South Dartmoor CTC

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Sunday 15 August 2004
1000-1545
Day ride: Bonehill Letterboxes (23 mi)Mainly sunny and warm
3 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Tim Mason
Having taken the fast but steep climb from Ashburton to Cold East Cross, Gage and Tim had definitely earned an early lunch at Bonehill Rocks. Whilst we enjoyed the view from our high vantage point Gage spotted a letterbox. Then he found another not three metres away from the first. Soon we were all looking behind every likely-looking rock, and sure enough our count reached seven in the space of 15 minutes. No doubt there would have been more if we had looked harder. Many of the boxes had only been placed a few weeks earlier. It's all a far cry from the early days of letterboxing when you might find a single box on each significant tor!

We continued along the track past Honeybag tor which both lads thoroughly enjoyed, descended to Widecombe for refreshments and then headed over to Ponsworthy for the big decision on whether to go for the climb to Dr Blackall's Drive. The sight of the initial stages of the climb didn't encourage them, but they both decided to go for it and soon we were speeding down one of the most spectacular tracks on Dartmoor. Of course when they reached the bottom they just wanted to do it all again, but time was pressing on so we contented ourselves with refreshments from the ice cream van and a homeward ride through Hembury Woods.

Friday 20 August 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Landscove (11 mi)Warm and dry
6 present: Jaden Bush (9, Buckfastleigh), Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Joe Venables
New rider Jaden performed well on the climb from Peartree Cross to Chuley Cross, and were making excellent progress until we reached the top of the hill near Baddaford farm. Here Gage discovered two punctures, and even with both Michael and Oliver working on the repairs it took nearly half an hour to get him back on the road again. There was still time to enjoy the track descent to Landscove and another track to Hole Farm, but then we really needed to head homewards and the planned Frisbee contest had to be postponed.

Sunday 22 August 2004
1000-1430
Day ride: Harbertonford (20 mi)Warm and sunny
2 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones
A leisurely ride brought us via Colston Road to Cranks vegetarian restaurant at Dartington Cider Press Centre for refreshments. We then started a ride of exploration, starting with some of Dartington's inner lanes and finishing with the historic Leech Well behind Totnes: much of the terrain was new to Tao. Pressing on to Harbertonford we took the lane from Rolster Bridge on the Harbourne to Bickham Bridge on the Avon, spent a little time contemplating the universe and then returned home through Diptford and Rattery.

Friday 27 August 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Venford Reservoir (10 mi)Mainly dry
5 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Joe Venables
The first part of this evening's ride, to Venford Reservoir, went smoothly enough. When we took to the moorland track with a view to meeting up with the Michelcombe path, however, things began to go a little wrong. We crossed the leat with no problems (except perhaps a squeal or two from Oliver, who hates water) but the gorse had grown so densely over the summer that we couldn't see a way to cross to the start of the path by the direct route. Crossing the leat twice more we headed for the boundary wall which seemed relatively free of gorse.

After crossing a ford and descending some steep banks the gorse began to close in until we were forcing our way past the prickliest of bushes. Just when it seemed we might have to turn back we arrived at the path gate, with just enough light remaining to negotiate the steep and rocky descent into the valley. A final splash through the Holy Brook brought us to Michelcombe ready for the final journey home through Scoriton.

Sunday 29 August 2004
1000-1630
Day ride: Redlake (23 mi)Some heavy showers
3 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley
Our ride to Ugborough Beacon included the now customary stop at South Brent's Plymco for refreshments and the usual cautious traversing of Wrangaton Golf Course, taking care not to be hit by golf balls. There was a stiff breeze and occasional showers as we approached the shelter of the rocks on top of the beacon, so we didn't hang around for too long. Soon we reached the Redlake Tramway track, our third visit this season, and proceeded into the heart of the South Moor. Today, for the first time in many years, we continued all the way to the Redlake site itself. Thick peat covering the track did little to aid our progress, but sitting on top of the hill that was the main spoil heap it all seemed worthwhile: everything around was remote and beautiful.

Bogs made the descent to the Abbots Way more difficult than we had imagined, but once there we were able to follow paths along the upper sections of the river Avon as it passed through rich and stunning moorland scenery that few people ever get to see. Gage was pleased to have completed his stage 4 off-road qualification and to have visited the Avon Dam, his Stage 2 destination. The going had been difficult at times, but this had been a spectacular ride through the heart of Dartmoor that none of us will forget.

