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Saturday 4th April
Gold course completed as well as six Round Britain Rally landmarks, and two National Parks visited. My first ride since breaking my right femur in a bike accident in November 2008, so I started off with some trepidation, but wanted to use it as a test to see whether I would be able to compete in the Brit Butt rally in the following month.
The first running of this rally on Saturday was blessed with brilliant weather and a turnout of around 60 riders to take part in the Gold, Silver and Bronze courses. Similar in format to the Welsh Rally, it involved visiting a number of unmanned controls at which you had to find the answer to a question (generally pretty easy to find) and a smaller number of manned controls, at which you had to aanswer ten multiple choice questions on IAM type stuff (not so easy!). I went down with a friend of mine, Phil, having stayed at his house in Nailsea the previous evening. We started away from V&J Honda in Bridgwater after signing in and a bacon butty at around 9 o'clock. I had aimed to start earlier, but had not realised until the night before that the finish did not open until 6pm, so my intended 3.30pm finish could take a bit of stretching! We were both doing the Gold course (15 unmanned and three manned controls), and similar routes, but in opposite directions, so we arranged to meet half way round.
My route was basically a blast down the M5 past Exeter until turning off for Bovey Tracey and heading across Dartmoor. This also gave me the chance to nab the national park there - as luck would have it one of the SW rally bonuses was right opposite the national park centre I needed in Princetown. From Dartmoor into Cornwall, the land of my birth, and via St Cleers and Lostwithiel to the harbour at Charlestown where I stopped for the first manned control, met some very friendly IAM guys, struggled with the questions, went for a pasty and waited to meet up with Phil.
At Charlestown (thanks to Somerset IAM for the photograph)
From there I rode up to the next manned control at Jamaica Inn, where the questions were no easier, and then up to Exmoor via Bideford and Ilfracombe. The ride across Exmoor was made in glorious sunshine and I picked up the second national park of the day there. Shortly after my GPS went into spasm, trying to convince me a 84 mile route was necessary to the next control 5.6 miles away! Luckily I had a paper map with me as well. I also visited and photographed five Round Britain Rally landmarks along my route as well, meaning I visited 25 controls by the time I got back to Bridgwater just after 6pm. A welcome meal at the finish, a quick chat with Phil and some of the other finishers and I was back on the road for the 130 mile trip home, arriving there at 9.15pm, tired but very pleased with my day's endeavours - most especially because I feel for the first time that I shall definitely be okay to take part in the Brit Butt Rally next month!