South Dartmoor CTC

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Sunday 16 March 2003
1015-1310
Morning ride: Landscove (12 mi)Sunny, slight breeze
8 present: Tao Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Michael Jones, Jamie Mason, Ben Parker, Martin Powell (14, Devon), Daniel Smith II, Joe Venables (12, Totnes)
Video footage from today's ride
Perfect weather left us plenty of options today, but with another two new youngsters joining the ride we decided to take the relatively flat route along Colston Road to Staverton. We arrived just as the steam train was ready to leave the station for Totnes, and the gang just couldn't resist racing the train along the riverside path while the many tourists waved happily at us.

After much stone-skimming (and stone splashing) we set off once more, this time for Landscove. Mother Hubbard's Cafe was very tempting, but we were keen to reach an exciting downhill track so we pressed on up the final climbs. When we finally arrived, the track was being used as part of the Rainbow Ride route - a charity ride for horse enthusiasts - but they were in no hurry, so we overtook them and set off to enjoy the rough descent across the fields and through the woodland. Everyone enjoyed the ride so much that they wanted to do it again next week! A short but steep climb from Lower Combe brought us to Higher Beara farm, from where Green Lane brought us swiftly back to Buckfastleigh and an afternoon of computer games. Congratulations to Jake on achieving his Stage 1 certificate today.

Friday 21 March 2003
1900-2200
Social: Badminton
6 present: James Browning, Michael Jones, Ben Parker, Tommy Roberts, Daniel Smith II, Joe Venables
We hadn't been able to book a court until 9pm, so we started the evening with some computer games and then enjoyed an hour sharing two courts at Dyrons, Newton Abbot. Everyone was able to join in the fun, and several showed great promise.

Sunday 23 March 2003Morning ride: Avon Dam (11 mi)Sunny & warm, cold breeze
7 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ben Parker, Gavin Pearson, Tommy Roberts, Joe Venables
A perfect spring morning offered ideal weather conditions for our first 2003 excursion to the Avon Dam. Joe did not relish the prospect of climbing all those hills on his BMX, so Tao took him back to Michael's to collect a mountain bike on the way to Dean Prior. Soon we were off again, but Michael's blowout necessitated another bike swap before we had finished the climb past Nurston.

The hills seemed never ending to the new youngsters, so Michael helped Joe and Tommy to pace themselves and select appropriate gears: soon they were climbing long hills without stopping, and feeling very pleased with their new-found skills.

The car park at Shipley Bridge was full to overflowing, so our progress up the picturesque riverside path to the dam was a little slower than usual. It wasn't long before the huge wall of the dam came into view: Ben, who had never seen it, was quite stunned by its enormity. We weren't exactly early after the morning's delays, but we made time to lay on the grass overlooking the water, to chat and eat refreshments in the noonday sun.

The final part of our route, across the open moor behind the reservoir, was new to nearly all the youngsters. Ben made a long detour to avoid crossing the path of a moorland cow, only to watch it scuttle away as soon as Michael approached it. The promised panoramic views from the top of the hill did not materialise, being obscured by a thick haze, but the downhill to Cross Furzes proved every bit as exciting as Michael had predicted. Tommy managed to fly over his handlebars on the final descent, but he reckoned that was the best part of the ride!

Friday 28 March 2003Social: Home Cinema, The Kid
9 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Ben Parker, Gavin Pearson, Tommy Roberts, Daniel Smith II, Joe Venables
This cracking Disney comedy, starring Bruce Willis as the man who meets himself as a child, was well received by all those present and marked the final social of the season.

Sunday 30 March 2003
1015-1325
Morning ride: Spitchwick (10 mi)Sunny & warm
5 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ben Parker, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Our turnout today was surprisingly good considering the twin adversaries of Mother's Day and the introduction of British Summer Time. The idea of visiting Spitchwick had been bouncing around for a few days, so it wasn't long before we were tackling Hembury Hill with a vengeance. Oliver, who had been fixing a late puncture, caught up with us just in time to spot a pair of deer in the woods not far from the road.

