South Dartmoor CTC

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Sunday 11 March 2007
1015-1715
Day ride (Car-assisted): Fingle Tracks (14 mi)Sunny and warm
9 present: Charles Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Dennis Ham, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Jordan Knight, Zac McGrath, Ben Parker
A pause to regroup
Setting out along the woodland path from Steps Bridge
Jordan & Dennis find a nest of very large red ants
The path from Clifford Bridge
Zac & Dennis pause for breath on the climb to the Humter's Path
Continuing along the Teign towards Fingle Bridge
Hunter's Path
Lunch on the Hunter's Path
Riding the Hunters' Path
Admiring a viewpoint from Hunter's Path
A friendly dog shows how to negotiate steps on the Fisherman's Path
Jordan & the waterfall, on the Fisherman's Path
Dennis' new friend
Ridiculous Steps on the Fisherman's path
Refreshments at Fingle Bridge
The final stages of the Fisherman's Path
Returning along the Teign
Refreshments at Fingle Bridge
Fine spring sunshine greeted us for our first car-assisted day ride for 2007. Some last-minute bookings brought the total number of participants to nine, but with some careful packing we managed to fit all the bikes and all the riders into the two Volvo estates provided by Michael and Charles. The outward journey was made less cramped, however, when Alex's Dad kindly offered to take some riders.

We reached Steps Bridge car park at 11.15 to find no spaces whatsoever, but two people left while we unloaded the bikes. The youngsters noticed the youth hostel sign, pointing to the wooden chalet up in the woods that was once Steps Bridge youth hostel. We have made many visits there in the past, but sadly the hostel was closed by YHA last year.

Our ride began with the bridleway along the east bank of the river Teign through Cod Wood. Daffodils were growing everywhere, and the twists and turns of the path provided plenty of fun. There was then a short stretch of road to Clifford Bridge, where the first enormous red ants were noticed with some horror.

After a short chocolate break we continued along the opposite bank of the Teign along the track through Hitchcombe, Butterdon and Hore woods. Jordan and Dennis quickly found a red ants nest, and later kept the group waiting while they organised a game of "Manhunt" in the woods - otherwise known as Hide and Seek!

Fingle Bridge was reasonably busy. Zac seemed keen to abandon his packed lunch in favour of a visit to the attractive-looking restaurant by the river, but Michael encouraged everyone to press on with the steep climb to the Hunter's Path. The views were excellent during the climb, and even better when we reached the top, but the wind was significant as we settled down for lunch overlooking the steeply wooded Teign valley.

We followed the path to a viewpoint and then down past Castle Drogo. From the road we then joined the Fisherman's Path that leads back to Fingle Bridge beside the river. This was altogether more challenging, with more twists and climbs than the former.

For some of the youngsters one of the best features of the ride was the opportunity to meet so many dogs along the route. It seemed that every five minutes some new exciting breed would come along and get loads of attention from everyone, particularly Dennis! As we approached an incredibly steep flight of steps we were greeted by the best dog of the day, picking its way very carefully down the steps towards us. It got a very warm welcome when it reached the bottom!

Finally back at Fingle Bridge again we called in to the restaurant to enjoy drinks and light refreshments beside the river. Michael was somewhat surprised, therefore, when everyone flocked to his chocolate shop as soon as we left! Evidently toasted teacakes just don't hit the spot like chocolate!

To conclude a highly enjoyable ride we retraced our route back through the two woodland tracks to the cars.

Friday 16 March 2007
1900-2215
Social: Badminton
4 present: Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath
When we arrived at Torbay Leisure Centre at 7.55 we discovered that our badminton court had been double-booked! We didn't complain too much when they gave us a free squash court until 9pm and then 20 minutes free on two spare badminton courts.

Sunday 18 March 2007
1015-1315
Morning ride: Skerraton Down (11 mi)Cold with strong winds and wintry showers
7 present: Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Dennis Ham, Alex Harrigan, Osian Jarvis, Michael Jones, Jordan Knight
Spectacular views from the high moor
Sheltering behind a gorse bush
A grassy bank provides shelter from the wind for Dennis & Sam
The freedom of the open moor
Dennis and Osian ready for the final downhill to Cross Furzes
Today, after weeks of unseasonably warm weather, the north wind moved in to make our March morning ride more challenging. An early shower drenched us with icy water and hailstones as we rode to Dean, and since Alex hadn't brought a coat (he had apparently left it at school) he decided to head home even though the sun was emerging as he left.

