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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

2014 Biking Weekend - The 1001 Hills of North Devon

The 2014 biking weekend was (extremely well) organised by Liz & Paul and we were based in the very quiet (and hilly!) village of Trimstone, not so much a village as just the manor house and some narrow country lanes. Having spent a lot of weekends (5 at the last count!) on reconnaissance missions Liz & Paul had an intimate knowledge of the area and the chosen venue for the weekend, The Trimstone Manor Country House Hotel, was an excellent choice. Newly decorated rooms, lovely gardens, lots of nooks and crannies, swimming pool, games room and plenty of space in the bar and restaurant for us to have a good time and not annoy too many of the other guests.


Trimstone Manor

Kevin the Peacock

The Gardens



The plan was for a short 10 mile ride on Friday afternoon, a long 30 miler on Saturday and a walk around the cliff tops of Ilfracombe on Sunday morning. Liz had also mapped out some nice walks for Jo, Janet and Veronica who weren't biking.


Those who attended this years event were Gary & Janet, Dick, Liz & Paul, Sue, Carolyn, Jo, Ed & Jan, Ian & Veronica, Colin & Trish and newbies Pete & Terri. Unfortunately several folk couldn't make it this year; Steve with a very bad back (sick note accepted, get well soon mate), Deb still upset by the death on Thursday of their Beagle and Rod & Jo who went on a "boot camp" weekend to Barcelona, they should have come with us, cheaper, more fun and just as much exercise!


Having organised everything else so well Liz & Paul also managed to get us some fantastic weather for the weekend, it was sunshine all the way.


Friday 16th May


With work (what! teachers, oh ok!) delaying some people getting there till the evening a smaller group arrived for lunch and the Friday afternoon ride, those there were Gary & Janet, Dick, Liz & Paul, Sue, Carolyn, Ed & Jan, Ian and Trish. We had a very nice lunch on the lawn surrounded by great views and brilliant display of flowering shrubs. However the service was a tad slow which should have rung alarm bells about that evenings dinner with whole group present. Lunch was also washed down with several pints of the local Wizard Brewery ale, two barrels of which (Phoenix & Thirst Borne) had been especially brought in for our consumption over the weekend.


All bar Janet, who spent the afternoon painting (see right), were cycling in the afternoon and after the usual fettling and last minute adjustments we set off on a short 10 mile ride around the local villages, "see you in a couple of hours Janet" said Gary, should have known better! 400mts up the road there is a loud pop and the unmistakable sound of air escaping from a tyre, GB and Ed look at each other "is that you or me?", actually it was neither of us as 20mts ahead Carolyn came to halt with a completely flat front tyre. GB, Ed and Paul stayed to help Carolyn while the rest of the group waited further up the road. Unfortunately it wasn't a simple puncture as inspection of the inside of the tyre showed it to be threadbare and the inner tube had come thru the tread! Having just had her bike serviced at Westham Cycles Carolyn was not best pleased. However the offending inner tube was cut up and glued to the inside of the tyre before a new inner tube was inserted which thankfully lasted the rest of the ride. While fixing the tyre the cows in the adjacent field took a liking to GB and Ed's handle bars and started licking them! What could be so tasty in rubber grips with ground in sweat and dirt is anyone's guess.


Fixing Carolyn's puncture and tyre

Cows find our bikes tasty

Waiting for Godot? No, just Carolyn!





At Willingcott Cross we went straight past a pub (what!!!!) to pick up a BW (bridleway) called Pennywell Lane to Spreacombe. The track was steep, fast and deeply rutted, looked like good fun! GB and Ian shot off down the path bouncing around the track to avoid the ruts before stopping at the bottom just in time to see Liz come around the last bend and land in heap on the floor of very stony trail. As she wasn't moving much Ian went back and helped her walk down, a very painful hip and bloody arm were the result of the crash and she looked very shaken (but not stirred) by the unplanned dismount. As the others arrived in dribs and drabs at various speeds the first aid kits were broken out and the local folk at Spreacombe Manor cottages also came out to help. Patched up and more than a little sore Liz eventually got back on her bike and said that she would do the rest of the ride.





