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?

Thursday, 8 May 2014


You can normally find me cycling the little lanes of Dartmoor and around the beautiful South Hams in Devon when at home. This is a special place for cyclists known as Marchant's Cross.

To find it, you must cycle to Meavy. This is about 12 miles from Plymouth on NCN274. When you arrive at Meavy, an ancient oak tree will be seen with the Royal Oak Inn behind. It is essential to stop here to enjoy a glass of cider or scrumptious local beer on the green. Only when fortified must you carry on to find Marchant's Cross. It is about half mile from the pub and adventurous cyclists can cross the river by a rather tricky ford but for those who like to keep their feet dry, there is also a bridge

Saturday, 3 May 2014


I am now back home. I had a telephone call from my wife and, while she did not say so, I am needed back home. I sat down with Dagmar and explained what happened.

My trip has finished at Carcassonne one week early instead of Barcelona and I felt very sad for Dagmar, The trip had been going so well up to now. She decided to return home as well.

We looked on the internet and a train to Paris that carries bicycles leaves at 09.51. Dagmar wonders if this would be a good train for her as well. We cycle to the station and after a long wait we are told that this train is full. The next train is at 14.29, involves a change at Toulouse and arrives in Paris at 23.20. Dagmar finds another route home. The train company asks if they can book a hotel in Paris for me and gives me a reservation. Dagmar and I say farewell and resolve to meet again for another cycle trip.

There was a canal and cycle path outside the train station so I peddled off. Many of the boats carry bicycles. This is just like in England where people who live on canal boats have bikes. They are handy for shopping or going to the pub. I ride along the path to find some locks. There are several cyclists and boats. I then head off along a country lane and find vineyards, a quarry and a holiday place. Lorries rumble outside the holiday place and it would not be a nice place to stay.

It is a long train journey to Paris. Some French trains are covered in graffiti and makes them look ugly and unwelcoming. My train however was on time and quite comfortable. I arrive in Paris, cycle out of the train station, across the River Seine and find my hotel at midnight. I check in and am told my reservation has been cancelled! I want to scream but instead show them my reservation and give them grief. They find me another hotel. I cycle on and ponder where I am going when I see lots images of girls trying to entice me into their establishments. My new hotel is fine and I am given a garden room where my bike joins me in my room

Next morning I cycle across Paris passing the Bastille. There are some very good cycle paths but not at the Bastille where I join what is normally a mayhem of traffic, except that today it is quiet. I quite enjoy the ride.
The cost of a Eurostar ticket bought on the day is frightenly expensive but I have no choice. I buy another ticket for the bike at baggage check-in. On the Eurostar train I fall into conversation with an Australian lady who asks about the storms in Devon in February. It was big news in Australia. I tell her and she compares with a forest fire at her home where she had a lucky escape.

In London, it is 2 miles to Paddington. There is traffic everywhere and I am stuck. I am told there is a strike on London Underground. I still cycle faster than everyone else but it is very busy. And here is the good news. Taking a bike on an English train is easy. There are no long waits. I just caught the next train and sat back watching for the west country to arrive. There is one last story. My train passes Dawlish where the railway passes alongside the sea. Today it is high tide and the sun is shining. Small waves wash at the foot of the train. All the children on the train look out to sea with wonder in their eyes. This is one of the most amazing train journeys in the World. Yet in February the ferocious storm mentioned by the Australian washed away this railway and it was closed for 10 weeks for the repairs. The pictures of Dawlish were seen across the World

Here are a few images of Carcassonne: