Saturday 29 July 2017

The Infamous Five?

Then there were five….

As it turned out the “hilly route” out of Bridestowe was pretty much one big hill, at the top of which we switched back to a railway path although this was on the same line as yesterday the two sections do not connect. This was pleasantly level and led to some more roadwork through the village of Lydford.

Before we reached the village we were given some good advice by a local cyclist, firstly to keep out in the centre of the road on the next steep descent into Lydford Gorge to avoid some potholes near the kerb and secondly to ignore the signposted route (The Devon C2C follows National Cycle Network 27) and follow the road all the way to Tavistock avoiding some bad hills near Mary Tavy. 

We followed his first advice, which was spot on but on the second point we took a variation, as we didn’t want to go into the centre of Tavistock. We ignored a turn left on NCN27 as instructed and then shortly after a very steep climb round Brent Torr (but at least it was only one) instead of continuing straight on into Tavistock, we took another left onto NCN 327, a route that descends a minor country lane to join NCN 27 just outside the town. This gave us the option to cut straight through the town at high level on the old viaduct avoiding a climb out on the far side. 

Yes this is the view from the viaduct right in the middle of Tavistock

And this only a few hundred metres along the track

The route then got a bit convoluted diving around industrial areas, retail parks and housing estates before re-joining a railway path on the far side of town. After a short detour off the route for food, we joined the path and what a path it turned out to be!

The tunnels were cold, wet and very dark!

The Viaducts were incredible

 A series of tunnels and viaducts took us on a nice level route as far as Yelverton where we were forced to climb again to detour round the town, after crossing the main A386 we joined a pleasant and fairly level track that led through woodland then out onto open moorland. This was followed by a steep descent into the village of Clearbrook. 

Our disappointment at losing a lot of height so quickly was soon tempered by the realisation that the route continued downhill from here, and indeed as we discovered was now downhill all the way to Plymouth. A gradually descending railway path took us over more spectacular viaducts and through another amazingly long and dark tunnel , eventually descending through Plympton Wood to the outskirts of Plymouth.

Route finding got a little tricky now but we eventually picked up the correct one alongside the River Plym as far as the Laira Bridge where we crossed into Plymouth itself. The route now followed back streets as far as the Sutton Harbour Marina, where the route crosses over the lock gates… or rather it doesn’t! 

We were greeted with a sign informing us the crossing was closed until further notice, there had been no prior warning or diversion signposted so we had to backtrack a distance and ride on busy city roads with a final sharp climb to Plymouth Hoe, where we rejoined Grainne at the Pub on the Hoe (yes that’s its name).

As far as we could ascertain this was the end of the route as unlike the C2C “up north” the Devon route is not individually signposted, nor does it have specific landmarks to designate the ends and the OS map showed the route as finishing ambiguously somewhere near the far side of the lock gates (that we couldn’t cross)?

Tim and Andrea decided to go off in search of the “dipping the front wheel in the sea” picture but the rest of us decided to stay at the pub! After all we had all cycled down to sea level at the closed lock gates and certainly for me that was close enough! Of course students of Geography will know that Plymouth Hoe is on “The Sound” which is the estuary of the Rivers Tamar and Plymm and the true coast is about three miles further south! But I guess to suggest the Coast 2 Coast doesn’t actually reach the coast is being a little pedantic!

Stay tuned until the next adventure….

Thursday 27 July 2017

Then there were two!

Devon C2C Part 2

Tim and I set off again from our lunch stop in Okehampton to re-join the former railway, only like Ilfracombe this was not situated in the town but at the top of a very steep hill. In fact we later read it’s the worst hill on the entire route…. We certainly agreed with that! And of course the rain continued to pour down!

After gaining the railway track again we followed the valley south at high level, at first climbing gradually which was not a lot of fun but thankfully it didn’t take long to level out. Tim made a comment along the lines of “at least it’s not windy”… of course it was soon after that the wind started to get stronger and blustery which combined with the crossing of some impressive (and high) viaducts made things “fun”. 

Eventually we reached the turn off to Bridestowe and our second overnight stop. A steep descent underneath one of the aforementioned viaducts and down a twisty bridleway to join a minor road and then more descending to the village made a pleasant (if still wet) end to the day. 

Despite the foul weather we agreed that the ride from Okehampton was one of the most enjoyable parts of the route (from the top of the hill that is)!

After a much need shower and change at the excellent Hunters Moon B&B there was a quick drive back to Great Torrington to collect the remaining car. 

We then retired to the White Hart pub in Bridestowe for a great meal.

On the third day the morning dawned dry and warm although a bit overcast, we eschewed the return to the railway line as this would lead us onto another main road, instead we took the alternative “hilly route” on minor roads directly from Bridestowe. After the first couple of miles, Grainne realised she was still not feeling very well and would struggle to complete the day, so decided to turn back and return to the van before she had gone too far.

And then there were five.....

Thursday 20 July 2017

Six go mad in Devon

After the fun and games on the Cotswolds Caper Road Book day, thoughts turned to pedal powered two wheel tomfoolery.

The target this year, the Devon Coast to Coast from Ilfracombe to Plymouth is shorter and with smaller hills than last year’s classic C2C route from Whitehaven to Sunderland but with 100 miles to cover in three days, still a challenge. This year as well as our friends Tim and Andrea who we rode the C2C with, we were joined by Glenn and Wendy (all of us veterans of the 2015 Via Ferrata trip to the Dolomites).

Now you could consider this as training for rallying but seeing as I did no training for the ride apart from one thirty minute cycle from MK Hospital to home the other week, I’m not exactly sure of the training benefit as I found it bloody hard work!

Day one from Ilfracombe started with a very sharp pull from the quayside after the ritual “dipping your back wheel in the sea” photo alongside the strange Damien Hirst statue "Verity". Then it was up through the town to the former site of Ilfracombe railway station… 

Yes the hill was too steep for trains back in the day! The day started with some light drizzle but improved to a nice sunny day as the time went on.

What followed was a pleasant enough but steadily climbing former railway route for a few miles, this eventually levelled out and then switched to minor roads, which turned out to be surprisingly hilly with short, sharp climbs but eventually followed by a welcome downhill into Braughton where a coffee stop was in order! 

After this we had 20 miles of flat railway path first along both sides of the Taw Estuary (to cross a bridge at Barnstaple and then reverse the route into an unwelcome headwind) then after a smashing lunch at Framlington Quay we turned into the estuary of the River Torridge then up the river past Bideford and to our overnight stop at GreatTorrington. Where we were faced with a very steep mile uphill into the village! An evening of car shuttling ensued (thanks for the lift Pete)!

Day two dawned grey and wet and that’s the way it stayed! Grainne and Wendy decided to opt out; I didn’t blame them especially as Grainne was still suffering the after effects of a recent chest infection. They spent the day shuffling one of the cars and our van around and later meeting us for lunch.

After the very welcome downhill to re-join the route, more railway path ensued, however near the village of Petrockstowe we again joined minor roads, the railway continues but results in a dangerous section on main roads, the detour took us on a similar route to yesterday with short sharp hills (and some not so short) and corresponding descents and all the while it poured! 

The early part of the route went surprisingly quickly so that we arrived at the pre-planned lunch stop at Hatherleigh too early and had to keep pushing on (although some of us did avail ourselves of the chip shop for a quick “refuel”).

We eventually joined up again at Okehampton for a welcome lunch and a chance to dry out a little. After this Glenn and Andrea decided they’d had enough rain for one day and jumped in the van (good job we have space for up to six people and six bikes)!

To be continued….