Thursday 26h February
Did rain fall on you this morning? In Devon it pelted it down and I did the sensible thing until it stopped at 10.30am. I stayed in a warm conservatory watching birds come to the feeders on view there. And what a mass of birds visited them too; mostly blue tits but also great and coal tits, a male great-spotted woodpecker, dunnocks, robins, chaffinches, house sparrows and a wren.
Off on the bike along a road with masses of destroyed tarmac and streams from the rain. I came to a flooded part down in a valley. Sense should have made me turn back but since when did I have any sense. I thought if I keep to the sides I'd get through. I didn't. It was half way up my thighs! I fell against a muddy bank and clambered out onto it dragging the bike with floating panniers out of the water. Still I wasn't going to have it defeat me. I dragged the bike against a hedge with a rushing stream about a meter wide between me and the road. “Now if I use the bike as a bridge, I can get to the middle ridge of mud and stones,” so my daft thinking went. A Land Rover went past with water up onto his bonnet. A lorry went through also, its surge washed past me. A car had better ideas and turned back. I made my bridge, except I didn't. In I went, deeper this time and more clambering got me to the ridge. I couldn't stop laughing. I felt like a 10 year old again when my brother Paul and I used to go newting (catching newts) by standing in a pond up to our waists waiting for the little creatures to come within a snatched grasp.
At the other side of the flood I panicked. Had water got into my camera? Luckily the panniers had kept the water out. Well the panniers and the thick plastic bags inside those had done so. I was drenched and a stop at a bus stop for half an hour had me drying my feet, changing my clothes for dry ones and placing thick plastic carrier bags over my feet in order to put the wet boots back on.
Hence I cycled the day with a watery sound emitting from the boots every time I got off to push the bike up a hill, and there were plenty of those.
At Holsworthy I went into the bank to pay what was owed to Rosemary and Graham, the owners of last night's B and B. They hadn't got a card facility and so I paid the £15 cash into their account. The rest of the money they kindly gave as a donation to the children of Chaskawasi-Manu. Thanks so much Rosemary and Graham.
Paul Simon's Graceland album was the repertoire for the day's cycling as I made my way to Bideford. Rolling countryside one may call it and I kept rolling then pushing. A group of 4 ravens effortlessly went by, enjoying the strong north-westerly wind; wind that was mostly coming from the side of me. Occasionally it was strong enough to cause a scary wobble.
Into Bideford and a stop by the bridge. A grey wagtail was picking off fllies on seaweed. Then a common sandpiper did the same; a year tick. Now I have 154 for the Green Year list. Brilliant.
Over the bridge and onto the fabulous Tarka Trail, a cycle path that goes along both sides of the estuary there. It goes down to Barnstaple and then along the north side to Braunton. It also took in an RSPB reserve, Isley Marsh. This was the first RSPB reserve since Marazion. Quite a long distance between the two reserves, it was great to see this one. With it being a very low tide there were no close birds.
Over the high bridge at Barnstaple and then along to Braunton. It was almost dark when I arrived there and after a few 'no vacancies' I eventually found a charmingly lovely B and B in a small cottage, The Laurels, with Thelma the owner. In fact as I write this in the lounge, she has gone out bell ringing for the evening, leaving me to my own devices. So it's an evening of washing myself and my wet things and an early night.
Tomorrow it's off to a RSPB reserves I missed today, Chapel Wood.
Now please have a look at the photographs of the 26th's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015
Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.
All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx