Ride Report – Sparkford to The Blackdown Hills

Saturday 7 July 2018

This is a two beer composition, a ride with no military association at all — no lost pilots carrying the fate of the world underneath their wings or logistical giants depositing tanks, barrels o’ beer, thermal underwear in unwanted and obscure locations (2000 pairs of  military puttees in Minsk) —— cos, as usual with my rides, nobody wanted to go. There was only Charlie (barmy), Mary (she felt sorry for me) and Ben (who seemed to be off in front looking for something —- Key of Life? 43 innit? Come on you lot you’re ALL old enough to remember that!). As usual numerous Club members were gathered in the shade of a gazebo in the forecourt of Haynes Museum (Sparkford — for the benefit of Ken). There woz:-         me ‘n Charlie
Mary
Nicky n Pete
Ben
Ron
Lorraine
Arthur
Richard       (Have to consult my bit of paper! Actually the menu of the pub that I had driven over to, to arrange “lunch for between 5 and 17 hungry cyclists”)
Phitt Phill — always so quiet and reserved. It’s a job to get a word out of him!
Alex — Noisy devil!
To give him his due, Richard had already said that the Blackdowns were a bit much for him. He was going to Barrington (modified to Kingsbury Episcopi —- that means anything to do with bishops – for the ignorant and uninformed peons). He, poor soul, set off  alone and unaccompanied. Lorraine was straight back to Stalbridge, Ron had the Toor Der Frarnse to watch, Arthur disappeared, Nicky and Peter left cos they had a chicken “bad” (in serious need of medical attention and intensive nursing I’ve been told). That only left Me (I had to be there cos ov ritin’ this!), Mary, Ben, Phitt Phil n Alex.
I wanted to show you Dorset folk some of Western Somerset, but it’s difficult to get from about Ilchester to Ash/Tintinhull without riding the 303 or performing a big, mile-adding loop. So I took us via the top (eastern) end of Yeovilton and onto the dreaded Podimore Roundabout; it was “Air Day” with carparks everywhere and tetchy cars, who’s pilots had driven miles through sweaty traffic jams to get to the event — and didn’t want any trukk with a string of bloody cyclists. Ben tried to communicate with a number of them, using ancient signs and symbols, but they didn’t seem to understand (Perhaps it was a dialectic thing?). Anyway  Phil and Alex left us here (cos we were too fast for them), so that it was only 4 diehards who made it around Podimore undamaged. Then, boringly (sorry) via the Langport road to the lefthand turn to Knowle. Through that pretty village (really pretty) and on, back of Long Sutton and Long Load (I believe that’s to do with old canals – now gone). Right by the church and over bum-breaker road to Muchelney (Big Island — as in Arthur’s day, pre drainage of levels). Back of Kingsbury Epis (the pub has  the escutcheon of the ol’ Winged Wheels above its door). By-pass Kingsbury and Shepton Beauchamps on backroads (and they REALLY were).
This is really the start of the hills: everyone else said that the hills were nothing, but my little ol’ septuagenarian legs didn’t subscribe to that! Ilton and across the Taunton/Ilminster road to Broadway and Horton (don’t ask me which is which).  Left at Five Dials and “up the back of Chard” to Coombe St Nicholas. I was dreading this climb, it seemed horrific when I pioneered it in the van. Anyway, not so bad! And then downhill (blessing!) to the edge of Coombe St Nick, left up a couple more knapps and then a pub, The Haymaker — What a wonderful sight. Several gallons of lemonade n lime (Ben drank beer, ok, but water too — yukk! ‘S for washing n making tea!) Sat in the garden, smashin’! Lunch was good too, except Ben’s which apparently had a dearth of “the staff of life” (easily sorted)
At this point you’re surprisingly close to Chard and we turned, after a short distance through Cuttiford Gap, across the Donyatt/Chard road and on to Knowle St Giles, Dinnington, Dowlish Wake (no stops for cider)Lopen (Snap Ant! —where does a name like that come from? I have asked around, nobody knows!). Overstratton and via BT Fibre developments to Norton (where Neil lived), Stoke, Montacute. We were gonna stop at The House for refreshments, but decided to brave the climb into Odcombe and head for Gooselade Farm Emporium.
Mary had had enough of the geriatrics at this point (I think it’s cos we dribble!) and took off for that hilly place where she lives, completing,I believe, 106 miles (Stickbubbly! — as they say in Scotland). We remaining 3 took on vast amounts of fluids and, after some time, pedalled off through Yetminster to Stalbridge; Ben left us at Yetminster. Charlie n I dragged our way home. I have to say that I was  sooooo pleased to see my battered old plumber’s van!
I was a bit concerned that I’d bitten off more than I could chew with this ride, but I did want folk to see somewhere new. Riding from homes (various) it probably  was a bit ambitious for we “Crumblies”, but to start from Sparkford or Langport such trips  are definitely within range: we don’t ride “westerly” enough.
Thankyou to my three companions  for your company, I hope it was worth it. Thanks to Charlie for getting we last two back to start —— Mickeydrippin

Mike Anyan

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