I had a few days spare holiday so took 2 days off and decided to cycle from Plymouth home. This was in October last year by the way, I just haven’t bothered to update here since then!
The tour was also the first time I have cycle camped, and gave me the opportunity to test my new dynamo lights and USB charging port.
So Monday I had an exam for my MSc in Computing the the Open university. I rushed this to get to the train in time (and failed, though passed on the resit…) and got down to Plymouth at about 2pm. The route through Plymouth city centre is actually pretty poorly signposted to the Hoe, in the end I just headed along the shopping precinct. I think I was ok to do that!
from the Hoe you pick up the official coast to coast trail, which crosses over the river to go through Saltram park. It’s very pretty, but the surface is appalling. I was quite glad at this point I was on my touring bike rather than my audax one!
After Saltram you sort of get dumped back into industrial Plymouth. you go under the A38 dual carriageway, get signposted the wrong way down a slip way onto the B3416, past industrial units, then up the side of a carpark, before hitting the off road Plym Valley trail. If I were to recommend anything here, it would be – if you can get dropped off and start the coast to coast at Plymbridge station. From this point the route is lovely.
This was the first time I’d ridden the Plym valley trail, and it’s really attractive. It may be faster to Yelverton to go straight up the A road, but the trail is hard to beat for a combination of traffic free, beautiful scenery. It’s also tarmacked almost the full length so not hard going at all. Well, that is until I hit the diversion before Clearbrook. As I understand it the trail was still being sorted out, so you get shunted onto a country lane. All fine apart from the really steep hill going into the village after which its back onto the old railway line into Yelverton. I think if you ignore the Plymouth start, this is one of the best off road trails in the south west.
From Yelverton its onto Drakes trail which I’ve done previously. Highlights are the Gem bridge and the Grenofen tunnel. You can read my thoughts on this in previous posts!
I followed the low route through Tavistock this time round. I think I prefer the high route over the viaduct in the town. I also took a slightly different route out of town this time, following the road up, past the golf course and past Bentnor tor. Whilst its a good road, and significantly better than the A road, it just seemed to take for ever. It did last time I did it as well…
After finally arriving at Lydford it was straight onto the Granite way. still may favourite trail, made even better by having the missing bit it the middle finally completed. Just wish they would upgrade the permissive access bit halfway along.
It was getting quite late so I pushed on through Okehampton and on to my stay for the night, the campsite at Appledore Park. By the time I had set up my tent and cooked it was dark, so a quick shower later it was off to bed. The campsite by the way is highly recommended. Hot showers, good value, nice pitch.
My tent was a bit of a crappy Eurohike one, a Kent, which actually whilst being roomy enough to put my bike in the porch, weighed about 5kg. I liked the design, but the weight was rather too much! I seriously contemplated just binning it after the night just to reduce the weight, but in the end packed it up and stuck it back on the bike in the morning.
Day 2 started off well. porridge made, tea had, camp struck all in a reasonable amount of time. I was rather impressed with the new MSR micro rocket I had picked up for the trip. Even though it’s of the lightweight blowtorch style I was able to turn it down and cook porridge without burning.
Anyway, the planned route for the day was the B3215 to the A3072, turn off just after North Tawton, across country to Morchard Bishop, then onto the old turnpike through, Black Dog, Puddington, Pennymoor, and Withleigh, down the big hill into Tiverton, pick up the canal as far as you can go, then follow NCN3 into Taunton. With a little tweak this would be a really good route as it’s not massively hilly, or very busy.
So off I set. It started to shower throughout the morning. First stop was in Morchard Bishop. The local shop has a little cafe attached to it which served some of the best cakes and coffee, I had 2 (obviously just for the energy). The old turnpike is a brilliant ride. It was generally straight, and running across the top of the hills gives a brilliant view of the surrounding countryside. Then I went past a dead end sign. I wasn’t bothered, I’d mapped this, and Google said I could. On I cycled down a huge hill. Hedges getting bigger and more wild. Finally at the very bottom of the valley the road ended. Over a pretty bridge and on the path went on the other side. A stony lane going very steeply up the hill side. I didn’t want to go back so I pushed the bike up. It was pretty, it was rustic, it was a massive pain in the arse. Seriously take the left turn onto Cruwys Morchard Mill lane onto the B3137. It may be a mile or so longer, but it’s a whole lot easier!
Anyway, big hill down into Tiverton, stopped at the Canal Tea rooms for lunch. Just put the bike under cover and sat down and the heavens opened. It stopped when I finished my lunch. Like I’d ordained it or something.
Tiverton canal cycle path is mainly mud at this point, but it was fine on the touring bike. Apart from the bridges where it gets really narrow, its a lovely route. I’d recommend it, though not sure how the guys I past using Ice trikes were dealing with them!
From there it was past Cothay Manor (closed), back onto the roads I cycle most weeks and home.
95 miles all told. Successful trial of cycle camping. I missed having drop bars though and will see if I can change the tourer back.