The rest of us tackled the climb past Nurston farm, where the dogs came out in force to greet us but thankfully were not in biting mood today. The cold wind made the climb harder, but eventually we reached the top where a horse rider warned us of the bitter winds on the open moor. Since Osian was out with us for his first ride in more than a year we decided to head to Skerraton Down instead of the intended Avon Dam.

When we had negotiated the narrow track and reached the gateway to the moor we stopped for a chocolate break and some respite from the strong headwind. The final climb to Skerraton Down was painful, both from the gorse bushes that seemed to block every path, and from the two short hail showers fired at us by the powerful wind.

The view from the top was indeed magnificent. We were turning away from the wind, and soon we were heading downhill with the wind and bright sunshine behind us. Dennis and Sam found a grassy bank for shelter before we tackled the descent to Cross Furzes and home. There were several cold fingers when we arrived at Crofters and everyone looked forward to an afternoon of computer games in the warmth of the clubroom.

Friday 23 March 2007
1900-2215
Social: Games Evening
6 present: Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Osian Jarvis, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
A fun evening of computer games concluded our penultimate social of the season.

Sunday 25 March 2007
1015-1415
Morning ride: Venford Reservoir (17 mi)Cloudy and somewhat cold
5 present: Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
Ben accepts Ashley's challenge
Olly Acland at Venford Reservoir
Olly, Ash, Ben and Sam on the banks of Venford Reservoir
The group after lunch on the Venford track
Ashley had got it into his head today that the ride was going to be hard, so he just couldn't motivate himself to put any effort into the climb to Holne. It took us all morning to get to Venford, so after some debate we decided to change the destination from Dartmeet to Venford.

Suddenly Ashley was a confident cyclist again. We rode around the reservoir path to a secluded wooded lunch spot, and when everyone had finished lunch and conducting sword battles with sticks we continued to the road and headed back for the track through Hembury Woods. It was amusing to see Ashley cycle up the same hill that earlier he had walked!

Friday 30 March 2007
1900-2215
Social: Film Night
5 present: Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Osian Jarvis, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
The film Stormbreaker was unanimously chosen from a wide selection of DVDs. As usual, refreshments were served during the interval.

Sunday 1 April 2007
1415-1740
Afternoon ride: BroadhempstonMainly dry
6 present: Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath, Ben Parker
Alex and Zac enter the woodland track to Lower Combe
Zac, Ben, Alex, Ashley and Matt on the famous Broadhempston Rocket
After climbing Green Lane Michael presented two alternative routes for the ride, one circling west from Broadhempston that included several tracks and one circling south that did not. The tracks won the vote with a clear majority, so we started with the track to Abham. A group of travellers were still encamped at its peak after more than three years, now even having wheelie bins provided by the council!

Riding along the riverside track to Staverton we were soon at Broadhempston Play Park. Ashley was very keen to join some local youngsters and their father who were playing football, but in the end he recognised that he was twice their size and contented himself with Frisbees and obstacle courses in the park. Matt's Frisbee skills left something to be desired when he twice managed to overshoot the park boundary and land the Frisbee on the window of a nearby cottage!

On the return route Ron Greet's tractor graveyard provided some interest for the youngsters, but it was the famous Beaston Track that got everyone excited. This track was renowned many years ago for the enormous muddy lake that crossed from hedge to hedge about halfway along - it was always there, even after the driest summer! Nowadays the lake problem has been sorted, but the track still offers several substantial puddles and muddy stretches to keep Alex happy.

An unwelcome climb brought us eventually to the start of the woodland track to Lower Combe. The youngsters descended in double quick time only to find another climb waiting for them, this time to Green Lane. Everyone on the ride except Ben was taking part in next week's Easter tour, and Michael was so pleased with their performance on this harder-than-usual afternoon ride that he declared them all ready for the tour.

