South Dartmoor CTC


Saturday 26 June 2004
Weekend ride: Beer YH Day 1 (9 mi)Wet & misty
4 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ashley Myhill, Joe Venables
Oliver, the mist and the Norman Lockyer observatory
The Norman Lockyer observatory near Sidmouth
Beer beach
Ashley and Joe on Beer beach
Oliver on Beer beach
Video footage from today's ride
The long-predicted torrential rain on Saturday morning confirmed that we had been right to delay the start until mid-afternoon. We used two cars to deliver us to the car park at the top of Peak hill near Sidmouth by 4.30 and then set off for a well-earned refreshment stop at the Mocha cafe. The mist was so thick that we could see nothing of the tremendous views normally visible on the descent.

We stocked up with provisions at the local supermarket and then tackled the serious climb of Salcombe hill: thick mist surrounding the eerie woodlands made us feel we were on an alien planet. Arriving at the Norman Lockyer observatory at the top of the hill we could barely make out the first dome through the mist, so the youngsters had plenty of fun disappearing in one direction and surprising us by returning from another.

We could hardly see the boundary hedges of the donkey sanctuary let alone the alleged occupants. Mist turned to drizzle on the long descent through the village of Branscombe, so we were all decidedly wet when we made the final descent down the track to Beer youth hostel. Our rather late arrival held some advantages, including full availability of four showers and an empty member’s kitchen. We spent the last part of the evening exploring the mist-laden coastline between Beer and Seaton.

Sunday 27 June 2004
Weekend ride: Beer YH Day 2 (28 mi)Sunny with showers
4 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Ashley Myhill, Joe Venables
Oliver at Beer YH
Joe and Ashley in the grounds of Beer YH
Path up to Haven Cliff, near Seaton
Joe tries tricks on Seaton beach
The view to Sidmouth from Peak Hill that we would have seen yesterday if the weather had been better
Ashley and Oliver look for fossils at Lyme Regis
Video footage from today's ride
Sunday dawned bright and clear, giving us the opportunity to explore new territories. After some Aerobie fun in the superb hostel gardens we rode over the hill to Seaton where we enjoyed refreshments on the pebbly beach. A lane and bridleway took us steeply up through the golf course at the top of Haven Cliff, offering extensive views along the East Devon coastline. Lyme Regis was our lunch stop, and we all felt pleased to have extended the ride into neighbouring Dorset. There were plenty of visitors to the town, but we found a quiet spot on the eastern beach and spent a little time being educated by Oliver regarding the best rocks to check for fossils.

The return route took us through Colyford where one of the electric trams crossed the road just when we were wondering if we would see one. A short detour took us past Whitwell farm, of special significance to Michael's father, but as we were almost back at Sidmouth we were treated to a thorough drenching by a particularly nasty shower. Plans for swims and ice-creams on Sidmouth beach were hastily rearranged to include another cafe stop before we took the final climb back up to the cars in the presence of another unfriendly shower.

Wednesday 30 June 2004
Evening ride (Junior): Holne (9 mi)Sunny and warm
5 present: Jordan Barker, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Jodie Rogers, Rachel Short
This evening's ride started with a familiar route through Buckfast and along the lower track through Hembury Woods. Everyone was much faster than they were on our last visit so there was time to take the left turn up the steep climb to Holne. Harry and Jordan just had to say hi to their friend Jack who lived in the village, and they were rewarded with a cold drink each courtesy of Jack's parents.

The fun part of the ride began next with the track descent from Gallant Le Bower. Numerous stiles added entertainment for Michael, who of course had to do the heavy work with the bikes. Harry managed to slide off going down the field and Rachel bundled into a holly bush, so everyone had plenty of action. The ride was concluded with a ride through River Dart Country Park and homewards via the road from Ashburton.

Friday 2 July 2004
Evening ride: Holne (11 mi)Dry with sunny spells
4 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Michael and Oliver only found out about Joe and Keir's water pistols at Michelcombe, by which time of course it was far too late to avoid a soaking. After the usual stop at the local park it seemed sensible to skip the planned climb to Venford reservoir and head for River Dart Country Park instead. Keir managed to come off on the riverside track towards Hembury Woods, but he soon recovered his spirits and clearly demonstrated the benefits of his new bike by riding the final hill back to Crofters, something he has never managed before!