Post ride photo of Liz's bruised hip


From Spreacombe we took a few country lanes and BW's to pop out on the (very busy) A361 at Stony Bridge. Getting across the A361 to the next BW proved difficult with the fast moving traffic. Three of us were over the road and making our way up the very steep trail when there loud shouts from below. Apparently a BMW (what else! Could it be the same cock that we encountered on the Isle of Wight last year?) had overtaken a line of oncoming traffic leaving three riders stuck in the middle of the road. Thankfully everyone got across unscathed. The steep track proved too much too ride and we hiked up to the top where Dick discovered he had a flat tyre. While Paul and Dick repaired the puncture the rest of the group lounged about in the grass on the warm and sunny hill top. Two inner tubes later, the first one was leaking around the valve, the bike was repaired and we set off for Halsinger Down.


Arriving at the top of the hill

Ian gets some zzzz's while Dick fixes his puncture

Ed gets some zzzz's while Dick fixes his puncture

Dick arriving with his puncture

Some walk, some ride!


The girls take a break

2nd attempt at the repair

Paul tries make a phone call on an inner tube!


Less than halfway round the loop, two punctures, a major crash and a near major incident on the A361.


It was now a 1.5 mile drag up a seemingly never ending hill to get over to West Down. When we finally all made it to the top it was a short steep descent into West Down before picking up a BW (Trimstone Lane). The lane consisted of very narrow ruts, occasionally covered in a couple of inches of slimy mud and with nettles and brambles reaching out to grab at arms and legs. Oh what fun we had as the curses echoed across the hill. Everyone was muddy, cut and stung, especially Dick whose blood thinning drugs made even the smallest cut look like something from a horror movie. At the end of the trail it was short run back across the A361 to the hotel for beer, showers and dinner. The "short" ride had taken somewhere in the region of 3 hours, this didn't bode well for the following days 30 mile jaunt!


A bit wet on some tracks!

Ian gives Dick an early bath >>>>>>>



Showered, refreshed and ready for the evening we made our way to the bar for the 20:45 dinner. Those upstanding pillars of the community, the teachers, Jo, Veronica, Terri and Colin, had arrived, oh and Pete was there as well. At 21:00 we were still in the bar, very hungry and running up large bar tabs. We did finally sit down at 21:30, but the slow delivery of the food meant that we didn't finish eating until around 23:00. However the long gaps between courses meant that there was much time for jollity, japes and drinking.



Friday afternoons route - 10 miles and 1636ft of climbing


Saturday 17th May


It only seemed a few hours since we sat around the table for dinner and here we were back again for breakfast. Liz had been to the hospital at 06:00 where she was pleased to hear that her hip was only bruised with nothing more serious. She then announced we would be leaving at 09:30! "No chance of that happening, 10:00 at least" said GB and for once I was right. While most of us were at breakfast, at 09:00 Ed went off to find to Pete & Terri as they hadn't appeared yet and they had a spare tyre for Carolyn's bike. He found them fast asleep! They appeared in the dining room at 09:15, so much for the 09:30 start then.


Breakfasted, sun cream applied, fettling done and ready for the day we assembled in the garden for a "team photo" before leaving at 10:00 (I told you so. GB).



Janet & Jo ready for their hill top walks

Liz resting her hip before the off

Trying to get the group photo together

Ed sets up the camera

Photo shoot over, lets go!

"Wake me up before you go go .........."

Colin counts his pocket money

Liz shows off her bruises from Friday

Pete's new cycling shoes and Terri's pristine trainers with Paul's muddy boots, theirs would look like this soon!


