Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Winter so far in Devon has been unusually mild. The mists that come with this weather can be quite atmospheric. I am seeing birds starting to pair and primroses have been flowering far too early. When I go out on my bike, I always seem to wear too much and take off an unnecessary layer quite quickly.

Today, I am on my new mountain bike to savour some of Devon's green lanes. The leaves are now down and surfaces wet but cycling in the late afternoon with the light fading offers a different insight and it is one which I enjoy. Tim Peake might be enjoying his first full day in space but I too am having a great time.

On this short ride, my only encounter with traffic was three sheep on this trail who ran ahead in front of me until a gate blocked the way. Then they turned the other way and ran full throttle past me no doubt thinking that I would take them for my dinner

Sunday, 15 November 2015


In 2015, my ambition was to cycle in all five countries of the British Isles.  These are a few of my experiences in each of the countries seen from the saddle.

If happiness is the score, England is right up there.  These are images from PCyC Retro Ride on 12 September

In Wales, my nephew Gareth and I meet two Australians on a very long tour

Wales has the most laid back dogs anywhere.  This is my German friend, Dagmar.

In Ireland, it is the way of life that entrances me.  This is Castlebar.

This is MacCarthy's Bar

As Dagmar and I left Eire to cycle into Northern Ireland, we discovered the magical North West Trail, a sheer delight in Sligo, Donegal and Fermanagh.  I must cycle this route again

With Dagmar, I discover the beautiful Antrim coast

Our trip into Scotland was too brief.  We cycled the Isle of Arran which is said to be Scotland in miniature

Glasgow was my final destination in Scotland and this journey too finished with a smile

There is something for everyone on a bike in the British Isles.  There are towering hills, epic scenery, wildlife seen from the saddle, long distance easy trails and always interesting people. 2015 is not finished yet and I will be out on my bike in South Devon

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Back home from Wales, I cycled up the Puffing Billy trail to see what Autumn looks like here. It is a former tramway starting below Western Beacon, Dartmoor's most southerly torr. This is the view looking up from Filham near Ivybridge on NCN2.

The tramway is about 8 miles long and a mountain bike is needed for the stony trail.  It was built for a china clay works about 120 years ago at Redlake which is near the head of the River Avon.  I had chosen a bright sunny day with a cool light wind coming from the north.  The Beast has been left at home and I am riding for the first time a new mountain bike with 29" wheels. This is my first view of the trail

Setting the scene the views are enormous. Behind me the sea shimmers and I can see the coast from Cornwall down to Start Point and on to Torbay.  I do not cycle far and Bodmin Moor comes into view while a little further I can see almost to Exeter.  Ponies come into view as do Belted Galloway cattle, sheep and lots of birds. There is no traffic noise except from a distant aeroplane. I have passed Butterdon and find Hangershell Rock, a good vantage point

Three Barrows is where the tramway takes me next and this is the distant hill in this photo. However I must take a photo of my bike to send to Dagmar, my German friend.

I come across a herd of ponies

My journey's end is Leftlake. I could have gone further but decided that will be for another day

There is another ride near here that shows a completely different aspect to Dartmoor which I want to do shortly. It is to Piles Copse, one of Dartmoor's three ancient woodlands dating back 10.000 years. Judging by my enjoyment of this new bike, this ride could be soon

Monday, 12 October 2015


The day's are shortening and shadows getting longer but the sun keeps shining.  It feels slightly surreal.  Autumn colours have been in full swing as I move into mid-west Wales.  I had a close call with a squirrel yesterday.  The squirrel saw me coming and in its panic ran straight at my front wheel.  I braked hard and the squirrel ran under my front tyre.  This happened once before when a squirrel ran into the wheel, got caught in the spokes, to which the bike stopped dead and I went over the top.  When I recovered, the front forks were bent in the opposite direction.  These are a few images seen with my bike:

This cyclist seems out of place in Dolgellau

Views from cycle route NCN8 around Dolgellau

I enjoy cycling on the National Cycle Network because of the stunning choice of routes and low volumes of car traffic.  Many of these routes are traffic free such as around Cadair Idris and many are challenging rides such as NCN8.  There is always time to stop to take photographs and immerse yourself in the area.  The next are images on the Ystwyth Trail (NCN82) further south:

