Friday, August 15, 2014

Exmoor

The last part of our UK trip through the UK was going to be Exmoor. Sure we had to ride from the Exmoor national park, situated in the south west of the UK, back to the tunnel on the east side; but Exmoor was the last sight-seeing part if you know what I mean. A good start makes all the difference, so when we woke up with heavy rainclouds surrounding us… we wondered what the day would bring. Especially in the direction we were heading, it was nothing but pitch black. To emphasise the point, I had to take all luggage from my bike twice, the first time because Jeanette had left her helmet comm in the tent… the second time because I couldn't find my motorcycle key anywhere… In the end I found it in my sleeping bag!

We were setup for rain, but the rain never came! Still, ahead of us it remained pitch black. The bridge over the Severn, for us the exit out of Wales, is a toll bridge if you want to enter Wales. Leaving Wales is free… We took a short section of motorway until we entered Somerset and then headed for Minehead via A-roads.

Traffic was terrible, as you can see in the video. Possibly even worse than on the motorway. The plan had been to stay for two nights on a campground just past Minehead but the owner asked a whopping $48,- per night for an unpowered tent site along a busy A-road. When we declined he added in a snappy way 'You won't find anything cheaper around here!' 'Thanks' I thought ' at least we know now that there is something cheaper!'


Westermill farm campground became our 'base' for two nights, a beautiful farm stay along a narrow winding steep road. The only 'noise' were the sheep and the views magic. Camping along a small stream and nothing but green nature around us. Two nights isn't enough for Exmoor of course as there is so much to see, but at least we did get the opportunity to see it! At night we had a visit from the local hedgehog in the tent. He/she rummaged through the pots and pans, checking out the cutlery and had a look at our new motorcycle boots too. We looked at him/her with a flashlight, which wasn't appreciated!

The mobility scooter parked in front of the pharmacy… classic!
The second day started with… rain! Lightning had threatened all night but the wet bit didn't start until the morning. I'm not sure why the poms in Australia complain about the changeable Melbourne weather, if anything it should remind them of home. The guildford school had joined us late last night and the rain caused some commotion as several of their tents had leaked pretty badly! Remarkably the teachers used a different brand… :-)

We rode through the Exmoor national park, heading for Lynton/Lynmouth. I've said before that the UK is expensive but the Lynton/Lynmouth council is the greediest of the lot so far. They are the first council I've seen that even charges parking fees for disabled people…! Not only that, they charge for every parking area, and quite hefty charges too. Motorcycles are free just about everywhere in the UK, but not here! I wonder how long before they charge these kids for jumping in the water...

Riding through the Exmoor area brought back memories from many years ago. For me it's a trip through memory lane, for Mike it's all new. He has been here before when he was 3 years old, in the sidecar, but couldn't remember. Towns like Dulverton are just great places to visit as there is so much history there which is so well preserved. We spend quite a bit of time there. The Tarr Steps, a bridge made from big stones in mediaeval times, was the last stop for the day. The water level in the river was quite low, hinting that there hadn't been a lot of rain recently. That was about to change dramatically and quickly! We thought we'd get away with it and that the clouds would pass us… we were wrong! The sky had in fact cleared again but then out of the blue it started raining… which turned into a downpour of biblical proportions. In Central America they call it the wet season, here they call it summer… :-)

He just sat there all day at the edge of the harbour, selling tickets for his son's boat charter business

Heavy rain flooded the parking area while we waited under a shelter, not wishing to make the same mistake as a couple of days before. The narrow winding roads back to the farm campground were transformed into muddy tracks, good Avon tyres kept us out of trouble though. Just as quick as the rain had started, the blue skies returned again and gave us a beautiful evening.



The last proper evening in the UK also means a sort of re-cap. What do we think of the UK? First the negatives: The UK has become very much a Pay-as-you-go society. You literally have to pay for everything here. We're not the only ones thinking that, ask an Englishman what he thinks of his country and the subject turns to money in 5 seconds. Just today I saw a rubbish bin in Lynton which had a big sticker on it that read 'Sponsored by Devon County'… Everywhere else in the world rubbish bins are considered a basic necessity paid for by the taxes people pay, here providing them is considered sponsoring. I hope that one day councils like Lynton will realise they are not doing themselves any favour, quite the opposite. It's not just pay for everything but also pay quite-a-lot compared to other countries we have been to.

On the plus side: it's a beautiful country with a charm that I haven't seen anywhere else in the world. The landscape, the buildings and the winding roads connecting it all are the result of a way of life that has shaped itself over many centuries. The sheer amount of history here is enormous. The first roads were built in Roman times. In Australia a 100 year old house is considered old! Here you can find houses from the 16th century… 

I like it. So much so that I can even live with the weather… I think :-) Yes it does rain a lot and yes I haven't seen so many shades of grey in the sky for many years… but somehow it fits. For green you need rain, and Britain is green alright. Walking through The New Forest is magic. Riding through the Yorkshire Dales is like going back in time. The Lakes District is very rugged and Wales is, well… Wales! Exmoor is unique too. For such a relatively small country there is a lot of variety. England is high on my list of countries I would like to visit again, but then for much longer!


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