Dick, Pete, Ian, Veronica, Carolyn, Liz, Trish, Jan, Paul, Sue, Terri, Jo, Janet, Colin, Gary, Ed


From the high point at Trimstone we headed out again to Willingcott Cross before picking up a disused railway line (1874-1970) now a cycle track. This gave us a very pleasant 4-5 mile descent into Ilfracombe, over Lee bridge and past the Slade Reservoirs, held in place by two massive dams, and into the outskirts of town. We then picked up a BW, Langleigh Lane, which took us up (very steeply up) out of town, past the seven hills of Torrs Park to Blue Mushroom. The views of the coastline were spectacular, rugged cliff and lots of small inlets and bays. We then descended a very steep road into Lee where we stopped to let the brakes cool down accompanied by the smell of burnt pads and sound of ticking discs.



Pete and Gary


A bit of a slog to the top

Ian and Pete

A short break to take in the views at the top

Ian and Ed

Hazel Bushes Bay

A selection of the many of the many photos we took while passing across the open grassland cliff tops of Langleigh Lane

Ian takes in the view







The downs, to seas level, and the ups ,back onto the cliff tops, were to be the theme of the day and would be repeated many times.


From Lee (photo of the harbour left) it was steep road and then track climb past Damage Hill to Damage Barton via damaged legs and damaged lungs! At the top we descended by road into Mortehoe, from there we went down the Alpine Descent past Sharp Rock onto the beach at Woolacombe sands.







Pete stops for a break half way up damage hill

Liz goes past Paul on the tarmac section

Paul you're making this look worse than it is!

Gary and Sue show Paul how its done


As we had been good boys & girls we were allowed to have a beer stop at the Red Barn pub in Woolacombe, which was just as well as GB noted we had past 3 perfectly good pubs and a cream tea shoppe in Mortehoe!

Woolacombe Beach

Terri on the tarmac above Woolacombe Beach

GB fly's past the ladies

"Look mum no hands"


Beer stop over we headed out of town via Marine Drive which is between Woolacombe Down and the sand dunes leading to the beach. At the end of the beach we went thru Putsborough and into Croyde for the lunch stop at the Manor House pub where we met up with Janet, Jo and Veronica who were doing a walk from there. The pub was very nice and we sat in the garden bathed in sunshine for a couple of beers and lunch. As there was a table football game on the patio area GB & Pete took on Ed & Ian. There was much shouting and hysterical laughter as GB & Pete won both matches (5-4 & 6-3) aided and abetted by many own goals from Mr Summer's defenders!


Colin and Paul discuss hedgerow plants while Dick listens intently

Liz shows Jan the "flat" way back to Trimstone

Ladies that lunch


After lunch we split into 3 groups; the walkers going one way, the roadies (Jan, Carolyn, Trish, Colin, Dick, Terri) biking back via a shorter road route and MTB'ers (GB, Ed, Liz, Paul, Ian, Sue, Pete) continuing with the longer off road route. I cannot comment on any events that happened with the walkers or the roadies, but they all made it back safely without any incidents of note, as far as I am aware.


The off road gang headed off to Forda and via Lobb Hill and some country lanes to Nethercott. From Nethercott we took a BW, Castle Lane (steep and rough according to the cycle map), down to the A361, crossing it a mile or so south of Saturday's incident. Once across the road a steep track (read - for ramblers only!) and a couple of lanes took us up to Boode and then north to Beara Down.


Photos below: Pete, Ian, Ed and Paul emerging from the steep walk up towards Boode.



Pete kept us amused but forgetting to get out of his new SPD's and falling over with his bike (photo right). The BW from this point is about 2-3 miles up a stony track to Burland Cross, up hill all the way a bloody long grind to the top. On the track we were surrounded by the 22 (3 megawatt each) wind turbines of Fullabrook Wind Farm which meet about a third of North Devon's electrickery demands.


At Burland Cross Sue found she had a puncture (photo left) and for the only time any of us can remember muttered the immortal words "Oh F*cking Hell!!", there was stunned silence, the birds stopped singing, the insects stopping chirping, some tumble weed blew thru the lane where we stood. The silence was broken only when we fell about laughing.


