Friday, 14 October 2016


Although I live in Devon, I have never cycled its north east coast before. I have heard that the scenery is stunning and hills are steep. I met my friend, Jaana, in Barnstaple for a two day ride to Minehead. I cycled up from Ivybridge on the previous day while she came from London on the train.
The ride across the centre of Devon is one of my favourites with its varied mixture of moorland, countryside, quaint villages, cycle trails, quiet roads and sufficient coffee stops. 


Some of the route left the highway and I enjoyed the next section crossing Mary Tavy Moor. Last time I was here, a cyclist came the other way wearing a dishdasha. This is a white ankle length garment usually with long sleeves and frequently worn by Arabs. The rider was accompanied by 6 children, all on mountain bikes

As we left Barnstaple, our journey took us north initially on a flat cycle trail, formerly a railway but after Braunton the journey started becoming arduous as we climbed into the hills.  We arrived at Woolacombe Bay and discovered a most beautiful beach.

If you are a surf dude, you might end your journey here as it is apparantly one of the finest surfing destinations in the UK. The scenery changed to rugged cliffs as we cycled northwards and, at Ilfracombe, we discovered Verity, a complete contrast to everything up to now

Verity was created by Damien Hirst in 2011 and is 20.25 metres high. She is made from stainless steel and bronze. Verity was part of the reason that I wanted to cycle this coast and she must have made a significant impact on visitor numbers coming to Ilfracombe.  The cliffs beyond continue to Minehead and we started to encounter some of the most challenging hills that I have ever met.

We discovered that a normal hill here is 25% and each hill has many bends, some switchbacks and the roads are all narrow. We walked up the hills and it was slightly terrifying going downhill with alarming thoughts of brake fade and worse.  The compensations were truly epic scenery and admiring comments from people who never thought to see cyclists on these roads. Some of the roads were too narrow for most types of motor vehicle so we were left to ourselves to enjoy the scenery at a slow pace.  We cycled through Combe Martin,along the Valley of the Rocks, Lynton, Porlock and finished at Minehead.

These are the journey details:

    Day 1: Ivybridge - Barnstaple:-    84 miles,  cycle routes NCN2 and 27

    Days 2 and 3: Barnstaple - Minehead:-   78 very hilly miles, cycle route RCN51

The map is here  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


High Dam is in the Lake District and was built to serve Stott Park Bobbin Mill at Finsthwaite near Ulverston. The mill produced millions of bobbins for the once thriving spinning and weaving industries in Lancashire.  Today, the mill is a visitor attraction and still in use. The dam occupies a particularly scenic location above it. My daughter wanted me to join her husband, new baby and her to go wild swimming in the dam. It was a 47 mile bike ride to achieve this. I am becoming a regular visitor to the Lakes and enjoy its many and varied bike routes.

The dam involves a climb on a rough track and it can be reached from the newly formed Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop

The woodland was quite splendid with many varieties of trees. I ask someone at the start of the track if I can cycle it. He thought that a mountain bike might be needed but I took my cyclocross tourer anyway. I walk with the family up the track as it is too gritty to cycle and it was good to see a tree creeper scampering up an oak.

Baby Finn is encouraged to try the saddle. The water is crystal clear with no wind and surrounded by woodland. My daughter encourages us to do a mini triathlon by running around the dam and swimming across it. We resolve to do this another time but all take a dip.This is my first wild swim for a long time so it is brief for me but both parents swim across and back with no wet suits.

Baby Finn is only 10 months old but he is already being groomed for sport including cycling. He loves being in the child seat of my daughter's bike.

The bike ride started from Milnethorpe and followed The Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop through Levens, Grange, Cartmel and Newby Bridge. Apart from the tree creeper, I had close up views of a young fox on the road and nature in the raw where a sparrow hawk was eating a pigeon still alive no more than 1 metre from where I was standing and quite oblivious to my interest.