A Week in the West Country

Saturday morning was bright and dry, as three bikes gathered at Charnock Richard services. Steve Ball was first to arrive with his Tiger 800, then Lynn and I on our FJR1300, closely followed by Mark and Leela Burns on their Explorer XCa. Another two bikes and bikers were there, and turned out to be Devon Advanced Motorcyclist riders on their way home from the Lake District.

After bidding the two DAMmers farewell, we set off down the M6, onto the M56, then off at J10 A49. We went south-west, through Llangollen and Bala before stopping for a brew. Off we went again, and coming into one of the small Welsh towns, who should we see sitting outside a cafe in the sun, but the two Devon bikers!

After lunch, some lovely, almost empty A and B roads saw us eventually arrive at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrryd Wells, where we have stayed before on one of Mark's trips. (It's the one with a huge sculpture of a Red Kite bird on a stand opposite the hotel.)

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A lovely meal in the hotel, a few 'scoops' and a natter about the day's ride, then off to bed.

Day 2 started with a good breakfast and fine weather, and we moved off about 10am. East towards England, but not before we spied a small teapot sign at the side of the road.....off down a narrow road to a large property which looked like a cotton mill owner’s house (if it had been in the north-west).  Off the bikes and in through the lovely hallway and rooms and out onto a terrace looking out over hills and valleys. Fabulous! Tea and scones at a very reasonable rate!

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 Back on the bikes, towards Hereford, Cheltenham, Cirencester, then south-west skirting Bristol, through Cheddar Gorge where we stopped (with loads of others) for an ice cream, then past Glastonbury and on to our hotel at Bridgwater - the same place that Mark and others stayed at on the Ride For Mike. (Ask Mark about doing 110mph+ with the Police in close formation.)

Good food with plenty of choice, and we were joined by Michelle and Tom (both serving police officers). Good beers (Hobgoblin and Marstons) and good rooms, with a massive bed (ours was, anyway). Early to bed, though Mark and Steve stayed for another scoop...

 Monday dawned bright and dry (again!) and after a good Full English, we waited for our guides to arrive. Michelle, a traffic officer, on her BMW F700, Simon (ex-police) on his orange Grinnall Rocket 3 trike, and Phil on his Pan European 1100. After the intro's (Michelle helped organise the Avon & Somerset section of the Ride For Mike two years ago) we set off. We had coffee in Wells, near the Cathedral, lunch of fish & chips in Lyme Regis, and ice creams in Exmouth at the harbour!

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Back for the evening meal, with our tour guides peeling off towards their own homes. A lovely 120 or 130 mile day, and with Michelle at the front, all at a leisurely pace...

 Tuesday, we had Michelle again to guide us firstly over into Wales, over the M48 Severn Bridge to coffee/tea at Tintern Abbey, where it started to drizzle. Onwards to the outskirts of Gloucester to collect Andy on his 1200 Bandit. Andy, Michelle and Phil are members of the Blue Knights - a bike club for serving and retired officers of the law - police, prison, customs, etc.. Michelle had asked on their website for help in the area, and Andy had answered, so we all met him for the first time!

Onwards to Bourton-on-the-Water for lunch - very picturesque - then on to Arlington Row in Bibury - very old and even more picturesque! Finally, Andy led us to Cotswold Airport, near Cirencester. There were 6 or 7 'planes, including a Jumbo 747, all for scrapping! The airport is very small, but has an aero club and clubhouse, where we had afternnon tea. The clubhouse has an immaculately restored  New Hudson bike (1930's?)

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After he led us out from the airport, Andy waived us goodbye, and Michelle led us back 'home'. On the way, I got a puncture in the rear tyre. We all stopped, but the tyre was beyond repair. The others left Lynn and I at a filling station (in the dry) awaiting recovery back to the hotel.

 Wednesday was a quiet day for us. I rang and ordered two tyres, and Mark followed me to a local tyre depot, and gave me a lift back. (I've never been a pillion before) Leela, Lynn and I went into Bridgwater whilst the tyres were delivered and fitted. Mark and Steve went to Minehead, Porlock, Lynton and Lynmouth, then back over Exmoor.

 Thursday saw Michelle and Phil take us south again to Dawlish (coffee), Torquay, Paignton and Brixham (lunch on the seafront), Princetown (afternoon tea) and over Dartmoor to Willington near Weston-Super-Mare for an evening American car show with live music included, at a pub. Then back for food, drink and bed - another 200 mile day!

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 Friday, we set off for home after breakfast. Up the M5 then over into Wales again. On to the A449 and A49, we 'lost' Steve in Ludlow around lunchtime. We were home by 6pm, after a few queues on the short distance we did on the M6 - normal tea-time traffic, I guess...

What a trip! Epic! We did nearly 1,100 miles in the week. Sunshine nearly all the way. Plenty to see and do in a smashing part of the country, with some great roads.

If you want a gentle amble through the countryside, then Mark's trips are not for you. I you want to 'make progress' (where appropriate) then sign up for the next one.

Keith Bridge

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