Day 5 : Compton Dundon to Exeter

97.5km in 6hrs 29 mins in the saddle giving a rolling average of 15.0. Departed 09:15 and arrived back at the car 17:20 so 8hrs total. Weather basically grey and dry with occasional very light drizzle but never enough to even feel on the face.

Should have been a fairly straightforward long day but turned out the the section from Cullompton to Exeter had brutal never ending hills which knocked the average speed right back.

After a very enjoyable evening yesterday with excellent food (thanks Francoise) and finishing the flagon with David was a bit late to bed (comfortable) so didn’t get as early a start as hoped for. On the road by 09:15 after a light breakfast.

An interesting dispute between Ms.Osm and Mr.Google about the best route onwards. Herself insisted that I needed to take a long detour via Somerton as there was no direct way across the levels, but Mr.G said there was a perfectly good drove road heading the right way.

Since Ms.Osm has often put me on nasty off-road paths (despite being told not to) and Mr.G generally hadn’t I decide to go with him. Ok down a lane which led to a muddy farm yard with the drove road going out of the other corner. As I was considering two mud bespattered lads on thick tyres appeared and said the path was open but a bit muddy in parts. I decided to go for it and discovered they were not wrong. Loads of big puddles of varying depths and quality of bottom with muddy bits between. Slow and slip-slidey but managed to keep going and emerged onto the tarmac section with the drive and braking system a bit caked. Found a couple of cleaner puddles to ride through to clean them off a bit and pressed on to Langport. It was worth it in terms of time for sure and also avoided going up the hill into Somerton so probably the right choice.

In Langport stopped in a cafe for a second breakfast – sausages on toast with a pot of good tea. Fairly good ride on across the levels to pick up the Bridgewater canal into Taunton (Ms.Osm didn’t like that and for some reason wanted me to avoid the perfectly good and level and designated cycle route).

Paused briefly in Taunton to have a sit down and a bar before proceeding. Taunton seems much as it was when we briefly lived there with more houses grown along the canal on the way in. Lots of people around and the Theatre appears to have reopened having closed with no refunds a couple of years ago three days before a gig we had tickets for. I contemplated going and banging the desk but in the event moved on having no proof to hand that we ever had tickets.

The stretch from Taunton to Cullompton both Jane and I have done before in both directions and I remember there are some tough hills, but since I was expecting them they were ok. Paused on the bench outside the village hall in Nynehead to have an orange hoping it was the highest point. There were more ups to come though. The last few miles into Tiverton are on a canal towpath again with a good surface.

The farm shop on the approach lane to Tiverton Parkway provided a welcome cup of tea and a sausage roll (no photos again today) and also a bottle of local apple juice to have as a reward when I reached the end.

Tiverton to Cullompton is fairly straightforward but going out of Cullompton to Bradnich is a tough climb that seems never ending as more appears at ever slight bend. This set the pattern for the rest of the way.

I had naively thought that the route into Exeter along the Culm valley and Exe floodplain would be basically flat – no such luck. There seems no road from the North into Exeter which follows the river apart from the busy main road. The river is in a steep sided valley on the East side (you can see the wooded cliff face from the train which does follow the river) and the lane goes up and down and up and down through the hills that fringe the North side of Exeter.

That last 15k was awful. And when the “Welcome to Exeter: sign finally appeared that didn’t mean it was over – several more leg-burners before the final descent down through the university to St.David’s and over the river to Exwick where I arrived at the car just as the rain started again.

I made it though – all the way as planned. 405km. Two full days and three half days – so in theory I could have done it comfortably in four full days. About a quarter of what I plan to do in September-October.