New protective fences had been erected around certain areas of Spitchwick Common to prevent erosion, but all the best bits were fence-free making it ideal for our usual Frisbee contests. We were all a bit sleepy today and could easily have settled down on the grass for hours, but the desire for lunch encouraged us to rouse ourselves for the long climb back to Gallant-Le-Bower. Ben really excelled himself today by putting in some real effort on the climbs, and Joe did the best he could with his BMX.

Oliver's worst nightmares turned real on the lower Hembury track when he got yet another puncture. He fixed it with all due speed while we gazed lazily from the grass verges, a bee adding to the distant babble of the brook, but when he had finished he discovered another puncture that needed his attention. Eventually we set off once more to enjoy the final descent through the woods to Buckfast and home.

Friday 4 April 2003
1900-2115
Evening ride: Staverton (10 mi)Sunny & warm
5 present: Julian Duquemin, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ben Parker, Gavin Pearson
New and (in some cases) expensive lighting systems abounded for our first evening ride of the summer season, so we were all eager for the sun to sink over the western horizon. The rich red sunset gradually gave way to darkness and the wonderful smells of the sleeping countryside. Our lights aided us easily through the quiet village of Landscove, and on the final climb to Green Lane we were all looking forward to a long season of exciting evening rides.

Sunday 6 April 2003
1015-1645
Day ride: Tuckenhay (27 mi)Sunny & warm
5 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ben Parker, Joe Venables
This was our first full-day ride since September, and the first ever full-day ride for our two youngsters, Ben and Joe. We started out with Colston Road and the cycle path from Dartington to Totnes, stopping briefly at Safeways for the benefit of those who had forgotten (or got up too late) to bring a packed lunch. We checked out the Hot Pursuit cycle shop in Fore Street and were able to verify that it is indeed closing down and that there are indeed some useful price reductions on a number of items.

Our plan was to take the scenic Sharpham Drive path to Ashprington - difficult on the sections designated as footpath only, but infinitely more fun than the long climb up Totnes Downhill! As we arrived at the entrance we noticed, with much excitement, a new cycle path sign a little way down the hill. The route quickly re-joined our familiar path and took us along many newly-laid cycle paths that made the whole experience highly enjoyable. The final two styles and steep climb had been circumvented by a new cycle path that skirted around the edge of the field and offered excellent views of the river Dart. We'll certainly be including this path again on future rides.

Looking for a riverside lunch spot on the descent from Ashprington we noticed a footpath on the left that we had never previously explored. The owner of the nearby house confirmed that the path led to the river, and even offered us exclusive use of her private garden and picnic table overlooking the stepping stones! It really was a perfect spot for lunch. Ben provided us with entertainment by struggling for a full 5 minutes to carry his bike across the stepping stones to the far bank of the creek.

The return route was always going to be tiring for Ben and Joe, but they coped admirably with Corkscrew hill and the subsequent climbs. Whilst they were close to breaking point after the final climb to Moreleigh, the flatter lanes to Diptford gave them new life. They both made it home, tired but very satisfied at their 27-mile achievement.

Friday 11 April 2003
1900-2115
Evening ride: Landscove (8 mi)Sunny but very cold
4 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ben Parker, Joe Venables
Appearances can be deceptive! The evening sunshine looked so inviting that Ben considered venturing out in T-shirt and shorts. By the end of the ride, however, most of us were so cold that home seemed far more attractive than a final detour. Our ride had taken us to Ashburton, up Chuley hill, down one of our favourite tracks and home via Landscove.

Sunday 13 April 2003
1015-1230
Morning ride: Holne (7 mi)Light drizzle
5 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Keir Purdie (12, Heathfield), Joe Venables
Joe had not chosen the best of mornings to invite his friend Keir to join the club. We set off towards Buckfast with light drizzle in the air, planning to be home by lunchtime in view of the poor forecast. A right turn took us through the sheltered Burchetts Wood track, which for once was almost bone dry. After tackling the steep hill to Holne a Galaxy bar proved highly effective in recharging Keir's biological batteries, and soon we were off again to Gallant Le Bower and the descent through Hembury Woods that offered plenty of fun for everyone.

