Monday, 15 December 2014


IT IS 20 MILES BETWEEN PLYMOUTH AND TAVISTOCK VIA DRAKE'S TRAIL. It is a wonderful route along an ancient river valley leading to a gentle climb into the western edge of Dartmoor. These are a few people I met on a ride recently.

Val is a ride leader for Breeze and Sky Rides who, like me, was checking out the route.  Hold it? Is that gold pedals I see?

Kathy Taylor took her nephew, Hugo, who is new to cycling.

It is all smiles for these cyclists.


Kathy Morley stops to talk to Colin. Is that a sheep on the bike behind her?

 Actually we have reached the half way point between Plymouth and Tavistock.

Setting off again
 It's Roger Turner, President of St Budeaux Cycling Club with Bill Nicholson of Sustrans. It must be a pub! Yes, they are at the Skylark at Clearbrook who laid on mince pies for everyone

 It's Bill again. Here he is with Sue Proctor and Glynne Miller

What a brilliant day! 65 riders took part. For more, why not read Cycle Tales in and around Plymouth

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Ok, London is not like Devon. I travel up every two years for a weekend to ride over London just to experience what I am missing on Dartmoor.

I arrive by train at Paddington Station in the rush hour and my destination is Kensington, just 3 miles away. It is full throttle down the Bayswater Road. Cycle lanes here are rare and shared with buses. There are vast numbers of travellers with cars, buses and cyclists jockeying for position. Cycling is definately quickest and, while I am legging it, I am overtaken by high speed cyclists. Buses overtake, then stop in front of me. I never understand why people drive cars in they spend half their time in queues and the other half looking for parking spaces. Traffic lights can be terrifying as often I must go in the middle lane but at least there are blue spaces up front for cyclists so that cars may see me. It is said that 24% of all journeys in central London rush hour are by bike. I think that it is true.

I now spend two days being taken around London by my friend, Jaana. After a 7.30am swim in the Serpentine, brrrrr (not me, her), we head off for Shepherds Bush, Victoria to Elephant and Castle. It is not quite as busy as last night but dodging buses and taxis starts to become second nature. There are still plenty of cyclists. We go to see an exhibition at the Elephant which is about inventors showing their wares. The bike park has a big message "LOCK BOTH WHEELS AND FRAME TO THE STAND". As if to ram home the message, there was a bike with no wheels.

We leave the Elephant and unexpectedly meet NCN4 on the National Cycle Network. This is the birth of its journey to Fishguard in West Wales. The South Bank is always brilliant and entertaining with buskers, musicians and budding politicians all catching our attention.

We now head for the West End to see the Xmas lights. We pass theatre land and find ourselves in Regent Street. It is impossible to cycle at any pace as there are thousands of pedestrians and what space is left is taken up by buses. However, why rush? The atmosphere is amazing. People are still shopping, the lights are on (mostly) and the theatres are all very tempting. Ahh, it is night and time to cycle down Bayswater Road again

The next day is completely different. We find the path beside the Grand Union Canal. There are no buses here, only lots of dog walkers. I must not trip over a lead and tumble into the canal. We come to Regents Park and I am stunned by the persistance of car drivers. Why drive? It is so slow. The park however is nice and being a royal park, I think the Queen keeps a careful eye on it. Onwards through Hampstead to Hampstead Heath where we get lost. We find out that there are 3 Heaths and the one we wanted to see was missed because it was getting dark. It is no good asking directions from local people as they send us the wrong way.

So it is time to cycle back to Kensington. We decide to go the quick way down the A41. This is not recommended for cyclists unless you have a very strong constitution. Some might say you should have a death wish. It was full throttle for the second time with my senses fully alert and luckily buses, taxis, cars and lorries were all avoided. We turned into Bayswater Road for the third time and what was frenetic two days ago seemed more like home this time.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


Fortunately for us cyclists, there are still lots of roads in the countryside mostly free from cars. These are byeways and lanes more likely to be used by farmers than speedy motorists. They offer huge varieties of landscapes and I enjoy discovering new places whether they are towns, villages, flat landscapes, rolling hills or moorland climbs. If my journey avoids supermarkets and giant DIY stores, it is half way to success. It is better still if I come across a friendly coffee shop in some unexpected location.

Such was my journey last week into Herefordshire and nudging into the Welsh borders. I took the train (more independent than a car) to Hereford where I met my cycling buddy, Andy and my map was The Hereford Cycle Map from Sustrans.

It was Autumn so the colours were stunning. The scenery contained a little of everything and our first lane took us to Leominster which we used as a base.

Known as Black and White Villages, there is an area of Herefordshire with timber framed houses so distinct that I yearn for more whenever I left one. The villages of Weobley and Eardisland were particularly beautiful.

