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/café 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.

Monday, 16 April 2018

MIZEN AND SHEEP'S HEAD

The weather has changed. I have just discovered that the beautiful South West of Ireland also has lots of rain. Sometimes it is windy too. Undaunted my philosophy is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
I leaves Mizen Head to take a tiny lane along the north coast that undulates over the rugged landscape. Occasionally there are houses nestled into hollows looking north towards Sheep's Head.  It is raining hard and I am finding it difficult seeing ahead. I round a bend to find a herd of cattle blocking the lane. I cycle slowly towards them and all but two amble out of the way. The other two refuse to move so I gently weave between them hoping not to receive a kick. Four miles further on, I see 4 cyclists huddled under a tree. "Not great weather for cycling" I call and they agree. After two hours, I reach a coffee shop and go in leaving water all over the floor. The rain stops and the sun tries to appear
The forecast for the following day is 45 mph winds and up to 50mm rain. I had planned to cycle to Sheep's Head but wondered if this is a good idea. I go anyway. The wind chases me for the first two hours and I arrive at Durrus wondering why I was fussing.
After a welcome coffee, the route changes direction. This time I am cycling into the wind and it is strong. I grip the handlebars tightly and resolve not to get blown over. I decide to find a B+B early and discover an old farmhouse at Kilcrohane. "This is just perfect" I say and gorge some sandwiches offered by the host for lunch.
I decide that the Sheep's Head must be seen and my host warns against it but I go anyway. The wind roars through the trees and power lines are waving around. I can see the waves from the sea below slamming the shore angrily. Undaunted I keep going until 400 metres from the summit the wind becomes too strong. Reluctantly I turn back only to find a section of road going downhill where the fiercest wind slows me to 4 mph in low gear. I pull into the bar in Kilcrohane and savour 2 pints of Guinness

Sunday, 15 April 2018

THE SOUTH COAST OF IRELAND ON TWO WHEELS

I am on the Mizen Peninsula one week after arriving in Ireland. My energy has returned after it was seriously flagging at one stage. This ride is an exploration of Ireland's coast and today I have finished the South coast. It was 340 miles of undulating coastline with craggy cliffs, sandy coves, big headlands and penetrating sea inlets.
This is Darren and he works for MTM Cycles at Clonakilty. He is replacing my rear wheel.




Darren finishing the repair of my Bike

This is how I met him. I had arrived at a beautiful unspoilt beach when there was a loud ping from my rear wheel. A spoke had snapped and buckled the wheel in the process. My next destination was Clonakilty 15 km away. I gently nursed the bike taking care to go slowly and only use the front brakes. If another spoke broke it would have meant walking. Thankfully I found Darren at MTM Cycles at 4pm. Darren got permission from his boss to do an immediate repair and at 5.30pm I was on the road again. What a great bike shop and here is how to find it MTM Cycles


This is the beach


Dunworly Bay
It has taken 6 days to reach Mizen Peninsula. The cyclist needs to be prepared for hills and to enjoy the splendour of this coastline.  It is not for fast endurance riding. As well as seeing the countryside, I enjoy listening to its sounds. It might be from the milk parlour of a nearby farm. The sounds of birds are wonderful, especially as there are so many here.  I have no idea what most of them are. A favourite that I do recognise is the chough which I have encountered several times.


Apart from Cork City, there are no major towns and, if desired, Cork can be avoided by going through Cobh and taking a ferry. There are many small fishing harbours. The area is a mix of fertile farmland, rich peat bogs and wetlands. All the way I am finding the coastline to be dramatic. The image below is a B+B that I stayed in at Goleen as it nicely shows the setting of the far south west


Herons Cove, Goleen
Tomorrow I leave the Mizen and head for Sheep's Head Peninsula. I have more images on Twitter