Wednesday 1 September 2004
1830-2030
Evening ride (Junior): Holne (9 mi)Dry & sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Harry Laity
This junior ride was specially arranged by Harry and took us through Coombe, Scoriton, Michelcombe, Holne and the River Dart Country Park.

Friday 3 September 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Landscove (6 mi)Dry and sunny
8 present: Jack Binmore, Jaden Bush, Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
This evening's ride was well attended but seemed doomed from the start. Gavin broke a valve at the start and had to buy a new tube from the garage. Then Keir had a chain problem just after Green Lane, and Jaden fell off on some gravel while going back to find him. Hot air balloons kept us entertained while repairs were effected, and then we did actually manage to ride a couple of fun tracks from Halsworthy to Parkfield.

Unfortunately Keir picked up a long thorn on the final track, then rode down the lane with a flat tyre. None of the youngsters had a spare 26" tube (they will bring them in future), and when we started fixing it in the darkness we discovered that the thorn had worked its way around the tube leaving a row of well-separated punctures that would have taken more than an hour to fix! Gavin rode home for his car while we limped homewards, hoping for a better ride next week!

Sunday 5 September 2004
1000-1700
Day ride: Steps Bridge (46 mi)Sunny and very hot
3 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley
Conditions were already uncomfortably hot by the time we reached Ashburton, and none of us were particularly suited to hot weather. It was nice to be back in the Teign Valley again after such a long absence, but temperatures were still high outside the shade of the woodlands. Canonteign Falls cafe offered the perfect opportunity for refreshments, with its shaded tables overlooking the lake. Gage chased ducks, doves and geese while the rest of us looked on, loathe to leave such tranquillity.

We proceeded along the back lanes to Christow for our planned inspection of the BMX track, but we were disappointed with what we found: the whole course was in a very poor state of repair, and the only users we saw were a couple of local lads on scooters! It seemed as though the town council had abandoned it to nature. We enjoyed lunch in a shady corner of the track and rode it a few times, but the atmosphere just wasn't the same.

While we were contemplating the possibility of taking in Fingle Bridge and Chagford on the return route we continued along the valley to Dunsford and rode the first half of the delightful woodland track from Steps Bridge. The heat was by now very oppressive, however, and with Gage still a relative newcomer we decided to return via Chudleigh Knighton, Bovey Tracey and Bickington - longer, but significantly easier.

Thursday 9 September 2004
1530-1730
Evening ride (Junior): Staverton (10 mi)Dry & sunny
3 present: Jack Binmore, Michael Jones, Harry Laity
On a glorious sunny afternoon we ran another of our junior rides to Staverton, stopping for some time in the park to play Frisbee at the specific request of Harry and Jack. We managed to include several interesting tracks on the return journey through Sparkwell and Beaston, although the final one from Landscove was so overgrown that we all got stung and scratched at least once.

Friday 10 September 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Holne (10 mi)Occasional showers
4 present: Jaden Bush, Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity
The weather was not quite so kind this evening so we took the sheltered lower track through Hembury Woods. We managed a few games of Frisbee in Holne Park as the drizzle descended like mist, laughing at Jaden's flawed attempts at both catching and throwing. Returning in the darkness through Michelcombe and Holne Gage somehow managed to lose his waist belt, only realising the loss at Hawson Court. He went back next morning to find it but it was nowhere to be seen! He only lost £1, but it was still rather annoying.

Saturday 11 September 2004
1415-2300
Weekend ride: Bellever YH Day 1 (18 mi)Sunny periods with occasional showers
5 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Joe and Gage riding towards Hexworthy
Gage, Joe and Harry at Venford Reservoir
Joe Venables at Huccaby Bridge
Harry and Gage at Huccaby
Harry and Gage
Gage Conway
Riding the bridleway from Dunnabridge to Postbridge
Harry Laity
Harry Laity with his Pot Noodle at Bellever YH
Gage, Harry and Joe on the bridleway to Postbridge
Gavin enjoy's the warden's treacle pudding
Gage Conway disposes of his noodles
Video footage from today's ride
Our weekend to Bellever began with slightly improved weather conditions than had been displayed during the morning. Harry and Gage were on their first weekend trip, and whilst Gage had bought a rack for his bike and affixed some borrowed panniers, Harry was content to let Michael carry his small bags of spare clothes and food.

