South Dartmoor CTC


Sunday 15 March 1992Morning ride (Buckfastleigh): Huntingdon WarrenDry but windy
13 present: Neil Ault, Tao Burgess, Tom Current, Thain Hatherly, Michael Jones, Luke King, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Paul Oakley, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Andrew Thorne (Junior, Buckfastleigh), Ben Widger, Tom Widger
The climb to Cross Furzes was quite pleasantly sheltered from the wind, but it was a very different story as we reached the open moor at Lud Gate. Our immediate task was to climb to the top of Puper's Hill, but the youngsters were soon pushing and not terribly enthusiastic about continuing.

Once we had crossed the top of the hill we were exploring new territory - well, not new to Ben, who helpfully pointed out a track that made the descent to Huntingdon a good deal easier. We viewed the deserted settlements and the relics of the tin mining era and then began to work out how to get home.

We were reasonably familiar with the moorland terrain from Red Lake to Cross Furzes, so we decided to follow the stream down to its junction with the Avon and then pick up the Abbot's Way behind the dam for the journey homewards. The going proved a little boggy in places, and more than one of the younger members got ankle-deep in mud, but the ride rapidly turned into one of the most enjoyable of the winter season to date.

Sunday 15 March 1992Morning ride (Paignton): GrattonsDry & windy
3 present: Unknown Rider 1, Andrew Walker, Robert Walker
Mark, Robert and Andrew were the only members in attendance at Paignton today.

Friday 20 March 1992
Social: Games Evening
8 present: Neil Ault, Joseph Bellows, Richard Burge, Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Dayle Guy, Martin Hills, Michael Jones
The low turnout gave us the luxury of enjoying pool, table tennis and computer games without the necessity of queuing - a fabulous evening to end the season.

Sunday 22 March 1992
Day ride: Hayne DownDry but very windy
8 present: Daniel Broadbent, Harry Hall, Richard Hopper, Michael Jones, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Ken Twydell, Paul Twydell
Ken, whose bad cold was making him unusually miserable today, persevered against the headwinds and steep climbs for as long as he could, but by midday he was ready to go home. He stayed with us for an enjoyable lunch, however, in the shelter of Black Hill overlooking Trendlebeer Down. Several horses were being ridden up an interesting-looking track which followed the edge of Yarner Wood nature reserve - we decided that it might be fun to ride down on another occasion.

Ken and Paul left us at Manaton while the rest of us proceeded up the rough track to Hayne Down, doing our best to ignore Alex's curses which floated up behind us. The wind was quite bearable until we reached the tor: here it was difficult to stand upright, and one could lean at several degrees to the vertical, supported only by the force of the wind.

There was a catering van at Hound Tor which seemed a quicker solution to the refreshment problem than a detour to Widecombe. Alex got Michael to buy him a drink, then Daniel shook him and discovered that he had his own money! He then proceeded to complain about the drink which Michael had ordered, saying he didn't really want it. Definitely a problem child!

We returned to Crofters via Cold East Cross and the Ten Commandments Stone (as windy as Hayne Down) and enjoyed some video and computer entertainment until 5pm.

Sunday 29 March 1992
Day ride: RingmoreShowers
13 present: Neil Ault, Tom Current, Harry Hall, Thain Hatherly, Decima Jones, Michael Jones, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Mark Moxham, Andrew Walker, Charlie Walker, Robert Walker, Ben Widger
There was a considerable delay at the Avonwick pick-up, which had something to do with Mark Moxham deciding to make a telephone call from Totnes fifteen minutes after the listed departure time. When he finally arrived at Avonwick he announced that he was going home, so everyone felt it had been well worth the wait!

The forecast was unpromising but we decided to continue as planned while the brighter spells held out. We took the primrose-lined lane from California Cross to Harraton, which was mainly downhill and offered good views across the rolling countryside to Ermington and beyond.

After lunch on one of the B3392's grassy verges the ominous clouds prompted most of the group to make for the Avon Mill cafè at Loddiswell, which made Thaine and Harry even more determined to reach the destination. The main group arrived a few minutes after the downpour began, and the other two walked in about half an hour later, thoroughly drenched.

The rain stopped after an hour, so we headed back through Woodleigh and Moreleigh in brighter conditions.

