Friday, 14 October 2016


Although I live in Devon, I have never cycled its north east coast before. I have heard that the scenery is stunning and hills are steep. I met my friend, Jaana, in Barnstaple for a two day ride to Minehead. I cycled up from Ivybridge on the previous day while she came from London on the train.
The ride across the centre of Devon is one of my favourites with its varied mixture of moorland, countryside, quaint villages, cycle trails, quiet roads and sufficient coffee stops. 


Some of the route left the highway and I enjoyed the next section crossing Mary Tavy Moor. Last time I was here, a cyclist came the other way wearing a dishdasha. This is a white ankle length garment usually with long sleeves and frequently worn by Arabs. The rider was accompanied by 6 children, all on mountain bikes

As we left Barnstaple, our journey took us north initially on a flat cycle trail, formerly a railway but after Braunton the journey started becoming arduous as we climbed into the hills.  We arrived at Woolacombe Bay and discovered a most beautiful beach.

If you are a surf dude, you might end your journey here as it is apparantly one of the finest surfing destinations in the UK. The scenery changed to rugged cliffs as we cycled northwards and, at Ilfracombe, we discovered Verity, a complete contrast to everything up to now

Verity was created by Damien Hirst in 2011 and is 20.25 metres high. She is made from stainless steel and bronze. Verity was part of the reason that I wanted to cycle this coast and she must have made a significant impact on visitor numbers coming to Ilfracombe.  The cliffs beyond continue to Minehead and we started to encounter some of the most challenging hills that I have ever met.

We discovered that a normal hill here is 25% and each hill has many bends, some switchbacks and the roads are all narrow. We walked up the hills and it was slightly terrifying going downhill with alarming thoughts of brake fade and worse.  The compensations were truly epic scenery and admiring comments from people who never thought to see cyclists on these roads. Some of the roads were too narrow for most types of motor vehicle so we were left to ourselves to enjoy the scenery at a slow pace.  We cycled through Combe Martin,along the Valley of the Rocks, Lynton, Porlock and finished at Minehead.

These are the journey details:

    Day 1: Ivybridge - Barnstaple:-    84 miles,  cycle routes NCN2 and 27

    Days 2 and 3: Barnstaple - Minehead:-   78 very hilly miles, cycle route RCN51

The map is here  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


High Dam is in the Lake District and was built to serve Stott Park Bobbin Mill at Finsthwaite near Ulverston. The mill produced millions of bobbins for the once thriving spinning and weaving industries in Lancashire.  Today, the mill is a visitor attraction and still in use. The dam occupies a particularly scenic location above it. My daughter wanted me to join her husband, new baby and her to go wild swimming in the dam. It was a 47 mile bike ride to achieve this. I am becoming a regular visitor to the Lakes and enjoy its many and varied bike routes.

The dam involves a climb on a rough track and it can be reached from the newly formed Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop

The woodland was quite splendid with many varieties of trees. I ask someone at the start of the track if I can cycle it. He thought that a mountain bike might be needed but I took my cyclocross tourer anyway. I walk with the family up the track as it is too gritty to cycle and it was good to see a tree creeper scampering up an oak.

Baby Finn is encouraged to try the saddle. The water is crystal clear with no wind and surrounded by woodland. My daughter encourages us to do a mini triathlon by running around the dam and swimming across it. We resolve to do this another time but all take a dip.This is my first wild swim for a long time so it is brief for me but both parents swim across and back with no wet suits.

Baby Finn is only 10 months old but he is already being groomed for sport including cycling. He loves being in the child seat of my daughter's bike.

The bike ride started from Milnethorpe and followed The Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop through Levens, Grange, Cartmel and Newby Bridge. Apart from the tree creeper, I had close up views of a young fox on the road and nature in the raw where a sparrow hawk was eating a pigeon still alive no more than 1 metre from where I was standing and quite oblivious to my interest.

Monday, 8 August 2016


What do you do when you have cycled the Pyrenees? Where I live, Dartmoor and the South Hams has some amazing cycle routes. They are varied, have wild places and some spectacular scenery.  The problem is that I yearn for new places.  These are a few of my favourite places in south west England where I have cycled recently.

This is cycle route RCN51 where it crosses a ford beside an old packhorse bridge near Porlock on Exmoor that I visited a month ago.  

An old favourite is the Puffing Billy Trail at sunset on Dartmoor

This sandstone gorge is at Nynehead on NCN3 cycling north towards Taunton in Somerset

Cycling across the estuary of the River Erme in South Devon is just possible at low tide but it is not for

This cycle trail in Cornwall was even harder

The Cornish coast has some spectacular views.  This was from NCN3 in West Cornwall

And finally, it is Rio's turn for the Olympics. Here are two images from 2012 where The National Lottery encouraged lots of us to get inspired with Pedal On UK. Our group cycled from Newton Abbott to Bristol.

