South Dartmoor CTC

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Sunday 2 October 1988Afternoon ride: Combe FishacreSunny
16 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Michael Giles, Simon Hopper, Dave Humphreys (Adult, Paignton), Philip Humphreys, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Jenny Quick, Alan Skinner, Mark Slater, Mark Sloman (15, Staverton), Gary Taylor, Steven Taylor, Sean Williamson
This was an important day in the history of South Dartmoor Section. The occasion was the introduction of afternoon rides from Marldon, meaning that the Marldon start point now has rides on every Sunday of the year. On this occasion both Buckfastleigh and Marldon groups were meeting each other half way - if the former were a bit late it was only because they paused at Staverton to observe a particularly bedraggled bunch of youngsters attempting in vain to float their raft on the Dart.

Dave Humphreys, who will be the regular leader for all afternoon rides from Marldon, got off to a good start with a rear puncture in his Raleigh Randonneur shortly after the rendezvous. Repair was speedy, however, and the group were soon able to complete the ride through Denbury, skirting back to Broadhempston before the two contingents went their separate ways.

Friday 7 October 1988Social: Games Evening
15 present: Richard Burge, Dayle Guy, Catherine Hopper, Simon Hopper, Toby Hopper, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Mark Morris, Luke Rake, Martin Rushworth (11, Totnes), Peter Rushworth (14, Totnes), Andrew Simmons, Alan Skinner, Mark Slater
The first social of the new season, dominated by computer games in traditional style, also included a video on frame building and the viewing of a certain home-made movie, which triggered ideas for a similar enterprise next year.

Sunday 9 October 1988Day ride: Fingle BridgeSunny
7 present: Debbie Cooper (Adult, Devon), Luke Hatherly, Michael Jones, Mark Moxham, Mark Slater, Mark Sloman, John Stuart
Jersey cows near Lustleigh
Luke Hatherly and John Stuart on the approach to Lustleigh
View of the wooded valley surrounding Fingle Bridge
The start of the downhill track from Cranbrook Castle to Fingle Bridge
Luke Hatherly on the Hunters' Path
Hunters' Path
An exhilarating ride, including the inevitable cafe stop at Lustleigh where Debbie was (mistakenly) addressed as a "chap" by the proprietor. The cap and heavy clothing probably aided the misunderstanding. She subsequently gave her cap to Mark Sloman and forgot all about it until she got home.

The steep stony track down to Fingle caused a few headaches for some members (not literally I hasten to add), and the climb along Hunters Path caused a few more. Views across the steep-sided, wooded valley from the selected lunch spot made the climb more than worthwhile, although a chilly wind discouraged us from lingering too long.

Continuing at a fair pace down the track we finally met the road and returned homewards across the moor via Chagford. This was a tough ride for the newcomers, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Sunday 16 October 1988Day ride: Noss MayoImproving
14 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Mark Ivey (13, Paignton), Michael Jones, Paul Ledingham, Mark Morris, Jenny Quick, Andrew Simmons, Mark Slater, Mark Sloman, Jason Vasey (13, Paignton)
Jason Vasey and Mark Ivey at the Erme Mill fish farm
Jenny very kindly took the Marldon lead in Mark's absence, bringing out two very keen new lads who clearly weren't concerned how far they rode on their first ride. Well, perhaps they would have been concerned if someone had told them, but it was too late once they were at Avonwick. Also rather confused was young Paul Ledingham, one of our regular evening riders, who had thought it was a morning-only ride and hadn't brought a packed lunch.

Having fixed the puncture at Avonwick the group followed the main road to Ermington and then took some new lanes through to Bridgend. Riding through the delightful coastal village we came across a group of cyclists from Plymouth. While others ate their lunch Michael spent a little time talking to them of the possibility of starting a Plymouth Section - but only time will tell how successful he was.

Teebo and Wicket (sorry, Mark and Jason) had coped surprisingly well with the morning ride. The return route, along the coast to Holbeton, was against a stiff headwind however, and this time a stop at Erme Mill cafe was definitely the order of the day. Here at last the cafe award scheme got off to a tentative start, with votes being cast by all present and recorded on a temporary form.