Friday 3 April 1992
Evening ride (Buckfastleigh): StavertonDry
4 present: Andrew Guy, Matthew Hamlyn-White, Martin Hills, Michael Jones
Matthew and Andrew had to be home before dark, so we just took a short ride along Colston Road (where Michael made a delivery to his Aunt) and home from Staverton via Caddaford.

Sunday 5 April 1992
Afternoon ride: Fishacre BartonSunny
16 present: Tao Burgess, Matthew Jago, Michael Jones, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Paul Oakley, Glen Powling, Gary Taylor, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Andrew Thorne, Andrew Walker, Charlie Walker, Lorraine Walker, Robert Walker, Alan Widger (Adult, Totnes), Ben Widger
Glen Powling turned up again today out of the blue, after an absence of several years. Buckfastleigh and Paignton starters enjoyed a short ride together past Newhouse Barton and then separated at Ipplepen.

Friday 10 April 1992
Evening ride (Buckfastleigh): SpitchwickSunny but cold
7 present: Neil Ault, Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Martin Hills, Michael Jones, Chris Platt, Eliot Thomas-Wright
We didn't get thunder today (as we did for our last evening ride to Spitchwick). Another pleasant ride, although it was a little cold on the return.

Sunday 12 April 1992
Day ride: Haydon CommonSunny but very windy
13 present: Tao Burgess, Harry Hall, Michael Jones, Sebastian Lessware, Glen Powling, Unknown Rider 1, Unknown Rider 2, Philip Robinson, Andrew Walker, Charlie Walker, Lorraine Walker, Robert Walker, Ben Widger
The old Waddon Brakes section of the A380 was amazingly quiet and safe today following the recent opening of a replacement road section. The location selected for lunch was near the top of the wood at Haydon Common, where the strong wind was very noticeable. After lunch we explored a nearby track which was warm, green and sunny by comparison - so pleasant in fact that several of us took a detour up and down the section to Chiverstone Farm.

The return to Kingsteignton was via Pitt Farm. Here, Michael decided to fix his slow puncture, and was most frustrated to find that the end of his Presta valve was not firmly attached: it dropped into the long grass twice. The first time it was found after an intensive search, but the second time he just gave up and borrowed Charlie's spare.

The length of the ride was taking its toll on Lorraine, but Tao was feeling so fit that he did the big climb past Ashcombe Tower twice. The Walker family went on at their own pace while the rest of us took the track to Humber and returned via Kingsteignton against a tough headwind - funny how the wind seems to change direction so that it is always against us, isn't it?

Friday 17 April 1992
Evening ride (Buckfastleigh): StavertonDry
8 present: Neil Ault, Jane Ford (Adult, Buckfastleigh), Jeremy Ford, Stan Ford, Michael Jones, David Platt, John Stuart, Sam Wilde
This was another relatively short ride, because some members didn't have lights. Michael had just carried out a pre-tour service on his Mercian, but when he got to the start he discovered that he had installed his chain incorrectly around the derailleur. The only solution was to dismantle the derailleur.

The outward route was via Colston Road and Staverton Bridge. After taking the riverside track to Staverton we returned through Abham, pausing to inspect the pheasant farm near High Beara and arriving home by 9pm. John was resplendent on his gleaming new Raleigh Royal today, having decided to keep both a touring bike and a mountain bike in his shed from now on.

Sunday 19 April 1992
Afternoon ride: Easter SpecialSunny & warm
13 present: Neil Ault, Harry Hall, Ben Hobday, Karina Hobday, Dave Humphreys, Michael Jones, Sebastian Lessware, John Stuart, Eliot Thomas-Wright, James Twydell, Ken Twydell, Julie Twydell-Hobday, Sam Wilde
High pressure dominated the weather and gave us summer-like conditions this afternoon. A number of members made a special effort to join us, including John Stuart, Dave Humphreys, and Sam Wilde. Sam came out from Totnes just to get his Easter Egg (courtesy of Michael) and Easter Chocolate (courtesy of Julie).