Sunday 4 July 2004
Day ride: Bench Tor (15 mi)Sunny with occasional showers
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Today was a day for exploration of new territory. On many previous visits to Dr Blackall's drive we had viewed a mysterious and isolated tor on the other side of the deep, wooded valley carrying the river Dart from Dartmeet to New Bridge. Today we planned to stand there, so with maps to the ready we rode the long climb through Holne to Venford Reservoir and then took to the track that leads from the nearside car park. None of us had ever been this way before, so there was a certain amount of excitement in the air.

Our destination was Bench Tor, posed high above the steep wooded slopes and offering commanding views that must be among the finest on Dartmoor. After watching the river wending its way far below us and the hawk hovering higher and higher above the trees we had to conclude that these views were probably as good as many in Scotland.

We searched for a track that might take us down into the valley to meet up with the riverside path and were quickly rewarded with a well-marked but fairly steep descent into the woods. This soon met up with the water authority track that takes the pipes from the reservoir, so we decided to follow that in the hope that it would lead us downwards. It was excellent for a while, offering good riding amongst splendid scenery, but then it climbed steeply and eventually brought us to the top of the woods and the entrance to West Stoke fields. There was nothing for it but to follow the fence directly downwards, a descent that was difficult at times and particularly challenging for Gavin who attempted to ride a particularly steep section and was catapulted over his bike. Perhaps next time we'll make the descent much earlier.

We soon reached the path. Lunch was enjoyed by the river at Sharran's Pool while Gavin nursed his minor wounds. It really was a good feeling to be in such a remote and unfamiliar location and yet so close to home. A few spots of rain gave little clue to the downpour that was on its way, and after a short spin along the easy woodland path we were soon sheltering under dense-leafed trees hoping the rain would pass. Sadly the leaves didn't hold back the torrent for long, so we just headed on through the woods past waterfalls and steep drops, feeling very much as though we were in a foreign land.

The rain stopped as we arrived at New Bridge. Being totally drenched we felt we'd done enough exploring for one day, but perhaps we'll be looking for more new destinations as the summer progresses.

Wednesday 7 July 2004Evening ride (Junior): CancelledHeavy rain
0 present:
Ride abandoned owing to bad weather.

Friday 9 July 2004
Evening ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Dry and sunny
6 present: Jack Greep, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
With Joe on a borrowed bike, Keir with a minor hand injury and Jack on his first ride for several weeks we didn't actually expect to make it to Avon Dam this evening. Everyone was still keen after climbing the hill around Harbourneford however, so we pressed on at the best possible speed and were amazed when we reached the dam by 8.50. Keir needed to borrow a fleece to combat the dropping temperatures but once we were on the descent there was no stopping him - or Jack for that matter. Congratulations to both on completing their hardest evening ride yet.

Sunday 11 July 2004
Day ride: Graetor Village (25 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Gage Conway (14, Buckfastleigh), Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
A late start was inevitable when Tao asked Michael for a puncture kit as soon as he emerged from his car at 10.05. Coupled with Oliver's late arrival, Joe needing tools to fix a new jockey wheel to his derailleur and Gavin discovering a puncture too, we didn't get away until 10.38.

Everyone was impressed with the newly extended Big Peaks shop at Ashburton which now offers a good range of cycling equipment. Soon we were on the long climb from Bickington to Haytor, helpfully divided into 8 stages to assist new rider Gage in gauging progress to the top. He did so well that we were able to make up much of the lost time and enjoy lunch on the old tramway near Haytor quarry. Gage even kept us entertained over lunch by instantly finding two Dartmoor letterboxes and bringing them to us for signing. Tao was amazed, and also realised why he had never been able to find them before - he had been looking for red boxes, not Tupperware boxes!

The bridleway descent into the steep-sided Lustleigh valley behind Haytor was every bit as challenging and exciting as we had expected - and the subsequent climb was every bit as tough as it had looked from Smallacombe rocks! Ruins of the medieval village of Hundatora, abandoned in 1350, cross the bridleway en route to Houndtor. Around 8 houses can be seen, including the manor house shown in the picture. In all the houses cattle and people shared the same space. A long descent from Houndtor brought is to the car park refreshment van: queues were rather lengthy, but the table and chairs were ideal.

