South Dartmoor CTC


Sunday 3 March 1991Day ride (Hardriders): Elender Cove (51 mi)Sunny & warm, windy
2 present: Martin Hills, Richard Hopper
Unseasonably fine weather, quiet roads, lunch by the swirling seas at Elender Cover: a cyclists' delight.

Sunday 3 March 1991Afternoon ride (Buckfastleigh): Ponsworthy (16 mi)Sunny, 11 degrees C
18 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Stuart Benns, Alan Dawson, Barry Dawson (Adult, Newton Abbot), Alex Flanagan (15, Devon), Jeremy Ford, Luke Hatherly, Zoe Hatherly (Junior, Dartington), Michael Jones, Sebastian Lessware, Martin Luke, Chris Platt, Peter Rushworth, Gavin Taylor, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Joseph Watkins, Martyn Williams
Jeremy Ford won an award from the members today when he asked whether there was any water at the destination. Luke Hatherly explained (rather sarcastically) that a single drop of rain landed there a few millenia ago and caused a splash, hence the name Ponsworthy Splash.

Our route took us through Hembury Woods, New Bridge and Spitchwick, where the river Dart flowed strongly with an abundance of clean, fresh water. Unfortunately many people were swarming in the sunshine like bees around a honey pot, so we quickly set off for the peace of the Leusdon lane - too narrow for the vehicles to follow. We were greeted along the way by the friendly gaggle of ducks that reside in the pond, and by three pet goats tethered to a wooded verge.

Arriving at Leusdon Lodge, the venue for our annual Christmas Lunch, we were greeted by the proprietor's son James, who interrupted his painting to supply us with various items of confectionery. We also had to see his new bike, of course.

Ponsworthy Splash, now renamed Forder Bridge for some strange reason, was as green and wet as ever, but nobody slipped on this occasion. Alex and Zoe both did well on their first rides, but Zoe learned a hard lesson at Buckland when she ran out of road on a sharp bend and found herself with a few cuts and grazes. Brother Luke stayed with her until father came to the rescue, while Michael escorted the other members home, arriving at Buckfastleigh rather late at 6pm.

Sunday 3 March 1991Afternoon ride (Paignton): Staverton BridgeFine
16 present: Christian Bryant, Jenny Bryant, Mike Bryant, Sarah Bryant (15, Torquay), Ben Hobday, Karina Hobday, Roxanne Hobday, Dave Humphreys, David Robinson, Gary Taylor, James Twydell, Ken Twydell, Julie Twydell-Hobday, Andrew Walker, Charlie Walker, Robert Walker
A change for the better in the weather saw the magnificent total of 16 members at Five (now only Four) Lanes, Marldon. Drama began almost immediately with Mike and Christian Bryant having to return home by car to fix a loosened crank. They were able to rush back and catch us up within a mile or so, we having delayed our start as long as possible - Dave used the time to mend his first puncture of the day.

By the time we reached Red Post Dave had had another puncture in the same tyre. Luckily these were the only mechanical mishaps in an otherwise lovely day.

Staverton Bridge, our published destination, was soon reached and we took the path down by the river to rest and eat. Jenny told us of an earlier career as a raft racer on the River Dart. Also it turned out that both she and Dave H had worked together some 20 years ago. It was about then that Rob pointed out that he had last seen his father outside the Sea Trout Inn at Staverton some 20 minutes earlier. Gary was sent back to find him but by then it was too late. Apparently Charlie and his son Andy had been delayed by a detached chain, and by the time they got to the bridge we were all down by the river out of sight. He waited a bit but assumed that we must have gone to Dartington as there are cafés there. He got back home safely but it was a shame that we 'lost' him.

Lessons learnt: 1. When left or detached from the group stay put: the leader will always send someone back eventually. 2. Leaders should check that everyone is present when deviating from the route.

After further search parties had returned without success we set off back to Staverton village and on to Ipplepen via Fishacre Barton, from where we observed some abseilers on a distant cliff. From Park Hill we took the non-Compton route that is more pleasant, safer and just happens to pass the Robinson abode.

All in all this was a very peasant ride and a triumph of organisation by Ken - after all we did reach the published destination, and we were back at around 6.30. Alright, so we lost a couple of riders, but nobody is perfect!!