We enjoyed a natter in the park at Broadhempston, then a meander through the lanes - nobody minded that this was our usual route, because spring was in the air and the hedgerows were alive with the bright colours of primroses and dandelions. Fermoys did the catering for our cafè stop, leaving a large space in Ken's wallet (he had nearly all his family out today). Michael and Seb didn't fancy any tracks on the return route as their bikes had just been cleaned for the tour.

Monday 20 April 1992Tour: Somerset & North Devon Coast Day 1 Taunton to Street (37 mi)Sunny
18 present: Neil Ault, Jonathan Burgess (14, Winchester), Sam Cannon (12, London), Arthur Caulfield, Jonathon Crabtree (13, Bristol), Ian Gibbs, Michael Jones, Rufus Kahler, Sebastian Lessware, Anthony Lowne (10, Winchester), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), David Platt, William Raffety (12, Bristol), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger
This year's Easter tour for juniors was to Somerset and the North Devon Coast. The route was based on the Easter 1989 junior tour, with the addition of the Somerset Levels and Street hostel at the start of the tour. There were eighteen participants as follows: Anthony Lowne (10, Stockport), Sam Cannon (11, London), William Raffety (12, Bristol), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), Rufus Kähler (12, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Jonathan Crabtree (13, Bristol), Arthur Caulfield (13, London), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger (13, Totnes), Jonathan Burgess (13, Winchester), David Platt (15, Buckfastleigh), Ian Gibbs (15, Rochdale), Neil Ault (15, Buckfastleigh), Sebastian Lessware (17, Totnes) and of course Michael Jones.

Everyone met at Taunton rail station by 1135 on this bright sunny morning. Ten of the participants were new to CTC junior tours, so it was at least half an hour before the introductions were complete. When William had figured out how to use the elastic straps on his new panniers, and had managed to fit them to his new rack (which was actually fitted back to front) everyone was ready to depart. We made an impressive sight as we left the station.

Getting out of Taunton involves a certain amount of main road riding and the negotiation of several busy roundabouts. A short chat about roundabout procedure was sufficient to get everyone safely through to the quiet, green lanes of Ruishton, and after another half-an-hour's cycling we stopped for lunch on a grass verge near North Curry.

First stop after lunch was about 200 metres up the road, at the Meare Green Willow Centre. A relief model of the surrounding landscape showed just how flat the area was, and the various displays illustrated the importance of willow and drainage ditches to the life of the Levels. The woman in charge was keen to show us a video, but the youngsters didn't fancy the twenty minute wait so we continued to Burrow Mump, a strange round hill surrounded by a vast expanse of flatness, which was just asking to be climbed. Zach lost a few of his sweets along the way.

Michael had a delightful route planned which kept the group at a constant distance of about eight miles from the hostel. He didn't tell them of course, but they began to realise that something was amiss after they had asked the distance at half hour intervals and received the same answer each time. The terrain was very flat and easy, however, and there seemed little point in arriving at the hostel before it was open.

When the enthusiastic leading riders arrived at a tiny left turn lane hidden behind some bushes they decided that that couldn't be the way and went on. But it was the way, and Seb had the job of following them the long way around. Chedzoy and Stawell brought us to our first real hill of the day - Cock Hill - which took us all of ten minutes to climb. Then we continued through Chilton Polden to the long, straight roads across Chilton Moor, taking us past drains, ditches and willows to South Drain, which looks rather like a shallow canal. Roger was anxious to make an impression, so he decided to take the first (and last) swim of the tour. The low temperature and presence of 'weird, slimy things on the bottom' ensured that it lasted for no more than 32 seconds, but it gave the rest of us a great deal of amusement.

The younger riders were beginning to get tired at last, so we turned towards Burtle and Westhay and stopped for refreshments at a garden centre. A sign outside the main building suggested that ice creams were for sale inside, but several of us conducted a thorough search of the interior and found nothing but pot plants and gardening tools. We retreated to the cafe in disgust, but later some of the younger members came out with delicious-looking ice-creams!

Peat factories are a distinctive feature of this area, so there must still be a demand for garden peat despite the efforts of environmentalists to educate the public. At Shapwick, Dan met one of his school teachers who invited him into his house for a drink and biscuit. Unfortunately the teacher wasn't aware of the following hoardes, and he soon had a house which was full of young cyclists and completely devoid of biscuits!