Tao came up with the idea of returning home via Cold East Cross, Buckland, Spitchwick and Hembury, a route that made a very enjoyable conclusion to an excellent ride. Congratulations to Gage on completing a challenging first ride with no difficulty at all.

Wednesday 14 July 2004
Evening ride (Junior): Broadhempston (15 mi)Cloudy but dry
2 present: Matthew Hamlyn-White, Michael Jones
There were no juniors on this evening's ride, but Matthew and Michael enjoyed an energetic spin through Staverton and Broadhempston.

Friday 16 July 2004
Evening ride: Holne (11 mi)Mainly dry
7 present: Gage Conway, Jack Greep, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Oliver Lindley, Ben Sharp (15, Bickington), Joe Venables
With drizzle and outbreaks of rain forecast we decided on a route through Buckfast that would allow speedy return if the weather turned nasty. The rough track through Burchetts Wood provided the first fun of the evening, Gage providing entertainment at the end by riding through the ford and discovering that it was deeper than he expected. Scoriton and Michelcombe brought us swiftly to Holne where the play park provided plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation. Harry, who was performing well on his first Friday ride, had brought swimming goggles to combat the drizzle that was now beginning to fall, but poor sideways visibility meant he couldn't keep them on for long.

To conclude an enjoyable evening we took the track from Gallant Le Bower to River Dart Country Park and returned via the road from Ashburton. Ben seemed to enjoy his first ride so we hope he will find time to join us again.

Sunday 18 July 2004
Day ride: Mothecombe Beach (35 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Gage Conway, Jack Greep, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Joe Venables
We really weren't sure how far Jack would be able to ride on his first day ride. He had done well by the time we reached South Brent, so when everyone had bought what they needed from Plymco we set off boldly for Ermington and Mothecombe. The route includes plenty of downhill riding and everyone did well, so we arrived at the beach shortly before 1pm on what turned out to be a bright and sunny afternoon.

It was as we were settling down to eat lunch that we noticed that Will didn't have anything to eat at all. He had got up too late to pack lunch or money, and had said nothing while we were in the shop at Plymco! Tao gave him his crisps and Michael a piece of his Lemon Meringue pie, and with some rations from our mobile chocolate shop he managed to put together an acceptable meal. Gage and Joe enjoyed riding all over the estuary and everyone joined in the Aerobie game.

In order to return home by a different route we needed to cross the Erme estuary. With the tide out to its fullest extent the task was relatively easy today, and lots of fun in the warm shallow waters. Michael advised everyone to cross barefoot to avoid getting wet trainers, but of course Will and Joe just had to try riding it, with the usual inevitable consequences. Jack enjoyed the wading part so much that he spent another 20 minutes wandering up the river.

When shoes had been reunited with feet we took the easiest route home via California Cross garage, which provide welcome refreshments for the final leg of the journey through South Brent. Jack did incredibly well to complete 35 miles on his first Sunday ride, and Gage also deserves a commendation for doing so well on his third ever club ride.

Wednesday 21 July 2004
Evening ride (Junior): River Dart Adventures (9 mi)Mainly sunny
4 present: Matthew Hamlyn-White, Michael Jones, Jodie Rogers, Rachel Short
Matthew's suggestion of taking the track from half-way up Hembury hill started us out on an enjoyable but somewhat muddy adventure. Matthew managed to miscalculate the size of a log and ended up flipping himself spectacularly into the air - much to the amusement of the girls! Recent storms had brought down several trees along the final section of track by the river, making progress even slower than usual.

By the time we reached River Dart Adventures (the new name for River Dart Country Park) we decided to skip the planned climb to Gallant Le Bower and ride instead along the bridleway near Hele. This was another of Matthew's suggestions, so we weren't completely surprised when the second part turned out to be a sea of wet, smelly cow dung! We spread plenty of manure on the roads into Ashburton, then took the back road home to Buckfastleigh.

Friday 23 July 2004
Evening ride: Chalk Ford (10 mi)Mainly dry
5 present: Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Joe Venables
9-year-old Harry amazed everyone this evening by powering up the long climb from Buckfast to Cross Furzes as though he'd been doing Friday rides for months! Sunshine greeted us as we passed through Lud Gate onto the open moor, and swarms of midges welcomed us to Chalk Ford after we had enjoyed the long moorland descent: the sounds emanating from the tents seemed to suggest that the insects had found a way inside! We didn't hang around too long to find out, pressing onwards along the stony track to Scoriton and then home via Combe and Buckfast.

