The combination of a beautiful place and cycling always equals a great experience. It’s a 2+ 2 =4 kind of thing but sometimes you find a place that means 2+2 = 220 Porlock Toll Road is this place for me. I don’t enjoy climbs, the leg burn, the lung bursting, the heart rate over 180… I can’t even compute how that happens to my heart! On this climb my heart stops, my legs don’t hurt and I want it to go on forever it’s so beautiful.
The Toll road is the gentler and more scenic option to the Porlock climb and it rises out of the village gently. The houses subside after a short way thankfully as the planning consent in Porlock seems to welcome the building of styles of houses from each decade from the last century next to each other in the most clashing combination possible, creating a mish mash of architecture that disarms you for what is about to come.
As the road starts to wind round corners with slopes of trees and ferns to our left and a small white fence to the right the Bike Boss declares “I have been here before! I swear, as a child in a car with my uncle Ray driving I remember this corner” If proof was needed of the memorable nature of this place this is it. Bike Boss’s scale of things mean that not much is memorable – unless it was something I did that was annoying which gets mentioned forever!
The forested slopes are Mother Nature showing of her skills to the max. An hour earlier we had ridden past a sign declaring the oldest tree in England which had led to a lengthy conversation about how exactly they knew this… Now she is just showing off as you turn to the right and the overhanging trees create a perfect frame for the pebbled beach, blue see and steep cliff. It could not be more stunning.
We stop for a change, not because I am puffing and panting too much but to drink in what has to be one of the best views EVER! Pictures are taken that no filter could improve. I try so hard to commit the view to memory for the days in the future when I may not be able to do this. This is what I want to remember about cycling. I will probably remember the silly conversation about the missed marketing opportunity for speed awareness signs in the village of Watchet… why would you not go “Your speed – Watchet!” please God don’t let me be 90 remembering this sort of crap!
As the climb winds up there are baby switch backs, but the gradient never rises above 8% and we can happily imagine we are in the Alpes. We keep spinning enjoying the superior road surface that the economics of a toll road allows whilst I try and explain to the BIke Boss how a Toll road works… yes really. We pay our £1 at the cottage toll booth, take our tickets and continue on up the climb, as the beautiful trees give way to the stunning Exmoor moors the heat touches 28 degrees but still I don’t want it to end. You catch glimpses of the sea and the coast line as the moorland opens up around you including very happy looking ponies (remember the happiness of the animals we see is another topic of conversation)
The top of the climb provides stunning views at 414m above the sea and 6.7km from the start, we feel on top of the world. I could literally ride up and down that road all day! We discuss whether our £1 tickets would allow that or whether it would be an expensive day out. And I breathe. 6.7km of doing what you love and feeling thankful. This is one road where I would never go for the QOM
The big day out 112 miles ………..We reached the Toll road via a short detour down to Porlock Weir. As noted in previous blogs I am discouraged from speaking to strangers by the Bike Boss, so when I strike up a conversation with a man walking down the road with a can of cider at 10:30am to ask about where would be nice to stop in the area there is much frowning. We are directed down a dead end to a pub a small shop that sells our beloved holiday tat along with ice cream, drinks, toilet rolls and tomato sauce.
After 50 miles before 11am the BIke Boss nearly has a sense of humour failure when the local pub said it could not serve his desired fish finger sandwich before 12. So an ice cream has to do! There is also a women’s fashion shop (using fashion in the loosest sense of the word) which allows us to discuss retail economics and formats over an ice cream. With a stunning pebble beach and a collection of small boats in the harbour it is deemed worth the chat with the local.