At the next cross-roads the leading riders repeated their earlier mistake and went straight on before Michael arrived. This time Michael chased after them and Seb took the sensible members on the short-cut to the left. Unfortunately he also made a mistake (probably because Michael had the map), and Michael's group were waiting some time at Ashcott before they finally arrived. A final long climb up Walton Hill brought us to the wooden, chalet-style hostel at around 6pm.

We had two dormitories, one large dorm in the roof with its own balcony and a smaller one on the floor below. The evening was somewhat chaotic as some members had brought money for supper (as directed by Michael) when in fact food would have been preferable. They had to content themselves with the range of beans and dried meals available in the tiny hostel shop, added to the milk and bread which had been ordered in advance for the whole group. Sam burnt his toast, and then burnt his rice while he was attending to the toast. Ian had not brought any supper and spent much of the evening trying to locate an American-style pizza firm that would bring a hot pizza to him at the hostel. Needless to say, he failed.

Showers and a jog through the surrounding woods finished off the evening. After lights-out some people wanted a ghost story but others did not. The result was that Michael started one but never completed it!

Tuesday 21 April 1992Tour: Somerset & North Devon Coast Day 2 Street to Holford (37 mi)Misty start, sunny later
18 present: Neil Ault, Jonathan Burgess (14, Winchester), Sam Cannon (12, London), Arthur Caulfield, Jonathon Crabtree (13, Bristol), Ian Gibbs, Michael Jones, Rufus Kahler, Sebastian Lessware, Anthony Lowne (10, Winchester), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), David Platt, William Raffety (12, Bristol), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger
Glastonbury Tor L to R: Sam Canon, Bruno Taylor, Tom Widger, Nicholas Lowne, Anthony Lowne
The view from Glastonbury Tor
Tracks across the Quantocks
David Platt, on the Quantocks track
Tom Widger and Sam Canon, moments after their crash on the Quantocks track
Navigating to the correct track on the Quantocks
Dan Whittle follows cautiously down the final track to Holford YH
William Raffety & Jonathan Crabtree (?)on the Quantocks, with Hinkley Point behind
The clouds looked very threatening as we awoke this morning, but by the time breakfast had been eaten and Zach had vacuumed the dormitory for the second time, the sun had almost broken through.

We started the day with a slight detour to Glastonbury Tor, another enormous hill that was just asking to be climbed. It offered excellent views of course, and the air was now clear enough to see at least some of our proposed route across the Levels to the distant Quantock hills.

The lane route back to Ashcott contained so many right and left turns that we probably travelled twice the direct distance. As we neared yet another peat farm, William stopped with a ceased chain. He had changed to a gear which involved large rings front and rear, and discovered that his chain was too short! The only way to free the rock-solid chain was to release the back wheel, a task which presented its own particular problems.

We were anxious to reach Bridgwater in time for lunch, so we took the main road as far as Stawell and then pushed on through Chedzoy. The time was 1330 as we entered Bridgwater, so we stopped at the first suitable establishment - a fish and chip shop opposite a cake shop. Some of the lads were so hungry that they ate portions of chips that would normally serve three people!

Now it was time for a change of scenery: the Somerset Levels were behind us and the Somerset Steeps lay ahead. The road to Spaxton was undulating and very tiring in the afternoon heat, but that was nothing compared with the climb to the top of the Quantocks, which seemed almost endless. Eventually, however, we reached Crowcombe Park Gate where the real fun began.

A rough track was to take us all the way to the hostel, running along the top of the Quantocks and then descending steeply towards Holford village. We certainly had the right weather for it, but some members weren't quite sure how much they would like a track. Michael got the proceedings off to a good start by sending everyone off up the middle track and then deciding that the left track was in fact the one to take. William's pannier was the next problem, as it was still bouncing off his rack from time to time. A twig, locked around the top straps, seemed to be the answer, but it quickly broke and no replacements could be found. He managed by riding carefully.

The third incident was Seb's chain, which broke at a point overlooking the sea and the Hinkley Point nuclear power station. He quickly removed the offending link and rejoined the chain whilst Nicholas revelled in his first views of the sea.

