Sunday, 12 August 2018

A SUMMER BIKE RIDE AROUND THE DARTMOOR WAY CYCLE ROUTE


At 95 miles and with more than 8,000ft of climbing, the Dartmoor Way is one of England's more challenging cycle routes.  It has its own website and goes close to my home but I have never cycled the whole route. Last week I decided to change that and cycled it over two days with a stopover at Chagford.
I discovered it to be a great micro adventure crossing every river valley on Dartmoor with roller coaster rides down most, only to climb up again on the other sides.  There were lots of hidden hamlets and some pubs I never knew existed.  Forests, wild flower meadows and open moorland were all experienced.  There were occasional flat sections too like the Granite Way. Here is my route


Day 1 Ivybridge via Bovey Tracey to Chagford
Day 2 Chagford via Tavistock to Ivybridge
Creating an atmosphere, I want to start by showing my first coffee break at Buckfastleigh.

One Seed Coffee Shop where they claim the inside is cool
I found Chagford to be a good overnight stop as it had several B+B's, cafes, pubs and food.  I discovered a pleasant evening walk to the nearby River Teign which was signed the Two Moors Way, a 117 mile long distance path through Ivybridge on Dartmoor to Lynmouth on Exmoor

Chagford Square
The toughest section pedalling anti-clockwise is from Cornwood to Okehampton while the steepest hills are the climbs between Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead. The Granite Way connects Okehampton to Lydford. These are a few of my images on route

Glaze Brook, Owley

Belstone


Summer route across Mary Tavy Moor




Bridge over River Tavy
The best bike is a cross country tourer with good brakes.  I underestimated mine and had to replace the front ones on route.  This is the link for the Dartmoor Way and the Two Moors Way can be found here 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

THE CAMBRIAN MOUNTAINS:THE TRANS CAMBRIA CYCLE TRAIL

The Cambrian Mountains, remote, desolate, a hidden beauty are a jewel to be found in the heart of Wales. The Cambrian Mountains are home to some of Wales' great rivers. The sources of the Rivers Severn, Wye and Teifi can be found here. Folklore says that there is a sleeping giant on Plynlimon, its highest peak at 752 metres.

Three of Wales great cycle routes circumnavigate these mountains.  They are Lon Las Cymru, Lon Cambria and Lon Teifi. For touring cyclists who don't speak Welsh, these routes are known as NCN8, 81 and 82 of the National Cycle Network.  I have cycled all three but in my recent visit to Ceredigion there is a fourth route that I wanted to investigate. Locally it appears to be known as the Trans Cambria Cycle Trail as I discovered from these notes in a bothy while staying at Tregaron


I had heard of this trail before so, with my wife, set off to learn more. It seems historically that there may have been an ancient route between two abbeys each side of the mountains. In the east there is Abbeycwmhir, a Cistercian abbey built in the 12th Century but never fully completed and the other is Strata Florida, which quickly became a site of huge religious significance and home to Welsh culture.

We went for a short hike up the western slopes and here are a few images what we discovered

Droving sheep down the mountain for sheering


First sight of a bothy

Bothy used by hikers and bikers

It seems that there is a narrow mountain road only partly surfaced with the middle section a rough track that connects Claerwen reservoir in the east to Tregaron in the west that runs close to the Teifi Pools.  Needless to say, this is on my agenda for a future bike tour and I will tell more when it is done

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A BIKE RIDE TO FIND #30 DAYS WILD IN WEST DEVON

Yesterday I cycled 106 miles as I wanted to explore some of West Devon. This area has a timeless quality about it. The leafy lanes are ideal for cycling, the villages are delightfully rustic and the countryside is plentiful for wildlife as well as good livestock farming.  I find a fuel station at Monkokehampton, long since derelict



Since it started, I have signed up every June for 30 Days Wild as this gives me added interest on my bike rides. I want to show some images of the area.  It is north of Okehampton. On my ride up over Dartmoor, I crossed the River Tavy, good for sea trout and some salmon.  I seem to have heard more cuckoos in the south west this year than for a long time and another called today. As I peddled out of Monkokehampton  I avoided running over a lizard while a yellow hammer swooped down in front of me.  It is easy to miss these sightings but even better to see them.

Here, at Iddesleigh is one my favourite pubs.  A good pub does not need smart signs but it helps to have a good understanding of farming. It is also Michael Morpurgo's local pub, author of War Horse

The Duke of York, Iddesleigh
Do you see the date on the lantern and clock behind it on this house close to the Duke?

Iddesleigh
Meanwhile back at Monkokehampton, there are ancient farm buildings and road signs



 
 
At Exbourne the Burrow is an unusual community shop/PO/cafĂ© which seems to be the hub of the local community. The cyclists were on a morning ride from Okehampton
 
The Burrow, Exbourne

My route followed National Cycle Route 27, Devon C2C, via Okehampton to Hatherleigh where I turned right and there is a loop ride to bring you back to Okehampton.  It was at Hatherleigh that I met 8 cyclists and we had each reached half way on our journeys.  They were cycling 102 miles from Ilfracombe to Plymouth in a day. We stopped briefly to swop stories.



