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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

The Dartmoor "Men Only" Biking Weekend 2014
Or
Four Get Lost in Devon

 

Friday 15th August 2014

Steve, Ed, Ian and Gary met up at The Tradesman's Arms (click here to see more about the pub) in Scorriton in deepest Devon on southern Dartmoor for this years MTB'ing and ale boys weekend. After an abortive attempt to stay the Forest Arms in Hexworthy, they went bankrupt and closed down, Ed was contacted by the chaps at the Tradesmans Arms who said they would honour the booking at their pub. In the end it was probably a better choice, excellent ales, very good food and sensible prices. The only draw back, massive hills in all directions!

For the Friday afternoon ride we were joined by Phil Lomas, a good friend of Ed's from a few miles down the road at Buckfastleigh. Sandwiches, of the large doorstep variety, and a couple of ales consumed we got the bikes ready and set off. As usual we immediately got lost taking two attempts to find the correct trail out of the village! The ride itself was fairly uneventful with all the usual banter and p*ss taking. The riding was hard in places over the boggy moorland areas and lots of very large stones and boulders to get over. The first few miles took an age to complete due to constantly having to refer to the map as the tracks were devoid of sign posts. We headed south across Dean Moor to the Avon Dam Reservoir and from there followed the riverside trail down across Brent Moor to the village of Lutton.

At lutton we headed back north and at Bloody Pool Phil decided he had had enough of rough tracks for the day (his bike had no suspension front or back) and he left us to follow the road route back home to Buckfastleigh. Probably a good decision as we then had a very long uphill drag across the grassland of Skerraton Down and Lambs Down. At Cross Furzes we decided not to take the planned road route back to Scorriton and instead took a bridleway to Combe. Another good decision as the track was down hill, steep and very technical, perfect mountain bike terrain. A short climb brought us back into Scorriton arriving at exactly 18:00 when the bar opened for a pint of ale in the garden overlooking the Holne valley.

Phil rejoined us in the evening for dinner, a very nice (and large) Fish & Chips & Mushy Peas special, and a few pints of the excellent Dartmoor IPA and Jail Ale.

Photos from Friday ..........................


The Tradesmans Arms and the farmyard next door


Steve unloading his gear

Ed does his Michael Flately impression


Ian ready to go


Steve, Ian, Ed and Phil ready to go

The view from Scorriton Down

Another map reading session to find the right trail

Phil at Scorriton Down

Group photo at Chalk Ford - Phil, Steve, Gary, Ed

The Avon River

Ed surveys the Avon River trail

Phil, Ian and Steve on the Avon River trail


Phil at the Avon Dam Reservoir


Steve at the Avon Dam Reservoir


Steve and Phil at a boulder strewn river crossing

Left, Right and the three below

Skerraton Down

Left - the view across the valley from the pub

Right - Ian, Steve and Ed enjoy a well deserved pint of Jail Ale
after Friday afternoons ride

fridays route
15 Miles and 2000ft of climbing

Saturday 16th August 2014

Breakfast on Saturday morning was very good and very large, not the best way to start a day in the saddle. Having reconnoitred the road route to Hexworthy, where today's ride starts, on Friday Gary and Ed's advice was "lets take the cars!" So we loaded up and drove the 5 miles over the very hilly Devon landscape to the now abandoned/closed Forest Inn (click here to read about the pub) at Hexworthy. Having found the route out of the village we then got lost in farmyard at Sherberton, luckily Ed had been there before and recognised that we were on the wrong track. Back down the hill below the farm we found the correct route and used the stepping stones to get across the River Swincombe. Steve didn't enjoy this, it was just as well he didn't know about the next river crossing. Having negotiated the very boggy and lumpy riverside trail we came to the West Dart River and another very long stepping stone crossing, 18 large stones to get across. Suffice to say that Steve didn't enjoy this at all and at times looked like Bambi on an ice rink!

There then followed a hike up an unridable track to Dunnabridge Pound where we crossed the road and took a track across open moorland looking for a major bridleway crossroads. We missed it completely or more to the point it wasn't there and neither were any sign posts! We took a trail we thought was the one we were looking for and fortunately ended up in the right place in the woods between Laughter Tor (think the joke was on us) and Bellever Tor (we believed we were on the right trail!). The woodland trails were very good, especially the final sections downhill and along what looked like a small banked drove (see photos). The trail spat us out at the B3212 with the bizarre sight of a chap skate boarding along the road who waved and shouted hello as he sped past us.

Crossing the road we were now on true Dartmoor moorland and it was here that things started to go wrong. The plan was to go almost directly west for 6/7 miles on the only major trail (Bridleway) on this part of the moor, it should be easy find, well apparently not. The first mile or so was fine on well marked tracks that took us to some interesting and now derelict buildings from way back when including a watermill with no sign of any water supply. After a long push up the hill to Longaford Tor the trail disappeared into the undergrowth never to be seen again.

After pushing on for while looking for the trail we took a GPS reading and found that we were at Beardown Tor about 500m south of the trail we should have been on. Heading north to find the trail Steve had a major brake malfunction and while he and Gary fixed the problem Ian and Ed went on to locate the trail. With Steve's bike fixed and with Ed and Ian unable to find the trail even looking from the top of Lydford Tor we decided to head across the valley to a route could see and head for the road into Merrivale. Ironically according to the GPS tracker (when the data was downloaded post ride) we were standing on the trail at the time, but there was no sign of it on the ground, not even a bent blade of grass!