From Bicknoller Post Michael decided to measure the distance to the point where we had to turn off to the left, so that we didn't come out in the wrong place (as we had done on previous tours to the area). Just before we reached the specified distance, Sam and Tom, riding side by side on the track, bumped into each other: one fell to the left over a small embankment, the other to the right into the heather. No harm was done, but they did look rather foolish!

Holford is a fairly simple hostel, and whilst the situation is delightful the youngsters didn't much like the single large dormitory or the cold shower downstairs. There was a mad rush for the single hot shower up in the main building, but Michael knew exactly where to go and bagged it first. Zach was next, but he took ages and was not too popular with the queue when he finally emerged.

Several youngsters thought they had been rather clever when they scooped the table-laying job while Michael was in the shower. When the excellent meal was served, however, it was discovered that the mugs and dessert spoons were missing, and they had to do a good deal of running around to put it right.

Much of the remainder of the evening was taken up with a one-mile hike down the hill to use the public telephone in the village.

Wednesday 22 April 1992Tour: Somerset & North Devon Coast Day 3 Holford to Exford (32 mi)Overcast, but brighter later
18 present: Neil Ault, Jonathan Burgess (14, Winchester), Sam Cannon (12, London), Arthur Caulfield, Jonathon Crabtree (13, Bristol), Ian Gibbs, Michael Jones, Rufus Kahler, Sebastian Lessware, Anthony Lowne (10, Winchester), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), David Platt, William Raffety (12, Bristol), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger
Holford YH
The group at Holford YH
Rufus Kähler, Zach Slatter and Arthur Caulfield at Watchet
East Quantoxhead
Lunch on North Hill, overlooking Minehead
Climbing North Hill from Minehead
Horner cafe, West Luccombe: Seb Lessware, Jonathan Burgess, Ian Gibbs, Anthony Lowne, Nicholas Lowne, Roger Whalley (?), Dan Whittle, David Platt
Anthony & Nicholas Lowne, enjoying the track to Selworthy
Jonathan Burgess gives a backy on Exmoor
Ian and a few others had ordered hostel breakfasts today despite the high cost of £2.30 and the necessity of washing up afterwards. This fact, coupled with the problem of two people having to redo their duvet-folding and sweeping jobs, meant that it was quite late when we finally gathered in the hostel car park to share out the surplus milk and bread. While we were waiting, a BT van pulled up and an engineer began to install a members' telephone in the hostel!

First stop this morning was the duckpond and church at East Quantoxhead. There were plenty of willing hands to feed the ducks, but Arthur was less than generous with the distribution of surplus bread: he reckoned the bread was for his lunch and shouldn't be wasted on ducks.

When Michael asked Seb to lead the group on as far as West Quantoxhead church, he didn't expect him to lead them down the cul-de-sac to the church gate! There were a few groans when everyone had to climb back up the hill again.

Several members went 'over the top' at the cafe in the quiet fishing village of Watchet, ordering Knickerbocker Glories and other extravagant desserts. By the time they were served everyone else had finished and returned to the bikes: the forecast was for rain and Michael didn't want to hang around any longer than necessary. Roger had to eat his chocolate nut sundae rather more quickly than he would have liked.

After leading the group past Blue Anchor Bay and Dunster Castle to a delicatessen in Minehead, Michael gave everyone 25 minutes to buy lunch. Predictably, they all trooped straight past the delicatessen and headed for the supermarkets. When the allotted time was up, Nicholas and Anthony were found wandering around near the bakery saying they hadn't been able to find a single food shop! Actually they'd been looking for gift shops and had run out of time. We waited for them while they visited the bakery and then set about climbing the famous North Hill.

We stopped for lunch and a well-earned rest on a grassy area near the top, overlooking the town and several miles of coastline. The threat of rain was still in the air, however, so we wasted no time in pressing on to the steep, rough track that leads to the National Trust village of Selworthy. In fact the track was so rough in the early stages that Ian's pannier finally gave up the ghost and had to be tied down with bungey straps.

Sadly, ice-creams were no longer sold in the village, so we made use of the gift shop and lavatories and then proceeded along some more interesting tracks to Allerford.

