South Dartmoor CTC

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Sunday 10 July 2005
1015-1700
Day ride (Car-assisted): Fingle Bridge (15 mi)Very hot
4 present: Dennis Ham, Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Gavin, Josh and Dennis at Fingle Bridge
Lunch at Fingle Bridge
Riding the Hunters' Path
Josh Ham checks out the view of the Teign Valley from the Hunters' Path
A "fish ladder" on the river Teign, seen from the Fisherman's Path
Dennis watches Josh trying out a footbridge off the Fisherman's Path
Returning along the woodland path through Cod Wood to Steps Bridge
Dennis on the riverside path from Fingle to Clifford
This was the hottest Sunday of the year so far, and nobody felt like riding too hard or too far. We used car assistance to Steps Bridge and then spent the day riding along cool, flat woodland tracks up and down the Teign Valley woodlands.

After lunch at Fingle Bridge we rode the high Hunters Path with its spectacular views across the valley and then returned by the riverside Fisherman’s Path, a new experience for everyone that turned out to be full of exciting twists and turns. The youngsters didn't much care for the steep flights of steps that we occasionally encountered, but Michael and Gavin were always ready to lend a hand. By the time we eventually returned to Steps Bridge we all felt that this had been one of the most enjoyable rides of the season.

Friday 15 July 2005
1900-2045
Evening ride: HemburyWarm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Joe Venables
With just Joe and Michael on the ride this evening we did an energetic ride around Hembury woods.

Sunday 17 July 2005
1015-1245
Morning ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Warm and sunny
3 present: Dennis Ham, Josh Ham, Michael Jones
Josh and Dennis
Dennis and Josh by the river Avon, on the road from Shipley Bridge to the dam
Dennis Ham and a very full Avon Reservoir
With just Dennis and Josh joining Michael on this sunny summer morning we chose to ride to Shipley Bridge so that the lads could play in the cool waters of the River Avon before continuing past the dam for the fun descent to Cross Furzes.

Friday 22 July 2005Evening ride: Cancelled
0 present:
The ride was cancelled.

Saturday 23 July 2005
1400-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 1 Devon to Swansea Ferry (2 mi)Mainly dry
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Leaving Swansea on the overnight ferry to Cork
Our great Ireland adventure started with the 2.54 train from Newton Abbot to Swansea, involving just one change at Bristol. Finally the weather was beginning to cool down with the threat of thundery rain in the air. We had over an hour to spare in Swansea, but the only useful thing we found there was a Pizza Hut.

The effects of the recent terrorist attacks in London was evident as we boarded the Cork ferry: armed guards equipped with body armour and sub-machine guns patrolled the passport control centre! Our cabin proved very acceptable, and had we not had the pizza the wide range of restaurants on board would have proved irresistible.

Sunday 24 July 2005
0700-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 2 Cork to Clear Island YH (70 mi)Very wet start
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Clear Island
On the ferry to Clear Island
Sunset on Clear Island
Video footage from today's ride
After an excellent sleep in our well ventilated cabin our hearts sank as we arrived in Cork at 7am: torrential rain lashed against the deck outside the on-board cafe and we knew we were in for a wet start to our tour. Any hopes of sheltering at the ferry port were dashed as we were ejected from the ferry, for there was not a single covered area between the ferry and the road. Even the passport control was exposed to the brutal elements. To make matters worse the port was actually more than 5 miles from Cork, and Cork was not the direction we needed to travel. We got totally drenched just thinking about what to do, so after a quick study of the map we decided the best solution was to accept the inevitable and ride at full speed towards the hostel.

We took the R613 westwards, and once we got going the rain really didn't seem so bad. A driver stopped us near Ballygarvan to tell us that a tree was blocking the road ahead, but we pressed on, hopeful that it would not be a problem for a cycle. As it turned out it very nearly was a problem, but we just managed to carry the bikes over the huge trunk and were greeted on the other side by a friendly local who welcomed us to Ireland! We wondered why there were no road signs warning of the blockage, but apparently this was quite normal for Ireland!

We were looking for the easiest route to the south west, and the main N71 road was just what we were looking for. It seemed to be flat or downhill for miles from Ballinhassig to Bandon so the miles flew by. We stopped at a garage that offered delicious French pastries baked on the premises and top quality hot chocolates - if only garages in the UK could offer such a service! The shop owners and customers seemed a little concerned to see us dripping all around the store, but some locals made us feel very welcome, confirming our view that the Irish are a friendly people.

