The daffodils and narcissi are indeed out but locked in close-lipped silence along the hedgerows. All our excursions took place in close to zero temperatures and a cutting, Siberian wind: every credit due to Graham Black and Julie Lang, John and Jean Harris, Andy Easton and Yolande, Mike Willacy and Graham John, who dared to take part in this blood-curdling adventure and who survived the ordeal.
DAY ONE (46 miles)
We met at Barrow Mump and set off about 10.45 am to explore the Somerset levels. Burrow Mump is typical of the geology of this area and is one of many limestone outcrops, the most famous of which is Glastonbury Tor. The route took us through back lanes to Westonzoyland and then on to Chedzoy and Bawdrip. A short stretch on the A39 and we were in Woolavington, where we had hoped to replenish before going further. As it happened, the pub was no longer serving lunches and we made our way to East Hunspill, where once again the inn was shut. Hence on to the ubiquitous Red Lion in West Huntspill, which was packed with holiday makers.
On to Mark and a quick right before the bridge to Burtle, Westhay, Meare and the pressured A39 in Walton. Some of us made directly for the YH and the drivers crossed the levels via High Ham back to Barrow Mump.
DAY TWO ( 48 miles)
Yolande needed to get her breaks attended to. Fortunately there was a bike shop in Street called "On your Bike" and Yolande was able to have new V-breaks fitted and have her rear breaks adjusted for a modest 22 pounds.
On we forged, stopping between Meare and Wedmore for elevenses in a popular cycling cafe. Jean met up perchance with old acquaintances from previous trips. Some stopped in Cheddar before attempting the Gorge and all had lunch at the Hunter's Inn, just outside of Priddy.
Wells Cathedral. On through Dulcote and left towards Glastonbury. Some - impatient with the leader's slow pace - had gone ahead and missed the turning. Nothing to be worried about in this age of the digital phone. Back they came and off again to Glastonbury and Windmill Hill, again testing the leader's strength and determination.
Home to the YH and a quiet evening.
DAY THREE (54 miles)
Yet another icy day. Off we went - King Weston, Alford and Castle Cary, where we had elevenses in The George Hotel which dates back to the 15th Cenury. To Cole via the back lanes and then Bruton. Right at the crossroad and left over the river to Red Lynch. Up the steep old hill to Red Lynch. But Mike Willacy had a problem with his gear cable and spent twenty minutes fixing the problem.
We hoped to find a pub before the turning for Alfred's tower, but the pub was choc-a-bloc and we were dispatched to the nearest inn, The Red Lion, in North Brewham, where we had an excellent lunch.
Rather than retrace, we decided to make for a path through Kings Wood warren. Again the faster contingent forged ahead, missing the right turn onto the path to Alfred's Tower. A telephone call later and all was resolved. We made our way to the tower and its 200 odd steps.
Thence to Killington and so to Ditcheat, West Baltonsburough, Butleigh and the final welcome of the YH.
DAY FOUR (25 miles)
I had expected the weather on this last day to better than it was. There was still a cold wind made worse by a heavy stone-grey sky and haze. I for one was pretty tired by this time - I think, more from the biting cold than the actual length of the rides or the few climbs. As a precaution I suggested a car-assisted ride from Castle Cary to South Cadbury. Parking our car some distance from our destination defeated the temptation to find the nearest cafe and stay put.
We did indeed curtail our route just outside South Cadbury with its hill fort dating back to neolithic times. It was near lunch time so we headed directly for Queen Camel and the Mildmay Arms for lunch. We then headed back north via West Camel, where we crossed the A303, through Bobcary, Foddington, North Barrow to the A359. The abrupt ascent to the A359 and Galhampton robbed me of all enthusiasm for further exploits and Mike Willacy and I made our way directly back to Castle Cary, while the others headed into the lanes again, eager for new adventures. As it happened, they arrived back at the car park only five minutes after Mike and me, so I rather regretted not making the detour with the rest of the group.
I negotiated the route to the A303 where we finally parted company. It was 5 o'clock near enough when I arrived home, having dropped off Mike Willacy. The trip involved some 170 miles of cycling. I think everyone enjoyed themselves in spite of the chilly weather and I have my own thank-yous to say to a brilliant team!
Red Route = Day 2
Green Route - Day 3
Purple Route = Day 4