Cycling to Salcombe (Part 2): Frome to Charmouth

After a good night’s sleep and a fantastic full breakfast we were cycling by half-past nine. I was quite impressed by our departure time, but less so by the weather. The drizzle had not been forecast; nor had the thunderstorm. As we toiled up a steep hill, the heavens opened and we were pelted by hailstones, which really hurt when your only protection is a bit of lycra.

Cycling to Salcombe (Part 2): Frome to Charmouth

The hail was so fierce I could barely see where we were going and we were in danger of losing traction. We stopped on the verge: there was no shelter and it was pretty grim. When James said plaintively, “Mummy, why is this happening to us?” it reminded me of a moment in the film ‘Zulu’. (On learning that thousands of Zulus are on their way, one of the soldiers asks Colour Sergeant Bourne: ‘Why us? Why us?’ and is told ‘Because we’re here, lad, and no one else’).

Once the thunderstorm abated, we continued on to Maiden Bradley and sought refuge in the village shop. James was delighted to be told there was no need to choose between chocolate raisins and chocolate honeycomb: he could have both, and could even have an ice cream as well. Thus, morale was easily restored. We sat on a bench and refuelled.

We continued past King Alfred’s Tower, an imposing folly with spectacular views over Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire. It is believed that at this spot King Alfred the Great mustered his armies to repel the Danes in 879. The Tower was completed in 1772 and is dedicated to Alfred as well as commemorating the accession of King George III and Britain’s victory over the French in the Seven Years’ War.

We cycled through some beautiful, if rather hilly, countryside, with exquisite views in all directions, and through lovely villages bedecked with flowers. The miles ticked by, but so did time, and I began to worry that we would reach the coast too late to get dinner. The thunderstorm had set us back an hour, but the root problem was that I had underestimated the actual distance we would have to cover on the ground. No early start could make up for this.

Evening came, and we needed food. I decided to stop at the New Inn in Stoke Abbott, even though this would mean tackling the final ten miles in the dark. We each demolished a huge main course followed by sticky toffee pudding, felt better for it, and set off again as darkness fell. We were well-equipped, with fluorescent clothing and lights so bright that they are only just road-legal, but I felt most irresponsible to be cycling in the pitch-black with a boy who was barely 9 years old.

When James asked that age-old question that children ask: “Are we nearly there yet?” I felt a surge of guilt, and my spirits sagged. I muttered, “Not far now, darling… another half-an-hour… be brave.” James replied “Of course, Mummy! Every pedal stroke is getting us closer to that lovely bed, isn’t it?” I felt very proud of my brave little son… and most unworthy.

We finally reached our bed-and-breakfast, which was a wonderful place, but which seemed genuinely magical after the day’s exploits. I sent James to wash and change while I dealt with the bike, and by the time I came back, he was snug in bed. He asked for a cup of tea but was asleep before the kettle boiled. No wonder: we had covered an astonishing 59 miles. I drank both cups of tea and promised my sleeping boy that I would learn to count by the morning…

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About the Author

Helen & Ian

Helen & Ian

About Me & Mine

Hi there! Helen and Ian here from the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border! We have two boys who love everything in the Great Outdoors (especially sticks), and a border collie who also loves everything in the Great Outdoors (especially tennis balls). We also have a toddler daughter who is fiercely independent and proving to be just as intrepid as her brothers.

Favourite place in the world:

A difficult one... There are so many wonderful places to choose from... But it has to be Sandwood Bay in the far north-west of Scotland which can only be reached by a 4-mile walk. Last time we went it was a full-on winter mountaineering experience (with ice axe and crampons!) just to get there. Wild and windswept, it's totally unspoilt.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Enjoy beaches, woods, and coastal paths; explore waterways in our open canoe; go for a big day out on a small hill; go rock climbing; collect sticks, conkers, and acorns; investigate puddles and rockpools; ride our tandem; fly a kite against a clear blue sky.

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