My rides in Wales can be found on maps supplied by Sustrans Shop.  I will be back in Wales next year searching for new routes

Sunday, 4 October 2015


The Welsh borders are fast becoming one of my favourite destinations and here I am again.  Even the sun is shining.  These are a few of my images:

A friendly welcome from my B+B

Autumn colours in Powys

Distant views from NCN825 across Powys

Autumn colours at Presteigne on NCN825

Claerwen Dam on an afternoon ride close to NCN81

I always look out for giant trees.  This one is near Gilwern beside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

I regularly find fascinating towns, villages and countryside cycling through the British Isles and much of it is c/o the National Cycle Network. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015


"I never knew some of those hills existed and will be using this as a great training ride" said Shaun.  Adrian added "We really enjoyed the group ride.  It's good to join up with people and follow a trail because it pushes us, the kids, to stretch that little bit further, without giving up and turning back."  These were participants on one of three community group rides on the National Cycle Network that I helped to organize earlier this year for  PL21 Transition Town and Sustrans.

There are 10,000 miles of roads in Devon.  This is enough to cycle from Lands End to John O' Groats ten times.  We cycled 24 miles in our morning's rides.

There are big hills in Devon that test top cyclists like Chris Froome and Lizzie Armitstead. Our riders aged between 11 and 81 were tested too and climbed hills totaling 800m with steepest at 20%.

Mostly Devon has quiet little lanes, ideal for happy cycling.  This was entirely true on our events.

The Dartmoor Way is a challenging route 95 miles long that Shaun cycled twice after his ride.  Our group rides were on the southern fringes and all three were fully booked before the starts. As luck would have it, one was cancelled because of heavy rain but the weather was ideal on the other two. The organizers pledged to cycle at an easy pace with a back up car just in case anyone's legs gave out and I think that this was one of the attractions
This is one of Dartmoor's ancient farms.

 We stop to look over Dartmoor's rolling landscape

 The lady in this image seems to have a sheep on her back as she set off on this long downhill.  There are plenty of sheep on Dartmoor and I wondered if this one had hitched a lift?

There is an ice cream van in the background.  It is another 7 miles before we can have a pasty.

Another hill!

 We make it.  There are smiles at South Brent on our route back to Ivybridge

This is what I think cycling is all about. It is being out in the fresh air in wild places. There is no reason to hurry.  Two of the best things are food on route whether it is a pasty or a cream tea and a pint of cider when I get home.  I hope to help organize more rides like this next year

Sunday, 16 August 2015


When I go on a weekend break or a longer trip, I like to take my bike.  It is a normal method of transport. Trains too are very handy as they add to the flexibility of cycling.  Cycle touring is starting to become more popular in this country as I am witnessing where I live in Devon.
Locally here Drakes Trail, the Exe Estuary Trail and now the newly opened bike route from Newton Abbott to Bovey Tracey are all really popular. 
I don't think traffic planners understand that there is a pent up demand for cycling but politicians are just beginning to comprehend this. I am hoping over the next 10 years that there will be a big change in attitude in our country.  This is a slogan in Ireland agreed by the politicians.
"Burn Fat, not Oil" is the message from Galway Council and the local cycling campaign and here it is:

If you cannot quite read the words on the sign, here is the close up:

In Malmo in Sweden, the Council created an excellent cycle network.  Its slogan was "NO RIDICULOUS CAR JOURNEYS".  The result was numbers of journeys by bike rose to 25% of all journeys while use of cars fell by a similar amount.  The vision for London is that "Cycling will become an integral part of the transport network.  It should be a normal part of every day life, something people hardly think about and feel comfortable doing in ordinary clothes"
Today, I saw a family on tour with young children and dad was using a cargo bike. They were cycling through Ashburton and all had smiles on their faces.
It would benefit lots of people for greater recognition of cycling to be normal.

