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Clevedon Hotel Weekend

Walton Park Hotel  24-26 March 2023

March – in like a lion out like a lamb, so goes the old adage. On the bike however, a bit of persistent drizzle makes it a very muddy lamb as we found out on the Southern Section Clevedon weekend. The Walton Park Hotel is a grand Victorian pile perched on top of cliffs on the outskirts of Clevedon offering spectacular views overlooking the Severn Estuary. With its restaurant facilities, range of rooms, and sizeable car park, it proved an ideal venue.
Mike and Lesley had very kindly taken on the roles of both coordinators and route planners, with an initial ride-in starting near Andover on the Friday morning. Personally, with domestic issues to manage, Susan and I were only able to take the direct motorway route in and out missing two out of the three of Mike’s planned routes.

Convening in the Hotel bar early Friday afternoon, we met up with Mercia Section Member, Martin Cowin.
Preparing for the ride
Martin, a recent returnee to bikes, was extolling the virtues of his new Moto Guzzi V100, and clearly enjoying both his new riding experience and re-connecting with the camaraderie of biking.
Following a late afternoon stroll, fed, watered, and bedded, we awoke to a slightly dull, damp, but rainless Saturday for the main event, the ride out. Heading southwards out of Clevedon, although the sky began to brighten, the slight chill on the air, as it turned out, was to remain with us for the rest of the day. 

Although we enjoyed mixed scenery on the initial stages of the ride, for an average, late March Saturday, we encountered a surprising amount of traffic. As you do while riding, I pondered whether what we were experiencing here will become the post-Covid norm? With more people able to work from home and de-centralising to smaller towns and villages, will we find more congestion on otherwise rural rides? 
Left: Views back to Clevedon front

Below: Clevedon's famous  Grade 1 listed pier
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Hotel car park with sea views
The weather continued to improve and the scenery soon opened out onto the wide vistas of the Quantock Hills. With glorious sweeping bends and significantly less traffic, this is what we came here for! Our route continued, following the contours of the hillsides, before eventually swinging around the northern promontory of the Quantocks, giving way to views over Watchet and the Severn Estuary.
We continued to track the coastline until the historic town of Dunster, with its eponymously named hilltop castle, came into view on the skyline. The village itself displayed much evidence of its medieval origins with the varied architecture of the roadside buildings and narrow streets, soon widening into a town square dominated by the octagonal Yarn Market at its heart.   
Top: Dunster Castle
Middle: Narrow medieval streets

Bottom: Dunster Yarn Market
Squeezed between the imposing Grabbist and Vinegar hills of Dunster, we headed on towards the Exmoor National Park where the roads really began to deliver. With wonderful open curves, rising and falling between tall hedgerows, all interspersed with deciduous woodland landscapes; roads that were there to be ridden. With only limited numbers of riders, we were able to fully appreciate the scenery.

Our enjoyment continued uninterrupted for the best part of 10 miles before we arrived at The Exmoor Forest Inn for a welcome lunch break.
Lunch and route review
The final leg back was a quick blast along the M5 and home in time for dinner.

We were joined for the evening by Sarah and Andy who, having been tied down to work on the Friday, had ambled their way over to join us for dinner. Sunday’s weather forecast was far from promising but, we bade our farewells. Martin took a short ride to meet friends, while Mike, Lesley, and Paul followed the proposed twisty route back to Middle Wallop, and Susan and I took the Motorway back to domesticity.  Safe to say that we can look back on a very enjoyable weekend with friends old and new.

Over lunch it was agreed that we would divert from the planned route back and return via Tiverton to avoid some of the earlier congestion. The route was just as enjoyable as the morning’s ride although more of the road surface had suffered over Winter with hazardous gravel piles strategically placed on the bends. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
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