My son Harry and I have often discussed cycling from our home in Milton Keynes down to my parents in Berrynarbor, but it's always been a bit tongue in cheek. "Wouldn't it be great" . . . safe in the knowledge it probably wouldn't ever happen. Then at the end of July we found ourselves with a couple of spare days ahead of a trip down to North Devon. My wife Emma had to work, but Harry and I were both free. Could we? Should we? Shall we? Why not!

It was 3.00 p.m. on a Tuesday and we were due to have a family lunch at midday on the Friday at The Muddiford Inn - which by the way was excellent! That meant we needed to arrive in North Devon on the Thursday night to avoid turning up tired and sweaty just before heading out for lunch. A plan was hatched and a route planned using the cycling app Strava. With a total distance of over 200 miles, we thought we should split the ride over 3 days. OK, to be more accurate, I thought we should split over 3 days, Harry being younger [18], fitter and a strong Cyclocross racer and Time Trialist, was keen to try it in 2 days . . . thankfully he took pity on me.

A few quick phone calls and we had managed to book overnight stays at hotels that were happy for us to store our road bikes in our room. Stop one on Tuesday night would be at Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester and stop two on Wednesday evening at Bridgewater. The latter being chosen to give us a good night's rest prior taking on the Quantocks and Exmoor.

A stunning evening riding through the Cotswolds

>Exmoor. One of us was finding it easy going!

By now it was approaching 4.00 p.m. and with 70 miles to do before nightfall we rushed around packing what we could fit into our two cycling back packs. Essentials being food, drinks powder and gels for energy, a spare set of cycling kit each, enough chargers and cables to recharge our phones, Garmin bike computers, lights and radars [we run radar rear lights that alert us when there are cars behind us along with an indication of their distance and closing speed - an essential fourth sense on busy roads]. Oh, and some clean clothes for evenings and toiletries. Tools, spare inner tubes were wedged in our saddle bags.

So around 90 mins after coming up with the plan . . . and with a two-day head start on our support vehicle, we set off on our adventure.

It was a bit surreal riding down into Berrynarbor from Diggers Cross knowing we had ridden all the way to get there. It felt more like three long rides on consecutive days than a single journey, but it was definitely an excellent adventure with my favourite cycling buddy. On the way we managed to have breakfast with my big sis' Helen, nephew Jamal and Helen's partner John on the Wednesday am, and coffee near Bishops Lydeard on the Thursday with my cousin Katie and family to say "Hello" to my aunt Caroline and cousin Sarah's daughter Izzy, over visiting from the US.

Journey's end (almost!) at Digger's Cross.

The weather was perfect on all three days being overcast, but warm with no rain. We had no mechanical issues or punctures and everywhere we stopped for food or coffee and cake turned out to be little gems. On the way we enjoyed an entirely new perspective on the country we live in - quite different from the usual 'tunnel vision' of the A420, M4, M5 and North Devon Link Road. I doubt we could have arranged it any better with a years' worth of planning - sometimes things just work out!

PS - No, we didn't ride home again! Harry did another 100+ miles around North Devon over the following weekend, whilst I took a well-earned rest from the saddle!

Ride Totals: 208.18 miles, 11,400 ft of climbing, Total ride time: 13 hours, 35 minutes.

James Weedon



Work continues to make all the back editions of the Newsletter available on the website. Since the December Newsletter, a further 17 editions have been uploaded, covering from June 2004 back to February 2002. So that makes a grand total of 121 editions that can be viewed online.

Unfortunately, the last edition we had an electronic backup of was October 2004, so every edition uploaded since then has had to be recreated manually from the ground up.

This is a time-consuming two-person process, with a number of steps along the way:

As you will have gathered, it's a fair amount of work. Each edition takes between 5 and 8 hours to replicate. It's tempting to wish that we had kept better backups, but then you realise that the Newsletter pre-dates Microsoft Word, PC's and even the internet! So, in reality the only backup possible is the hard copy printout.

Technical facts - just in case anyone is interested!

  1. The Website is a Webapp written in Python.
  2. Jinja templates are used for the screen presentation.
  3. The site utilises Bootstrap to make it responsive - meaning it adapts its layout based on the size of the screen being used to view it (i.e. mobile phone, tablet of PC).
  4. It uses a SQLlite database to log the editions, articles, artwork and maintain the searchable content.
  5. It is hosted on Microsoft Azure in the cloud.
  6. At the time of publishing, the site consists of 7709 files across 260 folders, using 565MB of disk storage.

