Imaginings On A Short Train Journey

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I’m on the train from Exeter St David’s to Plymouth after spending the day within the stuffy confines of a training room.

A train at Exeter St David’s station

Whenever I travel by train to or from “Up North”, this the part of the journey I always enjoy the most: views of Exeter Cathedral, the Exe estuary, the coast and the sea, the Teign estuary, tiny villages and hamlets, Dartmoor.

I’m sure there are more scenic railway journeys in the world, a few, of which I have enjoyed or endured, but this one is different, to me, personally, as it takes me both toward and from home, whichever direction I travel.

Not only is the route beautiful but some of the places the train rattles through are beautifully and evocatively named; Starcross, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Totnes, Rattery, Wrangaton, Bittaford, Ivybridge, Laira and Mutley. Just try NOT to imagine a cunning and adventurous story, in your head, when you think of or see them!

Starcross always reminds me of Llaregub in Under Milk Wood;
Dawlish, bounded by rusty-red cliffs, gives me a mystery from the great days of steam;
Teignmouth harbour alludes to some nautical epic up there with Moby Dick;
Totnes, with its castle and Georgian buildings evokes a Medieval battle or Thomas Hardy-esque tale of endurance and hardship;
Rattery, surrounded by greenery, yields tales of deceit;
Wrangaton and Bittaford, on the old Roman road, stagecoach evoke plundering highwaymen, with their call of “Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!”;
Laira, before the coming of the railway was a busy waterway with several inlets, rife with tales of smuggling in depths of the night;
Mutley, a suburb of Plymouth, could have been and murderous place to dwell or visit.
Then, of course, there is Plymouth itself; now what couldn’t happen there?

Yes, the imagination is a wonderful thing!


Cycling South Devon Coast

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I’ve been cycling a bit more than usual, of late on my trusty steed, a 1999 Haro Vector V1 hard-tail mountain bike.

It was only 22 miles, but last Saturday’s route was one of the toughest for a while, given the hot conditions which we’re not used to any more in England.

Four of us intrepid hackers made our way past Wembury and down to Warren Point, where we crossed to Noss Mayo and followed the trail around the headland to Revelstoke and Mothecombe Beaches. The seasonal ferry costs £3.50 per person and bike, which may seem a lot, but I believe it is unsubsidised, hence the seasonal operation.

Much of the trail was built by Edward VII for his nefarious liaisons with his various “lady” friends and, like them, it is quite an easy ride.

The toughest parts of the route were a couple of climbs, lifting and pushing the bike up steps. One climb led to a rocky promontory where several vultures circled above, waiting to pounce, should any of us pass-out in the heat. I exaggerate, of course; they were only buzzards, but such is the gallows humour of the tired, hot and thirsty cyclist.

One odd moment was when we got to Revelstoke Beach car park and had a short break the shade of some trees; on the gatepost was a sign saying “Mountain-biking prohibited”. It was strange that there weren’t any signs at the other end, but don’t tell anyone!

There are outstanding coastal views to be had looking ahead to Hope Cove, Bolt Tail and Bolt Head.

We pushed on, on foot, through the soft sand of Mothecombe Beach, which was rammed full of lazy sunbathers. I was quite tempted to go for a cooling dip in the sea but, for some daft reason, I just pressed on with the others.

At Battisborough X I turned left while the others turned right for the main road.
I like to think my route (coastal, almost traffic-free, more scenic) was the better, and it probably was; Membland and Bridgend are beautiful little hamlets and it was a nice, shady and fast road.

After a five minute break at Bridgend, where I took in the view down the tidal creek, before making the assault up the killer climb to the ridge. I hurtled down to Puslinch Bridge and made another tough climb to the A379 at Kitley.
It was then a road slog through Brixton back to Elburton and a couple of well-earned pints of cider at the Ships Tavern.