Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Up and down, country and cliffs and cup of tea places.

Exmoor called us.  We were staying in East Devon and Exmoor was between us and North Devon.  Now, that doesn't quite make sense I know, but that's the way they do it here, so it's fine by us.  We had high expectations for Exmoor - a bit like parts of Scotland or the North York Moors, perhaps.  It's not really like that - for a start it's not very big (only about 270 square miles, most of which is in Somerset) and it's got good roads crossing it.  More like Thetford Chase really.  Still, we had got ourselves a very nice picnic from Tesco in Honiton and took it onto the moor to enjoy it and the ponies.  In fairness, most of the horse activity we saw was in horseboxes towed by Range Rovers ... there were lots of those ... but we did see some of the famous Exmoor ponies which were very pretty.

Having eaten and enjoyed the ponies (there's a phrase that needs an Oxford comma if ever I saw one) we continued north and went to Lynton with the plan of taking the funicular railway to Lynmouth.  In practice there was a diversion because of roadworks so we ended up going pretty much via Lynmouth to Lynton, but such is life with roadworks.  Now, the funicular railway is an amazing bit of hydraulic engineering.  The two cars use no electrical energy at all - or any other fuel.  They just use the weight of water in tanks to pull each other up the cliff.  It's water that would otherwise have gone down to the sea anyway, this way the water takes a train ride to get there.

This is the view from the top looking down (left) and the bottom looking up.  It's not vertical, but about 57 degrees or 1:1.75.  Steep!  The carriages are kind of stepped so that you can sit horizontally. Each carriage has a big water tank underneath.  These are both full when it's at rest, but when it's ready to move the brakes are released and the bottom tank releases enough water so that the top carriage is heavier.  Since they're connected with ropes round a pulley at the top, the top carriage pulls the bottom carriage up as it descends.  Clever, eh!  The drivers can adjust the amount of water to allow for more people in one carriage or the other.  It's a very, very neat solution which, as we mentioned, requires no input of additional energy - it's all powered by water.  The two sets of rails are very close together, such that the carriages wouldn't be able to pass each other, so there's a bit at the half way point where the rails ease apart - you can see it in the right picture above - to allow them to pass.

There's not a huge amount to do in Lynmouth, but it is small enough to wander around and enjoy the feeling of relaxation.  There are lots of "cup of tea places" to choose from, each claiming its own USP.  As an aside, we asked the lady who took our fare on the funicular whether there were "cup of tea places" around and she looked at us as though we were speaking Swahili and responded that there were plenty of cafes!  Surely "cup of tea place" is universally understood, isn't it?   We chose the Lynmouth Bay Cafe and what a splendid choice it was.  Tea served the way it's supposed to be, with extra hot water in a jug and all in matching crockery ... and soya milk too.  And they had plastic tablecloths which were a bit of a blast from the past.  Oh, and the scones ... my word what scones!  Made (we found by our rigorous interrogation technique) without bicarbonate of soda and so they tasted amazing.  We couldn't remember whether you're supposed to put the jam on before the cream or afterwards in Devon (it being the other way around in Cornwall) and didn't dare ask, so tried both.  We'll need to try that experiment again!

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