Yet another birthday, this time Christine’s. It was overcast again but humid and warm, and as soon as we’d breakfasted we left along the towpath of the Bude canal. Sustrans have negotiated an agreement for cyclists to use this section and it was wonderful to leave the town accompanied by birdsong rather than motor traffic and surrounded by water and greenery. We left the canal a comfortable distance from the busy roads and meandered along undulating country lanes through the agricultural centre of Holsworthy until we reached Sheepwash, where we picnicked in the village square.
The roads were very quiet but also very narrow so we had to exercise caution in case anything was coming the other way. We were hoping for a rest by the time we reached the Tarka Trail but it was a surprisingly steep climb for a railway trackbed before at last we reached the summit.
Great Torrington station is now a thriving pub/cafe and the section from here to Bideford was very busy with groups, couples and a party of primary school children.
The old station at Bideford is in good shape with a green Mark 1 TSO coach used as a buffet and information centre. The short length of track also accommodates a livestock van and a brake van while a home signal and a reconstructed signal box complete the picture. The station building itself is used as offices by the Devon Countryside Service.
We crossed the 24-arch Long Bridge into Bideford and checked into the Corner House, again very friendly with secure bike accommodation but right by the road. Bideford is an interesting but decaying old town with a pannier market and narrow streets. We struggled to find anywhere to eat, finally settling for Tantons where we suffered the worst and also the most expensive meal of the holiday. Before retiring we went for a stroll along the river, spoilt by the boy racers and the hostile air of depression afflicting the town. At one time it must have been a thriving place but now it’s stuck out on a limb, bypassed by history and also by the A39 via an ugly new road bridge downstream from the old one. This provided a missed opportunity to traffic-calm or pedestrianise the waterfront and town centre – if they do then maybe we’ll return some day.