The Sportsman’s Arms – simply a great pub! Right in the middle of our route across Exmoor, which it has been for countless travellers before us. If the landlord continues to run things the way we witnessed, then it will be a welcome stop for countless more – especially those who choose to travel at a slower pace.
We were late getting away because we spent time chatting to our host after breakfast, it was at least 10.30 when we left, an hour we could have used later in the day. There were a few more challenging hills before we left the moors, but nothing like the previous day – in a way it was the descents from the moors that were more tiring, my hands were aching from so much braking by the time we reached Barnstaple. This town did not leave much of an impression on us – we had lunch at a Tapas bar, we chose it because we could sit and keep an eye on the bikes in a busy corner of the town, not far off the cycleway. I don’t recall eating in a Tapas bar before, so did not know the form – it seems, in Barnstaple at least, that it is a way of selling small portions of food at high prices – I requested something that would add to the small bowl of meatballs in sauce I ordered – it was suggested that I had bread with dips, that we could share – so that seemed a good idea… when it arrived it was a baguette cut up with a bowl of mayonnaise and another of balsamic vinegar.. ok, it went with our two ‘main courses’ – the shock came when it came to pay – the bread ‘dish’ cost as much as the main course!
Time to get going again, we were about to join the Tarka Trail a well surfaced converted railway line which runs up the river from Barnstaple. We were concerned that there would be nowhere to get provisions on this section so stopped at Bideford and sought out something for supper, that was not too much trouble but we also needed some fuel for our little Trangia camp stove. This wonderful lightweight device runs on alcohol (much like myself :-)) – in France we have no trouble buying this in any supermarket or convenience store; in UK I knew I would have to buy Methylated Spirit – something as a boy was easy to come by in ironmongers etc. for one’s Mamod steam engine, but now there are no ironmongers and supermarkets don’t seem to have it – I tried a ‘convenience’ store and the reply was what is methylated spirit? It was interesting to note that stumbling about at the cash desk was a customer trying to organise his vocabulary to buy several litres of strong cider (By his state he had drunk a couple of litres on his way around the shop) he mentioned the price of the cider, about £1.50 a litre… I have since found some ‘Meths’ and that was £5 a litre! Now I remember being told that they add the mauve colour and distinctive smell to meths to ‘put people off’ drinking the stuff as it was so cheap!? Well, no such nanny state in France – 98% alcohol is available in all large supermarkets – and it is totally colourless – if you drink it you go blind 🙂
I leave you to decide which is best…
We pushed on a further 10kms to a campsite in the grounds of a manor it was an interesting site – shame it was a push up a steep woodland path from the Tarka trail, but you can’t blame the campsite for topography. I would not say anything against this site as the lady in charge waved the £15 charge when she heard what we were doing – so that is another donation for NRAS.