Friday 8 March 1991
Social: Cycle Workshop
15 present: Neil Ault, Alan Dawson, Julian Duquemin, Jeremy Ford, Dayle Guy, Martin Hamlyn-White, Matthew Hamlyn-White, Paul Hamlyn-White, Martin Hills, Michael Jones, Martin Luke, Chris Platt, David Platt, David Robinson, Dominic Robinson
Richard and Ken were unable to attend at the last minute, but Dave Robinson saved the day, and Martin and Dayle helped out by assisting the younger riders with their mechanical problems.

Saturday 9 March 1991Weekend ride: Maypool Youth Hostel Day 1 (15 mi)Mainly dry and dull
19 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Tao Burgess, Alan Dawson, Jeremy Ford, Martin Hills, Ben Hobday, Karina Hobday, Roxanne Hobday, Michael Jones, Chris Platt, David Platt, Gavin Taylor, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Debbie Twydell, James Twydell, Ken Twydell, Paul Twydell, Julie Twydell-Hobday
We played our usual energetic games at Maypool on the Saturday evening.

Sunday 10 March 1991Weekend ride: Maypool Youth Hostel Day 2 (27 mi)Mainly dry and dull
19 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Tao Burgess, Alan Dawson, Jeremy Ford, Martin Hills, Ben Hobday, Karina Hobday, Roxanne Hobday, Michael Jones, Chris Platt, David Platt, Gavin Taylor, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Debbie Twydell, James Twydell, Ken Twydell, Paul Twydell, Julie Twydell-Hobday
On Sunday we rode through Paignton and Torquay to Babbacombe, where we enjoyed lunch. Remembering that the Old Bakery would now be open we decided to enjoy the refreshments we had been denied last year. On arriving at Stoke-in-Teignhead, however, we were told that we could not be accommodated because they needed the tables for Mothers Day meals within the hour. I explained that we had come a long way to visit his café for the second time in six months, but he wasn't interested. We have to advise cyclists that they are unlikely to get a warm welcome at this particular establishment at any time of the year.

Sunday 17 March 1991Day ride (Hardriders): Denham Bridge (58 mi)Windy & wet, clearing
2 present: Martin Hills, Richard Hopper
Martin and Richard faced a strong headwind as they made their way over the moor. By Two Bridges the threatening rain had become steady, and several heavy bursts were quite dampening, of both body and spirit. The adverse weather didn't deter some clay pigeon shooters from peppering the moorland with pellets, and Tavistock Wheelers bowled down the hill the other way looking quite happy. What a difference a tailwind makes. We had a brief chat with a tandeming family on the descent from Merrivale, and Martin then scoured Tavistock looking for acceptable food.

With the rain cleared and lunch eaten in a field gateway we turned down to Denham Bridge. A sign warns that the water is 40 feet deep by the rocks, and it certainly swirled menacingly under the bridge. There's a choice of routes up from the bridge to Buckland Monachorum, both exhaustingly steep, but neither is as bad as the road down to the bridge, a twisting 1 in 4. We opted for the Plym Valley cycle path, as Martin had only ridden it once before, and that was at night: he wanted to see what it looked like. He was puzzled in the tunnel that his front light seemed dim, and then realised that he still had his sunglasses on. The wind was now on our backs, and we made a quick return home on an afternoon when cyclists seemed to be out in force.

Sunday 17 March 1991Morning ride (Buckfastleigh): DidworthySunny with blustery showers
7 present: Neil Ault, Tao Burgess, Alex Flanagan, Michael Jones, Paul Oakley, Peter Rushworth, Gavin Taylor
Tao, Neil & Paul
Gavin & Alex near Addislade
Riding the short track to Didworthy made a pleasant variation on our usual Avon Dam ride, but we didn't want to vary the Abbotts Way route to Cross Furzes.

Friday 22 March 1991
Social: Games Evening
23 present: Tristan Allen, Neil Ault, Gareth Barker, Richard Burge, Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Jeremy Ford, Chris Giles, Dayle Guy, Matthew Hamlyn-White, Paul Hamlyn-White, Philip Harler, Martin Hills, Catherine Hopper, Michael Jones, Martin Luke, Chris Platt, David Platt, David Robinson, Dominic Robinson, Philip Robinson, Martin Rushworth, Peter Rushworth
Michael forgot the table tennis balls and bats so he had to return home for them before some of the games could commence. The final evening of the social season then continued in true South Dartmoor style with card games, pool, table tennis and computer games.