Some of the older Buckfastleigh lads decided to go home directly via Ivybridge while the rest took the scenic route in the now beautiful sunshine, bringing out the full autumn colours which were now beginning to show themselves on the trees. There were some steep hills to tackle (one of which proved unnecessary after a wrong turning) which left everyone very tired after a later-than-usual return. Many congratulations to the newcomers, however, and also to young Paul for completing an exhausting ride with comparative ease.

Thursday 20 October 1988Social: Slide Show
12 present: Graham Burge, Richard Burge, Michael Jones, Geoffrey Ledingham (11, Totnes), Paul Ledingham, Mark Morris, Luke Rake, Toby Rake (10, Totnes), Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Andrew Simmons, Mark Slater
This was a specially-compiled slide show comprising four different tours of Scotland. Some people had changed a lot in five years.

Saturday 22 October 1988Day ride: Kenn Valley Sunny start
12 present: Richard Burge, David Cutts (Adult, Marldon), Jamie Davey (12, Dawlish), Steven Hills, Brett Jamieson, Michael Jones, Paul Ledingham, Mark Morris, Mark Moxham, Mark Slater, Mark Sloman, Ken Twydell (Adult, Paignton)
Paul Ledingham with Mark Slater
Paul Ledingham
Jamie Davey
New riders Ken Twydell and David Cutts
The first half of this ride was definitely the most enjoyable. The autumn leaves were even more glorious now than they had been the previous week as we tackled the lane route from Gappah over Haldon. In order to gain speedy access to the Kenn Valley, the group took the main road over Telegraph Hill (descending in a very controlled way of course) and then (on Steven's advice) climbed the picturesque lane up to Hayden Common for a well-earned lunch. Quite why Jamie had to eat his up a tree remained a mystery.

Setting off once again through the deciduous woodlands we came across an amazing sight - four pheasants on a gate at the end of a grassy track, with more fluttering around in the field beyond. There seemed to be wildlife everywhere, which seemed surprising considering how close Exeter was.

The last part of the valley was flat but scenic, bringing us out to Powderham and eventually Starcross for refreshments against a stiffening headwind and ever threatening skies. Mark's broken valve at the beginning of the coastal footpath delayed us sufficiently to arrive at Dawlish just as the rain was settling in. Steven and Jamie didn't have far to go, but the rest got somewhat damp as they cycled through Teignmouth, Shaldon and Netherton. Those who didn't have lights had to telephone for transport, so please remember to bring working lights on all rides until the end of March.

Saturday 29 October 1988Day ride: DittishamSunny
17 present: Richard Burge, Jamie Davey, Steven Hills, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Jeremy Hunt (14, Dartington), Jonathon Hunt (12, Dartington), Martin Hunt (Adult, Dartington), Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Laurence Porter (14, Totnes), Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Mark Slater, Eugene Tollemache, Richard Voisey
The group at Ashprington?
The group at Ashprington?
Problems caused by the huge turnout at Totnes were compounded by Torbay Section's arrival and departure. Eugene's last-minute decision to rush home for his bike delayed us even more, but eventually we were on our way along Sharpham Drive, an "interesting" track route towards Ashprington. Jeremy got a puncture within the first two minutes, then Simon's chain broke. Fortunately on this occasion things didn't happen in threes, and we were able to enjoy the leafy autumn lanes, gates, meadows, stiles, steep fields and woody tracks that led us eventually back to solid roads. The track-lovers were happy, and the rest had at least enjoyed the delightful unspoiled views of the Dart.

A new track at Tuckenhay, explored by the intrepid Simon and his foolhardy followers, turned out to be longer and a good deal harder than the road alternative. Time now dictated a fast search for a sheltered lunch spot.

Continuing towards Dittisham, a number of faster riders at the front of the group found out the hard way that speed doesn't pay. Laurence needed a bit of first aid treatment and his bike required some attention as well, but he didn't seem too bothered about continuing with the ride despite it all. Our cyclists really are made of sturdy materials!

After lunch we continued to Dittisham, where the majority favoured paying the ferryman 75p to cross the river to Greenway. The crossing was enjoyable if short, and the return through Galmpton was a good deal easier than the western alternative. Small groups returned to their respective homes in descending gloom and a chill night air.

