Saturday 29th August:
This weekend, train company First Great Western who run the trains out of Paddington were taking strike action so I was a bit concerned about whether I would be able to get myself and my bike out to Westbury. Arriving into Kings Cross, I rode along the Regents Canal (ok, along the towpath!), past Camden Lock, where stall holders were busy setting up for the day ahead, and after about half an hour I reached Paddington.
The station was packed with people who, like me, were anxious about their journey’s. But I needn’t have worried, as I was onto a rather crowded train only half an hour later than I had been due to leave.
Arriving into Westbury, I set off in a westerly direction towards today’s destination of Langport. There would be no micropubs to visit today – just a day of cycling.
I was able to take a handy shortcut through the Longleat estate, animal noises to my left (or was it the truckloads of tourists?) and stunning views of Longleat House to my right.
Approaching Somerton, I caught a glimpse of Glastonbury Tor in the distance.
Tonight’s campsite was certainly the most “interesting” of the trip, and possibly that I have ever experienced. Littered with fairground memorabilia, strange sculptures (“meet scary fairy”!), and populated by a feral cat, dogs with psychological issues and a territorial badger there was plenty to amuse. On a more serious note, the site was totally off-grid: Solar electricity, composting toilets and water drawn from a bore-hole.
Sunday 30th August
For Sunday’s bike ride I was joined by my cycling friend Janie from Plymouth, who had cycled down from Tiverton the day before. Originally I had two micropubs on my schedule for today: The Woodyard Brewpub was always going to be a bit of a wildcard – it was opened by Masters brewery back in September 2012 within the Brewery’s industrial unit on a business park in the middle of nowhere a few miles from Wellington in Somerset. Despite being in an industrial building, the interior of the bar, by all accounts, was a re-creation of a typical Victorian pub.
However, only a week ago I had noticed a message on the Woodyard Brewpub’s facbook page dating back to April: it said that the micropub would be closing until further notice. It made no mention of the fate of the brewery. I was curious to find out what had become of the micropub, and perhaps even get a look inside. And why had it closed after getting such good reviews? I My mind had conjured up images of landlord and punters being scared away by a mysterious swamp monster who us heroes could perhaps reveal as merely a jealous rival mega-theme–pub landlord in a mask? Or maybe I spent too much of my childhood watching Scooby Doo!
On the way, Janie and I passed through the small town of Wellington. I had heard good things about a pub called the Dolphin there so we pulled in for a beer and a spot of lunch. While in the bar, we asked some of the locals if they knew what had become of the Woodyard, but none of them had even heard of the place.
We pushed a note through the letterbox and moved onwards towards Tiverton, as we knew there was a micropub open there, and some of Janie’s friends were going to meet us there.
Approaching Tiverton, riding along the towpath of the Grand Western Canal we encountered the incredible sight from yesteryear of a horse-drawn barge.
Finally we rode into Tiverton where we met Janie’s friends Claire and Pete in Courtenay’s micropubs (which was formerly called “Goldy’s”). It’s a fine micropub, which I will tell you more about when I review it.
We enjoyed chatting to Duncan the landlord. Duncan told us that Masters Brewery (the owners of the Woodyard) used to supply his pub, but their sales calls had stopped coming around April, the same time as the micropub’s demise. If anybody knows what happened, and if there are any plans to re-open, please drop me a comment.
When I had visited the Tankerton Arms in Kent, back in July, the owners’ son had handed me a set of Tankerton Arms beermats featuring one of their regulars’ dogs. As Courtenay’s was also dog-friendly and about as far West as the Tankerton is East, this seemed a suitable point to offload a few. So here is Duncan with a Tankerton Arms beermat.
Tiverton Parkway train station might as well be called middle-of-nowhere Parkway. It’s certainly not in Tiverton or even very near, so Janie and I set off in good time to catch our respective trains. But, of course, because of the strike they were not running to the timetable. Fortunately, Janie got a train back to Plymouth quite quickly. Thanks for your good company Janie, it was lovely to see you again!
What I had not bargained for was that, at just after 7pm, the last train to London had already departed! To cut a long story short, I finally arrived home at 1.30 in the morning, having made a scenic detour via Birmingham!!
It had been a long, long day but luckily Monday was a Bank Holiday. Unfortunately, there was not much opportunity for a lie-in: at 6am, my daughter arrived home from Reading festival and proceeded to fill the living room with yet more wet camping gear! No idea where she gets these habits from!