Sunday 24 March 1991Day ride: Whooping RockSunny
23 present: Neil Ault, Hazel Brown, Christian Bryant, Mike Bryant, Tao Burgess, Alex Flanagan, Martin Hills, Karina Hobday, Simon Hopper, Dave Humphreys, Roger Johnson, Michael Jones, Martin Luke, David Robinson, Philip Robinson, Andrew Simmons, John Stuart, Gavin Taylor, Ken Twydell, Charlie Walker, Robert Walker, Joseph Watkins, Martyn Williams
We welcomed John Stuart, Simon Hopper and Andrew Simmons back to the fold, home for the Easter Holiday. We certainly made an impressive sight at the Bovey Tracey pick-up. Those who went into the Primrose café at Lustleigh were rewarded with a special menu offering 50% discount on many items - see the noticeboard in this newsletter for details.

There was some competition amongst the older teenagers to see who could ride the fastest along the narrow lanes, despite Michael's attempts to encourage self-discipline. Today's casualty was Roger Johnson, who came off on a gravelly bend and damaged his elbow: his parents collected him and took him to the local hospital for treatment, and he then had to return to Totnes hospital regularly for a few weeks before the wound was fully healed. Next time the damage could be even more serious, so please try to put safety first!

The ride continued up to Manaton, and thence to Whooping Rock itself along a short track. After enjoying lunch in the sun we left the tranquil setting and returned home via Jay's Grave.

Friday 29 March 1991Tour (Senior): Dorset & New Forest Day 1 Devon to Salisbury (21 mi)Dry, sunny, fairly cool
5 present: Hazel Brown, Richard Burge, Julian Duquemin, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper
After an uneventful journey by car, past much holiday traffic going the other way, we arrived in Cranbourne at about three o'clock. Having set off, Richard B found his speedo wasn't working and then realised he'd got his front wheel in the wrong way round.

The first part was back up the hill we had just descended, and this was signposted to '6D Handley'. Hazel and Richard H instantly recognised it as meaning Sixpenny Handley - a result of their advanced age, as Julian put it. Or education, as Hazel replied. The next few miles took us along the line of the ridge, along the Ox Drove, overlooking the River Ebble. Although this track was generally level there were several small lakes on the way that caused us to walk gingerly around the side. We were relieved that it had been relatively dry recently. In places it was very lumpy, giving all our gear a good shaking down into the panniers. It also became increasingly muddy, and very sticky. Richard H won the muddy bike competition.

The last part of this track took us down Throope Hill, a lovely descent. The quickest down to the bottom missed the sight of a hot air balloon hedge-hopping over the track, dropping down into the steep valley beside us as if it was going to land, and then rising off again with the occasional whoosh from its gas burners. It's not often you look down from a bicycle onto a hot air balloon in flight.

We reached Salisbury hostel just before dusk. Although large, it was full that night. The good news about the kitchen: it now has two fridges; the bad news: there were hardly any saucepans.

Saturday 30 March 1991Tour (Senior): Dorset & New Forest Day 2 Salisbury to Burley (26 mi)Dry, sunny and warm (later)
5 present: Hazel Brown, Richard Burge, Julian Duquemin, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper
Richard H had packed his suntan lotion; would he need it today? A clear night had left a frost on the grass when we got up, but it had all the signs of being a good day. We ambled down into Salisbury after Richard B had adjusted his front cones, and spent the morning enjoying this bustling centre. Newton Abbot hides its market away, but here it was in full swing and provided a natural focus for commercial activity. Leslie Thomas was at one of the bookshops, signing copies of his new book. The cathedral spire, the tallest in England, was smothered in scaffolding, and the nearby notice announced that they still needed £2.4 million to finish the restoration work and take it down.

We gathered again at midday, and by this time the sun had taken off the early chill. It was 100% shorts. We backtracked past the hostel and our route took us down the valley of the Avon. This was cycling at its best: gently downhill with the fall of the river to make you think you are fit, and a couple of minor hills to pre-empt any monotony. The most enjoyable feature of the hills in this part of the world is that, unlike Devon's twisty and turny roads, the downhill sides don't have awkward bends in the way: you get the full benefit of your climb, with little erosion of the brake blocks. The architecture used a pleasing variety of local building materials - patterned brick, brick and flint, stone and flint, and some just stone. Like the river, the road meandered through little villages with their greens, New Forest ponies chewing the grass, Volvos, large houses called 'Thatch Cottage', 'For Sale' signs from the estate agent called 'Out of Town' and a restaurant called the 'Mirabelle'. The road and river met at four different fords, but only one of them had water in it.