Friday 18 April 2003
1900-2115
Evening ride: Skerraton Down (8 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Tao Burgess, Josh Ham (10, Totnes), Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson, John Stuart, Joe Venables
John Stuart, one of our founding members, made a surprise come-back this evening on his old Saracen mountain bike, dusted off especially for the occasion. Our route took us to Dean Prior and up the long climb past Nurston Farm, but we hadn't gone far before Michael got another in his long series of punctures: unable to penetrate his new puncture-proof front tyre, the thorn (which had no business being on a village street in any case) chose the rear tyre!

New youngster Josh performed well on the climb, and we were soon on the open moor enjoying the last of the sunset and a few Aerobie throws. Four delightful miniature ponies raced us on the descent to Cross Furzes, clearly demonstrating their evolutionary desire for speed.

Sunday 20 April 2003
1015-1720
Day ride: Blackpool Sands (45 mi)Sunny spells with chilly wind
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
We set off a little late for Totnes on this cold grey morning, mainly owing to Oliver's late appearance at the start. After negotiating the many Easter Day pedestrians on the riverside track we paused briefly to buy lunch and then pressed on with good speed to Harbertonford. The main road to Halwell would have been a little faster, but the constant stream of holiday traffic quickly persuaded us to take the scenic lane route via Moreleigh.

Tao, who had first suggested Blackpool Sands to his rather sceptical comrades, began to feel vindicated as the predicted sunny periods began to break out on the descent to Strete. Lunch on the beach was certainly bracing, the stiff breeze proved more than a challenge for the youngsters trying to fly their kite, but the bright sunshine and lofty waves made the whole experience highly enjoyable. Further entertainment was provided by the beach's regular lunchtime swimmer, making his appearance at 12.30 exactly as he has done for more than 15 years.

It wasn't the weather to be hanging around for long, but half way up the hill towards Stoke Flemming we noticed a pair of benches situated in a sheltered position overlooking the bay. We just had to sit there for a while and contemplate how much warmer the spot would have been for lunch.

The back lanes and tracks through Little Dartmouth offered the usual spectacular views of the coast and an exhilarating descent to the picturesque town. While searching the many cafes for one that was not overflowing with tourists we bumped into Michael's cousins, down from Bristol for the weekend. We managed to find a table and chairs outside the Station restaurant overlooking the river, bustling with boats and activity of all kinds.

We took the Higher Ferry to Kingswear for 50p each, but Tao, who is never happy on boats, was feeling none too comfortable as he gazed down at the frothing water. We did get an excellent view of Thomas the Tank Engine, pulling its carriages to and fro along the track.

From Hillhead we called in briefly at Sainsburys for drinks and the proceeded up Kings Ash hill to Marldon and the lanes to Staverton. This has been our first full-length ride since September, so we all felt very satisfied as we arrived home, tired but full of the joys of spring.

Friday 25 April 2003
1900-2125
Evening ride: Ashburn River Track (11 mi)Sunny and warm
9 present: Tao Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Ben Collins (II), Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Jamie Mason, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Morning rain had given way to a warm and pleasant evening, ideal for an excursion through the lanes near Ashburton. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the riverside track from Brownshill Farms along the Ashburn, including young Keir who found himself riding away from a horse that seemed intent on licking the back of his neck.

The climb to Druid farm quickly brought us to Holne Bridge and River Dart Country Park, where Tao, Ben and a few others were nearly caught out by an unexpected barrier across the road as the turned a corner. The riverside track through Hembury provided plenty of amusement in the semi-darkness, as did Ben with his laser penlight.