Leaving the trail and hitting the road was the best decision, it was getting late in the afternoon and we would still have had another 4/5 miles of the open moors to get across. The road went around Princetown and after a short climb to Rundlestone there was a couple of miles of steep twisting tarmac which was the descent into Merrivale and the 140 year old Dartmoor Inn (Click here to read more about the pub). Ian had discovered he had a puncture on the climb up to Rundlestone which he and Steve stopped to repair while Gary and Ed, who were half a mile ahead, pushed on to the pub after a quick discussion on the phone.

The pub was ok with some very nice ales and a large collection of chamber pots hanging from the ceiling. As the afternoon was getting on, it was nearly 3 o'clock when we arrived at the pub, we had a debate about the rest of the route when Steve and Ian caught up with us.

Steve had missed 3 months of cycling due to his bad back and his legs were feeling the strain and he decided that he was returning to Hexworthy on the road. Gary, Ed and Ian decided to do the off road route, but do the climb out of Merrivale on the road rather than the planned track which was of an unknown quality.

Ales and food finished we set off on the very steep 2km climb out of Merrivale. At the turning to Yellowmeade Farm we waved goodbye to Steve and started down a good wide solid (for a change) track. Past the farm we were looking for an arrow straight bridleway on the left to take us to Princetown, it wasn't signposted and we missed it! Although Ian did start down a track that could possibly have been it, but we called him back saying the track was ahead of us. Actually the track we did find was much better, an old railway line that wound its way across the hillside and into Princetown. From the town we headed to Tor Royal on good tracks and started to make fast progress. Just as were wondering if we would get back to the cars before Steve the trail got narrower and narrower until it disappeared into a wide area of bog with no sign of it reappearing on the other side. After working our way across the bog we did eventually find the trail again, with some sign posts as well! Crossing the River Swincombe on stepping stones again, there was a large bridge but it was sagging in the middle and was boarded up at both ends, we climbed back up to Hexworthy and met Steve who had arrived about 30 minutes before us.

We packed up and headed back to Scorriton with aching legs and tired bodies. The evening was spent enjoying the pub ales again with steaks and a couple of bottles the house red. The evening was finished with a sing song in the bar to accompany Mr Sumby on his ukulele, we probably won't be asked back!

Photos from Saturday's ride .........................


The Forest Inn at Hexworthy where we were originally going to stay

Ian pleased to find his saddle after it was hidden by somebody!

Above, below, left and right -

The River Swincombe Crossing at Sherberton

Above and left -
The West Dart River Crossing

Right -
Steve hiking up the hill to Dunnabridge Pound


On the banked drove in the forest around Bellever Tor

Happy cycling, we hadn't reached the moorland yet!

The buildings at Powedermills
Steve can just be seen thru the square window!

The Chimney at Powdermills

Above and right - Ian on the hard climb up from Powdermills to Longaford Tor

Ed takes a break on the way up to Longaford Tor

Where are we? Beardown Tor actually.

Ed does his Sugar Loaf Mountain impression

The river crossing at Holming Bearn looking back up to Beardown Tor


Steve on the short yomp up the hill at Holming Bearn


Ed and Gary crossing the River Swincombe again on stepping stones, the bridge was under repair, this time at Swincombe

saturdays route
27 Miles and 3000ft of climbing

Some panoramic shots of Dartmoor


Skerraton Down


Taken from near Beardown Tor

Skerraton Down

Taken from near Beardown Tor


Skerraton Down


The view across the valley to Holne from our bedrooms at The Tradesmans Arms

 

Sunday 17th August 2014

After another large breakfast, bills paid and thanks to the owners and staff we set off for Haldon Forest near Exeter. There are several mountain bike trails at Haldon Forest (click the link to see more) including a red and black run, not very long (about 5/6 miles in total for each circuit with 500ft of climb to get back up to the car park), but we thought it was worth a visit as it was on the way back to Dorset. When we arrived in the car park it was packed with cycles and cyclist of all shapes, sizes and descriptions from toddlers to folk our age. Steve decided his legs weren't up to riding anything that didn't have a engine and headed off for a walk in the direction of the coffee & cake shop. Gary, Ed and Ian headed off on the bikes, after fixing a puncture on Gary's bike, to "shred some rubber" on the single track. The runs though short were good fun and having completed the red and black singletrack trails Ed's arms were giving him a large amount of pain and he discovered he'd done the whole trail with his front suspension locked out (must be taking lessons from Rod! see the reports from 2012 & 2013). Not wanting to make his tennis elbow any worse he headed off to the coffee shop with Steve. Ian and Gary went off to do the circuit again which was well worth the effort as knowing what's coming means you can push a bit harder and faster the second time around.

With tired legs we packed away the bikes and headed back to Dorset and so ended this years boys trip. The weather was not that great on Sunday and no photos were taken as far as I can remember.

Overall we had a great weekend. The pub was excellent as was the company and the adventures on the moors made up for the not so good trails and lack of sign posts (I can feel a letter coming on!). The weather could have been better, but overall we didn't need our rain jackets. Our previous trips involving the moors (Exmoor and Dartmoor) should have warned us that it wouldn't be easy either navigating or riding, maybe next time we will take heed of the warnings. Over the weekend, according to my Garmin tracker, we did 52 miles, 6000 feet of climbing and burnt off over 6000 calories which was more than made up for by the ales, pub dinners and especially the breakfast!

Not sure where we will go next year, the Chiltern Hills were mentioned, but I am sure it will be just as much fun.

GB - 21 August 2014

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