Friday 6 April 2007
0900-2300
Tour: Somerset Levels Day 1 Home to Street YH (25 mi)Sunny and warm
9 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath
North Curry
The group ready to leave Taunton station
Matt tries on a bearskin - with willow support accessories - at the Wetlands centre
Ashley enjoys the willow seat at the Wetlands centre
Ashley and Alex rolling down Burrow Mump
Ashley, planning for the worst
Tracks near Burrow Mump
Michael under attack on Burrow Mump
Inspecting Beer Wall, a sluice between two water levels
Tracks near Burrow Mump
Video footage from today's ride
Brilliant sunshine and a near perfect weekend forecast greeted us as we gathered at Newton Abbot Station for the start of our Easter tour to Somerset. With nine in the group we had to split over two trains: the Acland family had already passed through Newton Abbot on their way from Totnes. Zac, being Zac, managed to get a special tannoy announcement for riding his bike along the station platform!

The Aclands were waiting for us at Taunton, and once everyone had assembled panniers and manoeuvred off the station we rode the short distance to Morrisons supermarket to stock up with food for lunch and supper. The Aclands had the clever idea of buying several £1 ready meals, hoping that Street hostel's kitchen would be equipped with a microwave. Alex, who needed a spoon, ended up buying a pack of fifty!

Heidi found Alex's rhythmic squeak rather annoying as we rode through the quiet lanes to North Curry, but with gritty determination she managed to remain smiling!

Next stop was the Willows and Wetlands visitor centre at Stoke Gregory, which explains how the wetlands are drained of water and demonstrates how the locally-grown willow - which thrives in wetland soil - can be used to make a wide variety of useful items. Ashley tested most of them, including a hanging seat and a coffin! There was time for a visit to the cafe before we set off once more.

Burrow Mump is the only high ground in a large area of flat land, so it seemed like an excellent spot for lunch. The youngsters, led by Ashley, had great fun rolling down the gentle grassy slopes, but Matt discovered the painful way that he was just too large for such games.

Next followed an excursion around Earlake Moor, which started by following the east bank of the river Parrott and incorporated several tracks. The peaty soil had been baked into solid ruts and ridges by the recent dry weather, making the track a little too rough for some, but the scenery made it all worthwhile. We even found some very unusual super-rushes with gigantic woolly heads!

The youngsters only realised the loop-back nature of the excursion when they saw Burrow Mump looming up ahead. As we approached the road the track became indistinct and led us through a farmyard where Zac, being last, caught the sharp tongue of the farmer.

The heat of the sun was now up to mid-June levels so sunscreen was applied at Othery before we searched in vain for a shop selling drinks. In the end we made do with warm milk from Michael's pannier while Charles kindly went back to fetch Matt's sunglasses!

The route to the hostel took us past Beer Wall sluice system, through a network of very flat and straight lanes, past a clay pigeon shoot and up Ivy Thorn hill to the wooded paths of Walton Hill. A path then took us straight to the hostel, a wooden chalet surrounded by grassy verges and open countryside.

The Aclands had a family dorm on the first floor while the rest of the group were allocated to our usual dorm on the top floor. Wooden balconies and staircases connected all the dorms, which of course allowed the youngsters plenty of fun.

When the youngsters had made the most of the early evening sunshine by playing football on the grass with some other lads who were staying at the hostel, we set about preparing meals. The presence of microwaves was a relief to the Aclands, whose ready meals were the envy of the group. Matt got into trouble when he left his dishes for Heidi to wash up, but then he'd never been hostelling before and didn't know that he was responsible for his own washing up!

The next part of the evening was spent fixing punctures and walking the mile to the local shop for milk and other provisions - the footpath through the fields provided plenty of entertainment on the dark return journey. Finally, Michael produced a laptop computer and five controllers from his pannier, so everyone spent the remainder of the evening playing Bomberman and watching Pink Panther cartoons from a DVD.