Sunday 25 July 2004
Day ride: Lustleigh Cleave (30 mi)Sunny and warm
5 present: Louis Burgess, Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Michael was using Neil's mountain bike today as his Mercian was temporarily out of action with a split rim - and yes, everyone had been telling him to change it for weeks, but he always likes to get the maximum possible use out of his components! Progress was slow before lunch, with Gavin needing to stop at Ashburton to replace his tyre and tube, and everyone stopping to buy lunch at Bovey Tracey. But the pace picked up on the disused railway track to Lustleigh and we were soon enjoying the exciting tracks into the Cleave, snaking perilously around boulders and trees to the bottom of the Wrey valley.

A narrow log footbridge crosses the Manaton Water, just wide enough to walk as long as you carry your bike. After enjoying lunch by the brook we set about climbing the far side, through steep woodland owned by English Nature. Louis wasn't too impressed with all the climbing, but he was a good deal happier when we started the descent through more woodland tracks, this time owned by the Woodland Trust. Remembering previous encounters with the owners of the Becky Falls estate we kept strictly to the footpath and continued onwards through some new sections of track to the road near Manaton village.

Next stop was Manaton village hall, converted for one afternoon into a cafe serving cream teas. The squashes were so small that we needed four or five to quench our thirst, but at 30p each we couldn't really complain. We took the shortcut to Hound Tor via Bowerman's Nose, a tall stack of rock that supposedly looks like a head if viewed from the right angle. We were anxious to get home today, however, so we pressed on past Cold East Cross to Ashburton.

Friday 30 July 2004
Evening ride: Staverton (10 mi)Warm
6 present: Jack Binmore (10, Buckfastleigh), Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, John Stuart
New rider Jack surprised everyone by being almost as fast as his friend Harry on our excursion along Colston Road to Staverton. We made such good time that we were able to spend twenty minutes playing on Staverton island, the highlight of which was John's barefoot walk across the river to retrieve the plastic bottle that Harry had propelled into the water. Then we just had to test out Michael's brand new Frisbee in the cricket park before heading home via Riverford Organic.

Sunday 1 August 2004Day ride: CancelledVery hot
0 present:
Today's ride was cancelled as nobody was available to ride.

Wednesday 4 August 2004
Evening ride (Junior): Broadhempston (12 mi)Hot and sunny
7 present: Jack Binmore, Matthew Hamlyn-White, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Jodie Rogers, Rachel Short
With another good turnout our juniors rode their longest Wednesday ride of the season, to Broadhempston via Green Lane, and still had time for more than twenty minutes of Frisbee throwing in the local park! They wanted tracks so we found a brand new woodland track near Waytown and then returned via Beaston - Harry's favourite track to date - and Landscove.

Friday 6 August 2004
Evening ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Hot and sunny
5 present: Jack Binmore, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Jack and Harry were so fast tonight that we diverted our original destination of Skerraton Down to the far more demanding Avon Dam. The sun was setting as we approached the reservoir and we were loath to leave such an idyllic spot. The lads thoroughly enjoyed our favourite track descent to Cross Furzes, and Gavin was grateful for the opportunity to try out his expensive new front lights on the final downhill to Buckfastleigh.

Sunday 8 August 2004Day ride: CancelledWet
0 present:
The poor weather forecast meant that the ride was cancelled at the start.

Friday 13 August 2004
Evening ride: Totnes Cycle Path (16 mi)Warm and dry
5 present: Jack Binmore, Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Joe Venables
All the youngsters were in top form this evening and didn't walk once on the long climb to Rattery. Taking the lane past Dartington youth hostel we continued into Totnes and then rode the cycle path in reverse, from Totnes Bridge. Jack and Harry were surprised at how much fun the path was and were pleased to have managed to get so far. The short stop for Frisbee throwing in Totnes playing fields came to an abrupt end when the Frisbee rolled over the bank and into the river. There was no way to reach it, so we pressed on to the Cider Press Centre and home via Colston Road, using our lights to good effect.

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