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Spokes Cycle Touring Club

Spokes 2008 Events & Write-ups​  

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Tour d'Devon

Plymouth to Ilfracombe

13th to the 15th August 102 Miles
Organiser Ray Robins

Day 1 - Dave Griffiths's tale...Re-creating the golden era of travel across Devon

This trip was based on the romantic notion of travelling by rail on the route of the Cornish Riviera express to Plymouth, cycling across Devon south to north and completing our circumnavigation by taking the MV Balmoral from Ilfracombe across the Bristol Channel to Penarth and home. It was conceived on a cold and rainy winters nights when the idea of recreating the days of civilised travel in the height of glorious summer seemed just too attractive and 11 like minded souls signed up for the trip.

Needless to say, 6 months later, the August weather was every bit as cold and wet as on that winter night, and the 9 who were travelling by train looked anything but ready for a carefree and leisurely summer as they waited for a flood delayed train to start them on their way on Cardiff station.

But as every private or legionary knows, the most important thing in any campaign is to have a lucky general. And in Ray Monty Robins we had picked a goodun. Not only did our flood delayed train make its connection with the equally delayed train at Bristol, but as we drew into Plymouth , the curtains of rain which had been sweeping over us for the whole of the journey suddenly ceased and in a freak window of weather opportunity we were to encounter only 2 quite weatherable showers in the next two and a half days.

Now every general needs good lieutenants and in Sonia and Dave Miles, Ray had picked the best. It was only thanks to their preparedness to flog up and down the miserable motorways of this country in a hire van that we were able to pick up our bikes from the forecourt of Plymouth station
Thanks to meticulous preparation which characterised the trip, we soon picked up cycle route 27, which was to be our friend and occasional enemy over the next 3 days. The first 10 miles were along a metalled former railway with a gently rising gradient giving us the opportunity to get into a good cycling rhythm and also affording the twitchers among us some views of  peregrine falcons from one sweeping viaduct. Unfortunately BR must have sold off the last 3 miles of the track before Yelverton our afternoon tea stop and we were treated to the first of the abrupt inclines which so characterise the rural lanes of England south of the Avon/Thames line where the ice sheets of the last ice age failed to do their sandpapering.

Now every general needs good lieutenants and in Sonia and Dave Miles, Ray had picked the best. It was only thanks to their preparedness to flog up and down the miserable motorways of this country in a hire van that we were able to pick up our bikes from the forecourt of Plymouth station

and hand them back on Ilfracombe harbour and make the rest of the journey in some style. And so we set off  through the dual carriageways and one ways of Plymouth, with Ray our leader dominant and decisive at the front and Dave Smith his deputy clucking behind like a mother hen marshalling its chicks at the rear.

Day 2 - Pete Kay's tale... Wine, Women and Song

After a night in the flesh pots of Tavistock, well a sort of a flesh pot, OK it had a parrot and sold strong liqueur. Even that wasn't good enough for one who shall be nameless she buggered off to the chippy over the road muttering about cod pieces. Nuff said.

The next morning it was light, so we got up and had breakfast, seemed like the thing to do. Having previously managed a twenty mile ladies day, without too much misadventure; we were all obviously in the mood for something slightly more challenging, however not five minutes into the bloody day with a gut full of porridge, eggs and toast. Tavistocks answer to the mountain phase of 'Le Tour' lay just round the corner from the B&B.

There was the usual blokes belting ahead rather than be shown up by the super fit birds on their carbon fibre two wheeled cyclo-rockets, alas the steal a march ploy was to no avail, there was no losing the bionic, lycra clad amazons, whom it has to be said displayed a level of fitness far beyond that considered decent and sporting in polite society.

In the mean time, that extra Guinness was beginning to make its self felt; all the bravado of the bar had melted away before the tarmac mountain now filling most of the teams view, several miles of lung busting effort, a brief dalliance with a Peacock; totally ignored the blokes yet gave the women the fully courting ritual. If I had known the effect waving a fancy tail around has on the wife, I’d have bought a feather bower years ago..