Friday 4 November 1988Social: Map Quiz (Paignton)
18 present: Michael Banks, Graham Burge, Richard Burge, Xavier Gonzalez, Steven Hills, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Toby Hopper, Philip Humphreys, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Laurence Porter, Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons, Mark Slater, Gary Taylor, Steven Taylor
The Paignton venue for this social attracted an excellent attendance. Topics covered included recognition of map symbols, use of six figure grid references and measurement of distances. The evening was concluded with a 20-question quiz based on the Torbay area OS map, for which members needed to draw on all they had learned.

Saturday 5 November 1988Weekend ride: Maypool Youth Hostel Day 1Clear / cold
26 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Briany Humphreys, Caroline Humphreys (Adult, Paignton), Philip Humphreys, Jackie Hunt (Adult, Dartington), Jeremy Hunt, Jessica Hunt (Junior, Dartington), Joanna Hunt (Junior, Dartington), Jonathon Hunt, Martin Hunt, John Iles, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Geoffrey Ledingham, Paul Ledingham, Laurence Porter, Unknown Rider 1, Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Mark Slater, Eugene Tollemache, Martyn Williams
Maypool's firework display has always been a popular event in our diary. This year's display was the most expensive ever provided by the hostel, costing more than £110, but a record turnout helped to ensure that the hostel covered their costs - another first.

The journey to the hostel was punctuated with a few notable incidents. Mark and Paul Lakeman reached the Marldon start just in time to miss leader Mark Williams, and so had to find their own way to the hostel. The others met the Buckfastleigh and Totnes starters at Longcombe and proceeded to climb the famous Parliament Hill. Lights were required for the remaining section to Galmpton, but they weren't bright enough to scare away some dogs near Waddeton - Jeremy was the unfortunate victim, standing no chance of avoiding the excited creatures. Fortunately no-one was hurt.

After the fireworks came the barbecue, boasting vegetarian hot dogs for those who didn't fancy the traditional offerings. The Dartmouth lights provided a delightful backdrop to the evening, although certain individuals seemed more interested in pushing their friends over the grassy banks than admiring the views.

Sunday 6 November 1988Weekend ride: Maypool Youth Hostel Day 2
26 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Briany Humphreys, Caroline Humphreys (Adult, Paignton), Philip Humphreys, Jackie Hunt (Adult, Dartington), Jeremy Hunt, Jessica Hunt (Junior, Dartington), Joanna Hunt (Junior, Dartington), Jonathon Hunt, Martin Hunt, John Iles, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Geoffrey Ledingham, Paul Ledingham, Laurence Porter, Unknown Rider 1, Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Mark Slater, Eugene Tollemache, Martyn Williams
Jonathon begins his swim at Paignton sea front
Laurence Porter, Jeremy Hunt, Jonathon Hunt and Eugene Tollemache at Maypool
Jonathon Hunt goes swimming at Paignton - in November!
Those who had avoided jobs during the evening were rewarded with the task of moving logs outside the hostel next morning. It seemed ages before they had finished. Eventually everyone was ready, however, and the ride continued through the morning mist to Paignton sea front.

When lunch had been purchased (by those who had neglected to bring it with them) young Jonathon enquired about the possibility of a swim. No-one really thought he was serious, but shortly after arrival at Torquay he was photographed actually swimming in the icy sea. Naturally it was not a long-drawn-out affair, but it provided some amusement for the others.

Lunch was enjoyed overlooking the bay from the dizzy heights of Babbacombe Downs. Half an hour later the group were to be found in the Old Bakery cafe at Stoke-in-Teignhead, consuming cream teas (in Simon's case) and generally causing mayhem for the proprietor by repeatedly ringing the service bell. It was a warm and pleasant place to be on such a cold day - no-one seemed in a hurry to leave, especially those who were seated in front of the blazing fire. The afternoon ride awaited us however, so we forced ourselves outside and set off for Newton Abbot, passing under a very noisy grey squirrel along the way who was clearly put out by our presence.