Sunday 27 April 2003
1015-1520
Day ride: Paignton Sands (30 mi)Sunny spells with showers later
2 present: Michael Jones, Joe Venables
Dismal forecasts proved inaccurate as we headed out through the Staverton lanes to Ipplepen on this sunny morning. As we enjoyed refreshments at Fermoys cafe Joe looked at the map and thought he would like to continue to Paignton. We took the lanes through Compton and then enjoyed spectacular views across the bay on the descent to Preston.

The beach was busy with wind surfers, dogs and seagulls as we enjoyed our lunch on the sand, sheltered from the chill breeze by one of the beach huts. We could have stayed longer of course, but we half respected the forecast of heavy rain by late afternoon and so set off for Collaton St Mary with all due speed.

Joe showed outstanding tenacity as he pushed himself up the first climbs towards Redpost, and soon he was setting a good pace back to Staverton. Two steam trains passing each other at the station were a sure sign of brisk business on the Primrose line on this last Sunday of the holiday week. Whilst the forecast rain did not materialise until later, a particularly nasty shower did its best to dampen our spirits on the final two miles home.

Friday 2 May 2003
1900-2100
Evening ride: Landscove (11 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Tao Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Ben Collins (II), Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Some unpleasant showers just before the start of the ride quickly gave way to a perfect sunny evening for our ride to Landscove. Jake still didn't have his new mountain bike, but was eagerly anticipating its arrival within days. After traversing Colston Road to Staverton we detoured home via the narrow track near Landscove, the sun setting with a golden glow over the distant hills. Ben's knees were causing him some pain on the final climbs - we hope he recovers for next week's ride.

Sunday 4 May 2003
1015-1330
Morning ride: Avon Dam (9 mi)Sunny with a gentle breeze
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
With plenty of time to spare we enjoyed the gentle climbs to Shipley Bridge and the delightfully scenic riverside path to the Avon Dam before settling down on the grassy bank overlooking the reservoir for a long and care-free chat about the world. The skylarks and distant ramblers kept us amused for more than half an hour. There was time to stop again at the top of the Abbots Way to enjoy the panoramic views from Widecombe to Paignton - and the busy antics of more Skylarks, eager to divert our attention from their grassy nests. The rapid descent to Cross Furzes made a fabulous finish to yet another excellent ride.

Friday 9 May 2003
1900-2100
Evening ride: South Brent (11 mi)Sunny; cold by dusk
6 present: Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Phillip Oakley, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Keir was slower than usual on the climb from Dean Prior - he said he'd been doing gymnastics all day at school! The rough track from behind Marley Head provided an enjoyable route into the back lanes of South Brent, but as progress remained slow we decided to return directly via Rattery rather than detouring through Avonwick as originally intended. When Joe had finished chasing Keir with a stinging nettle we negotiated the final descent from Pennywell Farm in an increasingly chilly night air.

Sunday 11 May 2003
1015-1330
Day ride: Lustleigh Cleave (33 mi)Sunny with showers later
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Having ridden the 10 miles to Bovey Tracey we took the course of the old railway line to Lustleigh, keeping Joe entertained along the way by getting him to identify all the dogs he saw. Amazingly, all the people we saw except one had at least one dog with them!

Many years ago we visited the extremely expensive Primrose cafe regularly for the very best in refreshments, mainly because the then owner gave us a generous 20% discount. When he sold up, the new owners kept the prices high and refused point blank to give us any discount at all, so we didn't go again. Today we called in to see if there had been any further changes. There were new owners, and the cafe was a little smaller as a result of some poor seasons, but the prices were still high, and the size of the hot chocolate was ridiculously small for £1.80. She listened to our request for future discounts but offered only to think about it and get in touch with us.

The long climb up through the Cleave was punctuated by some of the steepest hills in Devon, so we were grateful for the track descent to the ford near North Bovey and a few minutes of relaxation by the water's edge. The rotting seat near Yarde farm had been refurbished since our last visit, but we didn't really have time to enjoy it today as we planned to take the track route over the hill - a short-cut of sorts, but definitely more demanding for our younger members.