Saturday 7 April 2007
0800-2300
Tour: Somerset Levels Day 2 Street to Cheddar YH (22 mi)Sunny
9 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath
Ashley & Sam at Clarks Village, Street
Street YH
Matt & Olly on Glastonbury Tor
Charles & Ashley at Clarks Village, Street
Lunch at Wells Cathedral
Glastonbury Tor
Wookey Hole caves
Lunch at Wells Cathedral
Ashley & Matt at Wookey Hole
Zac relaxing at Wookey Hole
Olly & Matt at Wookey Hole
Zac, Ashley, Matt & Alex at Wookey Hole
The Hall of Mirrors at Wookey Hole
Alex makes paper at Wookey Hole
Cheddar
The youngsters wait for Michael in a tree near Priddy
Video footage from today's ride
Michael was awoken early by the sound of Olly creeping up the wooden balcony staircase from the floor below. The Aclands like to get up early, but since nobody seemed to be awake in the attic dorm he decided to return the way he had come.

When everyone was ready to leave at 9.30, Ashley won the award for best-made bed, and his reward was the privilege of carrying the group's milk! We headed down the hill to Street for our first stop of the day, at Clark's Village. The Adidas and Cadburys shops seemed to be the most popular with our youngsters, although the baby goats, cows and sheep in a mini-farm also proved irresistible.

A short journey along flat lanes brought us quickly to Glastonbury tor, at the top of which a weird ceremony was being performed in the ruined tower. An emotional woman dressed in a shawl was performing some ritual amongst scented candles, apparently in memory of one of her distant forefathers who was beheaded on the site. The many tourists looked on in bewilderment.

The youngsters rolled and stumbled their way down the hill to the car park, at which point Alex realised he no longer had his wallet containing £38: apparently he had put it in the front pocket of his fleece thinking it was safer to take it with him than leave it on the bike! He retraced his steps all the way to the top of the tor and back down again, but sadly he was unable to find it. We had a busy day ahead so sadly we had to make the decision to move on.

The main road brought us quickly to Wells where we bought lunch in the ancient shopping area and ate it on the huge lawns in front of Wells cathedral. Michael persuaded several people to walk to the side of the cathedral at 2pm to see the clock, promising exciting battle action, then remembered at the last minute that the best action took place inside the cathedral! He slipped in by a side door and took a video, but everyone else had to be content with the rather mundane sight of some figures hitting a bell!

Next stop was Wookey Hole, just a few miles out of Wells. Entry was not cheap at £9 per head. The price had increased substantially since our last visit three years ago, justified it seems by the addition of new coloured lights and stories on the cave tour, a fairy grotto, the dinosaur valley and the ball shooting range. Nevertheless we were well entertained for an hour and half with the caves, paper-making factory, antique penny arcades and hall of mirrors.

During the cave tour Charles amused us all by managing to flash his camera twice in direct contravention of the rules designed to safeguard the resident bats! Ashley and then Zac volunteered to make hand-made paper in the paper factory. Later, in the hall of mirrors, Olly managed to walk into a mirror just seconds after commenting on how obvious the mirrors were!

Zac seemed thrilled when an old-fashioned palm-reading machine went wrong and dispensed 20 cards, but a member of staff overheard him bragging about his good fortune and promptly relieved him of all but one of the cards. After failing to convince Michael that he should demand their return, he went back to the machine and was delighted to find that it was still giving out multiple cards!

At 4.45 it was definitely time to leave. Everyone coped surprisingly well with the big climb to Priddy, but quite why the youngsters all turned monkey at the top and decided to hang out in a tree we're not quite sure! They maintained they were just waiting for Michael to finish a phone call.

After the climb came the downhill through Cheddar Gorge, and from all accounts it was the best downhill most of the group had ever ridden. It kept us moving for well over 20 minutes and offered spectacular views of the impressive gorge along the way.

It was 7.05 when we finally arrived at the hostel. Zac rushed in to watch most of Doctor Who while the rest got on with showers and food. As usual the evening was concluded with a trip to the nearby shop, Bomberman in the large dorm and some episodes of Pink Panther.

Sunday 8 April 2007
0800-2300
Tour: Somerset Levels Day 3 Cheddar to Quantock Hills YH (33 mi)Sunny
9 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath
Typical Levels scenery near Westham
Enjoying the well-equipped playpark at Blackford
View towards the Huntspill River from Gold Corner
The rare sight of a nesting swan
Preparing for the Quantocks ridge track
The beginning of the long Cockercombe climb to the Quantocks
Offroading on the Quantock Hills
Ashley after an unexpected run-in with his chainset
Video footage from today's ride
Sunday was always going to be our hardest day, so we set off early at 9.45. Charles tried to pretend he'd been ready for ages when Michael finally got his panniers fitted, but of course he was only just ready himself despite getting up more than an hour earlier than Michael's dorm!