A nasty shower at Holne forced us to take cover under the slide, but it soon cleared up and we were off again to Venford reservoir and Combestone Tor. Sunshine followed us all the way through Hexworthy to Huccaby Bridge, where we took time out to enjoy the deserted beauty spot to the full. A short ride along the Two Bridges road brought is the Dunnabridge and the long track across the moor to Bellever Woods. More brilliant sunshine accompanied us, although the breeze was a little stiff at times. A final descent through the woods brought us to Bellever youth hostel by 6.15pm, where Gavin (who had been working all afternoon) was waiting for us.

The hostel was further upgraded in February: there is now a proper games room, the staircase has been moved and the toilets and showers have been completely replaced. Gage's noodles didn't look too appetising, but at least he prepared them himself. Harry only had a pot noodle, but he still needed help to make it: his contribution was to boil the kettle and get the fork! We can forgive him though as he's only 10. The warden, previously a chef at Buckfastleigh's Furzeleigh Mill guest house, offered an excellent menu of home-cooked food, so Gavin and Michael were pleased to order treacle puddings to conclude their meals. The remainder of the evening was spent walking to the river in the semi-darkness and playing games of pool in the games room.

Sunday 12 September 2004
0800-1530
Weekend ride: Bellever YH Day 2 (18 mi)Sunny periods with occasional showers
5 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables
Gage Conway
Preparing to leave Bellever YH
Gage Conway shows off his cleaning brush
Gage and Harry
Harry Laity carrying out essential maintenance
Gage Conway - ready to leave
Joe, Gage and Harry outside Bellever YH
Bellever YH
One of the chimneys at Powdermills
The clapper bridge at Postbridge
Derelict gunpowder buildings at Powdermills
Joe and Gage examine the chimney
Oliver, Harry and Gage at Powdermills
Harry Laity examines the proving canon
Video footage from today's ride
Sunday morning dawned as sunny and dry as predicted. When Gage had returned from the top of the first hill to retrieve his gloves we pressed on to Postbridge where everyone walked around the clapper bridges and Gage bought a souvenir from the village store (made in China!). Riding on again the youngsters were interested in the Powder Mills site, used in the 19th century for the water-powered manufacture of gunpowder for local farmers. We diverted again to look around the derelict buildings, having a good look at the chimneys and the proving canon.

The stiff headwind made the journey into Princetown a little more arduous than planned, so we were glad to see the Foxtor cafe looming large in front of us. Service was exceptionally slow today, but we were kept amused by the Torbay CTC members taking part in an Audax ride; they had been reading of our antics in the Highway, but their first question was "which one is Gage?". Gage had no idea he was so famous!

The only really unpleasant shower of the day forced us to abandon plans to investigate the railway cycle path and head directly for home. Harry, who had earlier said he didn't mind getting wet at all, now had different ideas. The shower came to an end fairly quickly so we detoured home via Dartmeet Hill and Dr Blackall's drive, Joe discovering along the way that Gage's idea of a shortcut via Sharp Tor was not such a good idea after all. The track descent was as exhilarating as usual, and we even had time for ice creams in the afternoon sunshine at New Bridge. All the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and looked forward to our next exciting adventure.

Wednesday 15 September 2004
1800-2000
Evening ride (Junior): Staverton (10 mi)Dry & sunny
4 present: Jack Binmore, Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity
Our juniors seem to really enjoy riding to Staverton cricket field to play Frisbee. Today we took a slightly different route to get there, climbing past Caddaford farm.

Friday 17 September 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Converted to SocialHeavy rain
2 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones
The weather this evening was so bad that the ride was cancelled and a social arranged at the clubroom.

Sunday 19 September 2004
1000-1730
Day ride (Car-assisted): Looe (20 mi)Sunny periods
2 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones
With just two of us on the ride today we had a perfect opportunity for a car-assisted ride. Parking the car at Crafthole on the south Cornish coast we explored the picturesque villages of Portwrinkle, Downderry and Seaton before tackling the major climb to the Monkey Sanctuary. A steep and interesting track brought us to the beach at Milendreath, and from there we had to carry the bikes up a long and steep set of steps to Plaidy and the coastal path into Looe.