Stopping too long when you're soaked to the skin is never a good idea no matter how nice the food is, so we set off again quickly for Clonakilty. As we arrived the rain was slowing, so we investigated a model railway village and discovered a cosy cafe built into an old carriage. Sitting on the old train seats with our soaking clothes was not the most pleasant experience, but once again we were entertained by the cafe owner and his friend with stories of how Clonakilty was mainly a town of "blow-ins" - people who have immigrated to Ireland - and amusement at the enormous climbs we had planned for the next few days.

Now the rain had all but stopped so the next leg of the journey to Skibbereen was much more enjoyable. We arrived there by 1.30 have completed 60 miles before lunch - quite an achievement by any standards! We bought lunch and supper in a local supermarket, sent texts to Oliver and Tao (who had chickened out of the tour because they thought it would be too easy), then rode the final 10 miles to Baltimore, a small coastal village bustling with tourists that did its best to entertain us during our long wait for the 5pm ferry to Clear Island. Gavin was so sore and we were both so tired that we slept on the 45 minute crossing in the rickety ferryboat, seeing little of the wonderful coastal scenery.

Clear Island is a remote, self-sufficient community where mainland law doesn't seem to apply: all the cars we saw would never have passed an MOT! We rode over the central hill and down to the hostel, situated on the edge of an isolated bay in tranquil surroundings. The wardens had moved there from Bristol several years earlier and had grown accustomed to the slow pace of life. They built a large open fire in the lounge to welcome us, so after a good meal we settled down by the fire to enjoy a video on the laptop Michael had brought.

Monday 25 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 3 Clear Island to Black Valley YH (36 mi)Sunny and warm
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Clear Island YH
Clear Island YH
View from the shore near the hostel
Loading the bikes outside the youth hostel
View back to Cape Clear Island from the Skull ferry
Ferry to Skull from Cape Clear Island
The Skull ferry
Gavin on the ferry
The road from Skull to Ballydehob
Approaching the fishing village of Skull
Gavin prepares for the final leg of the journey into the Black Valley
View down to the Black Valley, from the junction with the road from Moll'c Cross
Fabulous scenery near Black Valley YH
Video footage from today's ride
The first ferry back to the mainland was at 11.30 this morning so we felt fully justified in having a well-deserved lie-in until 9am. In any case, this wasn't the kind of place to rush around - nobody rushes anywhere on Clear Island! The warden advised us that we couldn't possibly really know how nice Clear Island is without staying a week or more; he urged us to explore the island and not to worry about missing the ferry, because time doesn't matter on Clear Island. We felt like suggesting that he needn't worry if the hostel wasn't cleaned by 5pm, but we doubted he would have appreciated such a comment.

We took the red ferry bound for Skull, feeling on top of the world in the mid-morning sunshine. The captain kept us amused on the 45 minute journey by telling us of the famous Fastnet lighthouse that could be seen from the boat, and the histories of the various uninhabited islands that we passed on the route. The fishing village of Skull was bustling with activity and we would have loved to stay, but it was now 12.15 and we had ridden only 2 miles with around 60 to go! We bought lunch from a garage at Ballydehob that offered convenient picnic tables outside, then tackled the first climb of the day in the afternoon heat before the long downhill to Bantry.

Next stop was Glengarriff, but now Gavin's knees were causing him real pain and he didn't feel he could cope with the next two major climbs without causing damage. We were late in any event because of the morning ferry and there were still many miles to cover, so we seemed to have little choice but to hire a taxi van to take us on to the top of the second climb at Moll's Gap.

While we were waiting for the van to arrive, Michael went to buy an ice-cream from a local store. The elderly gentleman sticking labels on tins turned out to be the proprietor, and when Michael indicated his requirements the man moved behind the counter, pointed to the two machines behind him and asked in a broad Irish accent whether Michael wanted plain or mint ice-cream. Slightly bemused by the prospect of mint ice-cream being produced by a machine, Michael took a moment or two to ponder his reply. The proprietor, however, interpreted this as an Englishman being unable to understand an Irish accent: he immediately took offence and refused to serve any ice-cream whatsoever, returning to his labelling task in the main part of the store. Michael attempted to explain that he was only trying to decide, and that he was ready to buy an ice-cream, but the proprietor would have none of it and told him to leave the store! We relayed the story to other shop-owners in the town who all burst out laughing and reassured us that he was like this to everyone!

