South Dartmoor CTC

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Friday 14 March 2014Social: Sports
5 present: Jack Easterbrook, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Will Rogers
We managed to book two courts in the main hall at Ashmoor tonight for some games of basketball and badminton, but had time for a movie quiz before we left.

Sunday 16 March 2014Morning ride: Skerraton Down (8 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Lawrence Buttress, Jack Easterbrook, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, John Rogers, Will Rogers
The ford at Cross Furzes
A passing place on the track to Skerraton Down
To make the most of the excellent weather we headed up through Dean and past Nurston farm, delayed a little by some members of the group who thought it would be amusing to send Will down the wrong road. We didn’t have enough time now to reach the Avon Dam, so instead we took the bridleway that leads up to the open moor at Skerraton Down. The final climb over the rough moor brought us to the top where the whole of south devon was laid out before us like a map. You could even see the sea in many places, from Teignmouth right around to Dartmouth.

Ash, typically, was running late and finally caught up with us just before the final descent to Cross Furzes. We got back at around 1.10 for the usual after-ride computer games social at Crofters.

Friday 21 March 2014Social: Games evening
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien
Games this evening included some epic 3v3 games on MW3, some sessions on Guitar Hero and some concluding battles on CoD Ghosts.

Sunday 23 March 2014Morning ride: CancelledSunny but chilly
1 present: Michael Jones
With only Michael out today the ride was cancelled. Lawrence had a cold, and so did Michael actually, so it was probably a good thing that nobody came.

Friday 28 March 2014Social: Sports
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Jack Easterbrook, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Will Rogers
Tonight we booked the gym at Ashmoor leisure centre and played a mixture of badminton and basketball.

Sunday 30 March 2014
1015-1330
Morning ride: Totnes cycle path (15 mi)Sunny
3 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones
Ash and Lawrence at Totnes weir
Ash and Lawrence up a tree at Totnes weir
We toyed with the idea of riding to the Avon Dam this morning, but Ash correctly pointed out that it had been raining a lot in recent days so the moorland would probably be quite boggy. Instead we rode along Colston Road to Dartington. A female cyclist came up behind us while we waited at the top of Cumming Hill, got off her bike and pushed down it saying it was too steep for her. We smiled to ourselves as we passed her, thinking we probably wouldn't be seeing her again. In fact she passed us again a litte later while we were chatting and she didn't see US again!

We took the cycle path through Dartington to Totnes, stopping briefly at the weir so that Ash and Lawrence could climb a tree. Michael wanted a café stop but for some reason neither Ash nor Lawrence could be persauded. We contented ourselves with a visit to a fudge shop in the main street, then returned home via Barracks Hill and Staverton for around 1.30.

Friday 4 April 2014Social: Games evening
4 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Will Rogers
After several computer games we finished the evening with a rock music quiz.

Sunday 6 April 2014Morning ride: CancelledWet
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien
At 10.15 it was raining and forecast to continue all day. We decided to cancel the ride and went to Ivybridge leisure centre instead for a couple of hours of badminton, squash and basketball.

Saturday 12 April 2014
0930-2300
Tour: Cornish Coast Day 1 Home to Golant (28 mi)Dry but cloudy
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, John Rogers, Will Rogers
The coast road near Portwrinkle
Torpoint ferry, Plymouth
Refreshments in Downderry
The café in Downderry
The Monkey Sanctuary near Looe
Winter storm damage at Seaton
Track shortcut to Millendreath
One of the Capuchin monkeys in the Monkey Sanctuary near Looe
Arriving in Looe
Entering Looe via the coast path
Knickerbocker Glories at the Tasty Corner café, Looe
The busy streets of East Looe
Waiting for the Fowey ferry at Bodinnick
HD video footage from today's ride
The starting point for our first tour of 2014 was the Plymouth side of the Torpoint Ferry at 9.30am but there were a few difficulties getting there: John headed for the French ferry by mistake, Michael's co-driver turned up half an hour late and consequently Lawrence had to wait on Plymouth station for half an hour. It was 10.00 when we finally boarded the ferry to Torpoint, but everyone was in high spirits.

The first hill to Antony left Callum wishing he had done more training before the tour. The coast road took us through seaside villages with strange names like Crafthole and Portwrinkle, bringing us eventually to Downderry where Michael was surprised to find exactly what he was looking for - a café! It was very respectable too, with an animatronic owl on the counter that hooted at us as we placed our orders. Lawrence embarrassed us by eating a sandwich outside, but he eventually joined us inside for a drink.

