Our journey today turned out to be just a transit day as we travelled from Ifracombe to Bristol. This positions us to have some time to look round the city tomorrow before we reach our next (and last base) at Cheltenham. We could have whizzed up the highway and been in Bristol in a couple of hours. Our preferred route was along the coastline on some of the lesser roads where the scenery was more interesting.
We had a quick look around Ifracombe harbour before leaving and found a statue of ‘Verity’ by the famous sculptor Damien Hirst. This 20 metre tall sculpture stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbour. It has been loaned to the town for 20 years. The statue depicts a pregnant woman holding aloft a sword while carrying the scales of justice and standing on a pile of law books. One half of the sculpture shows the profile of a pregnant woman while the other side shows her internal anatomy. The sculpture was cast in stainless steel and bronze in 40 separate sections.
A little way out of Ilfracombe, we came across a little narrow gauge railway at the Woody Bay station. It looked as if it had come straight out of the Hornby train set and catalogue that I had as a boy.
This Lynton & Barnstaple Railway opened as an independent railway in May 1898. It has a single 600 mm narrow gauge track and was originally slightly over 31 kms long. For a short period the line earned a modest return for shareholders, but for most of its life, it made a loss. It now runs over the remaining one mile length of remaining track and is primarily manned by volunteers. I noticed that the carriages were all designated as being ‘third class’. I asked about this and was told that they never had a second class carriage – only first and third. Well done for egalitarianism by this little railway – no one would ever want to be seen as a ‘second class’, so omitting it seems to me to solve a large problem in society. Who cares if it creates another?
At the town of Lynton, we saw a sign pointing us to the ‘Cliff Railway’. I had my camera out and ready to capture what I expected to be a romantic steam railway ravelling around the coastal cliffs. Instead, it turned out to be a much more boring funicular that people could take to go up and down, to and from the lower town named Lynmouth at the mouth of the Lyn River. It was a pretty town and scored` high on our ‘cuteness’ rating that we have been ascribing to the villages through which we have travelled.
We came across another railway later in the day at Minehead. The much larger, and more commercial, West Somerset Railway there is a 37 km heritage railway line. It originally opened in 1862 between Taunton and Watchet and in 1874 it was extended from Watchet to Minehead by the Minehead Mineral Railway. Although just a single track, improvements were needed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the significant number of tourists that wished to travel to the Somerset coast. The line was closed by British Rail in 1971 and reopened in 1976 as a heritage line.
We continued on our way and passed a cafe that we had visited on a previous trip when we skimmed across this area nine to ten years ago. I would have stoped again for another coffee but it was closed for renovations. Just beyond it was a beautiful grove of oak trees in full autumn colours. I turned back to drive through it again and take some photos by holding my camera out of the car window to avoid reflections.
By mid afternoon, the towns through which we were travelling had a ‘cuteness score’ of only one or two (out of ten), so we decided that it was time to set our course up the motorway for the remainder of the distance to Bristol. We had long periods of congestion in part, I think, to the fact that this is the last day of then mid-term holidays and lots of people were heading home. Oh, to get back home to my car with an automatic gearbox. This little Vauxhall that we have has a 6 speed manual gearbox and I haven’t driven a manual car since i was last in England (I invite you to look back thorough all my posts and see just how long ago that was). By the time we reached our hotel, i had really had enough of driving for the day and was glad to be able to relax for an hour so before dinner (and to write this post).