|Date||Tuesday 29th June 2000|
|Weather||Sunny and warm|
It won’t be a surprise, Gary, that the A39 is a boring road. But it’s a hard one to avoid on this stretch. There are very few smaller coastal roads and the main A-road runs straight along the top of the cliffy coastline. So I’m afraid that you’ll find yourself riding along thinking about the lorries coming up behind you and the roadside drains (those perennial cycling traps), instead of the views of the misty sea all around. You can keep off the A39 where you can – through Stibb and Kilampton (the best village of 1996, no less) and Bude – and at the end of the day, you can take in the beauty of the Tarka Trail (a cycle path with no traffic and a calm, tree-lined path passing by the waters of the rivers Torridge and Taw). But I’m afraid that the A39 is part of the package too.
But there’s also Clovelly. It’s worth a detour to visit it. You’ll have to lock up your bike at the top of the town, and find somewhere to leave your panniers (or carry them with you). And you’ll have to put up with the coachloads of elderly visitors with name badges stuttering their way down the steep hill on the sea-washed cobbles. But the pretty, old houses on a steep incline by heavily wooded slopes over a sheltered little harbour are cinematic and almost otherworldly. It’s not to be missed. At the bottom of the hill, if he’s still there when you visit, is a lean, white-haired man at the water’s edge, a sea-going kayak and a thermos of hot tea by his side. He was wearing a red wetsuit and his actions were calm and measured as if mirroring the rhythmic strokes of his canoeing in all other parts of his life. He was travelling up the Bristol channel and, as we chatted, he was as happy with his slow journey around the coast as I was with mine.
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