We pressed on to Seaton where we discovered that the beach shop that had previously served as a café on these tours had been seriously damaged by the winter storms. With no reason to stop we negotiated the serious climb to the Monkey Sanctuary.

Michael had arranged special group discounts for us, so we were expected as we arrived at the ticket office. The Sanctuary takes in monkeys that have been kept as pets and then either given up by their owners or been removed from their care by the authorities. In years gone by the inhabitants were mainly woolly monkeys, but now capuchins occupy most of the cages. Everyone was fascinated by the talks from the keepers and the antics of the monkeys, including Lawrence who had initially not been too enthusiastic about the visit.

We pressed on down the track to Milendreath at 2.30 and then found ourselves facing a huge flight of steps up the other side. Michael assured us that this short-cut was saving us many miles of road detour, so we set about removing panniers and carrying bikes and then luggage to the top. Callum kindly offered to sit at the bottom for a while to guard John's panniers!

We followed some little roads and lanes to the coast path which finally brought us into Looe by 3.30. The narrow streets were bustling with many visitors making it hard to do anything other than push the bikes. Some of us bought pasties and enjoyed them overlooking the river while others bought ice creams. We all bought some provisions at the co-op and then crossed the bridge to West Looe where Michael knew of a very special café. When we saw the proprietor put up a closed sign on the door we thought we were out of luck, but Michael asked if he would open for six of us and he willingly agreed. Only Ash and Michael took the Knickerbocker Glories, although others wished they had when they saw how enormous they were.

It was now around 4.30 and we still had a fair way to go, mainly through farming lanes. Callum was really beginning to suffer now as he had not been on many rides before the tour, so progress was very slow. We eventually got to the Bodinnick car ferry at 6.55 and then somehow got Callum up the final climb to Golant hostel, arriving soon after 8pm.

Golant hostel is closing permanently next month, being replaced by a new hostel at The Eden Project, so for those of us who have been before this was rather a sad visit. As we were around two hours later than planned we had to rush meals and showers and had limited time for Manhunt in the extensive grounds, but we still managed to have some fun and the large attic dormitory was a great placed to spend the night.

Sunday 13 April 2014Tour: Cornish Coast Day 2 Golant to Boswinger (18 mi)Sunny and warm
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Golant youth hostel from the gardens
Golant youth hostel
Our attic dormitory
The Members' Kitchen
Ash and Lawrence enjoying Nile's bakery / café near St Austell
Golant youth hostel main entrance
Will and Ash on the lifeboat at Charlestown
Callum and Lawrence racing boats at the Heritage and Shipwreck museum, Charlestown
The cycle path to Mevagissey
Inside the museum at Charlestown
Mevagissey harbour
Refreshments at Mevagissey
Mevagissey Bay
Looking back to Mevagissey from Polkirt Hill
HD video footage from today's ride
A farewell video tour of YHA Golant
Fortunately today's ride was to be the easiest of the tour in terms of mileage, giving everyone a chance to recover from yesterday's long day. Michael seemed to be taking endless photographs and video clips around the hostel so the youngsters played with an Eden mini-football they found on the grass and also with the Frisbee.

We left the hostel late at 10.15 in glorious sunny weather and rode the short distance up to the road and down through Par to St Austell. Michael's satnav certainly took us the shortest route, but in this case a slightly longer one would have avoided a nasty little climb in Par.

We went past three cafes because they didn't seem quite nice enough, then found the perfect venue on Holmbush Road. They served a huge range of excellent drinks and cakes as well as bacon baps (for the carnivores in our group), and the environment was modern and clean, so this turned out to be an excellent stop.

After a provisions stop at Tesco we rode the short distance to the village of Charlestown where the Shipwreck and Heritage centre provided a great place to eat lunch as well as an interesting museum featuring lifeboats, galleons, diving equipment, Morse code transceivers and cannons. Callum and Lawrence had some fun with the radio-controlled boats on a three-for £1 deal, although because Lawrence put in his money a minute or so after Callum, his boat kept running out of power half-way through each race!

Will got into trouble for bundling his father and consequently giving John and handful of prickles, but when Ash had removed this with some improvised twig-tweezers we set off up the hill and soon joined the cycle route to Mevagissey. For the most part the route was flat and easy, taking us through interesting woodland alongside the St Austell River, but then a right turn took us uphill through a woodland track which left us hot in the afternoon sun. It soon levelled out though and led down a great track to reach the picturesque fishing village of Mevagissey by just after 4pm.

We just stopped long enough to eat ice-creams and watch some local youngsters fishing in the harbour, then we were off again for the final lap to the hostel. This involved, inevitably, two more steep climbs, but everyone was starting to enjoy them now, even perhaps Callum.