I am saddling up for my next rides where open countryside and quiet lanes matter

Friday, 17 June 2016


This was our route along the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, thanks to Dagmar's excellent navigation skills

These are some vital statistics:

> We succeeded cycling from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
> Distance: 1,146km (716 miles)
> Altitude climbed: 14,900m (48,887ft)
> Punctures: None
> Repairs: None
> Best scenic day: The ride to Pedroforca (day 4).
> Most memorable stop: Day ride from Ainsa (day 10)
> Best wildlife day: Everyday we could hear the birds singing and were immersed in wildlife rich countryside
> Best town/city: San Sebastian (final day)
> Any bad moments? Heavy traffic and heavy rain on the Corniche between St Jean De Luz and Hendaye
> Favourite overnight stop: Ainsa
> Route planning: All Dagmar's planning
> Quality of cycle routes: mostly quiet lanes but some off-road terrain and occasional main roads.  The Spanish drivers were mostly very good.
> Comment on hills: completely different to UK. They are very long, often with hairpin bends but the gradients were shallow by UK standards. My longest recorded hill was 50km (31 miles), in this case going down.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Last night, we arrived at Hendaye and this was our journey's end. It was 39 miles and there were two colls but they were getting smaller. The excitement of our achievement was subdued because it was raining hard and we were soaked. Also the traffic on the very beautiful Corniche from St Jean de Luz was relentless and many cars overtook missing us by just a few centimetres. So here is the end point at the Atlantic Ocean.

My thoughts on this journey across the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are remembering children and families playing in the squares of the towns. The evenings seemed to be times for families to go out. Sometimes they were playing football, others on their bikes but always the cafes seemed to be places to meet and talk.  I was frustrated at being unable to speak the language.  Dagmar can speak some Spanish and did very well.
While cycling, birdsong and colourful wild flowers were always with us while the farm animals could often be heard by ting a lings from the bells around their necks. I loved finding the old towns where the church, a cafe and the square were the centre pieces. Motorists did not demand the roads and it felt safe and enjoyable in all these towns.
None of the hills were steep by British standards but they were often very long with many hairpin bends. In many places people were on motorbikes.  They too were careful with cyclists and on several occasions we talked to motorcyclists.  We marvelled how they had to wear such enormous and very hot leather gear while we were in shorts and tee shirts.
Today we left our bikes behind and travelled by train to St Sebastian, European Capital of Culture for 2016. We discovered a city where the streets were filled with inquisitive people and, like elsewhere in Spain, it felt safe to walk and discover its beautiful old world charm.  People were encouraged to come by bike, bus and train so the roads were not busy.
Dagmar and I are already making plans for our bike adventure in 2017. This is her story

Sunday, 29 May 2016


This was our penultimate day in the Pyrenees. We cycled 54 miles, climbed 1,280m and dropped over 2,000m. We could no longer see the snow line and our route included one of the harder climbs.
We departed from Jaurrieta before the mountain bike event started but there were some early arrivals for the juniors.

Our route today crossed two trails and we stopped to talk to some interesting people. Better known is Camino de Santiago, the Pilgrim's Trail. The other is European Cycle Route EV 1
We saw many pilgrims walking the trail and this man was from the USA.

A Pilgrim's Pension is behind and I liked the boots hanging from the balcony. We spoke to others from Germany and the USA. It seemed that all were hiking 800km over 5 to 8 weeks. We saw many cyclists also, mostly road bikers but there were some long distance tourers. This couple were German and were cycling EV 1 from Faro in Portugal to Bordeaux.  They said that they had experienced many hills. I thought that we had too.  In fact I could not remember any flat cycling

This coll, although lower, experienced a tough climb and massive descent. The low level countryside was in many ways comparable to Dartmoor with its rushing streams, steep slopes and woodland. However on the north side, the architecture was completely different to what we have seen before

This journey continues to be an uplifting experience and the regular protests from the legs are kept in check by many coffee breaks and soothing words.  This is Dagmar's blog and also my twitter

Saturday, 28 May 2016


We asked for sandwiches for lunch today and were given gargantuan fresh baked rolls each half metre long filled with bacon. This was food for lumberjacks and into the bar walked a man with muscles that oozed strength. It looked like we were eating his snack. As usual, the cafe was on top of a hill in the old centre and this time we were at Vidangoz, a little village not on tourist trails. The cafe looked like a house but the bar was full with locals talking away.
We cycled 90 miles over the last two days and climbed 2,400m over hills that just kept coming. The bike continued to go well but the brakes were squealing on the downhills.  I could not see anything wrong with them but kept my speed down just in case.
We arrived at our destination, Jaurrieta, to find a bike race in progress. It was the Vuelta a Navarra.

This started at 1pm and the riders had covered 125km by the time we saw them at 5.30pm. Tomorrow, a mountain bike event starts here.
On route, Dagmar encountered some cattle and we found a street market in Jaca's old town selling plants

We have two full days left on this tour and, when done, we will have cycled Coast to Coast from the Med to the Atlantic through the Pyrenees. We have already started planning our tour for 2017.