I went on a gentle adventure, with my youngest daughter, and it was so good! Why? Well, to answer that you’ll need to settle in, but it’s worth your time.
I’ve long been a fan of taking my bicycle on the train, and that was the plan for this adventure, right from the start. I bought us return tickets to Barnstaple, in North Devon, with bicycle reservations.
Only, this time round things didn’t quite go to plan! When I arrived early enough at my daughter’s flat, we soon discovered she misplaced the key to the D-lock for her bike. What was meant to have been a casual bike ride to the train station became a fast walk (me pushing my bike) to not miss our train.
Once on the train, we could relax. Until Exeter, that is – we had just enough time to get off the mainline train, rush to the lifts, to get to a different platform, and board the Tarka branch line to Barnstaple. The train departed less than a minute after we boarded.
Bike hire in Barnstaple
Originally, the plan was to cycle from Barnstaple train station – the route is traffic-free right from the station. Of course, we had to hire a bicycle for my daughter, but when we got off the train, the bike hire place at the station was closed. That was a blessing in disguise.
We walked into town (it really isn’t far) crossed the medieval bridge, to The Bikeshed. In case you didn’t know, the Bikeshed is a damn nice bike shop in Barnstaple, that has a café and does bike hire. The service is always friendly and good, their prices are good, and the coffee is superb. And no, I have no affiliation with them – I’m just a happy customer.
Breakfast at Tiffa… no, at The Bikeshed
My daughter and I sat down and had coffee, and a light breakfast. We were in no rush, but we both were hungry, so it just made sense. Besides, I knew from past experience that the coffee was good there.
After breakfast, we hired a bike for her, then took the scenic route, crossing the Iron Bridge. Though that’s a diversion, it’s also a traffic-free route, and the plan was to remain as traffic-free as possible.
Second coffee for the day was at Fremington Quay. We got so lucky with the weather, and though it was chilly, we had plenty of sunshine. In mid-November!
Fremington Quay tends to be busy, and this was no exception. Soon enough, we were shown to a table, and had our coffee. Coffee is central to many of our adventures, as my daughter (a trained barista) enjoys good coffee almost as much as I do!
The Tarka Trail
We were in absolutely no hurry, and when we reached Instow, we left the Tarka Trail, to cycle along the normally quiet beach road. In the distance, we could see the Atlantic waves breaking. Instow has a deli, but never had coffee from there, and besides it was too soon after the previous cup to consider another.
In no time at all, we were back on the traffic-free Tarka Trail, heading towards Bideford. We passed sheep and ponies in fields, and saw far more varieties of bird than I could identify.
Soon enough we cycled under the New Bridge, high above, then entered East-the-water – the part of Bideford that’s opposite the river to the main town. If ever you cycle that way (and I really hope you do) and you plan to visit Bideford town centre, most people would direct you to a ramp by the train carriage café.
That ramp is steep, and soon becomes a flight of stairs, with a wheel-ramp to the side. Don’t go that way! Just before the Royal Hotel (you can’t miss the huge name) there’s a small little walkway leading off to the right (if coming from Barnstaple). The walkway has the delightful name of Embery’s Drang.
Take that walkway, but please do dismount, and walk your bike. At the bottom, we crossed the road, then turned left on the far pavement. Yes, we cycled on the pavement there, stopping for all pedestrians we encountered along the medieval bridge.
Once across the bridge, we were in Bideford itself. We cycled along the riverbank, using the shared pavement, but soon crossed the road, dismounted, and went exploring the old town. There are many quaint and unusual shops, and some beautiful old buildings in Bideford. The town is built on the hillside, on slopes steeply upwards, away from the river.
It is best explored on foot, but take your time doing so. We had lunch in a café that was memorable for their lovely dog, Nakita, who takes her job of greeting all new customers quite seriously. Amusingly, they made a song and dance of the fact that their sausages were locally sourced – and came from Newton Abbott!
You see, Bideford is in North Devon, and Newton Abbott is in South Devon. That really isn’t my idea of locally sourced!
Time waits for nobody
All too soon, it was time to set off again. With a train to catch, and my daughter eager to get back to her adorable kitten, we returned the way we came, though at a slightly faster pace.
We also didn’t linger in Instow, which was a mistake – by the time we made it back to Barnstaple, we were an hour early for our train. On the bright side, that meant time for another cup of coffee, after returning the hire bike.
A train home
It was dark not long after our train left Barnstaple. A timely reminder that we’re only about a month away from the winter solstice. I have dynamo lights on my bike, but the hire bike didn’t have any lights, and I was glad we returned it before it got dark.
Our train back from Exeter was delayed, but we managed to get on a different one, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at our destination, stepped off the train, and walked back to my daughter’s flat. After saying our goodbyes, she went inside to her kitten, while I returned home.
A gentle adventure
We had the best kind of adventure – a gentle adventure! In this hurried life, it’s so important to take time out to do things slowly, and go explore places you haven’t been before. It was good for both our souls, and doing something similar would be good for yours.
Cycling a traffic-free route makes and enormous difference, as suddenly cycling becomes carefree. Have a look at the traffic-free cycle routes for which I have already published guides. These guides even tell you where toilets are, where refreshment stops are, and what the route surface is like.
Go on! Go have a gentle adventure!