Our longer day took us 25 miles to Knighton just inside Powis where the lanes took us over a few hills and alongside the River Teme. Turning left, there was a big climb up along NCN825.  This brought us up into mist but despite this there were huge views looking west towards the Cambrian Mountains and east from where we came. We continued through Presteigne to Titley where the byelanes took us on a gentle downhill alongside the River Arrow to home. The return journey from Knighton was 22 miles so made a good day's cycling. We found excellent coffee stops at Brampton Bryan and Knighton (and Weobley on the previous day).

We enjoyed this dramatic sky near to Leominster

And discovered this little gem nearby

How would I rate this ride? It is safe to say that I will be back

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


My cycle rambles over the last 4 weeks have taken me into Hereford, the Welsh borders, Shropshire and the Lake District but the place that fascinated me most was at Glastonbury. Here are a few people and bikes I saw:

Sunday, 7 September 2014


CAFES, BOOK SHOPS, Hereford cattle, sheep, cider orchards and hop fields as well as good cycling are here.

I am in north Herefordshire on the borders with Shropshire and Powis. The Mortimers were feudal English lords who regularly fought the Welsh in the Middle Ages. Previously King Arthur is reputed to have had clandestine liasons with Guinevere nearby. Today it is "The Quietest Land under the Sun" according to Housman and this image gives an idea of the laid back atmosphere I found.

My route took me from Leintwardine to Bucknell, Brampton Bryan and Lingen on easy quiet roads with well cared villages. Red kites flew in the sky and pheasants scampered in front of me. All around were rolling hills, ancient woods and water meadows. A lady appeared on her bike with bright yellow panniers. "I am on a shopping trip" she said but I could not quite tell where the shops might be.

My route took me for a brief foray across the Welsh border into Presteigne where I turned up into the hills past Stapleton Castle and back to Lingen. I met several cyclists of all ages and very few cars. It makes me think that I would like to do another longer trip here.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


THE LAKE DISTRICT is renowned by cyclists for enormous hills and stunning countryside. Up here today, I decided to find if there are easier rides. Living close to Dartmoor, there is no option but to climb hills for most rides, so I am not afraid to seek out new climbs. Today, however, I wanted an easy day riding with my daughter, Jo where fun rules and not challenges.

Jo loves kite surfing and mountain biking in that order. The off road trails in the Lake District keep her chilled while kite surfing takes her across the World, including South Africa, Brazil, Egypt and even China.
National Cycle Route 6 from Lancaster to Kendal and Route 70 to Grange give some picturesque easy riding without compromising on scenery. Here are a few pictures:

Saturday, 26 July 2014


DEVON'S TRUE COAST TO COAST can now be explored by bicycle on the National Cycle Network. At 125 miles, its journey follows the coast from Ilfracombe to Bideford where it abruptly heads south through Tarka country into West Devon. Okehampton is midway where Dartmoor beckons and further on lies the fertile pastures of the South Hams. The end is at Salcombe where the cyclist can deliberate whether north or south Devon has the finest coastline.

STARTING AT ILFRACOMBE harbour, my preferred route initially follows a derelict railway line on NCN27 but turns right on NCN278 into Mortehoe and Woolacombe. This section takes you onto a gravel road that overlooks the stunning Morte Bay. It is both brash at Woolacombe and overwhelmingly beautiful once the tarmac roads are left behind. NCN27 is rejoined at Braunton.
THE TARKA TRAIL is over 30 miles long. This is cycling at its easiest with Barnstaple, Bideford and Torrington on route, towns and coastline easy to stop and enjoy. Meandering along the Torridge valley, Yarde comes next and Meeth Nature Reserve is the southern end of the Tarka Trail.

 CLIMBING AWAY FROM THE TARKA TRAIL, the first hills are encountered after Braunton. The villages of West Devon have a timeless quality that developers and supermarkets have not yet discovered. It is peaceful and rural. Wildlife can often be your only companions whether buzzards are overhead or deer peer out from the fields. This is a land with many trees and wild flowers. A good stop for lunch or overnight is the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash where Adam gives a warm welcome as he has done for 30 years.

DARTMOOR FOLLOWS after passing through Okehampton, the route's half way point. A steep climb takes you from the centre to Okehampton train station where the "The Polar Express" and pleasant cafe reside. The Granite Way, still on NCN27 takes you on an easy ride to Lydford using an old railway line. Lydford is worth a stop to see two old castles, a mint, a gorge, a farm shop and two pubs. South of Lydford and just before the Mucky Duck (now housing, once a pub), NCN27 divides.
THE MORE INTERESTING is to turn left and follow a track to a gate onto the moor. Here the NCN sign has disintegrated but turn right and cycle across the moor where a stony track will be found after about 600 metres. It is suited to bikes with cross country tyres. This is a beautiful part of the moor. Rejoin NCN27 through Mary Tavy to Peter Tavy (more pubs on route).
TURN LEFT ON NCN274 and enjoy the moors all the way to Ivybridge. Much of this is very quiet with few places to stop. You must turn left again to join NCN272 at Clearbrook.