The Tesco Express was open again despite it being Easter Day, so we bought lunch there and then headed out onto the Levels in brilliant sunshine. We made such good progress to Wedmore that Michael felt there was time to allow Sam's request stop at Blackford play-park. It turned out to be better equipped than the park at Buckfastleigh despite there only being a handful of children in the village, but as Heidi pointed out they probably don't have a computer club and cycling club at Blackford! Matt ended up with a sore back when the person on the other end of his see-saw got off without warning, and Alex spent most of his time sitting in a toddlers' springy butterfly that seemed to be just his size!

When Michael had given out a free Easter egg to each of the youngsters and Charles had thrown in some free chocolates as well we were rewarded with the site of a pair of nesting swans near Westham which seemed to make Zac's day. We passed a couple of the pumping stations that keep the area partially drained of water, including the one at Gold Corner which is sometimes open to the public. It wasn't open today, but the Huntspill River made an impressive sight.

We stopped for lunch on a grassy verge in the attractive village of Cossington, then pressed on to Bridgwater where our fears about closed supermarkets proved well founded. Instead we started looking for a local Tesco Express, and found one in a housing estate just a few minutes from the main road. It was well stocked with everything we needed for our evening meals and left us all very impressed with the Tesco Express network.

The real work of the day still lay ahead, so we pushed on towards the village of Spaxton, stopping only to make a fuss of a flock of lambs that were bleating pitifully on the other side of a gate. The Cockercombe climb onto the Quantocks turned out to be gentle all the way but the younger riders were tired and needed several rest stops. During one of these Michael was standing on a wall overhanging the woodland below and Olly thought it would be fun to give him a little push! Unfortunately Michael wasn't expecting it and quickly found himself off balance and making a forced jump downwards! He wasn't hurt, but when he returned to find Olly he was nowhere to be seen!

We arrived at the top by around 4.45 and made time for a rest and refreshments in the late afternoon sun. Everyone was ready for the promised tracks across the Quantock Hills, so without further delay we set off along the woodland path, the youngsters suddenly having much more enthusiasm than they had on the climb. There were six miles of tacks to negotiate, offering spectacular views to the Somerset coast and the Hinkley Point nuclear power station. Matt got a puncture after already having problems with a pannier jumping off, and was so annoyed with his poor bike that he needed some assistance with the repair!

Quantock Hills youth hostel is located on the side of the Quantocks and can be reached directly from the tracks, but care is required to take exactly the right track otherwise a long detour and climb is required to reach the hostel. The tracks on the ground in this area never match the ones marked on the map, but we still managed to come out at the right spot with the combined efforts of Michael and Charles.

By the time we reached the hostel at 6.50 everyone was ready for showers, food and relaxation. The youngsters had great fun hiding from each other in the darkness outside the hostel, although Matt wasn't quite so happy when the owner of the camper van he was hiding under came out to the van, sat in the seat and tried to start the engine! Suddenly it didn't seem like such a good place to hide!

We finished the evening with mode games of Bomberman. Poor Alex had ended the day having lost his helmet and one of his shoes, but we were beginning to understand that looking after his possessions was not his strongest skill. During the night he called out in his sleep that he'd got no food left - we could just imagine his dream of the various components of his evening meal dropping out of his pannier on the Quantock tracks!

Monday 9 April 2007
0800-1730
Tour: Somerset Levels Day 4 Quantock Hills to Home (18 mi)Sunny
9 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Matt Grute, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Zac McGrath
East Quantoxhead
The grounds of Quantock Hills YH
Watchet
Watchet harbour
Waiting for the delayed trains at Taunton station
Boarding the steam train at Watchet station
Video footage from today's ride
Quantock Hills is one of many youth hostels that YHA have decided to sell in order to raise money. This was to be its last season, so the likelihood was that we would never again be able to stay in this delightful remote hostel. We took many photos and video shots and hoped that perhaps it might be bought by someone who would keep it running as a hostel.

There was a donkey in the neighbouring paddock that was pleased to get our attention before we left at the rather late time of 10.00. We had an easy day though, even having time for the short excursion to East Quantoxhead to see just two ducks enjoying the famous duckpond.