We arrived at the small Boswinger hostel shortly before 6pm as planned so today we had plenty of time for showers and food. Ben, the warden who has managed this hostel for more years than Michael cares to remember, has moved to winters only now, so new warden Jim looked after our needs.

Lawrence was tired and had gone to bed at around 8 when we were planning a walk down to Hemmick beach. After much persuasion he reluctantly agreed to come with us. We had a good deal of fun playing Manhunt amongst the rock formations on the beach, although the near-full moon made hiding a little more difficult.

Monday 14 April 2014Tour: Cornish Coast Day 3 Boswinger to Coverack (31 mi)Sunny and hot
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Offroad shortcut to Portholland
Ready to leave Boswinger YH
The end of the track at Portholland
John does his Tarzan impression on the way to Portholland
On the ferry from St Mawes to Falmouth
Round house at Veryan Green
View across the Helford river from Helford post office
Ready to board the Helford Passage passenger ferry
HD video footage from today's ride
Will managed to annoy everyone this morning by leaving his alarm set for 7.15, but most people managed to doze off for another half an hour before breakfast. We got away by 9.30 as we had a long day ahead of us, and after a steep descent to Caerhayes castle and a short climb we took a coast path shortcut to Portholland to cut off some of the miles to Veryan. We got some great coastal views, and part-way along the flat section we found a rope swing that offered some amusement.

The last bit of the track turned out to be a bit muddy, but we were soon climbing the long hill out of Portholland and eventually reached Veryan Green, famous for its round houses, just before 11am. Maybe the road route would have taken about the same time as it turned out, but the shortcut had been a good deal more interesting.

We were on target for reaching the St Mawes ferry in time for the 12.45 crossing, but that seemed at risk when Michael tried a short-cut route via Pendower that came to a no through road. We ended up having to push our bikes across a beach to meet up with the road on the far side, but overall it turned out better than the main road alternative.

We made good speed on the main road as far as St Just, but then a steep hill left Callum in despair. Fortunately the last two days of riding had done him good, so when Ash started riding with him to boost his morale he suddenly found energy he’d forgotten he had and performed admirably for the rest of the tour.

We reached St Mawes with ten minutes to spare, giving us plenty of time to buy tickets and remove panniers. Carrying the bikes down the steep steps required a bit of care, but the ferry was larger than Michael remembered so there was plenty of space for bikes, luggage and riders. The crossing to Falmouth was chilly despite the brilliant sunshine. We saw two huge navy ships in the harbour: RFA Mounts Bay L3008 and RFA Argus A135.

We spent an hour or so in Falmouth, first eating pasties on the quayside, then getting drinks from the café and finally stocking up with food at Tesco. We had another ferry to catch however so we headed off up the hill to Mawnan Smith in the afternoon heat and reached the Helford Passage ferry by 4pm. This was a much smaller boat, but somehow the ferryman managed to squeeze us all in and get us safely to the other side.

The final leg of today’s journey involved negotiating the network of lanes through to Coverack, but now that Callum was up to speed we had no difficulty arriving on time. Coverack’s sea wall was seriously damaged during the storms in February. Repairs were still underway and the road was closed, so we had to negotiate the pedestrian routes to get through to the hostel road. A short but steep climb brought us quickly to the hostel by just after 6pm.

The hostel had some electrical problems this evening which meant that whilst the bedside lights were working the main room lights and en-suite shower lights were not - those using our shower found John’s torch most helpful.

There was plenty of time for Manhunt tonight in the hostel grounds which provide much entertainment. John found a great hiding place underneath a trailer, then another on top of a landrover (he hadn’t heard the warden telling us the landrover was out of bounds!). Michael found a great place underneath the front of a large Volvo parked in the grassy car park. Unfortunately he chose the wrong car as the owner came back and opened the boot while he was hiding: she viewed him with great suspicion when he emerged from under her car and approached her in the semi-darkness.

Tuesday 15 April 2014Tour: Cornish Coast Day 4 Coverack to Home (21 mi)Sunny and quite warm, slightly windy
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Coverack youth hostel
Coverack youth hostel
Segway fun at Goonhilly Downs
The Arthur satellite dish at Goonhilly Downs
Gweek seal sanctuary
HD video footage from today's ride
Another fabulous sunny morning allowed the youngsters to have fun with a water standpipe in the grounds before we eventually set off at around 10.15. We headed off at good speed for Goonhilly Downs earth station, famous for receiving the first live satellite TV broadcasts from the US in the 1960s and for being a major satellite communications hub for BT for many years. We saw some of the enormous satellite dishes from several miles away, but the site that greeted us when we arrived was rather sad.