Friday, 31 July 2015


Lon Teifi is the second section of Gareth's and my bike ride from Shrewsbury to Fishguard.  Having crossed the Cambrian Mountains, it feels that it should be downhill all the way.  We are now following National Cycle Network Route 82. We had stayed overnight at the Devil's Bridge Hotel and this morning the owner was keen to tell us about all the excellent cycle trails around here.  We needed no convincing and made a mental note to stay here again.  Lon Teifi follows the valley of the River Teifi from its source to the sea.  This is so different from Lon Cambria.  For a start we are held up by ducks, or are they geese?

Somehow there seems to be no need to try the brakes.  We just want to get started!  I recall being held up by several dogs fast asleep on a similar Welsh road only two months ago.  Animals are so laid back here.
We catch up an Australian couple on a tandem with a trailer in tow.  It turns out that they are on a 4 month tour.  "How wise seeking out peace and quiet these Welsh roads" I thought. "It must be quite different from their home state of New South Wales".  We follow an easy trail through a nature reserve.  We see the Cambrian Mountains to our left but this is outstanding scenery of a different type.  It is wildlife friendly with lots of trees and water meadows but, as we go south, we start to see sheep and cattle fields in small hilly paddocks.

I like this ancient bike sign.

I like the river at dusk

I also like the coffee shops as this one in Lampeter

Our route continues through Newcastle Emlyn, Cardigan and into the Preseli Hills before reaching Fishguard.  These are all quiet roads meandering around river valleys and through small towns.  This is a market at St Dogmaels near Cardigan.

Wales' best known ride is Lon Las Cymru but, for me, this is a delightful ride that on the one hand offers lots of challenges with its many climbs and the other the scenery is just simply outstanding.  It is as Gareth says very close to being in the wilderness. 

The total distance is 185 miles and you should follow NCN81 and 82 with these maps.

Thursday, 23 July 2015


"This feels to be the nearest it is possible to cycle in a wilderness in the British Isles" commented Gareth as we neared the summit of a pass in the Cambrian Mountains.  Gareth is my nephew and had joined me on a 185 mile ride across Wales.  We were on a mountain road looking down across wide open moors towards an upland stream sometimes meandering and at others gathering pace from its source while picking up tributaries as it went.  The sun was shining and there were very few cars.  It felt glorious to me too.

We were cycling two "Challenge" routes on the National Cycle Network starting at Shrewsbury and finishing at Fishguard.  The NCN as it is known always delights in its choices of routes and keeps cyclists away from busy main roads.  "Challenge" routes take you into the hills.  Possibly the best known is the C2C from Whitehaven to Tynemouth.  Having cycled most of them, Lon Cambria and Lon Teifi are up there with the best and what is more you discover many of Wales unspoilt villages and occasionally a town.

We met at Shrewsbury train station and immediately saw many people on bikes.  We start by following Lon Cambria (NCN81) through delightful Shropshire countryside to the Welsh border where we met the first serious hill.  Our first break was at a pub in Crewgreen and here the Welsh/English border was so wobbly that whoever decided the border must have been drunk.  In fact we entered Wales twice over a space of 5 miles.  NCN81 took us into Welshpool where our map told us to join the Montgomery Greenway, a canal path whereas, confusingly, the signs and on-line mapping said to cycle into the hills.  We joined the Greenway which took us to Newtown.  The Greenway will make an excellent family trail but unfortunately the hedges were seriously overgrown so someone needs to do some work here.  Probably the map will be the correct route after some major hedge cutting.
Lon Cambria next took us across many hills and down to Rhayader with the later stretch being beside the River Wye.

 The road beside the River Wye, stunning views and an ancient landscape

At Rhayader, we discover a bike shop that doubles up as a pub in the evening.

Our ride now takes us off-road along a slightly bumpy but very scenic trail beside three Elan Valley reservoirs to our highest point where we encounter two BMW's chasing one another but few other cars.  They would enjoy the cycle ride better.

The other side of the pass is steeper with a fast flowing river alongside.  We stop to view some ancient lead mines where the quarrymen came from Cornwall.  Shortly after this we briefly leave Lon Cambria for our overnight stop at Devils Bridge

Our next stage is to join Lon Teifi (NCN82) for the second part of our journey to Fishguard.  I hope that this encourages you to visit this route and more will follow shortly