James Weedon

Scanning an edition using an iPhone. The phones sits in a custom 'cradle' (in grey) which is used to position the camera the right height above the printed hard copy and which can easily slide left and right to scan both pages... and yes, it is made from Lego!



As reported in Edition 194, a major revamp of the Newsletter website is well underway, the idea being to preserve the content and unique social history online, for all to enjoy now and in the future.

As things stand, we have uploaded 104 editions, covering the period from August 2004 to October 2021.  The plan is to get every edition online in the end, but things are about to slow down as we don't have electronic copies of editions earlier than Oct 2004.  So, there will need to be a lot of scanning, re-typing and editing - busy times ahead!

You can check in on progress and see the latest 'oldie' we have uploaded by clicking on 'Just uploaded' on the top right of the website homepage.  Or you can review all the Editions uploaded via the "Editions - See All Editions" menu. We hope to add some each week as we refine the process.  Wish us luck!

The process of uploading the old editions has been an interesting one.  I now know why the WI is no more and how the Ladies Group came into being instead!  Plus, I keep happening across new series to add, the latest additions being: Hatched, Matched, Bikers of Berrynarbor, Welcome and Farewell, Sunday School and In the Papers. No doubt more will appear as we work steadily backwards through the editions. 

As a one-off special to commemorate the Editor's announcement that Edition 200 will be her swan song, we have jumped ahead a little and uploaded Edition 1 - from August 1989! See: here.

To set the scene, the artwork was hand drawn on to stencils and the entire newsletter was produced on a typewriter. It's amazing to see how many of the articles from then still feature, for example The Wine Circle, Manor Hall Management, The Horticultural Show, Berry in Bloom, News from the Primary School and of course fabulous postcards of the village courtesy of Tom. Talking of Tom's postcards, we are re-scanning all his originals so that they are available in all their glory on the website. 

* Tech note: when we first published the Newsletter online in 2004 a typical screen resolution was 800 x 600, so the images were sized to fit comfortably on the website.  With the advent of 4K screens and more, it is now possible to see the images 1:1 as they were scanned.  A typical resolution now being 1600 x 900 or higher.  To appreciate the improvement, take a look at Tom's postcards in Edition 1 online.  We were surprised to find that there was a dog in the foreground in the Berrynarbor Mill image - who knew!

If anyone has ideas or suggestions for how we can further improve the website, please let us know.

James Weedon



Whilst uploading back editions of the Newsletter for the new and improved website [see:] I came across an article with a picture that left me totally befuddled. It was in the December 2011 edition [No 135] with a picture entitled 'Sheep in the Sterridge Valley', written by Lorna Bowden. 

The more I stared at the picture, the more familiar it seemed - yet I could not for the life of me work out where it was taken.   That, despite spending the formative years of my childhood pedalling manically up and down the Sterridge on push bikes in the company of the valley gang of the day - Guy Harding, Philip Worth, the three Coopers [Shaun, Neil and Dean], Warren Bailey and, more often than not, Nick Constantine - an interloper from the 'wrong' side of Two Rocks!

The photo featured what looked like Barn Cottage, but there was no sign of what my sister Helen and I always referred to as The Ice Cream house.  Why the Ice Cream House?Because during the 1970's it was painted in the same colours as a block of Neapolitan ice cream!   

But I digress.  If it really was Barn Cottage on the right-hand side of the road, where was what is more commonly known as Derrivale?  It should have been on the left- hand side of the road.  Plus, the road towards Barn Cottage from Tree Tops is pretty much flat.  The road in the photo seemed to be sloping sharply up hill . . . and where had the cottage shown on the left disappeared to?  There are no buildings opposite Tree Tops.  Just a wall of earth.

As published in Edition 135...

... Corrected!

It finally clicked. Somehow, somewhere the photo had been mirrored horizontally.  It was indeed Barn Cottage, but it should have been on the left-hand side of the road and not the right.  The cottage shown on the left was really Woodvale and should have been on the right.   Mystery solved!

With my brain unscrambled, it is back to converting and categorising old editions of the Newsletter for me.  Having started with the August 2021 edition, I have currently converted 59 taking the site content back to No. 135, December 2011.  So just another 134 editions to go then.    The first edition published online was October 2004 - No 92, so we can definitely get that far back.  Going beyond that might be tricky since only hard copies exist of those first 91 editions.  But even so, 100 editions on the web is a good target - wish me luck!