On the road to West Quantoxhead we were amazed to see a unicyclist riding in the other direction, clearly using his machine for distance riding despite the complexities of keeping it balanced. We were impressed - which is more than can be said for Heidi when a young driver performed doughnuts with his sports car on an enormous layby, stirring up clouds of dust that rendered Heidi invisible for several seconds!

Arriving at the attractive coastal village of Watchet we headed immediately for the cafe and were not at all disappointed with the refreshments. Alex had a full ploughman's and the rest had a mixture of milkshakes, cakes and hot chocolates. We then visited the local co-op to buy lunch before riding the short distance along the esplanade to Watchet station.

The station now forms part of the West Somerset steam railway between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard. We had pre-booked our bikes onto the 1248 service to make the journey back to Taunton more manageable - and enjoyable. The train arrived on time with the enormous guard's van ending up right next to where we had been asked to wait. We found an old-style carriage with compartments and spent the 40 minute journey eating lunch and taking videos from the windows.

The final cycle journey from Bishops Lydeard to Taunton was flat and relatively easy, although Michael was confused to see signposts to the town of Cotley St Luke that didn't appear anywhere on his fairly recent map. Sure enough the town was there, and careful comparison with the map showed that it was located on the site of an old hospital. Somebody must have made a fat profit from THAT purchase!

We arrived at Taunton station half an hour early. The 1543 was due to depart from platform 3 and the 1548 from platform 2, so we got ourselves distributed correctly across the two platforms. Unfortunately the 1543 was running a bit late, and the 1548 developed a fault as it was approaching Taunton. When they finally sorted the fault at 1610 so that both trains could enter the station, the station very thoughtfully decided to swap the platforms for the two trains with just a few minutes' notice! We had no choice but to move our bikes, since our train tickets were in family railcard groups of 4 and 5 respectively, but it was a huge rush and the Aclands only just reached their train before it departed. The other group were on the faulty train, and it didn't leave until 1630: we met some very patient parents at Newton Abbot shortly before 1720!

So ended a very successful tour that was blessed with the best possible weather than any cycle tour could ever wish for. Plans are already afoot for another tour in the summer, possibly to the Lake District, so watch out for the details on our website.

Friday 13 April 2007
1900-2115
Evening ride: Staverton
7 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
Our first evening ride of the season took us along Colston Road, where Michael's cousins entertained us with a pony and trap display in their field. At Staverton we called in at the island for stone skimming lessons and then returned via Abham in descending darkness for an hour of computer games at Crofters.

Sunday 15 April 2007
1015-1300
Morning ride: Converted to SocialSunny
2 present: Matt Grute, Michael Jones
Our regular crew all had various excuses for not being out today, and since Matt was still tired from the tour we elected to spend the day at Crofters practicing our skills at the new Command and Conquer 3!

Friday 20 April 2007
1900-2145
Evening ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Sunny start, cold after dark
2 present: Michael Jones, Ben Parker
Ben admiring the view
Fog rising from the water
Fog rolling over the outflow
A pair of Canada geese
The moon watches the scene
Fog rolling over the outflow
With only two of us on the ride we had the opportunity to fulfil Ben's wish of riding to the Avon Dam, something we could not have attempted at this stage in the season with slower riders.

It was a long climb via Dean Hill and Bloody Pool. When we reached Shipley Bridge there were just two cars left in the car park. Michael predicted that they would both belong to couples with dogs, and whilst Ben was for some reason annoyed that Michael made such a prediction, it was nothing to his frustration when it turned out to be correct!

The temperature began to plummet as we approached the dam, and it was this very fact that gave rise to the most incredible sight we had ever seen at the dam. The suddenly cold air temperatures caused a fog to rise off the water and roll over the outflow. It was eerie and yet at the same time magnificent, giving the area an atmosphere that we had never experienced on all our previous visits. A pair of Canada geese gradually emerged from the fog as they moved to the edge of the reservoir, and a bright moon over a red sunset added mysterious effect. This was indeed a very special moment: if we had arrived earlier the fog not have been there, and any later there would have been no light to see it.