Allerford is a picture-postcard hamlet famous for its delightful ford and cobbled bridge. Given the choice, most sensible people would ride the bridge, but Zachary, being Zachary, and Rufus, being quite unlike Rufus, decided to take the ford and prove that they could ride where many others had fallen in. Amazingly they both succeeded, but the depth of water ensured that they were still drenched to the skin.

The rain had still not arrived by the time we reached Horner cafe, near West Luccombe, so we allowed ourselves the luxury of a refreshment stop. Besides, Seb and Tom needed a rest after crashing into each other a few minutes earlier: the following driver had been a nurse, but there was no serious injury. A sign in the cafe garden advised people to ring the hand bell and wait for service. Seb was determined to follow the instructions to the letter and waited there patiently, despite the fact that everyone else was being served at their tables. In the end he was the last to be served, which just goes to show that stubbornness is never rewarded.

The final seven miles to the hostel was always going to be tough. The first long climb, to Cloutsham Ball, was tackled bravely by Arthur, who won the Yellow Jersey for his efforts. Neil spent a lot of time going up and down the hill, showing just how much surplus energy he had and keeping us informed of how far back the youngest riders were.

Cloutsham ford didn't manage to claim a single casualty today. As we commenced the next climb, however, we realised that Sam's knee problems were slowing him down a lot, and several of the other youngsters were getting very tired. We devised a team game to help them which was rather like a relay race. The fitter riders went a hundred metres or so up the hill. Three of them then dropped their bikes, walked back and pushed the youngsters' three bikes up the hill for them. When they had reached their own bikes, three more people were waiting to take over, having just walked 100 metres back from their bikes. There were several variations: some tried to ride the bikes up instead of pushing them, although they were frequently the wrong size, and Jon Burgess even gave Sam a ride on the back of his bike at one point. The system really worked well, and we surprised at how quickly we managed to get everyone to the top.

By now the weather was windy, grey and cold. We were glad of the final descent and arrived at the luxurious hostel just thirty minutes before supper. We hurried into the three showers and crawled into the recently refurbished dining area just as supper was being served, some of us still dripping from the shower. Apparently the new conservatory-style extension to the dining area cost £100 000: one can understand the jealousy of other hostel wardens!

It quickly became obvious that the warden didn't like children. He swore at two youngsters in Michael's absence, was tetchy with many others and showed obvious distaste as he switched from serving an adult hosteller to one of our children at the reception desk. We discovered later that the warden was short-staffed, and he apologised to us in writing after the tour.

The forecast rain finally came after dark, and continued falling throughout the night.

Thursday 23 April 1992Tour: Somerset & North Devon Coast Day 4 Exford to Lynton (27 mi)Dry & sunny
18 present: Neil Ault, Jonathan Burgess (14, Winchester), Sam Cannon (12, London), Arthur Caulfield, Jonathon Crabtree (13, Bristol), Ian Gibbs, Michael Jones, Rufus Kahler, Sebastian Lessware, Anthony Lowne (10, Winchester), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), David Platt, William Raffety (12, Bristol), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger
The coast path from Hunters Inn to Woody Bay
The coast path from Hunters Inn to Woody Bay
Roger Whalley leads the climb past Lee Abbey
Coast path to Woody Bay
L to R: Roger Whalley, Sam Canon (?), Zach Slatter and Rufus Kähler at Valley of the Rocks
Rufus Kähler, Roger Whalley and Zach Slatter, at Valley of the Rocks
The coast path to Lynton
Zach Slatter & Rufus Kähler at Valley of the Rocks
Zach's job this morning was to clean out the showers, and absolutely everybody knew about it: apparently he objected to cleaning up all the hairs! Ian's job was to clean the mirrors with an aerosol, but more seemed to end up on the rest of us than reached the mirrors. When we'd left everything spotless and the warden thought we had gone, he was overhead grumbling to his assistant that it wasn't good enough. There's just no pleasing some people!

Sam's leg was worse this morning. He hadn't got far up the hill towards Simonsbath before it became obvious he needed a complete rest from cycling. Michael found a taxi driver in Simonsbath who agreed to transport Sam and his bike to the Lynton hostel for £11. The warden agreed to look after him when he arrived, which left the rest of us free to continue with the planned ride.