THE FINAL STRETCH TO SALCOMBE is 20 miles across the fertile South Hams, a rich farmland full of hedgerows, hidden river valleys and ancient woods. The coast joins us as we head south first at South Milton, then at Salcombe itself. NCN28 starts at Ivybridge Rugby Club and neatly avoids the main road but it is hilly in places.

My picture above shows Dartmoor looking north having entered the South Hams. Below is South Milton Beach and next down is Salcombe, the end of the journey

WHETHER IT IS A CREAM TEA, pasty or large glass of west country cider, it will have been earned with this trip. Of course, you could carry on across the ferry to East Portlemouth, Slapton sands and join the valley of the River Dart to Totnes, all on NCN28

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


WHEN I TALK to anyone about cycling these days are that our roads are too dangerous. Devon is a most beautiful county reliant in part on tourism and cycle holidays are a growing part of our local economy. It is really important to get it right.

Much of the chat was the same when I manned cycling stands at Ivybridge Funday and the beautiful Meeth Nature Reserve last weekend for Devon Wildlife Trust

Meeth is on NCN27 The Tarka Trail. It is an easy safe ride and several families cycled there. Overlooking two lakes and brimming with wildlife, it is easy to forget the outside world and savour valuable moments. Cycling has that benefit too as well as testing your body in a healthy way.

Ivybridge on the other hand is a bustling town on the SW edge of Dartmoor. It is also where I live. If you like the outdoors, there are few better places. It has great walking country and Dartmoor's southern peaks offer tantalising panoramas across the whole of South Devon. Cycling here is equally good where the little lanes take you down secret river valleys, through ancient landscapes and up onto the high moors. It is where I did my training for cycling in Mongolia and the North Sea Cycle Route back in 2006 and 2010 respectively. The Funday was organised by Ivybridge Lions and was well attended by lots of local people of all ages who seemed to have a good time

Sunday, 22 June 2014


When I heard that Race For Life was coming to Plymouth, I wanted to see what it was about. Race For Life raises funds for Cancer Research UK and the event was only open to women who pay an entry fee and run either 5km or 10km. It ticks almost all the boxes for me for a charity to support as it promotes a healthy lifestyle to help solve a major health problem. Anything associated with healthy lifstyles attracts my support and this is why I give my time to Devon Wildlife Trust and Sustrans.

I cycled in to Plymouth on NCN2 and found the roads curiously quiet. "Maybe everyone is ahead of me and taking part in the Race?" I thought. I stopped a bike cafe, Rockets and Rascals on the Barbican for a snack break and still everything was quiet. Then I found it, the Race was at the other end of the Barbican with routes around Plymouth's spectacular waterfront and Hoe. There were seemingly thousands of people both taking part and watching.

My picture is taken with The Citadel on the right. I want to say well done to the City of Plymouth and Cancer Research UK for organising this.

My criticism of the event concerns travelling there. The start is on National Cycle Route 27, a major route in Devon used by many people and one would think that Cancer Research UK directions would include cycling. But it unhelpfully excludes this, instead asking people to come by bus, train or car share. The only method of travelling known to promote health is yet again excluded. This is a shame on such an otherwise good day.

Monday, 19 May 2014


It was the 4th cycle challenge for Devon Wildlife Trust last Saturday and every time the weather has been brilliant. I think that there were roughly 90 entries and three routes. The toughest was 75 miles with over 2,500m of climbing. Mine was 48 miles with the group lead ride and it had 1,550m climbing.

This year, our group started with 8 including Stuart Mee, fellow organiser, my buddy, Andy from Chester and myself. The first 16 miles were Dartmoor's fringes where we peddled alongside fast flowing rivers, through woodlands and watched the high moor tantalisingly close. Dartmoor is famous for its numerous crosses and we passed plenty of these.

Our route took us across the high moors past Vennford Resevoir (time for DWT snack stop), Hexworthy, where we watched the old Drover's Trail leave us and to Princetown. My picture is taken on an old railway track and looks over Burrator Resevoir with Sheepstor in the background. Most climbing was now done albeit there were two steep hills at Meavy and Cornwood. We were surrounded by torrs as we descended from Princetown and further south we could see the beautiful waters of Plymouth Sound looking inviting and, well, beautiful.

On Sunday, I took Andy on a cycle tour of the South Hams. Again the weather smiled benignly down on us and we headed along minor roads to Slapton and East Portlemouth following NCN28 where possible. Andy had never seen this area before and I think he was bowled over with the colour and beauty of it all. Our distance was 49 miles with another 1,400m of climbing, so it was no pushover. There is a small ferry from East Portlemouth to Salcombe which we took.  Our ride back continued on NCN28 to Marlborough, Aveton Gifford, Ermington and home. Here are a few images

So, what makes the finest cycle route in the World? If ruggedness, colour and scenic beauty all count, surely Devon's country lanes must stake a claim for the shortlist?