Monday, 14 May 2012


40 Cyclists took part in the first Heart of Dartmoor Cycle Challenge organised by Devon Wildlife Trust on 12 May.  At 50 miles, the route attracted riders with a wide range of abilities with many coming from all over the country. 

Many were skilled racing cyclists attracted to a new route while for others it would stretch their abilities.  The common theme was that all wanted to experience the wildness of Dartmoor.

I lead a group of 10 cyclists on a route that included an off-road section.  Another group followed the fully on-road route while others had to use their map reading skills as they set out on their own.

Starting and finishing in Ivybridge, we started by following Dartmoor's rugged southern boundary via Shipley Bridge.  We rode through woods, alongside rushing rivers and past remote farms.  At Buckfast, we turned north to climb up on to the high moors with Princetown being the highest point.  We had managed to spread out here and most needed to recharge energy levels with a mixture of cream teas, pasties and chocolate bars.  We twice crossed the upper reaches of the River Dart.

The scenery via the off-road route from Princetown was breathtaking with unspoilt open moorland and Dartmoor's famous torrs all around us.

The Trust laid on refreshments at Holne and cycle repair facilities were provided on route by Big Peaks of Ashburton

It is hoped that the event will be repeated in 2013.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Fresh mountain air, red kites, forest trails and secret river valleys greeted me on my cycling tour of Wales at the end of April.

My trip started at Gloucester.  I rode north following the Malvern Hills and River Severn until just outside Shrewsbury where I turned west and my route crossed into Wales.  My destination was Fishguard on the Pembrokeshire coast.  I planned to follow Sustrans cycle routes nos 81 and 82 known as "Lon Cambria".

Cycling in Wales always feels like a mini adventure and I come alive on these trips.  I started on little tiny roads.  Sometimes they changed to woodland tracks more suited to mountain bikes.  Much of my journey was little visited and felt remote.  I pedalled into Welshpool and on to Llanidloes pearing at hill farms plentiful with sheep and lambs.  It was early Spring.  The rivers were slightly coloured and leaves were starting to form on the trees.  Daffodils were still out and primroses were plentiful on the lower slopes.

I crashed out for the night at a pub in Llanidloes just seen in the distance in this picture.  It was not before having 2 pints of local ale, a big meal and a long chat with a hill walker.  Shortly after leaving Llanidloes, I met a local couple at the top of a hill who were marvelling at the view.  They told me that it still snows here long after it clears elsewhere in Britain.

A tiny lane took me to Rhayader where there is a bike shop.  Parked outside was an expedition bike with a trailer.  These are huge rigs for long journeys.  The last one I saw was in Sweden being ridden by an Australian cycling north.  I changed direction on to a stony trail that headed up the Elan Valley well away from the cars.  My highest point was amidst open moorland and the air was clear, fresh and cool, absolutely brilliant.  The onward journey to Fishguard took me down a steep windy road, passing a redundant slate quarry and towards the head waters of the River Tiefi.

A deep woodland trail followed and 3.30pm I found a small shop for lunch.  Outside with the sun shining were two hill walkers taking a mid point break.  The shop served me what it called an oggin and looked like easily the biggest pasty I have ever seen.  We swopped tales of hill walking and cycling then shook hands as we left.

I now followed the River Tiefi for its entire length.  It is a beautiful river.  The valley looked to be a haven for wildlife with a mixture of water meadows, forests, hills and occasional bogs.  The final stretch of the journey involved a loop into the Preselli Hills only to find more crags, woodlands and river valleys.

My total journey was 268 miles over 5 days and there are train connections at each end.  The map can be bought from Sustrans Shop.