Porlock Hill on a bicycle

2009-08-04, , Comments

The road signs warn you early about Porlock Hill.

Early warning

Even if you snub the alternative route and reach the base of the hill you’ll be offered the option of the scenic woodland Toll Road.


It’s true, the air here is acrid with the smell of burned out brakes and clutches — maybe that’s why the house is for sale — and you’ll see a line of cars parked hard against roadside while pale-faced drivers recover.

The Exmoor cycle route, signed in the picture, follows the toll road too. That’ll be a pound please!

I went straight up.

The road climbs approximately 400 m (1,300 ft) in less than 2 miles (3.2 km) up onto Exmoor: a very steep hill with gradients of up to 1 in 4 and hairpin bends. — Wikipedia

My normal tactic when cycling uphill is not to use the lowest gear: keep it in reserve in case the going gets really tough. Porlock Hill blew that strategy apart on the first switchback. For the rest of the climb I was in bottom gear, out of the pedals, sweating and yawing like a porpoise

When I reached the top of the steep bit my legs were jelly. The road continued to climb, albeit more gently, for some way. A few miles on, the A39 from Lynmouth to Lynton is equally steep, but for a mercifully short section.

I made the return journey this morning from Combe Martin to Taunton, taking the B3558 across the top of Exmoor. It’s a rolling route but nowhere near as severe as the coast road. This time my enemy was filthy weather. It felt like riding through a sodden sponge. Rain bounced up from the road and the wind shook great gobs of water from the trees as I passed beneath. Does Alberto Contador ever stop to wring out his socks, I wondered?

  • Soaking in Simonsbath.
  • Drenched at Exford.
  • Wet through by Wheddon Cross.

A bag of Roly’s lemon and stem ginger fudge dispelled the gloom and sped me on my way.

Roly's fudge