Stopped for coffee in some one horse hick village, forget the name, might have been Tombstone, the team left their bikes blocking the pavement, pregnant mothers with push chairs looked on aghast. The team then took over the local cafe, to the dismay of the senior citizen locals, I took all sneering down the nose looks on board, be there myself soon, it pays to get it right, don't want these young punks on cycles thinking I'm a pushover when they try to muscle in on my favourite seat in May- Belles tea house (think it's a teahouse).

And so the exodus north carried on, once on the abandoned railway, (a relic of the days when life was a steam driven cruise, it took several days to get the cattle to market and a hard drive was Tavistock to Plymouth before the dual carriageway). The going did become easier, magnificent views across the panoramic splenderrama of the Devonian country side from lofty perches (viaducts) enhanced the enjoyment of the day and it has to be said made the effort seem almost justified. If the idiot that closed the bloody railway had been locked in dark cell far away from civilisation not long after birth, we could have got the same views from the comfort of a sodding railway carriage.

But I digress, there soon appeared upon the horizon nestling on a coastal inlet the picturesque fishing village of Bideford, here the team turned up in a happy go lucky, contented, end of day riot of good will to all men, UNTIL the one shower B&B, it's bad enough standing in queue, standing on a mattress of other peoples pubic hairs and skin flakes trying to sluice off a days sweat and grime will turn the most devout of Quakers to the demon drink, and so it turned out. The team no doubt to rid its self of the horrors of the mattress fell in with a motley crew of Morris dancing (yes dear reader you have read this correctly DANCING) naredowells in a local den of ill repute where it is my sad duty to report they fell prey to the demon drink and who knows what other temptations of the flesh. (Father Christmas was mentioned)

On a serious note, Tavistock to Bideford - 50 odd miles, excellent route, recommend it to all, might go back next year

Day 3 Julie William's tale...Showers, Surfers and Seaside

After all of us eating well the previous night-a mix of chip shop, pub and restaurant meals-and a communal shower in the morning we set off from Bideford at a fast pace alongside the River Taw to Barnstaple. That stretch of the ride and the track from Barnstaple to Braunton(17 miles) was flat and followed old railway lines tight to the banks of the Taw estuary-very good scenery.

We stopped in Braunton for coffee. A busy place offering routes to nearby surfing beaches at Croyde and Woolacombe-hence all the surfing shops on almost every corner. Whilst looking for a coffee shop, a kindly vicar offered to look after our bikes. He was selling plastic ducks for some charity duck-race( I thought they were no longer environmentally friendly).

Well vicar or no vicar we weren't going to trust him with our bikes, he was  trying to raise funds after-all. Sally couldn't resist the home made jam though & immediately put one into Pete's pannier-was she trying to slow him down? As if he had a choice!

Our last 14 miles to our finish at Ilfracombe were in front of us and Ray warned us of steep pulls out of Morthoe. After making our way to Georgeham we had difficulty finding route signs to take us to Woolacombe beach. We eventually got there. But three of our party were understandably thrown by the poor sign posting and made their own way to Ilfracombe. A pity because they missed the delightful pulls out of Woolacombe to Morthoe-very hard. We pushed onto Turnpike Cross and were rewarded by an almost 4 miles downhill run on old railway track to sunny Ilfracombe. There we were met by van drivers Sonia and Dave Miles and Vince, a friend of Rays who was introduced as our Road Manager.

After loading bikes Dave Grififth sorted out an eating place at the prince of wales. Those of us who didn't explore pound shops in Ilfracombe spent the remainder of the afternoon in the pub. We left Ilfracombe at 16.30 hrs on the good ship balmoral at 16.30 to be met at penarth around 19.30 by Dave and our bikes. A good ride an eventful 3 days

Weekender Rides 2008

Church Stretton ..
Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness.. and lots of hills .... a great time was had by all!

Suffolk Coastal Cycle Path 

Sun, Sea and FLAT scenary, what a contrast with the C2C..

Gorgeous Cotswolds

A lovely weekender in Burton on the Water in the Cotswolds.

Ironbridge Event

The magnificent seven - who braved winds and weather on the Saturday but were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day (well apart from the hailstones that is) on the Sunday...

December 14th - 'A bit of a do'

A great time was had by all at  the Christmas bash.

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