The originally planned route had us going north to Hore Down, but instead we took a rough footpath thru Crackaway Barton (gotta luv the Devon village names), over a couple of stiles, across a stream and down a steep road into West Down where we waited for Paul to catch up. After a few minutes he hadn't arrived so someone went off to look for him and found him pushing his bike and holding his chain!


A new link got Paul going again and we said goodbye to Sue who was taking the road back as she didn't want her bike to go thru the muddy lane where we were going.


Pete unable to release his new SPD's falls in a heap on the trail up Lobb Hill, rookie mistake!

The offending SPD shoe!

Enjoying the view looking out over Saunton Sands,
Braunton Burrows and Braunton Town

<<<<<<<<< Paul finds a new tyre to repair Sue's puncture


Paul at the top of another lung busting climb!,
Shame they didn't make the helmet in his size! >>>>>>>>>>>>


Ed tries his pointing technique to
fix Paul's bike! He should know by
now that this never ever works.

Liz looks for a short cut (i.e. non muddy) route home for Sue.

Pete's Tool
"Terri, please take note that these are
expensive and shouldn't be left around
for other people to pick up!", said Pete

Shouldn't that be on the bike Paul?


We now climbed out of West Down to Cheglinch, crossed the A361 (again!) past Twitchen farm where Liz said we should look for a BW on the right, which didn't sound right unless the road did a complete u-turn. Sure enough she had got her lefts and rights mixed up (c'mon she's a girl!), but given the pain she was obviously in she was forgiven and we took the BW on the left back to Trimstone. It should be noted that at this point our bikes and ourselves were fairly clean, not for much longer though. The track was rutted and narrow, but fairly fast until we got to the last bend where a hedge to hedge, deep, long and very muddy puddle was lurking. Ian and GB managing to peddle thru without mishap and with clean boots, however Ed missed GB's track by a few centimetres and found himself stuck fast up to his wheel hubs in mud and with no option but to walk out. Liz and Pete just gave up and walked thru, but Paul to his credit rode thru and keep his feet clean and dry (but not for long! Pete).



The Puddle. Unfortunately there are no photos of Mr Summers stuck up to his hubs and having to walk out.






Paul gets a soaking from Pete >>>>>>
"Well there was bucket of water and a ready made victim, well you would wouldn't you", Said Pete


A short downhill spat us out right opposite the hotel entrance and we came to a skidding halt to the slightly bizarre sight of Janet, Jo and Carolyn in white fluffy bath robes walking across the car park coming back from the swimming pool.


Saturday's ride completed without any majors mishaps and almost exactly as planned. Having looked at the map of area it had been hard to see where we would do much off road riding, but Liz & Paul did a fantastic job of finding all the available BW's and linking them together into what will be remembered as one of the best Saturday rides we have ever done.


Saturdays Route


Part 1 Trimstone to Wollacombe

Part 2 - Woolacombe to Fullabrook Down

Part 3 - Fullbrook Down to Trimstone

Saturdays Route - 29 miles & 4000ft of climbing


A post ride bike clean up was called for before they were loaded back into the cars. With buckets of water and the hose pipe connected the bikes were cleaned. Pete couldn't resist throwing a bucket of water over Paul's bike while Paul was kneeling next to it, so riding through the last big puddle without getting wet was a waste of time in paul's case!!


Dinner was arranged for 19:00 so a quick wash and brush up before getting back to the bar again. The waitress service was very good compared to Friday evening. We sat down almost on time and each course came out promptly so we were all eating at the same time. There was a discussion over dinner about Samphire, the "salty veg of the sea" that arrived with Colin's fish course, if you want to know more click the link.


In between courses there were speeches (the usual waffle and bs!) and presentations to be done.


The Golden Peddle - Awarded by Paul:

There were several nominees, mainly Liz, but the winner is .............. Sue for her totally unprecedented outburst of foul and abusive language

There was a great moment when Sue bowed down in front of Paul for him to put the peddle around her neck, however to the rest of us it looked like she was about to do something totally different, I think she is probably still blushing! Unfortunately there are no photos of Sue with the Golden Peddle as we were all laughing too much.