The entire New Forest appears to be a 40mph zone, which is good news for cyclists. The presence of the ponies, however, means that there are more cattle grids than on Dartmoor. The ponies caused us no problems, but as we rode through Burley three donkeys wandered across the road in front of us. On the track to the hostel Julian lost a rack bolt; presumably the shaking of the previous day had at last taken its toll. Since we were early at the hostel Richard B took the opportunity to replace a gear lever with one he had bought in Salisbury, and Julian caught the juggling bug off Richard H.

Sunday 31 March 1991Tour (Senior): Dorset & New Forest Day 3 Burley to Swanage (35 mi)Sunny spells
5 present: Hazel Brown, Richard Burge, Julian Duquemin, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper
Julian and Paul had reminded Richard H that the clocks went forward that night, but of course they were the ones who slept in. The weather gave us a rather dull start, resulting in only 60% shorts. It brightened up later, but the wind stayed quite chilly. Paul didn't want any hills, so Richard said there were only three, which was almost true. After a fairly gentle climb we started with a gentle drop on small roads away from the forest and back over the Avon. Over the other side we had to climb back out of the valley. Then we hit the traffic going towards Wimbourne. (If we had left at the appointed hour we would have missed most of it.) This took us past Bournemouth Airport where the only things flying seemed to be skylarks. On the other side of the road we passed a sign offering 'DYO manure - 10p a bag' which had us puzzled for a moment. Another casualty of the earlier rough tracks: Richard H's bottle cage fractured, fell on the road and gave the other Richard quite a surprise.

Into Wimbourne, and the task was to find the converted railway track that was going to take us into the suburbs of Poole. This was complicated by the virtual gridlock caused by the motor traffic, but despite several false attempts we found it eventually, and it was well worth it. After several miles of gentle downhill gradients we turned off it onto the line of an old Roman road, where we had lunch. Then we had the boring bit: making the trek around Poole harbour to get to the Sandbanks ferry. There was a certain pleasure, however, in passing the long line of cars that were also waiting, one of the few times when cycling takes precedence. The ferry was a floating bridge, rather like Torpoint, coping with all manner of traffic, including double decker buses. We pulled into the first café on the other side and had to wait ages for Richard B's soup to come - there was a mix up over the order numbers but he eventually got two for the price of one. Half a mile on we discovered that we needed our ferry tickets to leave what turned out to be a toll road. Then it was up the third hill of the day (well, almost) and a lovely long descent into Swanage.

From the High Street a short but very steep hill led up to the hostel. We dropped off our bags and returned to get provisions and look around. Something of a kiss-me-quick resort, it wasn't very busy given that it was Easter Day. The weather was a bit hazy, so the view wasn't much to enjoy, and this had been more of a disappointment as we crossed the Purbeck ridge. Richard B attached a couple of tins of food to the top of his carrier with an elastic strap, but not well enough. Just on the last stretch up the aforementioned hill one broke loose and he had to backtrack fairly sharply to prevent it bounding all the way down to the beach.

The hostel has been 'improved'. The benefit is that the showers are excellent. More debatable are the new style bunks in stacks of three, with the middle one at right angles to the other two. This allows two (but only two) lockable cupboards underneath it, but the unfamiliar layout takes some getting used to. The kitchen had had the treatment as well: new work surfaces with cupboards and drawers all the way round underneath. Unfortunately nothing was labelled, so every new person into the kitchen had to search every cupboard to find what they were looking for. Even more questionable were the sofas in the common room. These were blue velour chesterfields, and seemed a bit too swish for mere hostellers.

Sunday 31 March 1991Afternoon ride (Buckfastleigh): Easter Special (11 mi)Sunny and warm
11 present: Neil Ault, Tao Burgess, Alan Dawson, Alex Flanagan, Dayle Guy, Philip Harler, Martin Hills, Michael Jones, Unknown Rider 1, Peter Rushworth, Eliot Thomas-Wright
Poor Eliot! Having ridden past Buckfast Abbey Eliot had elected to go with the five other 'trackies' through Burchetts Wood, but when he reached the ford at the end he fell in and ended up soaked from the neck down. Fortunately the weather assisted with the drying process as the afternoon progressed - Tao and Dayle weren't exactly dry or clean either, as the track had been just as muddy as Michael had predicted.