The driver made good conversation with us on the journey and we were soon preparing the bikes for the descent into Black Valley, a remote mountainous area that looked similar to parts of Scotland. Finally we reached the hostel, situated in a quiet hamlet with extensive views. The main entrance was so poorly marked that we spent some time trying to get in through the warden's private doorway before being pointed in the right direction. We shared our small dormitory with an Irish lad called Kevin who chatted all evening about his experiences and then settled down to enjoy a DVD with us on our laptop.

Tuesday 26 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 4 Black Valley to Dun Caonin YH (62 mi)Warm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Black Valley YH
Black Valley YH
The short climb towards the Gap of Dunloe, not far from the hostel
Gavin outside Black Valley YH
Michael and Gavin, taken by a passing motorist
Michael at the Gap of Dunloe
Inch beach, mid-afternoon
Augher Lake, on the way down the other side
Inch beach
Inch beach, our afternoon refreshment stop
Isalnds off the end of the Dingle peninsula, near Dunquin
Coastal views from the end of the Dingle peninsula
Supper at Dun Caonin YH (Dunquin)
Coastal views near Dunquin
Views from the hostel dining room
Video footage from today's ride
[Report will be based on the following notes made at the time.]

We overslept until 8.45 and finally left at around 10.20. Our ride started with the climb to Gap of Dunloe, not far from the hostel. Gavin's knee was not too bad so far.

Views from the top were spectacular. A woman stopped to take our photograph. There were loads of ponies, traps and tourists going up and down the valley at up to €60 per cart, many of them Americans. It all looked very attractive in the sunshine.

Eventually we reached the tourist company’s base where fields and stables confirmed the huge size of the operation. We enjoyed expensive hot chocolates in the cafe, then pressed on to Castlemaine to buy lunch. We ate it near Inch, then stopped at the magnificent Inch beach for refreshments and to send a few texts. We then pressed on along excellent coastal scenery to Dingle (which seemed to be a long way).

We had now clocked 48 miles and there were still 14 to go. We established bus times and pick-up points for tomorrow, bought milk and then rode the final very impressive scenic route to the end of the Dingle peninsula. The setting sun made for some excellent photos of the scattered rocks and islands.

Dun Caonin hostel was the best so far - very modern, good facilities, wonderful views, and a dorm to ourselves. The only detraction was that a few of the guests insisted on having a barbecue below our dorm window!

Wednesday 27 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 5 Dun Caonin to Patrickswell B&B (19 mi)Warm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Fabulous sea views from Dun Caonin YH
Dun Caonin YH
Video footage from today's ride
[Report will be based on the following notes made at the time.]

There was a sunny start to the day. We had a good breakfast with spectacular sea views, then set off later than planned at 10am, returning via the same scenic route to Dingle. Here we viewed the aquarium – it had some nice features, like the piranhas and the open topped ray pool allowing people to touch the rays - but otherwise it was just nowhere near as good as the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.

We needed to get half way across Ireland by the end of today, and since there was a chance we wouldn't get bikes on some buses we decided to try the 12.15 bus. There was a big queue but we got the bikes into the cavernous boot with no trouble at all and enjoyed a relaxing journey to Tralee.

On arrival we drew out some cash and got lunch at the Dunnes Stores – it was proving hard for Michael to get vegetarian food anywhere in Ireland! We then took the longer bus journey to Adare. Annoying bloke playing his accordion outside the Information Centre. Bought some gifts and food for the evening, then rode the final few miles to our first b&b at Patrickstown. Very nice quiet property and luxury room.

Thursday 28 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 6 Patrickswell to Mountain Lodge YH (49 mi)Warm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Lake Gur near Grange
Our very comfortable bed and breakfast at Patrickswell
Video footage from today's ride
[Report will be based on the following notes made at the time.]

Gavin was lazy at the hostel - he wouldn't get out of bed for breakfast! And when we had finished breakfast he went back to bed again!