Sunday 6 November 1988Afternoon ride: AshpringtonSunny
24 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Paul Deslandes, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Jeremy Hunt, Jonathon Hunt, Mark Ivey, Michael Jones, Mark Lakeman, Paul Lakeman, Geoffrey Ledingham, Paul Ledingham, Ian Luke (14, Newton Abbot), Laurence Porter, Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Andrew Simmons, Mark Slater, Gary Taylor, Steven Taylor, Thomas Watson (14, Paignton), Mark Williams, Martyn Williams
Poor Ian had been waiting at the Newton start for nearly forty minutes by the time we arrived, which meant that there was very little time to meet the 2.15 Marldon deadline. When we finally arrived at 2.23 we were amazed to discover that a rather impetuous Philip had decided to leave on time with the afternoon riders rather than wait for us. He wasn't especially popular.

After a detour through Berry Pomeroy the two groups eventually met as planned at the Totnes pick-up. And here to greet us was a Herald Express photographer, waiting for a photograph of the assembled throng to go with a story he was doing for his paper.

And so finally the afternoon ride got underway. There was a long climb along the road route to Ashprington, aggravated by the presence of some more dogs who were clearly well out of control, and then a short descent to the village square. From here the Sharpham Drive track was followed all the way back to Totnes, complete with stiles, gates, steep fields, woods, meadows and (in Michael Banks' case) punctures. It was all good fun, of course, finishing the day with a good deal of variety.

Sunday 13 November 1988Day ride: GrimspoundSunny
16 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Debbie Cooper, David Cutts, Jamie Davey, Steven Hills, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, Paul Ledingham, Ian Luke, Mark Moxham, Jenny Quick, Philip Rhead (14, Newton Abbot), Martin Rushworth, Matthew Simpson (12, Dawlish), Ken Twydell
River Dart from the track between New Bridge and Spitchwick
The track between New Bridge and Spitchwick
New rider Matthew Simpson at Spitchwick
Ian Luke with new rider Philip Rhead at Spitchwick
The climb near Grimspound
The climb near Grimspound
Descending from Hamel Down towards the Widecombe road
Ken Twydell shows off his Spiderman lunch box on Hamel Down
What a fabulous day this turned out to be. Starting out from the Buckfastleigh pick-up at around 11.20 the ride took members past Buckfast Abbey and up through Hembury Woods, a track alternative being available for those wanting more variety. Dropping down the hill to New Bridge, who should we come across but John Iles and Steph on a pony and trap, enjoying the fresh moorland air.

Lunch was enjoyed amidst the wide open spaces and bright autumn sunshine of Spitchwick Common. No-one went swimming today, but Jamie and Matthew managed to amuse themselves by giving each other backies on Jamie's poor little bicycle. It was a shame that they forgot to eat their lunch in all their excitement.

The day continued with the long climb to Leusdon. The moorland streams looked their freshest and brightest today. There was a prize of an M&M for those spotting the domestic ducks that resided in a pond part-way up the hill, but sadly no-one had told Jamie that his sweets were the prize and he had eaten them all by the time they were needed.

When Jamie and Matthew had enjoyed a well-earned "can" on Leusdon Common the group continued though Ponsworthy to the Jordan turn off. From here the slower riders cycled directly to Widecombe for warmth and refreshment whilst the more resilient members turned left to explore the delights of Grimspound.

Ken was all for a bit of exploration, but when he saw Michael and the others pushing their bikes up the steep moorland hill beyond the pound, with no sign of a road anywhere near, he began to wonder if the group were sane. Other members soon had a chance to laugh at Ken, however, when he produced his Spiderman lunch box on the ridge.

The moorland descent from Hamel Down always makes the climb worthwhile, and today was no exception. Well, Philip fell off, but I think he still enjoyed it. There was a touching moment as we passed the RAF memorial part-way down. It was Remembrance Day, and someone had taken the trouble to place some poppies by the stone all the way up here on the open moor.

By now Ken was convinced that Michael was mad. He, of course, had pushed most of the way down the steep slopes. By way of recompense the remainder of the ride stuck firmly to hard surfaces, returning without delay to Widecombe where the others had almost given us up for lost. The Wayside Cafe isn't much of a place, but it seemed very inviting today.

Returning via Bone Hill, the two groups separated at Cold East Cross. Debbie was unfortunately suffering from knee pains, but she seemed to think the ride had been well worth the suffering and she felt sure she would do the same again. Jenny kindly returned her to Paignton by car, giving them a chance to reflect on what had been a most memorable ride.