Monday, 7 May 2018

THE JOURNEY HOME

 


I had decided a few days earlier to divide this tour into two and finish the first half at Galway. The journey was 818 miles and I had visited many of the harbours, little coves, bays, cliffs and headlands after leaving Rosslare. I have seen outstanding scenery and have been left with an immense feeling of satisfaction. I have enjoyed the journey and experienced listening to the birds, watching and hearing the seas and enjoyed the company of many people both Irish and from overseas. I have learned more about Ireland's lifestyle and history too.
There is so much more to see in the rest of Ireland and I simply could not take it all in. I have already decided to come back in 2019 and start in Galway.
If you would like to see my maps and more images they can be seen on Twitter

Monday, 30 April 2018

CYCLING THE COAST OF CO CLARE

At Kilkee, I was mesmerised by the sea. I had arrived the previous evening fighting a headwind. There were no hills of note but headwinds are very draining.



Kilkee's Reef with a swell


 I decided to have a rest day and Kilkee looked to be ideal. The little town overlooks a horseshoe shaped bay and I could see a sandy beach protected by a large reef. The waves were breaking over the reef dramatically and at the far end they exploded against the cliffs lifting the water over 10 metres into the air. The beach however was calm. I watched the little waves roll up onto the sand. To the left a flock of birds seemed that they were playing with these waves. As they came in the birds ran up the beach to escape getting their feet wet. However as the waves receded, the birds chased after them jumping into the water until the next wave came then it happened all over again. As I watched I discovered that they were  feeding. It seemed that they were taking micro-organisms from the surface. I think that these little birds may have been turnstones.
I saw my first currachs at Kilkee. They are ancient fishing boats made with a timber frame and originally covered with animal skins. Today they are still in use usually made with canvas. They are unique to the west coast of Ireland but are related to the Welsh coracle. My wife went on a course about 10 years ago and made a coracle. It took her 4 days. Today hers will not float because it has a hole in it. Clare's coastline is quite different to those I experienced earlier. For the cyclist, excluding the climb to the Cliffs of Moher, there are less hills and for me happily the weather was kinder. I wanted to see the Burren, an unusual landscape of limestone pavements in North West Clare where wild flowers thrive in the cracks. They are surrounded by a patchwork of small fields enclosed by stone boundary walls and grazed by cattle. I arrived too early in the season to see the wild flowers. I stopped to take photographs and in the distance I could see the Aran Isles


What I did not expect were more stunning beaches. First there was Lahinch, an obvious surfers' paradise with surf shops, coaching facilities and what seemed to be great eating places to hang out. Then I came across Fanore. Rarely have I seen such an unspoilt stunning beach that had a beautiful backdrop of dunes protecting the land behind.


Lahinch




Fanore Beach at low tide


Limestone pavement, the Burren


On the way I passed Doolin which looked like a fun place to visit but decided against stopping at the Cliffs of Moher. It was too busy and I have been there before they built the giant car park.


As if to cater for hungry cyclists with a taste for the exotic, my next discovery was Vasco's  close to Fanore where I indulged with the most amazing pudding and ice cream. My trip finished at Galway.


To date I have cycled 818 miles and climbed 44,000ft. I continue to put my daily maps and more images on Twitter where I have also made favourable comments on cyclists' safety here in Ireland.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

DINGLE PENINSULA

Every now and again, the weather here presents its little challenges. Yesterday I completely missed seeing Brandon Bay because I was in the cloud line and today my ride through North Kerry was in light rain. However it did enable me to stop in a bar at Annascaul and have a lively chat about walking in the area. I have spent three days on the peninsula and today arrived at Kilkee.
At Inch I was stopped by a couple from Arkansas in the USA. They had seen me two days previously and wanted to know all about my ride. Here is their picture of me



Inch Beach
I have seen several people on hikes on the peninsulas. The trails seem to be well waymarked and people are given choices ranging from short loop walks to long distance trails that take several days.
On Slea Head it is possible to visit several sites of historical interest. The Great Famine in the 1840's was a period of devastation where many people starved to death or from disease and large numbers emigrated.  I visited Slea Head Famine Cottages where some old buildings have been restored as a memorial. Here is an image


Farmer's Cottage, Slea Head Memorial Centre
I met a couple from Rhode Island, USA who were researching their family history of the Moriarty's. The weather was sunny on Slea Head so here are a few images taken from some of its little bye-lanes


Ventry Bay
The Three Sisters
Kilmalkedar
I am continuing to put my daily maps and some images on twitter. Tomorrow I am cycling north on Co Clare's coast

Friday, 20 April 2018

GOODBYE CORK, HELLO KERRY

As an expedition, I have completed 555 miles and climbed 31,272ft.  I have finished the south coast and four of the five peninsulas in the South West. It is Dingle tomorrow. I have experienced extreme weather from fierce Atlantic gales to glorious sunshine and there are still 1,100 miles to go.


It is not an expedition though. This is a journey that connects all the places I have been to previously in Ireland. Cycling and hiking are the best ways to experience the countryside. Both meander slowly in the great outdoors unhindered by the speed of a car so that you see and hear everything. I am putting my daily maps and many images on twitter. My maps show the route, distance, climbing and my slow speed. Here are a few images of Beara and Kerry


Trawlers in Castletownbere sheltering from a storm
An abandoned fishing smack near Lauragh on Beara
Portmagee evening, Kerry
Darrynane Bay, Kerry
Traffic Congestion, on cycle route between Cahersiveen and Kells
I saw my first bluebells three days ago. The patchwork of fields and hedgerows are coming alive with the green shoots of Spring. My bike is looking very weather beaten but I had to put sun cream today for the first time. There was time for a chat with the shepherd and he told me that the oldest lamb in this flock was 12 days old.