 James Weedon
[formerly of Chicane]

PS - If you have not seen the new website, do take a look.  The Search page is very powerful.  Try entering your surname or that of a relative, or a local place name.  You will be amazed at what turns up and we only have about 25% of the total Newsletter content on the site currently. The Newsletter is a massive source of information on the village.  Memories, social history, photos, stories and more, resulting from the hard graft by the editor, her contributors and the newsletter artists.  Now preserved online in a more digestible form for all to enjoy, and hopefully as a research tool for years to come.

PPS - Having been thinking about the Valley gang, I feel a belated apology is due to Les Bowen for all the times footballs banged into his van, parked outside his workshop where Riverside is now. With current traffic levels, it seems odd to think of playing football on that stretch of road, but we were always out there.  I distinctly remember a side mirror getting broken on one occasion, with much scurrying home in the aftermath.  Must have been Shaun's fault I reckon, he was usually the ring leader in our adventures!



Back in the autumn of 2004 I somewhat unadvisedly suggested to the Editor that the Berrynarbor Newsletter should have an online presence.  Ever since then I've been getting bi-monthly emails of 'joy' containing the latest newsletter to upload - thanks mum!  The website editions are cut down versions of the full newsletter and are edited to remove personal details and articles not suitable for the internet.

One of the benefits of viewing the newsletter online is that you get to appreciate the artwork and images in a higher resolution than is available via the printed hard copy.  Tom's postcards often end up with remarkable clarity given the age of the prints.  The same goes for a lot of the original artwork which looks especially crisp online.  There is also a section displaying some of the original artwork that has been created for the newsletter over the years. I often wonder what some of the subjects would think of being online as their memory now lives on in cyberspace.  I suspect most would find it totally baffling!

Over the years a large number of people have contacted the Editor via the web site, which got us thinking about how many visits the site gets and which pages people are viewing. So in October of last year we added Google Analytics to the site. Google Analytics is a clever package that allows web site administrators to track how people locate their site, which pages people visit and some basic statistics about them. Rest assured, the data collected is very 'broad brush', this is the Berrynarbor Newsletter and not Orwell's 1984!

The more eagle-eyed of you may have also noticed a small thumbnail map on the front page of the web site. This is a freeware [i.e. no cost] application that can be installed on web sites to show the locations where visitors to the site come from. Unlike Google Analytics, this one pays for itself by offering focussed adverts when you click on it, so in theory it should offer links to sites related to Berrynarbor. The authors make their money when users click on a link as they are paid a small transaction fee by the advertisers for each 'click through'. Enterprising stuff!

10 facts you never knew about the Berrynarbor Newsletter online, statistics as of 13th Jan 2010:

  1. If you Google for Berrynarbor, the Newsletter is generally the number one hit!
  2. The website typically gets around 350 visitors per month.
  3. Since October the site has been visited by people from 30 countries worldwide, with hits from places as diverse as Brazil, Lithuania and Nigeria!
  4. 75% of visitors reside in the UK, with 9% in the US 2.5% in Russia and 2% in Canada.
  5. Within the UK, 37% of visitors come from London, with Birmingham (7%) and Luton (4%) next up.
  6. There have been more hits from visitors in Caerphilly, Mansfield and Glasgow than from within North Devon itself!
  7. 43% of the site's visitors are referred from Google.
  8. The most popular word used to locate the site via search engines is perhaps unsurprisingly "Berrynarbor", but a lot of people clearly think it is spelt "Berrynarbour"!
  9. The December edition has been viewed 75 times online, with users spending an average of 3 minutes and 28 seconds on the page.
  10. 42% of users have a screen resolution of 1024x768 pixels and 75% run Internet Explorer on Windows. 

As you can see, Google Analytics opens up a world of useless facts!  However, it is heartening to know that people do visit the site and that the Newsletter has a truly global audience.   The website is a 'front door' for the village online, so if you have any ideas or suggestions for the web site please pass them on to the Editor.  We can't promise to implement them all, but we'll do our best.




How do you get from Lynmouth to Barnstaple? A simple question you might think, but you could be surprised by the answer.

Confused? Well don't be. The answer lies in Milton Keynes, home of concrete cows and infinite roundabouts.



As most people know, Milton Keynes is a new town. As such, the Development Corporation were faced with the difficult task of picking names for the many thousands of new roads. In the end, they opted for a simple solution - pick a theme for an area and name all the roads in the area accordingly.

When choosing the road names for Furzton, the theme selected was North Devon and Somerset. The following are just a subset of the names used:

There can't be many places in Britain that are more different from the Sterridge Valley than Milton Keynes. However, I can still take a drive through Combe Martin, pass by Blackmoor Gate and pop in to Lynmouth, which I guess makes it a real home from home!

James Weedon