The BT signs were still there to greet us, but the placed looked dead. Several large dishes had been removed since Michael last brought a tour here, the visitor centre was closed and the famous Arthur satellite dish, protected by law from demolition, looked like it could do with several coats of paint. We made our way to a side car-park where the Cornwall Segway café was the only sign of life on the site. The owner told us that BT closed the site in 2006 and closed the visitor centre in 2009, just after our last visit in 2008. Apparently the huge dishes were no longer needed for communications. The good news is that the whole site has now been purchased by a group who plan to carry out space research there, so there should be a brand new visitor centre next time we call in.

The café had been expecting us as Michael had booked in advance, and we were all very impressed with the quality of the home-made cakes and drinks. They offer Segway tours around the site for £30 but had agreed to offer us a shorter 45-minute tour for £15 just in case any of our group fancied a bit of fun. After much deliberation and calls home to secure additional funding, everyone fancied a bit of fun. We had to put on loads of safety clothing and then did some practice work on the segways in one of the car parks. They cost £6000 each and have so many giro stabilisers inside that they remain upright no matter what the rider does. To make them move you just have to lean forward: the more you lean the faster they go. At first there was a 50% speed limiter, but once that was removed they really were a great deal of fun. We did a short tour around the site and then finished with team races and obstacle courses in the car park outside the café. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our tour, with everyone having a great time.

We finally set off again at 12.55 and rode the short distance to the village of Gweek. Michael had negotiated a special entry rate to the seal sanctuary there and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours looking at the many seals, sealions and penguins and enjoying lunch on the picnic tables. Feeding time was definitely the most interesting part, although viewing the creatures underwater from the viewing portals was also fascinating, especially when one of the seals followed the provided toy fish wherever we moved it. Michael had a run-in with a seagull over lunch: the annoying bird took off from a nearby wall while Michael was looking the other way, grabbed a huge chunk of his pasty right out of his hand and then landed on the ground where it promptly devoured the lot.

At 3pm we set off for the final leg of the tour to Camborne rail station. There was a lot of uphill but it wasn’t too steep and we made good progress. This part of Cornwall, away from the busy coastal areas, seemed to be rather dead. Poldark tin mine, supposedly a famous tourist attraction, looked permanently closed despite its website suggesting it was open. King Edward mine near Camborne was also closed until May, but we were able to follow some of the tramway routes into Camborne.

We arrived at the station just after 5pm and walked into the town to find some food. All we found however was a Costcutter, which had no hot food, and a Kebab shop. We made do with what we could find, then waited on a chilly station platform for our 6pm train. The bikes had to go in coach B at first since the platform at Camborne isn’t long enough for the whole train to fit – we had to jump out at Helford to move them back to the power car.

The guard on this train was really friendly. Another cyclist at Redruth, who had not booked his bike on the train, rushed his bike up to the power car and put it in one of the six bike spaces. The guard, however, promptly removed it and said we should have the six official spaces because we actually booked in advance!

The journey back to Totnes was occupied with games and refreshments. Everyone was collected from the station by parents and friends when we finally arrived at around 8.15, marking the end of another eventful tour. We had been fortunate enough to have good weather every day of the tour, so it’s not surprising that we had a lot of happy memories to take home with us.

Friday 18 April 2014Social: Supermarket Special
3 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Will Rogers
With many away for Easter and others supposedly "recovering" from the tour the three of us used the evening for a combination of a supermarket trip and a music quiz featuring songs from the 1990s.

Sunday 20 April 2014Morning ride: Converted to SocialWet
3 present: Michael Jones, Will Rogers, Alastair Shapland
Easter Day this year turned out to be a bit miserable: the light rain of the early morning only seemed to get heavier as we waited for it to stop. In the end we decided to abandon the ride, and since leisure centres were all (annoyingly) closed for Easter we contented ourselves with an easter egg hunt and games social at Crofters.

Friday 25 April 2014
1900-2200
Social: Sports evening
5 present: Jack Easterbrook, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Will Rogers
Our evening started with trampolining at Crofters, then moved to Ashmoor leisure centre for basketball and badminton. We finished at Crofters with a short music quiz.

Sunday 27 April 2014
1015-1345
Morning ride: Holne (9 mi)Sunny periods and showers
6 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, George Rogers, John Rogers, Will Rogers, Alastair Shapland
George, Alistair and Ash up a tree at Hembury Fort
The group outside Holne café
Ash and Alistair after riding the Hembury slalom
A nasty little shower forced us to take shelter at John's house on the way out to Buckfast, which proved fortuitous as Ash was able to persuade George to get off his computer and come cycling with us. Encouraged by this success Ash also tried to rouse Callum, but locked doors ended all such hopes.