We spent half an hour soaking up the atmosphere, then in near-darkness headed back across the open moor to the Abbots Way. Michael's powerful front light proved essential for safe navigation of the downhill track to Cross Furzes and the subsequent descent to Buckfastleigh.

Sunday 22 April 2007
1015-1700
Day ride: Dartmeet (20 mi)Cloudy start, then sunny & hot
8 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Matt Grute, Dennis Ham, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones
The Holne Moor Leat
The youngsters explore the Holne Moor Leat's course under the road near Combestone Tor
The bridleway continues after lunch
The start of the bridleway near Combestone Tor
Enjoying the downhill to Stepping Stones
Some welcome shade
Dennis gets stuck during a tricky hop
Negotiating the Stepping Stones
Alex makes a final leap of faith
Matthew helps Alex pluck up courage
The view of the Dart valley from Mel Tor
Olly and Matt enjoying Dartmeet
Dr Blackall's Drive
The boys find an unexpected Dartmoor letterbox
With a forecast of cloud all day we weren't expecting too much from the weather. After completing the stiff climb to Venford reservoir we paused briefly at the Holne Moor Leat. The water drains out through a large pipe onto the surrounding moorland, and it didn't take the youngsters long to realise that they could look right through to those peering in at the far end!

We followed the bridleway from near Combestone Tor down the hill to the stream at the bottom, arriving just as the cloud was clearing. It made a perfect spot for lunch, with shade for those who wanted it, plenty of fun to be had following the course of the stream, and an interesting valley that required some new Frisbee techniques.

The day now began to feel like mid-summer. We continued along the bridleway to the long downhill across the fields, bringing us to the stepping stones by 1.45. Today, unlike our last visit, the water was low so crossing the stones with bikes was so easy that the youngsters had to find a more challenging crossing nearby. This session of stone-hopping caused some difficulties for Dennis, who got stuck with one foot on two distant rocks, and for Alex who required much encouragement from Matthew before he would finally attempt a rather large leap.

Next stop was the cafe at Dartmeet which offered us cool drinks on the tables by the river. The presence of further stones in the river proved irresistible for everyone, although Dennis and Alex performed such a long and complicated excursion that they ended up stranded on the far bank!

There was time for ice creams, but then we could postpone Dartmeet hill no longer. Even Alex and Dennis did well on the climb after recovering from the shock of finding a dead adder by the roadside.

The outstanding views of the Dart valley from Mel Tor impressed everyone. We sat on the Tor for some time marvelling at the scenery, then Mat discovered a very robust Dartmoor letterbox under a nearby rock. Everyone was fascinated by it, and were pleased to hear that Michael had planned a special letterboxing ride for later in the year.

An exhilarating track descent brought us quickly to New Bridge, where more ice creams prepared us for the climb to Galant Le Bower. The Hembury Slalom track then rounded off what had turned out to be one of the most enjoyable - and hottest - rides of the year so far.

Friday 27 April 2007
1900-2100
Evening ride: Ashburton (11 mi)Sunny and warm
3 present: Charles Acland, Sam Acland, Michael Jones
View from the Terrace Walk
Sam and Charles on the track near Belford Mill
Charles and Sam at the start of the Terrace Walk
Just three of us set off on a wonderful balmy evening along the old road to Ashburton. The interesting paths through the town were all new to Charles, and since he is training to be an architect he was fascinated by the wedged design of Belford Mill, situated in a secluded valley behind Ashburton.

We all loved the track back through the woods, especially Sam who had great fun running up and down the trunk of a felled conifer. We had made such good time that we were able to ride the Terrace Walk along the hill that runs between the two parts of Ashburton, which offered stunning views back up to the Mill. We concluded a perfect evening ride with a climb to Druid and the subsequent descent to Peartree.

Sunday 29 April 2007
1015-1530
Day ride: Bow Creek (23 mi)Sunny and hot
5 present: Charles Acland, Sam Acland, Dennis Ham, Michael Jones, Jordan Knight
Fun on the rope swing, on the Sharpham cycle path
Low tide at Totnes weir
A friendly horse detects food in Michael's pannier
Sharpham cycle path
Jordan wants to take this horse home
Jordan makes a new friend
Crossing the stepping stones at Tuckenhay
The final climb on the Sharpham track
Relaxing in a tranquil meadow not far from Rattery
We made excellent speed along Colston Road were soon enjoying the cycle path from Dartington to Totnes. The tide was out and the river level was so low that the youngsters could walk out to the overspill section of the weir for the first time in many months.