Following a tractor into Holne we realised just how difficult it is for farmers to carry out their daily work during the tourist season. And there certainly were plenty of tourists about today: we took one look at the crowds in the Old Forge café and decided to go straight to Venford, where Michael gave everyone two pieces of a Chocolate Orange - better than Easter Eggs any day.

We decided to return using the track to Michelcombe. As we trekked across the open moorland we witnessed at first hand the damage caused by the recent spate of moorland fires - heather and heath had all been reduced to charcoal in several areas. Alex took a fall on a rough section of the descent, but he was soon patched up. Having traversed the ford near Michelcombe without further problems we finally arrived home at about 5.15pm.

Sunday 31 March 1991Afternoon ride (Paignton): Easter SpecialSunny and warm
16 present: Christian Bryant, Jenny Bryant, Mike Bryant, David Cutts, Ben Hobday, Karina Hobday, Roxanne Hobday, Matthew Jago, Martin Luke, Gary Taylor, James Twydell, Ken Twydell, Julie Twydell-Hobday, Andrew Walker, Charlie Walker, Robert Walker
We took a convoluted route through the Westerland Valley to Collaton and then on to the Stoke Gabriel road. At Long Road Gary led the trackies for a rough stuff diversion which they did at such speed that they almost beat the rest of the group back to the road (just as well, as Ken had already forgotten them and had sailed past the relevant junction).

At the weir, busy with Sunday Afternoonies, we met Dave Humphreys with family (including "It's Phil Humphreys!!" complete with weird DJ rap King haircut).

Julie handed out Easter Eggs and we then set off to Galmpton where we viewed the creek before setting off for home.

Monday 1 April 1991Tour (Senior): Dorset & New Forest Day 4 Swanage to Lulworth Cove (21 mi)Overcast, occasional drizzle, and windy
5 present: Hazel Brown, Richard Burge, Julian Duquemin, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper
We managed to leave at 9 today, under a dull sky with a very light drizzle, the first rain in four days. The most notable feature of the weather, however, was the strong SW wind, and you can guess which direction we were heading. We rode back up the two mile long hill we had zoomed down the day before to the start of the track across Nine Barrows Down. This began with a lung-busting 3/4 mile climb up a stony track to the top. But it was worth it. We now had about 3 miles along the top of this ridge followed by an arm-tingling descent into Corfe. We had decided to have a quick look at the castle after a cup of tea, but the entry charge was sufficient to put us off. We walked along the path that goes round the outside of the ruin and decided that was good enough.

It being Easter Monday, finding a shop open meant we took the opportunity to replenish our provisions, and then we set off for Lulworth. Under normal circumstances this would be a delightful road, constantly undulating across the varied Purbeck scenery. Today the headwind made going uphill harder, and took the fun out of descents. There always seems something unjust about having to pedal downhill. With plenty of time on our hands we took the opportunity to visit Tyneham, a village evacuated during the war so the army could extend its practice range. The villagers never got it back, and only the church was left standing. The army has ruined it again, by turning it into a slightly twee tourist attraction, very different from the tumbledown ruins that Hazel had visited in the past. We ate our lunch in one of the ruined cottages before enjoying the benefit of the tailwind back up the hill.

Coming down off the Purbeck ridge Paul had a contretemps with a Toyota on a sharp bend. The driver apologised for not seeing him - inexcusable really: having passed four cyclists it seemed unreasonable not to expect a fifth. We dropped off our luggage at the hostel and went down to Lulworth Cove, and from here we walked over to Durdle Door, a natural arch that juts out into the sea. It was a hard slog uphill over the cliff into the headwind. The one consolation was that it blew Julian off his feet, much to everyone else's amusement. Back at the Cove we visited the café down by the beach. The two Richards had sticky confections, while the others went upmarket and had quiche.

The warden was assertive but friendly. The way she got someone to move their badly parked car had the rest of us quaking in our shoes, so much so that even when the door was unlocked at five o'clock we hesitated to enter because she hadn't asked us in. The hostel is right on the edge of the firing range, and you can see the warning flags from the windows. However, the only noise in the night came from two sources: heavy rain and a snorer. This hostel also has the same range of cupboards and drawers as Swanage, but here the warden has shown some common sense and labelled them.