Friday 18 November 1988Social: Cycle Workshop
9 present: Richard Burge, Chris Giles (11, Totnes), Paul Hamlyn-White, Steven Hills, Michael Jones, Ian Luke, Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Andrew Simmons
Cyclists should perform a number of regular checks on their machines to ensure that they remain safe to use. Obvious danger points are brakes, cables, tyres and lights, but saddles and chains are also important. Members attending this social should have no excuse for turning up on a ride with a dangerous cycle.

Sunday 20 November 1988Day ride: Heltor RockFreezing
8 present: Richard Burge, Luke Hatherly, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, Ian Luke, Mark Moxham, Andrew Simmons
The icy air had a detrimental effect on Luke Hatherly today, who had been off school for more than a week. At Chudleigh Knighton it was obvious that he would not be able to complete the planned ride, so a unanimous decision was made to change the destination to Haytor tramway.

On the way to Bovey Tracey we came across a rather unhappy scene. Several people had congregated ahead of us at the end of a long trench which ran the length of the road. As we approached we suddenly saw what all the commotion was about - a large horse was lying on its side, covered with a coat and being attended to by its young owner who was obviously rather upset. It had made the error of walking too close to the trench, but fortunately escaped with cuts and bruises.

After welcome refreshments in the Brookside Tearooms we were ready for the long ascent to Haytor. The climb seemed to go on for ever. Once we had reached the top, the tramway led us safely across the moor to the Haytor Quarry and the promise of some shelter from the bitter easterly wind. I say safely, but in fact Ian managed to fall off on two occasions, landing squarely in the dirt each time.

Lunch was a particularly hasty affair - the quarry seemed to do little to keep us warm. We were brave (or foolish) enough to climb onto Haytor Rock before we made tracks for home, Mark Moxham even managing a little dance on top in the stiff wind.

The ride was obviously going to finish early, so there was time for a short excursion to the Ten Commandments Stone before the groups went their separate ways from Cold East Cross. Spectacular views are available from Buckland Beacon where the stones are situated, but today you needed arctic clothing to enjoy them.

Sunday 27 November 1988Day ride: Avon RailwayDry / cold
14 present: Michael Banks, Richard Burge, Michael Giles, Craig Gillman, Steven Hills, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, Paul Ledingham, Ian Luke, Warren Masters, Nonie McKenzie, Luke Rake, Philip Rhead
On the right track - not far from Topsham Bridge
The downhill track to the river Avon
The biggest surprises today came not from the weather but from the respective appearances of Craig and Warren, who had been in summer hibernation. There were no signs of cobwebs as they both kept up well with the brisk pace. Sadly, however, Jamie and Matthew were unable to join the ride as they had no transport available from Dawlish.

Following the main road to Kitterford Cross we soon reached "Graffiti House", a derelict building near California Cross with various large messages displayed on the walls. From there it was but a short ride to Reveton Farm and the footpath to Silveridge Wood.

There seemed to be a certain amount of disbelief in the ranks as we gathered at the start of the path. Everyone had been warned about the ride of course, but this looked beyond a joke. One or two would have taken the lengthy road alternative if they hadn't been so hungry and tired.

The atmosphere changed once everyone had actually started along the track. For one thing it was all downhill. And for another it was nowhere near as overgrown as Michael had predicted. There were a few encroaching brambles to contend with, and the carpet of autumn leaves concealed a few stones and pits, but progress was fast and the hedgerows were a delight. And then there was Ian's assurance that he wouldn't fall off this week - of course he did fall off, on the first corner, as everyone had expected, which added further enjoyment to the ride.

The track brought us eventually to the course of the old South Brent to Kingsbridge railway line at the point where it crosses the river Avon. The area was buried in the heart of Silveridge Wood with Autumn leaves ankle deep almost everywhere. This was to be the lunch stop: it would be difficult to imagine a more picturesque location.

Getting the bikes up onto the bridge proved a little more tricky than anticipated, since the holly-lined path was too narrow for a bike. Finally the job was done, and there was the railway track disappearing into the undergrowth, beckoning is to explore it. No-one needed any encouragement.

