 165mm Deore XT cranks, slightly longer than her previous ones but with a 22 tooth smallest chainwheel. The result is about 12% more leverage in bottom gear which may help the knee. We are now carrying the old set too in case the extra crank length plays havoc with her other knee which has had an anterior-cruciate reconstruction. They talked me out of getting a spare back axle, but almost persuaded me to add a bottom bracket to my spares kit.

Two other sets of cycle tourists on the campsite tonight, one is Trevor from Bradford who cycled from Argentina to Alaska last year. We've been picking up tips on living on a £63 a week. The others are a French/English couple touring the south west. They are Roland and Liz, pictured below leaving the campsite in the morning.

August 24th

Distance: 25km Total: 667km
From: North Petherton To: Curland, near Taunton

Yet another fine sunny day today. Why my skin hasn't turned pink and fallen off like it usually does I don't know because I haven't used more than a smear of sun cream and we've been out in it all day. Had a particularly heavy load on because we had food for three days, Monday being a Bank Holiday, plus enough water for a wild camp tonight. Pedaled along the Bridgwater - Taunton canal for a few miles and stopped on a shady seat to play a few tunes. Bizarrely enough I noticed a bicycle front light in the canal near the bank and couldn't resist stripping to the waist to reach in for it. It didn't work of course (probably just needs new batteries) and we have no use for it so I left on the seat for someone else. At least it is two less batteries dissolving into the canal.

August 25th

Distance: 42km Total: 709km
From: Curland, near Taunton To: Langford near Exeter

Someone must have read my descriptions of the weather because today has been cloudy and much cooler than the last few days. We pedaled down the Culm valley to Cullomptom and thence to this pleasant patch of woodland. We found this place because there was a deer standing behind the gate as we cycled past and we both stopped and went back to get a second look. Of course the deer had gone but we then spotted the suitability for camping. In the morning we saw this buzzard quite close:

Today was by far the longest day since leaving Bristol for the second time, and the knee was slightly sore when we got here. However if we keep the pace down for a few days yet I expect it will by OK.

August 26th

Distance: 30km Total: 739km
From: Langford near Exeter To: Doddiscombsleigh

We're not really that near to Doddiscombsleigh but it is only a couple of kilometres away and it is such a lovely name that I wanted to use it. Crossed Exeter today by the special Juliette techniques of heading part way into the centre and then randomly heading southwards. This involved one short but back-breaking flight of stairs but did provide a pleasant lunch stop in a park and a bonus Lidl visit where we both bought too much because it was so cheap.

Some kids of about ten years old stopped to talk to us in the park. Juliette told them we didn't live anywhere, just wherever we stopped for the night. They asked some quite surprisingly astute questions:

"Where do you get food from?" - "We buy it in a shop"

"But your money can't last for every" - "Then we'll have to get jobs again"

"Where do you get water?" - "Garages, camp sites, shops"

"Do you wash your clothes in a laundrette?" - "No, we do it by hand"

August 27th

Distance: 22km Total: 761km
From: Doddiscombsleigh To: Dornafield

They sure know how to make hills in Devon. We have been up and down all day. The first downhill was brilliant, a long gently turning descent which hardly required braking. I clocked 69.7km/h! Other hills have not been as exciting and are taking their toll on our legs and not having the best effect on Ju's knee. W stopped in Chudleigh for food and other odds and ends and then found a lovely little path that took us to Newton Abbot without touching a road. Half way down this path was an irresistable grassy patch were we had lunch and then festered for a couple of hours. In the end we had to press on because it was just too hot to stay there, although we were tempted to camp right there.

In Newton Abbot we posted Ju's old chainset and bottom bracket home, having decided that the 165mm cranks do give more "welly", plus the 22 tooth smallest chainring of the Deore XT gear is a real bonus. We also enquired about campsites and were directed to here, complete with instructions for avoiding the main road.

When we arrived here our first thought was "Goodness, this looks expensive". We rolled up to reception and found we were correct, they wanted twelve quid even after giving us honorary membership of the Camping and Caravaning Club seeing as we'd cycled here. We said we were trying to cycle to Australia on a tight budget and couldn't afford and would have to go on (what we meant was we would have to fill our water bags here and then camp wild), so they relented and brought the price down to ten pounds. Still the most we've paid so far but it is nice site, the showers are free and there is hot water to wash your clothes. See !

August 28th

Distance: 19km Total: 780km
From: Dornafield To: Ashsprington

The hilly roads continue to take their toll! We thought we had struck lucky when we saw a signpost for a cycle path from Totnes to Ashsprington, imagining a disused railway or some such. Instead we got a steep rocky path through a wood that saw us pushing our bikes. We did however find this patch of flat ground half way up one of the many hills and it has made a good place to camp.

August 29th

Distance: 22km Total: 802km
From: Ashsprington To: Stoke Fleming

Spent some time in Dartmouth on the way. There was a regatta on with rowing races and a tall ship in the harbour.

In the evening we walked around the coast back to Dartmouth and saw a firework display and watched people being strapped into a Bungee Club 'Ejector Seat' ride. It shot them about 40m up into the air with two massive bungees - terrifying just to watch!

August 30th

Distance: 5km Total: 807km
From: Stoke Fleming To: Slapton sands

We decided to have a rest day today and stay in the campsite at Stoke Fleming, but they told us somewhat brusquely that the campsite was full for tonight so we packed up and pedalled south along the coast. One hill and a pause at Blackpool Sands later and we were here at Slapton Sands, a great long beach with plenty of room down one end for a tent. So much room in fact that it is nudist beach and the far end is for gay nudists. But it is raining and dark now so there is no danger of us having to take our clothes off!

Here is Ju trying to dry out her sleeping bag liner after washing it:

August 31st

Distance: 19km Total: 826km
From: Slapton Sands To: Moreleigh

This morning dawned bright and clear. We got up shortly after dawn and I dragged Juliette out of the tent and down to the sea for a swim. Over breakfast the nudists began to arrive so we decamped by a few hundred yards to the non-nudist area. We then lounged in the sun, washing and drying clothes and reading our books until after lunch. Finally there was no more reasons to delay and we had to face the hill up from Slapton.

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