Bicycle Touring Mini Cycling Break in Exmoor
It has been far too long since my last post. Holidays, the day job and moving home have all eaten away at my time of late. But now that life is starting to ease up a little, I can find my cycling legs again. After what seemed an eternity of only keeping the miles ticking over with some weekend warrior rides, I needed to get back out there. The cycling voice in my head had been telling me to explore.
I got back on the cycle touring saddle in my usual fashion. A good old paper map. Having relocated into a new area in the summer, one of the first things I did was purchase an array of Ordnance Survey maps that cover the surrounding areas. Crouched down on my office floor, it was hard not to be drawn towards the sight of Exmoor. Only 20 miles from my house, this vast area is only something I have heard people raving about. Stories of beautiful countryside, camping, chilled out walks and generally escaping the hustle of life.
Packed and eager to go early on Saturday, I meandered my way through the rolling hills of Somerset. Mile after mile of stunning views and tempting opportunities to explore quiet country lanes. I have driven in these areas a few times, but you don't appreciate the beauty of the landscape around you until you slow down and forget about the world for a few moments. Cycling goes hand in hand with those of us who enjoy the slow lane. With my bed for the night being the only set plan, I let the road take over and allowed myself to get lost. My GPS device was firmly off for today.
I rolled along through sleepy villages until I reached the edge of Exmoor. Took an obligatory photo of me next to the Exmoor sign and carried on exploring. Exmoor really is a cyclist's dream. Off the main roads, there isn't much traffic, with awesome views at the top of steep hills. Lunch was down a farm track after a monstrous hill, with hot tea and chocolate as a treat for making it to the top.
As the day drew to a close, it was time to track down my bed for the night. I worked out my way to the youth hostel. I needed to set up my tent before darkness fell, and more importantly, find some dinner. I had never stayed at a youth hostel before, but have always been intrigued. The YHA site in Exford (in the centre of Exmoor) is situated by the River Exe and consists of a large house with a variety of shared dorms, private rooms, and a camping area. You also get access to a shared kitchen, laundry room and a lounge area for chill-out time. With the weather being pretty good (late summer), I went for the camping option and pitched my trusty Terra Nova tent by the river. With only one other tent nearby, it made for a peaceful setting. Sitting there after setting up, all I could hear was the sound of the river and the birds fighting in the tree above me. A quick freshen up and as luck would have it, there was a pub opposite the hostel. A few beers and pie and mash left me feeling good. Feeling warm, content from eating, and a little lightheaded, I headed back to my tent for a peaceful night. Stumbling back I couldn't help but notice the wonderful stars shining brightly down. Exmoor is listed as an International Dark Sky Reserve and I could truly see why. It is a shame my camera couldn't capture the beauty of what I was seeing. I sat there staring up at the sky for a while before heading off to bed.
I awoke the next morning to a beautiful sunrise. After brewing coffee on my stove, I sat down and ate some pastries and let the coffee slowly wake me up. I got packed up and began my cycling day with a steep hill out of Exford. I had conveniently forgotten about coming down the same hill the evening before. Now well and truly awake, I started the final day of cycling Exmoor in the general direction of home. Still allowing myself to get lost and explore, whilst stopping along the way to take some great photos of the area. Hill after hill was followed by more coffee breaks and cafes to load up on bacon sandwiches to keep me fueled. It was soon time to head home and bring this great little tour to an end. Although I was only away for a little more than 24 hours, it had been what I needed. Cycling somewhere new always inspires me to get out more. Break the routines and go exploring.
Check out all the shots from this mini bike tour.
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