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Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Long Sutton to Black Dog

Saturday was Somerset Advanced Motorcyclists' South West Peninsula Spring Rally, an event in which you travel Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, or at least some of them, visiting checkpoints and answering questions to prove you were there.

I last did the rally in 2014, but when I walked into Long Sutton Village Hall to check in, the couple manning the desk said "Oh, hello Alice! We were just saying, I wonder where Alice is!". Which was nice.

Howard and I had decided to go for the Silver award, which made it a slightly more leisurely day with time for sightseeing. We had planned which checkpoints we would visit when the list was sent out a couple of weeks in advance, and now we were given the list of questions. We set off for Wiveliscombe to discover which sport is commemorated at the entrance to the village (rugby, for the record).

The morning was foggy and rainy, and most of the checkpoints were villages you wouldn't ordinarily visit, up single-track roads that were a little the worse for the weather. On one, I squeezed past a van coming the other way and the driver cheerfully informed me that there was 'two foot of water' at the other end. I comforted myself with the thought that he was probably exaggerating, and, indeed, it was not two foot of water (though it was quite a lot).

I don't think my bike's previous owner had even ridden it in the rain, let alone through a flood.

We crossed Exmoor in the fog and paid a pound each to travel the toll road at Porlock Weir. With six out of twelve unmanned checkpoints in the bag, we stopped for a pub lunch at the Pack o' Cards in Combe Martin. Built, according to legend, using the proceeds of a gambling win, it is shaped like a house of cards and designed around the number of cards in a deck, with four floors, 13 doors on each floor, and 52 stairs.

At Ilfracombe we knocked off one of the two manned checkpoints we needed, which put us halfway to victory. Our second, via a couple more unmanned ones, was at Princetown, where we were recognised from previous years and warmly welcomed. ("Oh, you're the journalist lady!" exclaimed the guy who stamped my card, which is a very generous description of my writing up the 2011 rally for a freebie bike mag.)

We stopped for a coffee before heading over Dartmoor, where the weather was finally kind and gave us views of golden, sunlit hills surrounded by shadows. Three checkpoints remained, one at the charmingly-named and tiny hamlet of Black Dog. (The whole day was filled with wonderful names: Curry Rivel; Fivehead; Sticklepath; Mary Tavy.)

We returned to Long Sutton soon after 8pm, received our certificates and 10th anniversary mugs, had a bowl of stew, and departed around 9, 12 hours after we'd checked in that morning.
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Comments

Towns in Wales have some pretty interesting names too.
True! It's been too long since I went to Wales.
Perhaps that could be your next adventure. ;)
Maybe!