Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Devon & Cornwall tour

The MetOffice firmly promised three days of rain over the Bank Holiday in South-West England, and although I bought advance train tickets for the planned cycling tour in Devon, I started seriously thinking about cancelling the trip: loosing 20 pounds on refund would be less harmful than cycling for three days under heavy rain.

Yet, with all due respect to the MetOffice, whose HadCM family of models is one of the best in the world, I wanted to know what would be the real weather. I decided to try another predictive tool, the weather horary. I cast a chart for question: “How would be the weather and my trip?”

Surprisingly, the chart appeared rather “hot & dry”: ascendent in dry Virgo, IC in hot & dry Sagittarius, ruler of ascendent strong elevated Mercury in hot Gemini, and absolutely happy 9th house of far travel, with strong Venus, Mercury and Sun therein. The significator of bicycle, ruler of 2nd house Venus (which also ruled 9th), too confirmed the first impression. The chart promised a happy dry trip! So, what should I believe - which of two forecasts?

Practising the art without trusting it would be unfair, so I decided to depart.

I started the tour in Exeter


keeping the way along the coast

that can never be boring

visited private Powderham Castle

and cycled along many picturesque towns like Torquay

This area is rightfully called “English Riviera”

with famous Blackpool sands

The villages are traditionally English, with some old stuff privately owned for living

and some old stuff for daily use, like this Victorian postbox (if it is still well and alive, why change?)

The coastal area has peculiar network of estuaries, bays and creeks, which sometimes cannot be avoided and require a ferry

Also, it is hilly

so cycling there is hard fun – but not after the training in Alps! As the horary promised, the bike was in perfect state (thanks to the recent upgrade of Shimano Deore systems), so the long downhills were crazy fun, with speed up to 60-65kmh.

I arrived at Plymouth and stayed overnight in a B&B after first 130km. In the morning, I spent some time exploring the city, with Royal Marines Barracks

Hospital of dog PDSA charity

Then I crossed the creek by the high bridge

and entered Cornwall. If you ever heard about Cornish pasties, these are from Cornwall (although historians claim that first ones were actually cooked in Devon in 1509 in a banquette dedicated to the coronation of Henry VIII).

I cycled in gorgeous and car-free village roads, where I met some ladies

and visited traditional fishing village Polperro

I doubt they need to fish now, as they have plenty of tourists

I saw an old house which looked as remarkable as the Pisa tower (although the place is too remote to attract the visitors)

I then arrived at Polruan village and crossed the bay by ferry again

arriving at the Fowey Promenade, where I left the convenient road and entered the South Coast Path protected by the National Trust

which reminded me the coast of Ireland, with similar basalt cliffs and the most beautiful ocean

The South Path is intended only for pedestrians (and I would obey this rule if I had time to park the bike and later come back to the same place – but I could not), so it is boarded and has this kind of “gates” (they are called "stiles")

that I had to cross with the loaded bicycle. Good that there was training in Alps! Occasionally I met a German couple who told me about Bilan’s victory in Eurovision – just as the Venus in 10th in the inauguration chart promised.

I also met mountain inhabitants who are quite happy on the coastal sloppy hills.

Saw a nice traditional pub – these are always pleasant to see and visit for a coffee break

I also saw a Maltese hospital: the present Grandmaster is English, and the Order has strong connections with the country.

The rest of the way led to the Cornwall capital Truro, where I spent the night and visited the Cathedral - not too ancient, but beautiful

My initial plans were to reach Penzance, but due to the rail engineering work I had to allocate about eight hours for the trip home, changing five trains.

After cycling two days and a half for 240km, I finished the tour and boarded the train back home – and saw, through the train window, the heavy rain starting. Funny enough, when I came home, there was a BBC comedy describing new Mercedes with windscreen wipers operated by instantly updated weather forecast – somehow they suffered time delays.

“I remember a holiday of mine being completely ruined one late autumn by our paying attention to the weather report of the local newspaper. "Heavy showers, with thunderstorms, may be expected to-day," it would say on Monday, and so we would give up our picnic, and stop indoors all day, waiting for the rain. - And people would pass the house, going off in wagonettes and coaches as jolly and merry as could be, the sun shining out, and not a cloud to be seen.


"Ah!" we said, as we stood looking out at them through the window, "won't they come home soaked!"


And we chuckled to think how wet they were going to get, and came back and stirred the fire, and got our books, and arranged our specimens of seaweed and cockle shells. By twelve o'clock, with the sun pouring into the room, the heat became quite oppressive, and we wondered when those heavy showers and occasional thunderstorms were going to begin.


"Ah! they'll come in the afternoon, you'll find," we said to each other. "Oh, won't those people get wet. What a lark!"


At one o'clock, the landlady would come in to ask if we weren't going out, as it seemed such a lovely day.

"No, no," we replied, with a knowing chuckle, "not we. We don't mean to get wet - no, no."


And when the afternoon was nearly gone, and still there was no sign of rain, we tried to cheer ourselves up with the idea that it would come down all at once, just as the people had started for home, and were out of the reach of any shelter, and that they would thus get more drenched than ever. But not a drop ever fell, and it finished a grand day, and a lovely night after it.

The next morning we would read that it was going to be a "warm, fine to set-fair day; much heat;" and we would dress ourselves in flimsy things, and go out, and, half-an-hour after we had started, it would commence to rain hard, and a bitterly cold wind would spring up, and both would keep on steadily for the whole day, and we would come home with colds and rheumatism all over us, and go to bed.”

Jerome K. Jerome, “Three men in a boat”

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