ON THE PEDALS FROM ENGLISH EXETER

We are moving to Exeter the capital of the county of Devon (also known as Devonshire) in southwest England. We are not doing so without intention because we will be cycling there. In advance we are briefed on the cycling possibilities in the region by people from Devon County Council. Of course they think their region is an optimal cycling area.

However, it is best to experience things for yourself. We (a group of international journalists) are provided with new rental bikes and can head out to explore the Exe Estuary Trail.

Exeter

The image of the city of about 120,000 people is dominated by St. Peter’s Cathedral. The beautiful church survived World War II when the old city center was bombed no less than 18 times by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in the loss of most of the old center. After the war, new construction mostly took its place. In town, the 26-mile-long Exe Estuary Trail begins. This virtually car-free bike trail connects Exeter to Exmouth, where the river empties into the sea. They themselves call the route one of the Devons’ flagship routes. In the summer months, we are told, the trail is used by 2000 cyclists a day. During our ride on the first of October (fortunately) we see considerably fewer passing by. The bike trail circles through a protected area. The route is part of the National Cycle Network No. 2, which connects Dover in Kent to St. Austell in Cornwall over a distance of 359 miles along England’s south coast. It also forms part of the English section of the Tour de Manche. Through the town runs the River Exe for which the route is named. Liz Holloway of Devon County Council will lead us through her region over the next few hours and update us on details.

Along the way

It’s a little strange to cycle on the left, but those are the rules of the road here! Just a matter of adjusting. Because we are here to get as much information as possible and above all to be able to take pictures, we regularly stop and then the whole club is back on the bike path! Because of the good signage with blue signs, it is hardly possible to make a wrong turn, although it can always be interesting to take a side road. The average cyclist will not fall over backwards from the distance of the trail, but that is not the point. Above all, enjoy the tranquility of the landscape and villages, the little harbors where fishermen are busy working on their boats, the birds and so much more. It is above all the small scale that does it. And what is also very important is the strengthening of the inner man. Plenty of opportunity in atmospheric establishments, many of which have beautiful signs on the outside. Those signs alone could be a subject to trek along the Exe. Those who no longer feel like cycling get on one of the ferries that cross the river or settle down on a terrace. For example, at the Turf Hotel (beautifully situated on the river) we are surprised with Devon Cream Tea. We are taught in what order to apply the cream and jam to a cake pastry. Whether or not it then detracts from the taste whether you put the jam or the cream first, we doubt. What we do know for sure; it is for savoring.

Needless to say, it is possible to do much more by bicycle from Exeter. The various websites literally and figuratively point the way!

Text and photo: Teus Korporaal

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