Whilst the first day of this holiday was nice and sunny, today was predicted to rain. We got prepared for this and after breakfast in the tent, set off wearing our full waterproofs.
from Lydford the route takes you on to the fantastic Granite Way. It’s only 6 or 7 miles long, but I still think it’s one of the best off road tracks in the south of England. Like most of the Sustrans off road routes though it has it’s quirks. The odd little private bit with a right of way over it, and the one time you have to go under the A30 with two 90 degree turns, but really it’s a brilliant little route.
We set off and were soon onto this route, daughter didn’t seem too phased by the possibility of rain, or tired from yesterday. Which was good as this was going to be our longest day. The distance combined with the weather and tiredness meant that I’d only pegged this day as having about an 80% chance of actually completing. We cracked on though, and with the missing bit of the Granite Way in the middle now filled in and no diversions we soon got to the first sweetie stop at the Church of St Thomas a Becket at Sourton.
Then it started raining heavily. 20 minutes in the pouring rain and we were ready for a stop. Luckily the cafe on Meldon Viaduct was just ahead so we cracked on.
We got to the cafe carriage at around 10:40 ish. No signs to say it was open, but I asked the lady cleaning outside if they were ready and she kindly opened up early to serve us. Unfortunately cash only so the daughter had to miss the salted caramel flapjack and settle for just a hot chocolate. She was most put out and complained all the way through her giant hot chocolate with marshmallows…
From the Meldon viaduct the Granite Way is a nice shallow downhill all the way to Okehampton and even though the rain started up again for a little bit of it, was a rather pleasant ride. Daughter was very happy about not having to pedal too much! At Okehampton though it all turns rather steeply down. A long drop from the train station to the town centre on a car lined residential street. She was not happy with it to start with but by the end had mostly got over it. Trying to explain brake overheating and how not to ride the brakes at the same time seemed to distract her a bit.
The rain cleared up as we cycled through Okehampton and out the other side, which is a good thing as you get presented with a 16% hill which just seems to go on for ever. I got to practice my new skill of pushing two laden bikes whilst trying not to run into my dawdling daughter who’s staring at flowers or sky or random caterpillar… Anyway. A stop half way up for a snack of mini eggs (I got 4. I’d done all the work and I got 4. I still feel cheated 😉 ) and on to the top then its on to Hatherleigh on back lanes. These are all down hill apart from the very end. Various shout of “wohoo” and “this is the best day ever!” from in front of me as she coasted the whole distance. I think she liked this section of the ride!
I find myself ending up trying to explain or discuss very odd things on cycle trips with my daughter. This section of the rides’ topic was “what is an obelisk, why is it that shape, and what are the historical implications”. I should have just called it a monument…
Dropping down into Hatherleigh for lunch, and it started raining. Seems like a ghost town. What type of pub closes for Sunday I ask you? We finally found a place to eat in a lovely little pub called The Tally Ho. Obviously very popular as we ended up perched on a small table under the darts board. Very nice Sunday roast, definitely recommended.
After Hatherleigh its only a few miles to the start of the Tarka Trail. Unfortunately you either follow the official route that takes 9 miles to travel 3 (and goes up a great big hill), or you go up an A road with a 16% climb on it. After umming and arring over the choice for weeks based on the traffic on the day I decided to do the A road. Helpfully there is an off road cycle path up to a cafe, then you only have 2 miles to Meeth. It was a Sunday an we only encountered half a dozen cars. Pushing 2 bikes up a 16% on an A road with an 8 year old walking slowly in front is interesting. I stuck both rear lights on obnoxious brightness setting and set them to flash and apart from my daughter dropping a squishy drum stick and this being “the end of the world” we encountered no problems. Actually from the cafe going north it’s a nice downhill to the river, climb, then nice downhill from the top to Meeth. We made pretty good time.
One of the reasons I wanted to do the Tarka trail from Meeth is that, in my mind, the section from Meeth to Petrockstow station (where the proper route joins the Tarka trail) is the best part of the trail followed a close second by the section from East Yarde down to Great Torrington. This part has a different feel to the rest of the trail, going through some fantastic woodland around the quarry. It’s helped by the fact that, unlike the lower sections around Barnstaple, there is never anyone on it.
My daughter loved this section, the rain had stopped and we were cycling through interesting things. First there was the statue she dubbed Moomin Giant (because it looked like a Moomin, and was tall, and following the naming structure of Moomins – Moom Papa for example. Obviously). Then there were the birds:
Further down we came across the wooden people statues, and it was nice to see these had been repaired since last year, but that was tomorrow. All we had to do today was cycle down the trail to the entrance to Smytham Manor, push up through their site and set up. Another successful day, with over 29 miles done. Daughter was knackered, she swiped my phone and sat watching some animal program on Sky as I wouldn’t allow her it the pool (it was cold windy and raining, but that wasn’t a problem supposedly…) and chilled then she went to sleep rather quickly.