Things went fine for a while. The track was again very leafy, and vegetation encroached from the sides in places, but the path was level and the scenery unspoilt. Then came a big problem in the form of a fence - an electric fence to be precise, as Steven found out to his cost. After some consideration the bikes were passed (cautiously) over the top of the fence whilst the owners squirmed (equally cautiously) beneath it. There was then a second fence to tackle, the two fences together lining a link lane between two fields to stop the animals straying along the track. This time Craig was not so lucky, performing a spectacular leap into the air after receiving a hefty belt from the unfriendly fence.

Members were warned to watch out for other traps which might have been set for us. A few moments later we encountered the quicksand, and finally noticed that a bridge had been taken out to stop our progress. Seriously though, this was the end of the line as far as the railway was concerned, and there was just the little matter of following the footpath on to the road at Topsham Bridge. This was no easy task in itself: a steep path descended to the bottom of the valley, with the promise of an icy ducking in the Avon for anyone missing their footing.

Back on solid ground once again progress was swift. From Hendham the group rode the easy lane route through Moreleigh to Diptford, returning to the Avon Valley once more for the last lap to Avonwick. And here was the old station, Ham Mill Halt, now a private dwelling but still retaining many of the features that make it obviously a station.

The Copper Kettle cafe at South Brent was a perfect place to finish the day's ride. Young Paul Ledingham was counting up the miles, as he was being sponsored in aid of Children in Need. And Craig was counting up the Cafe Award Scheme votes on the new voting form. Ian may have been counting his bruises, but I think he had enjoyed the ride.

Friday 2 December 1988Social: Give us a Clue
11 present: Rebecca Burge (Junior, Ashburton), Richard Burge, Chris Giles, Catherine Hopper, Simon Hopper, Toby Hopper, Michael Jones, Ian Luke, Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons, Alan Skinner
Richard Burge kept the group well entertained at his house near Ashburton, the chinchillas making their usual appearance part-way through the evening.

Sunday 4 December 1988Afternoon ride (Paignton): HaccombeCloudy with some sun
3 present: Craig Gillman, Dave Humphreys, Philip Humphreys

A morning of heavy rain had left Dave Humphreys fairly confident of a zero attendance for the Marldon afternoon ride, but just when he was going home for a cup of tea at 2.30, two mad riders arrived on the scene.


The merry little band took the lanes to Newton Abbot, continued up the long climb to the top of Twickenham Road and then took the track on the left that leads down to Haccombe. It was downhill all the way, and offered good views of Teignmouth.


Haccombe itself consisted of a tiny chapel with a large mansion nearby. There was time to look at the chapel, which was very beautiful, but it was beginning to get chilly so the threesome set off for home. There were a few climbs along the way, and some confusion about which way to go, but eventually they were on the lanes between North Wilborough and Compton at the end of a very pleasant ride - better than any cup of tea!


No-one braved the rain at Buckfastleigh, which was just as well since Michael was laid up in bed with flu for the day.

Sunday 11 December 1988Day ride: Gara MillDry
16 present: Richard Burge, David Cutts, Luke Hatherly, Steven Hills, Richard Hopper, Jonathon Hunt, Martin Hunt, Michael Jones, Ian Luke, David Robinson (Adult, Marldon), Philip Robinson (11, Marldon), Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth, Andrew Simmons, Ken Twydell, Mark Williams
Our pick-up point at Totnes is on the Plains, which is probably the only place in the area where such a huge group of cyclists could meet without causing an obstruction! Michael, who was still nursing a cough, took the car as far as Totnes, and when Martin and Jonathon had also arrived by car the day's contingent was complete.

Seasoned members will be familiar with the route through Harbertonford and Moreleigh towards Slapton, but may not have ventued dowh the steep and twisty descent to Gara Mill, situated (not surprisingly perhaps) on the delightful River Gara. The mill is now a tasteful house conversion, buried deep in the woods at the bottom of the secluded valley. A path leading down to the river made a delightful lunch spot, where members could spread themselves out along the river bank to read their personal copy of Newsletter 7, hot off the photocopier.

There are only two ways out of Gara Mill, and both of them are up. Not wishing to leave by the same route we climbed the lane on the east side of the valley, discovering plenty of mud and other dubious semisolids outside Burlestone Farm. Arriving shortly afterwards at Blackwell Cross the afternoon was still young, and there was plenty of time to enjoy the coastal views across Landcombe Cove on the way to Blackpool cafe.