Continuing through Totnes Park and the Plains we quickly joined the Sharpham cycle path, pausing briefly for the youngsters to take two turns each on a death-defying rope swing attached to an overhanging branch on a very steep section of woodland.

Further along the track we met two very friendly horses who captured our attention for a full fifteen minutes. The dark horse had a very good nose for food, quickly deciding that Michael's pannier would be worth very close investigation! Jordan got so friendly with the brown horse that he would happily have taken it home with him.

A final climb through the bluebell-covered woodland brought us to the quiet village of Ashprington, where the play park boasted an amazingly high swing which our youngsters just had to test. We had lunch at the bottom of the hill, by the stepping stones on Bow Creek, then headed along the relatively flat road to Harbertonford. Here the cavernous village stores provided welcome ice creams, which we enjoyed by the riverside.

The return home via Rolster Bridge was completed with the same good speed as the outward journey, although Jordan didn't appreciate the climb from Tigley to Rattery in the now sweltering heat. Everyone loved the downhill from Pennywell however, and we had made such good speed that the youngsters got nearly three hours of computer games to round of an excellent day.

Friday 4 May 2007
1900-2100
Evening ride: Hembury Woods (10 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Charles Acland, Heidi Acland, Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
There was some disagreement concerning the destination for this evening's ride: Sam had decided that everyone should be treated the delights of last week's ride to Ashburton, but Ashley and Ben preferred the familiar territory of Hembury Woods. As we are a junior club we let the youngsters make the final decision, and after much debate they plumped for Hembury.

When we reached the top of the woods Charles and Heidi decided to branch off for their own ride since Heidi didn't really fancy doing a lot of off-road. The rest of us enjoyed the tracks through Hembury, marred only by a slight misunderstanding between Ben and Olly and a puncture in Ben's front tyre.

Sunday 6 May 2007
1415-1700
Afternoon ride: HolneMainly dry
6 present: Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Jordan Knight, Zac McGrath
Preparing for the downhill track through Holne Woods
Jordan on Michael's spare touring bike
Jordan was sporting a new bike at the start of today's ride - a touring bike! Actually it was Michael's spare bike, but Jordan was thrilled with its performance and fully intended to blast past the mountain bikes on every stretch of road.

When Michael had persuaded Olly to overcome his tiredness we pressed on through Scoriton and Michelcombe and spent at least 20 minutes in the play park, doing our best to organise a Frisbee contest. We finally got it going, and declared Olly and Sam the joint winners, but there were at least three occasions when long sticks had to be obtained to retrieve Frisbees from the high branches of bramble-covered trees!

There's a new cafe at Holne, and today for the first time we checked it out. It's not quite as classy as the Old Forge used to be, but the prices seemed very reasonable and Michael said the ice creams were excellent!

We thoroughly enjoyed the rough track descent through Holne woods to River Dart Adventures - the leading riders enjoyed it a little too much and forgot to stop at the junction, thereby missing the final fun section of the track. We concluded an enjoyable ride with a shortcut through River Dart Adventures and the old road to Buckfastleigh.

Friday 11 May 2007
1900-2100
Evening ride: Belford MillDry
6 present: Olly Acland, Sam Acland, Ash Freeman, Alex Harrigan, Michael Jones, Scott Mount
Ashley Freeman performs a jump at Ashburton Park
Scott Mount at Ashburton Park
A repeat shot of the fallen tree from two weeks ago, now rather damp
Alex rides the ford at the head of the Belford Mill track
Sam got his wish tonight as we returned to Belford Mill near Ashburton. As we passed Ashburton Park we noticed that, for once, it was deserted, so we spent a good fifteen minutes doing jumps on the BMX ramps and, in Olly's case, enjoying the swings.

The woodland track from Belford Mill was a bit muddy after the earlier rain, but everyone really enjoyed it and had no regrets about taking Sam's advice. We returned to Buckfastleigh via Tuckers and the railway track, making sure we got back in time for certain youngsters to enjoy a game!

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