Somerset weekend

Thursday – Mike & I were the first to arrive at the Street Youth Hostel which looked like a Swiss Chalet and had originally been used as a place of peace ad solace before the YHA took it over and it was indeed very peaceful with a beautiful view across the levels to the sea.  We booked in but before we could start unpacking Mike noticed some smoke outside in the grass, by the time we had warned the Receptionist there was quite a healthy fire going, so we rallied round and got pans and buckets of water and managed to put it out. The grass was tinder-dry and someone must have dropped a lighted cigarette while passing by.  In the end it looked like a landing site for an alien!  Roz & Paul arrived soon after so we reconnoitred the kitchen and showers etc.  Mike & I had been into Glastonbury to buy breakfast provisions so we packed these away after labelling them, as another group were due to arrive the next day.  Chris, Gareth and Julian were arriving later in the evening so we four drove into Glastonbury for dinner at the George & Pilgrim, a very old pub which had originally been a hostel for the pilgrims attending Glastonbury Abbey before its destruction by Henry VIII.

 On returning to the YHA Chris, Gareth and Julian were just arriving so after they had found their rooms we all sat and shared a bottle of wine or two.

 Friday – we all had a leisurely breakfast, washed up and went our separate ways the ‘Sportives’ were cycling east to Frome while the ‘Easy Riders’ were driving to Glastonbury and then cycling to Burnham-on-Sea via the Somerset Levels.  It was quite a dull day and not too warm, and quite windy.  We found lots of evidence of the flooding which had devastated the levels earlier in the year with debris and dead grasses on the tops of hedges beside the Drains; it must have been truly awful.   Anyway, undeterred we continued and came across a couple of chaps putting up signs for the ‘Granfondo’ ride on Sunday, we rode behind them for a while into a dreadful piece of road where the pot-holes were inches deep with large loose stones in the bottom of them – not very conducive to racing bikes!  We continued on through empty villages with pubs all shut up so no coffee.  We reached the main road into Burnham and were harassed by caravans and campervans all the way and missed the turning into the town centre so after consulting the map we continued onto Brean Beach where we found a café and had lunch and a break.  Then it was back onto the busy road, we then discovered we had a really busy roundabout to negotiate with one of the lanes being an exit from the M5, so we wobbled and tip-toed and/or raced round this depending on how we felt!  Then back onto the lovely flat quiet lanes again and so back to Glastonbury.  Home to the YHA where we found the other group of 14 walkers all associated with Ford, a noisy and busy lot!  The ‘Easy Riders’ drove into town for dinner again while The ‘Sportives’ walked into town for dinner.

Saturday – a rather damp morning and we had difficulty getting into the kitchen with the ‘Fords’ dominating it.  Anyway breakfast duly taken.  The ‘Sportives’ set off on their ride while the ‘Easy Riders’ drove into Wells to take a look round the market and see how the weather went.  Unfortunately the market place had been taken over by a very noisy fair – lots of grumbling from the locals who had come into town for the usual market day!  We went into the Cathedral café for coffee and cakes and then took a look round the Cathedral itself, it really is a beautiful place with the scissor arches and the clock, which we managed to see striking.  But the most amazing thing was a ginger tom cat – there are 2 sets of automatic doors into the Cathedral itself and as we came towards one of them a cat was coming towards us from inside the Cathedral towards the other one – he paused (pawsed) as he came to the doors – and they opened for him – magic or miracle or what!

 We bought lunch and ate it in a pretty ‘secret’ garden at the back of the Cathedral by which time the sun was coming out, so it was time to get back and out on our bikes.  We rode from the hostel down into the levels again where there were lots of swans massing in the fields and some had started nesting – dandelions carpeted many of the fields, not sure why and must be even worse next year, anyway we rode on – into a howling Westerly wind – looking for otters (which we never saw) into Othery, no café or pub so turned round and rode back, this time with a fierce tail-wind so it took half the time.  Then we realised that we had quite a mountain to climb back up so after checking the map we found there was a track which would take us through the woods and come out directly opposite the hostel, so off we went past a huge marquee getting ready for a wedding – we didn’t actually find the track but a narrow road leading upwards which we took and according to Mike’s GPS went from 5% to 10% to 12% to 14% to 16% it was only short but a bit unexpected – to say the least.

 Back at the hostel dinner was being prepared by the ‘Fords’ (sausages again) – so we showered and drove first to Sainsbury’s to get Pizza and wine for dinner on Sunday and then to Glastonbury for dinner – again at the George & Pilgrim where they do delicious ‘Henry VIII pies’ which is a meal all in one – lovely but very filling – not everyone could cope with this!

 We found we were a bit underdressed apparently Saturday Night is when the local girls don  fairy dresses and wings, they were all in different colours and looked very pretty – shame about the men who wore either elvish ears or else black leathers with CDs on coloured ribbon round  their necks – not totally sure what the significance of this was!!!!!

Sunday– this was the day of the Granfondo 120 mile sportive starting at Cheddar, going up the Gorge and then the surrounding area.  Gareth did not surface as he was suffering with a cold, so Chris & Julian set off early to book in.  The ‘Easy Riders’ decided as it was a lovely day to spend it cycling to Wells and back which we did, through pretty villages again, once again with the Tor as a good landmark, lovely to ride unencumbered without winter clothing, and even had to use some sunscreen!!!  There were lots of butterflies out today Orange Tips and Brimstone – which are usually to be seen much earlier than May, there was even a couple of Peacocks.  There were a few low hills to climb which made it a good variety of cycling instead of being dead-flat.  We arrived in Wells ready for coffee and bought sandwiches to eat beside the Bishop’s Palace Moat along with lots of other people enjoying the sun. Returning to Street with the Tor still on our left, we rode along till we reached Fenny Castle Tea Rooms – which Ros & I decided we really ought to try.  It is a Tea Room and Cycle Hire place – there were lots of other cyclists there but there was one couple we felt really sorry for – they had hired a couple of bikes and left their car/house keys at the café for safety and when they returned the keys had totally disappeared – the café people were frantically looking for them but when we left ½ an hour later they still hadn’t been found – woops!

However, we cycled on and found ourselves back at the 16% hill again, not too bad and across the road there was a woodland trail back to the hostel which we took instead of the road.  The hippie was still sitting in the lotus position – sorry haven’t mentioned him before – he was sitting just by the hostel on Saturday when we went out and still in the same position when we came home and the same again today – he looked quite burnt too!!

 Gareth was up and about and feeling a bit better so we had coffee and a chat and soon after that Chris & Julian returned from their sportive – Julian had completed the full 120 miles but Chris had decided to complete the 80 mile circuit as he wasn’t feeling too well either – Well Done both.

After showering etc, Chris ‘F’ took charge of cooking the pizzas and so we all had an easy dinner with salad and of course a few bottles to wash it all down.

Overall the easy-riders completed 50 miles the first day, 35 the second and another 50 on the third day so 135 miles – not too bad we thought.

Monday – Up and packed, then breakfast and cleared up what remained of the food.  The ‘Sportives’ were going for a ride to Burnham-on-Sea before going home, Paul & Ros were going for a walk up the Tor and Mike & Chris left for lunch on Dartmoor and a return home to collect Bertie who we’d had to leave in the kennels all on his own – poor thing.

‘Easy Riders’ – Paul & Ros Delderfield and Mike & Chris Rogers

 ‘Sportives’ – Chris Fearnley, Gareth Smith & Julian Winn

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