We rode past Hawson Court to Scoriton but here another little shower wetted us nicely by the time we had climbed the steep hill to Holne café. Here, however, we received a very warm welcome: the café had been closed for refurbishment for several months and the staff were very relieved to see that we had not abandoned them. The cakes were even better than last year. Will, of course, had scones and cream.

The sun was out again so we rode up to Hembury Fort where there was a bit of tree-climbing from the younger members. Ash and Alistair decided to ignore warnings of mud after the recent rains and rode down the slalom track through the woods. When they emerged at the bottom they were plastered in mud from head to foot but didn't seem bothered about it.

A final shower on the way home stopped, typically, just as we reached Crofters. The afternoon gave us a chance to look at some of the video footage from the Easter tour.

Friday 2 May 2014
1900-2200
Social: Games evening
4 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, George Rogers, Will Rogers
Will and George wanted to make use of their free trial copies of Call of Duty this weekend so they thoroughly enjoyed playing several games with Michael and later Ashley (he was late) before finishing the evening with a music quiz.

Sunday 4 May 2014
1015-1430
Morning ride: Avon Dam (12 mi)Sunny and quite warm with light cloud
7 present: Lawrence Buttress, Jack Easterbrook, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, George Rogers, John Rogers, Will Rogers
The rocky slabs under the water were a bit slippery
George ready to wade the Avon near Shipley Bridge
The group at the Avon Dam
George, wet but still cheerful
The Abbots Way at Water Oak Corner
Heading across the boggy moorland towards the Abbots Way
Jack tries to cross the ford at Cross Furzes
Five started out from Buckfastleigh but by the time we reached Shipley Bridge we were seven: Ash had been late and had picked up Will on the way in his car. Just for once the presence of a support car was helpful as George needed a boost to get up the hills.

Once ice-creams had been consumed and Ash had demonstrated some of his flips we headed up the riverside access road, pausing at a popular picnic spot so that George could wade across to an inviting-looking rock. Unfortunately the rock slabs under the water were green and very slippery, so he didn't even make it to the first staging rock before getting a thorough wetting. Fortunatley Jack had a spare pair of shorts to lend him.

We had a chocolate break on the grassy bank overlooking the dam, then set off along the moorland path towards the Abbots Way bridleway. One or two patches were a bit boggy after the recent rains, but everyone got through eventually. A short climb brought us to some spectacular views across South Devon, then the real fun began with the moorland descent to Cross Furzes.

Ash always loves this ride, but today he somehow managed to cut his left shin on a pedal. He wanted to get it sorted at the hospital so sped off as fast as he could go to reach the car in Buckfastleigh. Unfortunately he then got a blow-out on some rough rocks, so cycling was now out of the question. He walked up to Cross Furzes and got a lift from there with a relative while the rest of us returned to Buckfastleigh for a games social after what had turned out to be a very enjoyable and eventful ride.

Friday 9 May 2014Social: Games Evening
4 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, George Rogers, Will Rogers
After some indecision the participants elected to stay in for an evening of computer games and music quizzes.

Sunday 11 May 2014
1015-1345
Morning ride: Landscove (11 mi)Sunny spells with occasional showers
3 present: Jack Easterbrook, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien
Halfway along the footpath to Sparkwell
Callum and Jack at Hillside Garden Centre
Jack negotiates water on the Kingston bridleway
Nearing the road on the Sparkwell footpath
Top of the climb on the Kingston bridleway
The forecast showers were absent at the start of the ride so we set off up Green Lane with a view to calling in to the Hillside garden centre café if conditions deteriorated. As we neared Landscove Callum was feeling a little ill so we called in to the café first and enjoyed excellent cakes while the sun shone outside!

We were heading in the Staverton direction when Michael noticed an interesting footpath heading off to the left. The others agreed it looked fun so we set off on a bit of an adventure to see where it went. The woodland offered some shelter from our first shower of the morning, then after passing a footpath sign located right in the centre of a field and negotiating some nettles on an overgrown section we finally came out on the lane near Sparkwell.

Everyone had enjoyed that, so when we found another track to explore just around the next corner everyone was up for it. Some large puddles in the lower reaches provided a few challenges, then on the climb while taking shelter from a heavy shower under an ancient tree we noticed the hedgerow was riddled with animal burrows of all sizes.

When we finally emerged near Kingston Callum had a puncture, but now the sun was out so fixing it was no great hardship. We soon found our bearings, descended to Staverton and then returned via Hole Farm and Caddaford.

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