Lunch today was purchased at Challacombe. The shopkeeper remembered Michael from previous tours to the area, and also recognised 'Young Slatter' (yes, he does seem to be getting a lot of mentions, doesn't he?). Apparently, Zachary used to have a holiday home in the hamlet several years ago, and obviously hadn't changed too much since then.

The range of food in this little store was quite extensive considering its tiny size. Nevertheless, Jono could find nothing better to eat than a bottle of cold cockles and a whole Swiss role, while Michael resorted to his old favourite - cold baked beans, straight from the tin.

A brisk climb to Blackmoor Gate was followed by one of Michael's short-cuts: dropping 2000 metres into Parracombe and climbing out the other side instead of going around the edge. Well, that was how the youngsters saw it anyway. In reality, the drop was just a few hundred metres and the edge route was three times the length.

The descent to Hunters Inn is steep, twisty and dangerous, especially when the road has recently been covered with gravel. Michael, as usual, tried to protect everyone by leading down the hill at a sensible pace, but some thought it was clever to wait at the top until Michael had gone so they could ride at their own breakneck speed. On this occasion, Dan paid the price by coming off on a gravely corner. Fortunately he was not badly hurt, but it took Seb half an hour to get his bike ready for the road again.

We purchased gifts and enjoyed ice creams and peacocks at the Inn, then set off along the coastal footpath to Woody Bay. The dramatic cliffs dropping to the sea made a magnificent sight for those who weren't cycling too fast to notice them. Needless to say, Nicholas wasn't missing any of it. We paused briefly along the way to speak to a woman who was admiring the view from a seat. Apparently she had also been eyeing up the lads as they went past, and announced that David was definitely the most handsome member of the crew - much to our amusement. When she discovered he was from Devon, she put it down to local confidence.

As we descended the long and hairy descent to Lee Bay, the steep climb past Lee Abbey became visible through the trees, provoking comparisons with Parracombe. It wasn't as bad as expected, however, and we were soon at the Valley of the Rocks, scrambling up the rocks just to say we'd done it. During the descent Michael tried to outrun Arthur, lost his footing on a rock concealed under the grass and sprained his ankle. It wasn't so painful that he couldn't complete the tour, but he had weakened it semi-permanently.

To conclude the afternoon we took the scenic coastal footpath to Lynton, rode on the cliff railway from Lynton to Lynmouth and bought some final gifts in the Lynmouth shops - Devon fudge seemed the best gift available. When we arrived at the hostel, Sam was waiting patiently for us, memorising the lines for his starring role as Oliver Twist in his school play.

The home-made supper was definitely the best of the tour. Dan was quite put out when he saw the warden give Michael a larger portion of pizza than anyone else, and kept on about it for the next half an hour. He was able to get seconds of the fruit sponge and sauce, however, which cooled him off a little. Another group of adults, who shared the dining area with us, spent much of the mealtime passing rude comments about the behaviour of our youngsters. In fact they were very well behaved, except when some disappeared to the dormitories before everyone had finished and had to be called back to the tables.

Once again the only telephone was in the village. After a long walk down and back we concluded the evening with a general chat, partly ruined by Ian and friends who were more interested in finishing their game in the adjacent dormitory.

Friday 24 April 1992Tour: Somerset & North Devon Coast Day 5 Lynton to Barnstaple (19 mi)Heavy rain
18 present: Neil Ault, Jonathan Burgess (14, Winchester), Sam Cannon (12, London), Arthur Caulfield, Jonathon Crabtree (13, Bristol), Ian Gibbs, Michael Jones, Rufus Kahler, Sebastian Lessware, Anthony Lowne (10, Winchester), Nicholas Lowne (12, Stockport), David Platt, William Raffety (12, Bristol), Zachary Slatter (13, London), Bruno Taylor (13, Winchester), Roger Whalley (13, Winchester), Dan Whittle (13, Cheddar), Tom Widger
There was no escape from the rain this morning. We had to reach Barnstaple by lunch time, otherwise we would miss our trains. Just as we were preparing to leave, Nick and Anthony got a telephone call from their father saying he would collect them from the hostel! Some people get all the luck!