The first shower of the day began as we were enjoying refreshments at Hound Tor, and kept going for a full half hour as we traversed the bleak moor on our journey back to Ashburton and Buckfastleigh.

Friday 16 May 2003
1900-2100
Evening ride: Holne (8 mi)Sunny; cold by dusk
6 present: Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Michael Jones, Phillip Oakley, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Gavin was late, so his ride started with a mad dash over Cross Furzes to Michelcombe, where he finally caught us. Will then treated us to a demonstration of his acrobatic prowess in the park, with a professionally-executed back-flip across the damp grass. It was just a few minutes later that Philip then made the mistake of noticing an escaped chicken near the slide. Tao and Will's attempts to catch the errant bird provided entertainment on a par with the film Chicken Run, but when she took cover in a bramble hedge and the owners came along needing our assistance, there was no choice but to surround the bird on all sides and mount an assault through the hedge. After many scratches she was eventually retrieved from deep inside the hedge, and seemed quite pleased to be reunited with her keepers.

Surely that was enough excitement for one evening? Well, no actually. Will managed to take a corner too fast and grounded himself and the bike, breaking the mountings for the new front light that his brother had just bought him that afternoon. To make matters worse, it wasn't even dark yet so the light had never actually been used! Poor Tao!

Barbecue smells abounded from the camping areas of the Park. Our return route from Ashburton brought us past the scene of a car accident. The police were taking photographs and allowed us to pass, but it wasn't until later that we discovered that two Buckfastleigh lads had been seriously injured.

Sunday 18 May 2003
1015-1635
Day ride: Avon Railway (28 mi)Occasional showers
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
When a particularly nasty shower forced us to head for a bus shelter just half a mile from the start of the ride it seemed like the ride would be going nowhere today. It eased off after ten minutes so we tentatively proceeded towards South Brent, still expecting to be taking tea at the cafe and then skirting back to Buckfastleigh. On arrival, however, the cafe had shut down - probably something to do with the new owners' obvious focus on lunches - and the weather was looking quite bright.

After a series of decisions at various junctions we were soon near Loddiswell riding down a thrilling track descent between two hedgerows. Tao skidded, Gavin came off and everyone got stung at least once by the profusion of nettles that poked through the garlic. At the bottom we found ourselves in a different world: a wooded glade beside the tranquil river Avon. A pair of Canada geese and their gosling gently glided away from the bank as we approached. This was surely the world's most perfect lunch spot, the tall trees providing perfect shelter from the showers with their multiple overlapping leaf layers. There were fish of course, and plenty of intriguing paths to keep Joe entertained when he had completed his sausage roll.

Nearby was an ancient railway bridge, now almost invisible with its lichens and grassy outgrowths. This was the course of the South Brent to Kingsbridge railway many years ago, but now it made an excellent cycling route. It was gravel for the most part, but Joe found one muddy area and made the mistake of trying to ride through it. He didn't make it and ended up putting both feet in the thick mud, but his problems then got worse when he tried to walk forwards: his shoe stayed and his socked foot was unavoidably planted firmly in the mud! Poor Joe!

We eventually emerged from the wilderness near Topsham Bridge and proceeded with good speed through Moreleigh to Diptford, Rattery and home.

Friday 23 May 2003
1900-2145
Evening ride: Venford Reservoir (12 mi)Dry
5 present: Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Venford Reservoir was our proposed target tonight, but the cheap chain that Oliver had purchased from the Cycle show in Birmingham threatened to derail our plans. First, a damaged link near Hawson Court had to be removed. Then the chain broke completely (in a different place) on the climb to the reservoir. The rest of us continued to the top while Oliver repaired it, but it broke yet again near the cattle grid! Poor Oliver. He didn't quite make it to the destination, but the rest of us did.

Keir put in a much improved performance this evening, managing to climb some of the steepest hills at a very respectable pace. Part of the problem seemed to be his small bike that could not be adjusted high enough. When he swapped bikes with Joe he went even faster, much to his personal satisfaction.

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