The village's maize of narrow, old-fashioned streets were packed with people despite the lateness of the season. We ate lunch overlooking the river, plagued by some sea birds intent on getting as much of our food as possible. After browsing several of the fascinating shops we enjoyed ice-cream deserts in the Tasty Corner cafe and then headed back to the large expanse of beach for some Frisbee throwing. A strong wind made the activity slightly more difficult than usual so we quickly moved to rock pool exploration before continuing on our journey homewards. Cornwall always offers an exciting day out, and today had been no exception.

Thursday 23 September 2004
1800-2000
Evening ride (Junior): Staverton (10 mi)Dry & sunny
3 present: Jack Binmore, Michael Jones, Harry Laity
The juniors once again insisted on a trip to Staverton cricket field. Today we rode out via Colston road and, after evading the best attempts of a motorist to run us down, proceeded the park for the usual Frisbee games. Harry managed to throw the pink ring so hard and so high that it flew right out of the park, across the road, over the electric wires and into the nearby field! Fortunately he was able to retrieve it before fading light forced us to return homewards via the track to Hole Farm.

Friday 24 September 2004
1900-2130
Evening ride: Hembury Woods (9 mi)Dry
6 present: Jordan Barker, Jack Binmore, Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Harry Laity, Tim Mason
There was a good attendance for our final evening ride of the season, but as Jordan hadn't been out for a couple of months we decided to keep the ride fairly local with an excursion through Hembury Woods to River Dart Adventures. Darkness fell before we were half-way along the track, so Michael's powerful front light proved essential for safe navigation of the many fallen tree trunks and the required detour across two streams caused by a path blockage. It was all very entertaining, and a new experience for many of our younger riders.

Harry's ever-quickening puncture required an increasing frequency of pump stops on the route home through Pridhamsleigh and Green Lane, so it was close to 9.30 when we finally arrived home.

Sunday 26 September 2004
1000-1815
Day ride: Dartmouth (37 mi)Mainly sunny
3 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Joe Venables
The weather looked promising and Gage and Joe were keen to do a good ride, but before we could actually start we had to sort out Joe's brake problem which required a trip to the local bike shop. We eventually set off at 11.15 for Totnes, stopping at Safeways to buy many exciting items for refreshments and lunch. The long climb up Totnes Downhill brought us eventually to Bow Bridge, where Gage considered but finally declined the challenge of riding across the river.

We were running somewhat later than planned so we had to make good progress through Tuckenhay and East Cornworthy to Dittisham. The steep climb didn't matters, but soon we were on the track from Bozomzeal to Old Mill Creek that we haven't ridden for many years. Things had changed slightly but we managed to find the bridle path and followed it down the long and challenging track to the Creek. This was a perfect spot for lunch, with plenty of ancient boats to examine and tranquillity all around.

It was getting on for 3pm when we set off again up the final hill to Dartmouth. Having travelled so far we decided to enjoy ice creams by the riverside before boarding the higher ferry for Kingswear. This was apparently the first time Gage had been on a ferry with his bike, and only the second time he'd ever been on a ferry at all!

The route back to Buckfastleigh was busy for the next few miles, taking us through Churston, Paignton and Marldon before we finally hit the quiet lanes to Red Post. This had been long and hard, but both lads coped well with the strain.

Friday 1 October 2004
1900-2215
Social: Games Evening
3 present: Gage Conway, Michael Jones, Joe Venables
Our first social of the season was inaugurated with an evening of computer games and Babylon 5 DVDs at Crofters. Things were a little cramped because Michael's lounge refurbishment was well underway, but we still managed to have a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday 3 October 2004
1015-1330
Morning ride: Buckfast (3 mi)Continuous rain
7 present: Gage Conway, Jason Dart, Michael Jones, Sol Kelly (12, Ashburton), Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables, Ben Wyeth
The weather was so bad this morning that we managed only a short ride around Buckfast before we headed back to Crofters. Badminton was selected as the most appropriate social, and having booked a court at Ivybridge we spent an enjoyable hour playing some excellent games between 12 and 1. New member Sol turned out to be a good player. There was time for refreshments in the cafe before we returned to Crofters for an afternoon of computer games.

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