Following the success of last year’s trip to the Brecons, Bath CC women have kept themselves going through the wet and windy winter miles with the prospect of a warm spring weekend on Exmoor. We envisaged beautiful scenery and great riding in the hills followed by hearty food, fine wine and great company. We weren’t disappointed – although we could say we got a bit more than we bargained for.
Luxury accommodation at the foot of the hills
We arrived at Bentwitchen, a hamlet a few miles from Simonsbath on the south west edge of the Exmoor National Park at lunchtime on Friday, ready for our first ride. Anna’s sister, Rachel, had kindly offered us the use of her lovely farmhouse for the weekend. With too many bedrooms to count, it was a perfect retreat with a huge dining table, comfy beds and warm showers. With a chill still in the air we donned our winter layers and overshoes only to find ourselves having to strip off half way up the first climb. Julia had mapped a route which gave us a good taste of the territory for the weekend ahead (although we did persuade her to cut out the 41% climb!). An uneventful 50km and 1000mtrs of climbing later, we returned to the warmth of the Aga to enjoy some tasty homemade bolognaise, pasta and red wine. All good refueling tucker!
All the weathers for a rainbow
The forecast for Saturday threatened sleet, hail, snow, rain and high winds at various times of the day. We left the farmhouse between showers with a good breakfast inside us, hoping that the Met Office had got it all wrong. Soon after leaving the rain started and 25k into our planned 100k route we were in need of warm refreshments in Dulverton and a re-think of the day ahead. A shorter route was considered but we decided to soldier on and were rewarded with sun a few km later. We soon dried out and warmed up speeding along the rolling Exe valley and arrived at our lunch stop in Dunster just in time to enjoy somewhat refined soup and ‘sandwiches’ – just the fuel we needed for the long afternoon of climbing ahead.
The infamous Porlock Toll Road loomed ominously ahead but turned out to be a lovely climb at a steady 5-6% for 6.5k through wooded slopes with glimpses of the sea and coastline below. Half way up at the toll house we regrouped for a colourful photo (almost a rainbow) and completed the climb having only had 1 car pass us en route. Now around 65k into the ride and fairly high up we were hit with a hail storm which turned the road white and stung our faces. Our enthusiasm unaltered we continued over the Moor towards Bentwitchen and finally, after 106km and 2170mtrs of climbing we arrived home for much needed tea/wine/food/shower/lie down/all of the above! In fact it was a glass of Prosecco – Happy Birthday Claire!
Two new faces with fresh legs joined us on our return and an evening of curry and congenial conversation followed. We relaxed a bit on Sunday and enjoyed a shorter route to the south – returning with the wind behind us to enjoy the leftovers.
Ready for next year?
A great weekend with a friendly bunch, some epic climbing, fantastic scenery, relatively traffic free roads and not a puncture in sight! What more could we ask for….other than a little more sunshine! Anyone for Mallorca next year???