I took a big woolly blanket and my knitting and lots of money to spend in aid of the Calais refugees (which it was all in aid of). I also took a pair of clean undies, toothbrush and hairbrush, dry socks and dressed in lots of layers.
I pushed the bicycle up hills and got to Chagford as it was getting dimpsy. The wind she did blow and the rain was pushing damp fingers down the back of my neck - but it was very warm despite the stormy blustering and I stayed relatively dry in my layers. I appreciated the hedges as the wind tried to knock me off my bike whenever I passed a gateway. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
Once I got past Whiddon Down, I was outside of familiar territory - I discovered that the satnav would send me astray if I failed to notice there was no signal - which was why I ended up in Sampford Courtnay when I had turned right on the right road earlier but the satnav told me I was wrong. I went off on several 'spurs' like that and had to backtrack. And Devon, lest you hadn't noticed, is very hilly.
There was no signal when I got to Bondleigh - so I guessed my way to the farm (uphill) - and felt vindicated when I heard the bass thumping out. The barn was huge with a canvas roof and fairy lights swinging wildly in the wind. Hazaar were playing on stage. There was ale, curry, cake, tea, and a lot of interesting folk dancing wildly - I saw Windy Smithy and family, Cara and her sister, Poppy's husband Malc, and made some new friends. There were beautiful flowers on the tables and sculptures of fabulous flying women (see pic - I love that she's on TOP of the phallic object). It was even light enough to knit while I listened to the music (much to the bemusement of other folk). I was glad of my spare dry socks as it was the only part of me that had got soaked on my journey there and I managed to dry the wet pair by the fire pit later on. Suffice to say I had an excellent time.
Malc had come in his van - and offered me a lift back in the morning. But as I looked around at the mud and light and noise I couldn't see anywhere to put my head down comfortably for the remaining hours and I felt wide awake at 2am. I had made a very vague arrangement with Squibby Grimley to stay at hers - but hadn't been able to contact her as I'd promised because a) no phone signal and b) no phone no. if I HAD got a signal and c) left it too late to call in on way to Bondleigh the night before. She'd said she could put a key to the door outside her house so I could sneak upstairs to the spare room - so I set out hoping this would still be the case.
It was a lovely wild night - with the wind still howling and the moon shining and lighting the way despite the clouds. I was riding in semidarkness as my head torch had run out of juice (I'd loaned it to young Meg at last Thursday's Woodcraft Folk night hike -and I think she'd used it on full beam instead of power saving - again my fault for not explaining). The spare bicycle headlight was pretty useless. This made riding 'Rowenna' down hill quite exciting. There was mud, and wet leaves, and big puddles and a gale blowing. I got to Spreyton around 4am and was feeling very tired by that time - and no key under the pots. Having read Chris Pountney's and Al Humphrey's blogs and their acquaintance with sleeping in bus shelters, I decided this would be good practice and looked around for somewhere to bed down - shame Squibby had no porch. Then I realised she DID have a porch. Her house has an old blocked off doorway with a wee roof and ideal for me to curl up in and stay dry. I took my pannier to use as a pillow, pulled my buff neck wrap up around my head and wrapped myself in that large woolly blanket and curled up like a dog - thinking how crazy this is, but also how tired I was. I slept for about an hour and a half then changed position - must have woken up about three times in all - and four hours passed. At 08.30am a neighbour got into his car and drove off and I woke with a start - daylight! No sign of life at Squibby's so I set off for home - via the Courtyard Cafe in Chagford for a slap up and reviving breakfast - mmm porridge with dates and almonds, and beautifully molten golden yolked poached egg on buttery toast followed by lashings of black coffee. As I went up the hill out of Chagford I was directing the porridge to my legs to keep them moviing. I admit to sitting down in various hedges en route and snoozing. Got home around midday to be greeted by ecstatic Syd and a message from Squibs on the phone from the night before asking if I was still coming. (Sorry for being so useless on the organisational front Squibby!). Hadn't used the hairbrush or the spare pair of clean undies (what a slob). I reckon life on the road will actually be more comfortable in that I'll have a TENT with me, and a nice down sleeping bag, but you really can't beat a good hand knit woolly blanket. (This is the one I left at yours for a while Barbara Bloomfield - it really did keep out the wind from all my nooks and crannies).
52miles in total - pathetic isn't it? = but all good practise and I loved every minute of vagabonding this weekend.
An article in praise of life on the road and saying a lot of things I would have said if I was a little more articulate: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2010/05/12/living-well-vs-doing-well/
and who'd have thought 'vagabonder' was a noun?
Thanks to Ben for a fantastic party, and to Squibby for the use of her doorway (sorry about the fuzzy leaved plant in the corner- hopefully it will recover) and to Courtyard Cafe for a wonderful breakfast.