Monday 1 April 1991Tour: South and Mid Wales Day 1 Devon to St Briavels Castle (26 mi)Overcast with some light drizzle
16 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Christian Bryant, Mark Burnard, Matthew Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Thomas Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Ian Gibbs, Nicholas Guard (15, Solihull), Timothy Guard (12, Solihull), Martin Hills, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, David Platt, Paul Smith, Robert Walker, Martyn Williams
Mark & Martin in The Eagles Nest
The 1991 Easter Tour to Mid Wales was restricted to sixteen participants because of the size of some of the simple hostels involved. It was hardly surprising that every place was taken, and so it was that the sixteen met at Bristol Parkway station for the beginning of an epic eight-day adventure.

Mark's father, who knew the area well, kindly led us through some flat, quiet lanes to Olveston, avoiding the busy main roads. We then proceeded across the Severn bridge, slightly nervous about the strong sidewind that threatened to blow us over the edge. When we reached the far side we were able to observe the part of the river that passed over the railway tunnel, through which we would be passing on our return journey at the end of the tour.

After a hasty lunch on a grassy verge near Chepstow we continued to the Wye Valley. First stop here was the Eagle's Nest viewpoint. We had to walk along a footpath from a car park, but there was a long delay because several of the leading riders had missed the turning, sailing on up the hill out of sight. There then followed a short stop at Tintern Abbey for refreshments and minor repairs - nobody could afford to go into the abbey itself - before the long climb to St Briavels Castle hostel.

St Briavels is one of the most impressive hostels in England and Wales. It is a Norman castle, used long ago by King John as a hunting lodge, situated in the centre of the quiet village. Our dormitories were in the tower, but we didn't see any ghosts.

Tim had requested a pasta meal as he can't eat potatoes. He was rather embarrassed when everyone was served pasta for the evening meal!

Tuesday 2 April 1991Tour (Senior): Dorset & New Forest Day 5 Lulworth Cove to Home (35 mi)Some rain, SW wind
5 present: Hazel Brown, Richard Burge, Julian Duquemin, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper
The weather was closing in. The top of the hill was shrouded in low cloud and it was drizzling. But we knew that we would have the strong wind behind us today, and even if it rained there was that lift created by knowing that you are on your way home. It's nice to get away, and it's nice to get back.

A moderate but longish climb led to the drop into Wool, no bends and no brakes for three miles. The sight of a Spar shop reminded Paul of work and also prompted stocking up with enough to last us the day. As we left we were just caught by the railway crossing lights. The train left the station, but went the other way. We were puzzled. A couple of minutes later it came back, but our wait wasn't over. We were at a junction, and an enormous queue of traffic had built up and we had to wait for that to clear as well. The rain became a little more steady as we made our way away from Wool, past a sign warning of tanks loose on the road. Richard's map reading worked: he found the start of the bridlepath through the woodland. Blue waymarks helped as we made our way up to the next road and crossed over. You know how forestry tracks all look the same? Well the waymarks petered out as well, and before we knew it we had gone quite a way on what should have been a short track. Stuck in the middle of the woodland with virtually no landmarks we were forced back onto the first principles of navigation. Overhead pylons gave us a clue and we found we had fortuitously travelled in the right direction without using the main road that had looked the only route on the map. Richard H was just thinking this might be the first tour without a puncture when his front tyre went down. A very small flint had worked its way through into the tube.

Lunchtime approached and with wind and drizzle we needed somewhere sheltered. No cafés looked forthcoming and we ended up under a disused railway bridge. It was still windy, so lunch was fairly brief. We then took the track past Badbury Rings, an ancient hill fort, and continued along the old Roman road. This gradually got narrower, stickier, thornier and slower, with the scent of wild garlic wafting us on our way. Avoiding a place with a name like Gussage All Saints seemed a sensible idea, so we left the Roman road and were soon on the B3078. This led only to Cranbourne, the waiting vehicles and a journey home into the headwind while we speculated about next year's tour.