Things had changed a little at Blackpool since we were last there. The cafe, which was now in new owbership, seemed to have gone up market to such an extent that there was no room for us to sit down in its luxurious warmth. We had to content ourselves with eating outside - which wasn't so bad as it happened, since the sun shone for the first time while we were there. Jonathon decided not to go swimming on this occasion, however.

The rather leisurely return was via Bowden and Tuckenhay, with more delightful scenes along the way. Luke Hatherly was really looking forward to trying Corkscrew Hill - until he got there that is, discovering that he had been down it before but hadn't known its name!

There was talk of Norway in the air as we neared Totnes in the descending darkness, but when all is said and done, the local rides can be every bit as much fun as the most expensive tour abroad, can't they?

Friday 16 December 1988Social: Cycling Proficiency
12 present: Chris Giles, Steven Hills, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Philip Humphreys, Jeremy Hunt, Jonathon Hunt, Michael Jones, Paul Lakeman, Ian Luke, Luke Rake, Alan Skinner
Members taking part in this social were introduced to (or reminded about) the principles which are taught in Cycling Proficiency courses up and down the country. They seemed to have learned a few things, but we'll be watching on the rides to see if they have really taken it all in.

Sunday 18 December 1988Day ride: Christmas LunchDry
29 present: Graham Burge, Richard Burge, Michael Giles, Craig Gillman, Luke Hatherly, Steven Hills, Catherine Hopper, Margaret Hopper, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Toby Hopper, Jackie Hunt, Jeremy Hunt, Jessica Hunt, Joanna Hunt, Jonathon Hunt, Martin Hunt, Michael Jones, Geoffrey Ledingham, Paul Ledingham, Ian Luke, Warren Masters, Nonie McKenzie, Graham Moates, Andrew Simmons, Alan Skinner, Mark Sloman, John Stuart, Jeremy Weston
Sheltering from the wind on Dr Blackall's Drive
With Christmas looming fast it seemed that few members wanted to miss out on the Section's annual festive lunch at Leusdon Lodge. Cyclists were arriving at the Bickington pick-up from almost every direction.

Three such cyclists were Martin, Jonathon and Jeremy Hunt who, having taken the car to Leusdon, were descending the long hill from Cold East Cross. When they hadn't arrived by 11.10 the main group set off up the hill towards Ilsington whilst Budgie and a few companions rode the Cold East hill on an interception mission. Fortunately they met them after only a few minutes, so the Hunts were able to rejoin the main group after only a slight struggle.

A strengthening, bitterly-cold crosswind made the going especially tough for the younger riders near Haytor, but we still managed to reach the Lodge within the agreed range of times. Here at last were the remaining car-assisted members, and the whole group trouped into the welcoming dining room with great expectations.

No-one was disappointed. A new table layout had been concocted to cope with this year's increase in numbers, so the anticipated crush did not materialise. The meals, as usual, were excellent quality and reasonably priced, the most expensive three-course meal coming to just £3-95. The only person who might have been a little miserable was Luke Rake, whose meal was divided up among the lions. He had failed to turn up at the last moment, so he couldn't really blame us for putting his delicious soup, nut roast and Christmas Pudding to good use. Catherine was certainly pleased with the pudding, which she polished off without assistance.

After the food came the awards. The junior attendance trophy went once again to Richard Burge, and numerous members received certificates for completing the 100km and 130km reliability rides in August and September. Then there were newsletters and other Section publicity materials to give out, followed by plans for Christmas and new year activities, followed by coffee - there really was no particular rush to leave this pleasant establishment.

After the meal came the homeward ride, up the climb to Beltor Corner and along the track known as Dr Blackall's Drive. The wind had strengthened still further during lunch, and was now blowing with gale force as we struggled to keep our balance along the spectacular track, high above the river Dart. Fortunately the wind was blowing us into the side of the valley and not outwards towards the Dart. The whole experience was breathtaking, exhilarating and a real hit with everyone who took part - even the most ardent anti-trackers were having second thoughts. This was Dartmoor, the bleak wilderness, in just one of its many and varied moods.

Before we finally reached the road at Poundsgate there was the inevitable pile-up, with John Stuart leading the fray on his Saracen mountain bike. No-one came to any harm on the soft grassland. In fact they all stayed exactly where they fell until Michael arrived with his camera.

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