We eventually left at 10.30 with the owner rushing in to clean the room ready for his next two guests. It was cloudy and a bit colder than of late. We spent most of the day on country lanes as we progressed to Lake Gur near Grange, with the best preserved stone circle in Ireland. The Visitor Centre was a disappointment, with no cafe and just very expensive snack bars.

We bought lunch at Hospital but it took several more miles before we found a suitable place to eat it - seat included! All provisions had to be brought with us to the remote mountain hostel so we bought some more things at Ballylanders, then found ourselves within a few miles of the hostel by around 3.15pm.

There was time for an excursion to the Mitchelstown caves. To be honest we didn't expect much from them, especially when we saw the small car park and the sign advising customers to pay at the house. A friendly old lady answered the door and took our money, and as we walked up the path we expected nothing more than a hollow in the hillside! In fact the caves turned out to be well worth the €4.50 we paid, with some of the finest formations in Europe on display.

A long track took us up into the Galty Mountains to the hostel, once a shooting lodge and now one of the most isolated hostels in Ireland. Gas lighting was used as there was no electricity. It even had a gas fridge! There was an excellent log burner. No lights in the lavatories did cause a few problems. There was almost no mobile phone reception here. We spent a very cozy evening by the fireside. Everyone was very chatty.

Friday 29 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 7 Mountain Lodge to East Dunmore B&B (24 mi)Warm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Mountain Lodge YH
Mountain Lodge YH
Adding a handle to a water jug
The Waterford Crystal showroom
Cutting the neck of a vase
Examples of trophies made by Waterford Crystal
Dunmore East harbour
The finished product
An extreme seagull infestation at Lady's Cove, Dunmore East
Lady's Cove, Dunmore East
Video footage from today's ride
[Report will be based on the following notes made at the time.]

The beds were saggy and noisy, but we had an ok night. The day started with damp weather. We decided to keep the day’s mileage low so we could look at some places of interest and try the train.

First we rode to Cahir, an interesting town with a castle and good shops. The cafe was good too. Gavin got an Irish haircut for €10. We bought a newspaper to read about the important IRA statement that was made yesterday.

We had pizza for lunch, then visited the local internet cafe to chat with people at home for a charge of €2.50. The outdoor shop was not worth a lot.

The train to Waterford turned out to be less than half the price of the bus – €9 each instead of €22 for the bus. Admittedly this was a special offer, but even at normal prices it would have been cheaper. It was a very comfortable ride, so we both had a sleep.

Waterford was busy. The Waterford Crystal glassworks site was very interesting: we had a guided tour of the factory, and the cafe was excellent. We bought food at the garage and then rode through the lanes to Dunmore East bed and breakfast with nearby beach. Very comfortable.

Saturday 30 July 2005
0800-2300
Tour: South West Ireland Day 8 Dunmore to Rosslare Harbour (37 mi)Damp but warm
2 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Our B&B at Dunmore East
[Report to follow.]

Friday 5 August 2005
1900-1935
Evening ride: BuckfastWarm and sunny
2 present: Michael Jones, Keir Purdie
With a low turnout this evening we decided to do only a short ride to Buckfast.

Sunday 7 August 2005
1015-1830
Day ride: Hennock Reservoirs (38 mi)Warm and sunny
3 present: Michael Jones, Sol Kelly, Keir Purdie
Keir and Sol at Tottiford reservoir
Keir was unusually asking for a longer ride this morning, and whilst Sol had not been out for several weeks he had never had much difficulty with longer rides. With this in mind we rode to Bovey Tracey to buy lunch and then headed up the Wrey valley for the steep climb to the reservoirs. Everything looked perfect today in the summer sunshine and we enjoyed a peaceful lunchtime on the banks of the Tottiford reservoir.

We continued along the rough path that circles the reservoir, then followed the lanes to Moretonhampstead, but by this time Sol was discovering that he was much less fit than he had expected and Keir was slowing down in sympathy! The route home via North Bovey was consequently rather slow-paced, and by the time we had also stopped for refreshments at Hound Tor a late return was guaranteed. It was well past 7pm when we finally rolled back to Buckfastleigh, but even though we were tired it had been a really enjoyable ride and a good achievement for all concerned.