Tuesday 2 April 1991Tour: South and Mid Wales Day 2 St Briavels to Capel-y-Ffin (33 mi)Rain for most of the day
16 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Christian Bryant, Mark Burnard, Matthew Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Thomas Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Ian Gibbs, Nicholas Guard (15, Solihull), Timothy Guard (12, Solihull), Martin Hills, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, David Platt, Paul Smith, Robert Walker, Martyn Williams
Joseph near Capel-y-Ffin YH
Entrance to St Briavels Castle YH
It had rained all night and showed no signs of abating as we waited behind the hostel's drawbridge. Eventually we accepted that we were going to get wet and set off down the hill and along the easy valley road to Monmouth.

It was as we entered the town that Neil discovered that his rear rim was falling apart. Closer inspection revealed that it would have to be replaced before he could ride the bike again, so Michael checked out the local cycle shop while the rest of the group purchased lunch from a nearby bakery.

The 'bike shop' seemed to have more lawnmowers on display than bikes, and they certainly had no alloy rims or Shimano cassette freewheels. They suggested a shop in Abergavenny - which, whilst not particularly helpful, was at least in the right direction. Since the weather had brightened up a bit, Michael decided to take Neil and the two bikes to Abergavenny in a taxi while Simon led the other members along the proposed route.

The good weather lasted only another thirty minutes. When everyone met up again at Llanfihangel Crucorney, Simon's group were drenched to the skin - but at least Neil's bike was fully repaired. We made the most of a local transport café before starting the long climb through the Black Mountains to the hostel. The delightful scenery of the area was lost to us as the rain pelted down even harder than before. When we finally arrived at the hostel, wet and miserable, the rain was beginning to ease, and by the time we had hung our wet clothes above the heater in the entrance hall the rain had stopped altogether - typical!

Nobody was in the mood for hill-climbing tonight: hot showers and card games seemed to be the order of the evening.

Wednesday 3 April 1991Tour: South and Mid Wales Day 3 Capel-y-Ffin to Glascwm (20 mi)Sunny spells with showers
16 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Christian Bryant, Mark Burnard, Matthew Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Thomas Crabtree (15, Bridgenorth), Ian Gibbs, Nicholas Guard (15, Solihull), Timothy Guard (12, Solihull), Martin Hills, Simon Hopper, Michael Jones, David Platt, Paul Smith, Robert Walker, Martyn Williams
Christian & Martyn admiring the Black Mountains valley near Capel-y-Ffin YH
Tim, Matthew, Andrew, Nick & Thomas, on the hills behind Capel-y-Ffin YH
The view from Gospel Pass
Tim, Ian, Paul, Martyn, Simon, Mark, Martin - Thomas, Matthew, David, Tim, Christian - Neil, Joseph, Andrew
One of the bookshops at Hay on Wye
Sunshine greeted us this morning, so we decided to catch up with the schedule by climbing the heathery hill behind the hostel. A few wet blankets couldn't manage anything remotely energetic and hung aimlessly around the hostel. Those who proceeded, however, got some excellent photographs of the hostel nestling on the side of its remote mountainous valley, and of the numerous sheep that were dotted about on the mountainside. There was also some free entertainment from Paul: first he spent fifteen minutes searching vainly for his camera, dropped carelessly during the descent; then he slipped over and landed squarely in the muddiest part of a bog.

Returning to the bikes we continued the climb past the hostel and were soon enjoying more panoramic views, this time from Gospel Pass. A long and enjoyable descent brought us shortly to Hay-on-Wye where lunch, supper & breakfast were purchased.

Hay-on-Wye is famous for its second-hand book shops. Indeed, there seemed to be several such shops in every street. We found one near the centre, and were totally amazed by its size. It was a three-storey town house that had every single room converted for the display of books - including the basement! Never had we seen so many books crammed into one house. We really needed several days to examine the contents, but time was pressing so we had to content ourselves with a cursory inspection of each room. Some of the musty tomes in the attic rooms looked as if they might fall apart if we touched them!

The afternoon's ride through Painscastle (we couldn't find any way to get to the castle) and Bryngwyn was interrupted periodically by Michael's blow-outs, caused by a split in the side-wall of his rear tyre. The weather was quite pleasant, however, and eventually we reached the simple hostel at Glascwm, a tiny hamlet where most of the inhabitants seemed to have four legs and woolly fleeces.

Our beds were in the annexe, a prefabricated hut divided into two 8-bedded rooms. There was a single electric heater which had to be shared between the two rooms - a source of numerous petty conflicts during the evening. At least the kitchen/common room was reasonably cosy once the open fire had been laid in and lit.

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