After tidying the dorms and watching the oldies depart in their cars we set off in the torrential rain. Sam was still in pain as we began the long climb up to Blackmoor Gate, and at one point it looked as though a taxi would again be required. He persevered however, with a lot of help from Seb, and eventually caught up with the rest of us at Blackmoor. Michael allowed the group to give the Parracombe drop a miss today, but Ian and Jono took the short-cut and reckoned it was a lot less windy, vindicating Michael's assessment very nicely.

We used the hand-drier in the toilets at Blackmoor to warm ourselves a little, then Michael got an accurate handle on the distance to Barnstaple and gave a running countdown all the way. It was mainly downhill apart from one hairpin climb, which happened to coincide with a particularly nasty downpour. Jono and Roger had their panniers taken by passing parents at the top, just to make things a little easier.

The rain stopped gradually, and the sun was out as we rode into Barnstaple. Ian was driven off in one car, Dan in another and Roger and Jono in yet another. The remaining ten of us bought lunch and managed to get all our bikes on the first train to Exeter.

Now, after 151.5 miles in five days, the tour was nearing its conclusion. There will be other tours, of course, but this particular group will never ride together again.

Friday 24 April 1992Evening ride (Buckfastleigh): CancelledDry
2 present: Richard Hopper, Sebastian Lessware
Seb went to Staverton to meet up with Richard, but Richard didn't go because there was nobody else at the Buckfastleigh start. So Seb enjoyed a short solo ride.

Sunday 26 April 1992Day ride: BowdenShowery start, sunny later
8 present: Daniel Broadbent, Harry Hall, Richard Hopper, Michael Jones, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Ben Widger, Tom Widger
Confusion reigned supreme this morning when Michael was late at the Buckfastleigh start (yes, later than usual Seb). Richard Hopper was a little late as well, thought Michael had gone and went on to Totnes. Michael and Neil found the start deserted and decided to travel to Totnes by car. When they arrived they found Richard trying to ring Michael to see where he was. Michael promised not to be late again.

We took the easy route to Slapton Sands, making excellent speed. A shower caught us as we got to Torcross, so we treated ourselves to pizza and chips in the Sea Breeze restaurant, a very comfortable establishment. Dan had the nerve to ask if he could eat his sandwiches inside, and seemed surprised when he received a firm refusal from the proprietor.

We completed lunch on the now-sunny beach, throwing in more than a pinch of tomfoolery to round of the meal. Michael, remembering a treacle tart he had purchased from the Inn a year or two ago, decided to try another today and found it far less appetising than he had expected. Just before we left some of the youngsters decided to inspect the tank (a relic from the second world war now permanently on display near the beach) and left Michael to do battle with the officious bloke who told them to get off.

The steeply-sloping fields above the track from Slapton to Strete were swarming with wild rabbits this afternoon. At first glance they were invisible, but if you watched closely for a while you noticed little white bobtails almost everywhere. We returned via Forces Cross - where the cafe appeared totally deserted - and Corkscrew Hill.

Friday 1 May 1992Evening ride (Buckfastleigh): Hembury TracksSunny
7 present: Neil Ault, Clive Buckland, Julian Duquemin, Andrew Guy, Matthew Hamlyn-White, Martin Hills, Michael Jones
We wanted to get back reasonably early tonight, so we rode up through Hembury Woods (passing several squirrels along the way) and down the track from below Galant le Bower to the Country Park. From here, Martin and Clive chose to take the track back through Hembury whilst the rest of us returned to Crofters for refreshments via Ashburton.

Sunday 3 May 1992Afternoon ride (Buckfastleigh): Stert BartonSunny & calm
9 present: Thain Hatherly, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Michael Jones, Alex Lessware, Sebastian Lessware, Paul Oakley, Eliot Thomas-Wright, Ben Widger
Richard and Toby were out on their Tandem today to make the most of this perfect afternoon. Our route took us up Dean hill, into South Brent, through Avonwick and Diptford to Stert Barton. Here the hilly lanes were lined with hedgerows alive with a huge variety of flowers and other vegetation. There were several ups and downs to tackle, but the whole ride was a delight.

Returning to the main road we continued homewards via Tigley and the Cobberton road. Buckfastleigh starters concluded the ride with live computer entertainment at Crofters.

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