Devon Coast to Coast with Kids – Day 1

…well one child anyway!

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Having promised my daughter a camping trip for a while we headed off on Saturday morning to cycle the Devon Coast to Coast route and camp along the way. After studying the route, we decided it would be easier to get a drop off at the Sainsbury’s on the end of Plymouth rather than start at the actual route start on the Hoe. This cut out a lot of trekking into town for the drop off and a lot of fiddly in town riding back out. The added benefit being that the start of the Plym Valley Trail was at the end of an underpass from the Sainsbury’s car park. We also decided to end the trip in Barnstaple as it would be easier being picked up there!

So off we set at 10am, I’m carrying 4 panniers loaded with camping equipment for 2, and a bar bag with all the necessary useful stuff (sun cream for example). Daughter has 2 panniers and a bar bag filled as follows:

  • Pannier 1 – clothes
  • Pannier 2 – Teddies (and a book and her processor charger to be fair to her)
  • Bar bag – sweets

The Plym Valley trail is an old railway that leads all the way up to Clearbrook, just south of Yelverton. It’s a fantastic ride, and daughter loved cycling it. Even though the direction we were going the path is steadily up hill, the shallow gradient and the fact it’s all tarmac’d meant that it was a real pleasure to ride. Other than the views, the highlight for her had to be the Shaugh Tunnel.

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Last time I rode this route by myself the end at Clearbrook was closed, and I was dumped off onto a very steep lane. This time, with a little investment, there’s a nice ramp up to the car park. Still a bit steep and too early in the morning for daughter to want to do anything but walk up it though. Not a problem we had loads of time, and the sun was out. At the top it’s onto the road up the hill to another off road section to Yelverton. She was not convinced cycling up was a good idea, but with a little help from me pushing her we got onto the off road section without stopping.

After a quick stop at the play area in Yelverton it was back on the bikes and onto another off road track, this time The Drakes Trail. Pretty sure this has had an upgrade since I last rode it, as the surface was tarmac the whole length. As well as sloping slightly down to Tavistock this has both the Gem Bridge and Grenofen tunnel. Both big hits with my daughter, especially the tunnel, which was dark, and dripping, and spooky. She loved it.

We decided to take the low route through Tavistock, so after a quick snack stop in the town park off we went through the town centre with the aim at stopping at the Peter Tavy Inn for lunch. I had forgotten to tell her about the bloody huge hill you have to go up to climb out of Tavistock. We ended up walking most of it. Pushing 2 bikes up steep hills is a skill I didn’t think I would develop, but by the end of this holiday I was rather proficient at it. Anyway after the up comes the down, and we were soon back on our bikes cycling to Peter Tavy. After the section of bike path along the A386 and the small hill leading up to the village we got to the pub so late we only just got there in time for lunch food! It’s a lovely little pub though with a nice beer garden and we sat out in the shade eating chips and drinking lemonade.

It was soon time to get on though, we had to get to the campsite before the office closed, so off we went following NCN 27. At Peter Tavy the route follows a bridleway through some fields and over the river before coming out at Mary Tavy. I’d not previously cycled this route as when I’ve done this in the past I’ve always just cut up the back of Tavistock and followed the road to Lydford. This though is the official Devon Coast to Coast route, and as I was doing it with kids I wanted to cut out as many hills and main roads as possible. First let me say this route is very pretty. Second, this is not a road bike route! Daughter is not confident enough to cycle across rough ground so we ended up walking it.

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At Mary Tavy the road heads up again, and I got severely told off by my daughter. I’d said there was only one big hill on day one and we’d had two already. I got asked from this point onward whenever we hit even the slightest up slope whether this was the big hill I had told her about. Whomever taught my daughter sarcasm has a lot to answer for. unfortunately I think that may have been me. Anyway after Mary Tavy you cycle up a shallow hill onto the edge of the moors, and an amazing view over Brentor church.

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At this point there is a choice in route, one stays on road and goes up another hill and the other is quite mysteriously labelled “Summer Route”. As it didn’t have hills this is the way we went. This choice was the followed by a nice half hour walk across moorland. OK, it wasn’t all walking, bits of it was cycle-able across the short grass. Be under no illusions though, this is a not a road friend option. Whilst walking through the gorse, over stream beds, and animal tracks cut into the hillside, at 4pm after cycling 20 something miles, my daughter proclaims “Its a human park!” runs up a hump and jumps off the other side. Children…

Anyway, we got to Lydford (“yes this is the big hill I told you about”. “Yes it is very steep”. “Yes your bike is very heavy”), pitched up at the Lydford Caravan & Camping Park, cooked tea and went to sleep. Very nice site, and camping (other than the entertainment of getting a profoundly deaf child to the loo at 2am without any hearing aids on to a block the other end of the site) went without a hitch.

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