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Northam, Westward Ho!, Zeal Monachorum, Sunday 28 May, 2017

June 11, 2017

We start the day with the unpleasant ascent out of town, pausing to take a shot of the sign for Ilfracombe Town FC.

Rock up, you’re from Ilfracombe

An advert for the local “Ilfracombe Rocks” festival comes into view shortly after, but we don’t want to interrupt our pedalling, despite the highly appropriate nature of the sign. We’re happy to be leaving Ilfracombe, whose every single road seems to be a steep uphill struggle, so much so that even the descents at times feel like they’re going up. And that’s coming from me who lives in Sheffield.

It’s mainly downhill to Barnstaple, and Steve makes it in one piece, despite his poorly repaired brakes. We head immediately to The Bike Shed (our second bike shop visit in three days) and meet another extremely helpful chap, who spends 15 minutes fixing Steve’s brakes properly (only briefly passing comment on my unsatisfactory bicycle repair skils) and refuses to charge him anything. We purchase tea and cake in their in-store cafe and make a charitable donation.

After more twists and turns and getting lost we pass through Bideford in order to tick off Northam and nearby Westward Ho!, which although not quite a massive letdown, is suitably underwhelming.

Westward Ho! – A bit disappointing

Tiring of getting lost I happen upon something of great fortune. The National Cycle Route No.3 is a tarmacced path from Bideford to Great Torrington, along a former railway line (there are many of these in the South West, where Dr. Beeching was particularly unsparing with his axe. The route is also part of the Tarka Trail, so named after Henry Williamson’s novel. Although we don’t spot any joyful otters, it’s a beautiful ride and much welcome at this stage of the journey.

Once off the Tarka Trail, save for one short steep hill, it’s a fairly simple 19 miles along a single B-road almost all the way to the highly-anticipated Zeal Monachorum, which we reach by 6pm, very much ready for dinner.

See also Zatopek, Zeus…

Zeal’s a curious little village. Firstly, we’re unable to see any caravans there, static or otherwise, but secondly, and far more importantly, the family-run hotel, pub and restaurant The Waie Inn  has a jukebox which holds a good number of Half Man Half Biscuit songs, including the Referee’s Alphabet, which mentions the village. It’s the first time during the tour that we’ve been able to play a song mentioning somewhere, while sitting in a pub in that very place. Needless to say, after three days cycling, beer was consumed and money was put into the jukebox. You can guess the rest.

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