The Golden Helmet - Awarded by Dick:

Again there were several nominees, again mainly Liz, but the winner is .................. Pete & Terri for the worst case of oversleeping ever seen on a biking weekend




Gordon's Goblet - Awarded by Ed:

This is a new "trophy" in memory of Gordon Pollard, a regular on past biking weekends, and created by Ed the Turner. It replaces the awful wine bottle holder that will now remain with the Lewis's in perpetuity as Liz was the last winner.

Yet again many nominees, yet again mainly Liz, but the winner is .......................... Jan for overcoming her serious injury of a year ago and biking again this weekend



How Liz came away empty handed is a mystery to all, perhaps only Chelsea and Liverpool fans will understand.


After dinner we adjourned to the bar where Mr Sumby pulled out his Ukulele (oh er missus!) and entertained us with a few songs "a la George Formby". He also led a dance (!) of Father Abraham after which many tired minds and legs decided it was time to call it a day and headed off to bed. However Dick and Paul stayed up till late drinking the Talisker single malt with Liz who was making up for lost time after staying sober (relatively!) on Friday night.


Father Abraham led by Ian


Click the picture to see a short video of Ian's performance of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport"





Sunday 18th May


Breakfast on Sunday was a bit of a mess as the waitress seemed incapable of taking orders correctly and lots of plates arrived missing something or with something not wanted or in Ed and Trish's case nothing at all! On the plus side Pete & Terri made it down before last orders.


We said goodbye to Dick and Sue who had to head back to Dorset and the rest of us settled bills, loaded cars and headed to Ilfracombe to see the Damien Hirst statue, Verity, and take a long walk around the cliff tops. No names, but someone got away with a very "light" bill, they were last seen running to their car to get away as quickly as possible. There was a debate on this subject over lunch and I don't think that we have heard the last of this. To be continued I think.


After parking in the harbour car park we had a look at Hirst's "interesting" statue of Verity before walking out to the cliff tops.


The weather was great as were the views and we spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering thru the countryside with Colin's occasional interjection to point out some obscure hedgerow plant like 'Purple Flowering Jumping Jack Campion Down by the Hedgerow'.



The Sunday Morning Ramblers

sunday ramblers

Back Row - Jan, Veronica, Jo, Janet, GB, Carolyn, Trish, Pete
Front Row - Ian, Paul, Liz, Ed, Terri
Behind the Camera - Colin

A selection of Sunday morning photos.

We did that trail on Saturday

"Where's Lundy Island again?"

Ramblers Association

Janet with Capstone Hill in the background


A quick nap before we leave on Sunday Morning

Pity you can't see the long drop on the left!


Back at the harbour car park Colin & Trish decided to head home to Dorset and Ian & Veronica wanted to look around town a bit more, having said our goodbyes the remaining 8 of us headed out of town to a pub called Cook Island for a final beer and lunch. Having got there and had a look around outside at the pub, its clientele and the bouncy castle full of kids there were two comments, "A bit chavy isn't it?" said by several people and "Can't drink in a pub that's got a bouncy castle", so said Ed.


So we left and went to the Williams Arms instead, just south of Braunton. A pub for grown ups, where they serve good beer, did a nice lunch and didn't have a bouncy castle! Leaving the pub an hour or two later we went our separate ways back to Dorset.


And so ended the 9th Biking Weekend in the current series.


Mentioned in Dispatches:

Anything else missed or erroneous please let me know, as I get older the misteaks are going up at an exponential rate.


As next year is the 10th Anniversary Biking Weekend messrs Summers, Biles & Sumby (that well known Company of Cartographers) have taken it upon themselves to organise the 2015 excursion. Hopefully this will be a slightly longer trip to La Belle France during the spring half term break. Watch this space.

GB - Last updated 29 May 2014


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