Friday, 12 April 2019

CYCLE TOURING IN SOUTH DEVON

With its rolling hills, spectacular hedgerows and dramatic coastline, South Devon retains its charm with warmth. For touring, there are many quiet lanes with few motorists so there is time to enjoy the scenery. The route below is 50 miles and takes in the southern tip of Dartmoor down to the coast and back. It is 5,300ft climbing with frequent short hills, some of which are quite steep


My start was Ivybridge and I followed back lanes to South Brent and on to Diptford.  The Cobbly Way is worth a little detour at Avonwick because of its historic cobble track beside the River Avon. For a short while, the route follows the line of the old Primrose Railway which many local people want to see reopened as a cycle trail. I leave it at Diptford but see it again on the return journey at Gara Bridge.
Cobbly Way
 In April and May, the hedgerows are alive with wild flowers with primroses, bluebells, wild garlic and wild campion among others. At Slapton, the sea comes into view and there is a great panorama looking back from where I have come using NCN28 about 400m west of Torcross


Slapton Ley
There are several places for refreshments. The onward route via East Prawle takes in some picturesque tidal creeks. I now head north through Sherford, Gara Bridge, California Cross, Brownston and Sheepham. I found it of interest seeing two of the old railway stations on the Primrose Line, now converted into houses. These, along with quaint hamlets, old pubs, historic farms and much more would not be seen without trying these byelanes

Frogmore Creek


Friday, 22 February 2019

FOUR TOP PLACES IN THE UK FOR TOURING CYCLISTS

I HAVE TOURED ALL OVER THE UK and these are four of my favourite journeys. All are rides that offer great challenges, are mainly on quiet roads and the scenery takes the breath away. They are some of the UK's great outdoors

SCOTLAND'S BEALACH NA BA


I cycled Bealach Na Ba in October 2013. It is a single track road rising 2,053ft from sea level with gradients up to 20%. Set in Wester Ross mountains and overlooking the Isle of Skye, it is one of the most awe inspiring roads in the UK. Beware of the weather however and the top was heavy in cloud on my journey. The road is not suitable for learners, large vehicles or people of a nervous disposition.

Coming a very close second is to cycle the Figure of Eight on the Isle of Mull. I have done it twice, once in brilliant sunshine and the other in an October gale. The roads are quiet with jaw dropping views and in October listen out for stags calling

THE HEART OF WALES


Wales has three remote scenic long distance routes that converge on Rhayader and this town with its bike shop that doubles up as a pub in the evening must qualify as a mecca for bike tourers. The bike shop has twice got me out of trouble. Head north to Snowdonia, east into the old county of Radnor, south into the Black Mountains and west into the Cambrian Mountains. Follow National Cycle routes 8, 81 and 825 and you will find everything to satisfy a touring cyclist.  Watch out for red kites souring in the skies above

THE ANTRIM COAST


On a clear day, it is possible to see the Paps of Jura, one of Scotland's fabulous Hebridean islands. My first visit was in 2015 and I will going back again later this year. The route is beautiful, rugged, hugs the coast and is 70 miles long. Beware weekends and holidays when the road can be quite busy.
Watch out for impressive colonies of sea birds.

DARTMOOR


Dartmoor is home territory for me. Two iconic cycle routes can be found using the Dartmoor Way Website The area is known for its high moors with granite peaks known as torrs while the perimeter is a land of secret valleys with rivers rushing off the moors, ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows.  They are very beautiful when the sun shines but dark and menacing in the mist and when it rains.  Listen for cuckoos in the spring.

Another favourite is to cross the Pennines by bike and I hope to do a new route later this year The Lakes and Dales Cycle Route 

Friday, 21 December 2018

DRAMA ON THE DARTMOOR WAY


Here is a short story with Christmas cheer.  Our local Sustrans South Devon Group held our annual Dark Skies Ride and Christmas Dinner last Wednesday at the Cornwood Inn.  It was a welcome treat from Sustrans that I was able to present Michael Owen with a Certificate of Appreciation for his volunteering work.  Michael looks after 95 miles of the Dartmoor Way Cycle Route more of less single handedly and then finds time on our guided rides.  Somehow he always seems to manage it with a smile. 
 
 
 It was very appropriate therefore that our ride was on the Dartmoor Way.  We met at the Watermark Centre in Ivybridge at 6.30pm and there was a massive hailstorm.  Colin thought that we should wait a bit before we set off and Andy, wearing shorts agreed.  Kate, meanwhile, looked ready to go while her partner, George, seemed to prefer Colin’s idea.  Michael, who was unable to cycle because of an eye problem, was being driven there with his wife, Debbie, and met a violent hailstorm.  Fortune, however, favours the brave and we never saw any more rain or hail.  We set off for a 5 mile trip via Harford to Cornwood and this was a true Dark Skies ride.  There were no street lights, few cars and only the occasional farm or house.  We heard owls hooting, listened to the rivers crashing down from Dartmoor after the deluge and the night sky opened up for us to see whispery clouds and distant moors lit up by the moon.  It was amazing.   

The Cornwood Inn served us a treat.  Colin was able to have his favourite beer, Doom Bar, and mine was there too, Tribute.  There was a big selection of meals so some had traditional turkey while there was plenty of choice for the others.  The landlady gave us free mulled wine at the start and coffees at the end.  She regaled us with stories about Black Eye Friday held annually just before Xmas.  Apparently this involves a good scuffle in the bar but everyone meets up on the next morning as best of friends. Colin came up with ten different recipes for Gaelic Coffee while Andy and Michael swapped stories of motor bike adventures from old.  George and Colin were very interested to hear that our new neighbour makes clinker boats.  Kate and I extolled the virtues of local wildlife.   

The weather held for the ride back and we all managed the steep hill leading to Harford Church.  We arrived back in Ivybridge just after 11pm and there is talk of having a summer social ride.
 

Merry Christmas

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