Friday 12 August 2005
1900-2100
Evening ride: Skerraton Down (9 mi)Warm and sunny
4 present: Michael Jones, Keir Purdie, Derry Todd, Joe Venables
On another warm summer evening we rode the long climb to Skerraton Down, helping Derry on the final climb, and then headed home across the moor to Cross Furzes.

Sunday 14 August 2005
1015-1315
Morning ride: Spitchwick (13 mi)Warm and sunny
3 present: Dennis Ham, Michael Jones, Joe Venables
Just for a change we rode to Spitchwick in reverse today, starting with the climb of Ausewell Hill at Ashburton, riding through Buckland-in-the-Moor and dropping down the steep hill to Spitchwick. The homeward route was via Hembury Woods.

Friday 19 August 2005
1900-2100
Evening ride: StavertonWarm and sunny
3 present: Michael Jones, Keir Purdie, Derry Todd
With just three of us on the ride this evening we enjoyed a relatively easy ride along Colston Road to Staverton, stopping to play Frisbee in the park for a while before heading homewards via Caddaford.

Sunday 21 August 2005
1015-1600
Day ride (Car-assisted): Plym Valley Cycleway (16 mi)Warm and sunny
3 present: Michael Jones, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
With only three of us out today we were able to organise a car-assisted ride to add variety to our summer programme. We drove to Plympton, unpacked the bikes and set off along the Plym Valley cycle path, a converted railway track that used to run from Plymouth to Princetown. We met several cyclists along the way of all ages, many admiring the views from the viaducts. We stopped to explore a few turnoffs here and there, but eventually reached the end of the track near Clearbrook and settled down to enjoy what little lunch we had.

Our plan was to visit Pizza Hut for a late lunch when we got back to the car, but we didn't expect the return journey to take quite so long. The diversion began when Keir suggested exploring a path that drifted off to the left hand side of the main track near Goodameavy and dropped down to follow the river Meavey. The track was slightly downhill all the way and offered some of the best and most challenging off-road fun we had experienced for many a day! Eventually we reached the car park at Dewerstone rock and took the advice of a local by continuing along another track that followed the river Plym. There was plenty more fun, but the going was harder and without a map we had no idea of how far we would have to go to re-join the cycle path. After riding for half an hour we stopped for a quick paddle in an inviting section of river, then headed back to Dewerstone and followed the short section of road that led back to the cycle path. Unfortunately Joe went on ahead and missed the turning, and Michael and Keir spent some time trying to find him before heading back along the track towards the car. Joe had already started the journey home but had stopped just off the side of the cycle path to fix his bike. Keir and Michael rode right past him without seeing him, so Joe had to pedal for all he was worth to catch them!

When we finally reached the car we kept to our original plan and enjoyed an excellent meal at Pizza Hut in Plymouth before returning home.

Friday 26 August 2005
1900-2100
Evening ride: LandscoveWarm and sunny
4 present: Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson, John Stuart, Joe Venables
John Stuart joined us tonight with some new suspension forks fitted to his bike and a request to include as much off-road riding as possible. We rode to Ashburton, up to Chuley Cross and then took the first rough track towards Baddaford. From the top of Baddaford hill we took the over-field path down to Landscove, and for our final piece of off-road we suggested the often-overgrown path from the centre of Landscove.

When we reached the start the nettles and brambles were meeting to make a narrow tunnel: while the rest of us stopped to consider whether this was a sensible idea, John shot straight through and made surprising progress. He had to ride back again though because nobody else was prepared to tackle such growth in t-shirts and shorts! To complete the ride we circled around the offending track and returned to Buckfastleigh via Green Lane.

Sunday 28 August 2005
1015-1300
Morning ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Warm and sunny
3 present: Will Burgess, Jaden Bush, Michael Jones
Jaden and Will
Jaden Bush and Will Burgess at the Avon reservoir
Will and Michael
Jaden was pleased with his new bike - surprisingly good considering it came from a skip! On a perfect summer's morning we rode up Dean Hill to Bloody Pool, bought ice creams at Shipley Bridge and continued on to the Avon Dam at a good pace, pausing only so that Jaden could get his feet wet in the cool waters. The reservoir was a little lower than usual today but it still made a perfect backdrop for our photos.

As usual the best part of the ride was the descent from Water Oak Corner to Cross Furzes, a new experience for Jaden.

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