DEVON - THE SUNNIEST PLACE THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN
TRAIL RIDING IN SPRING
Spring had sprung, or so we thought, so it was time to head west to the trails. New trails for us, in Devon, a mate had ridden there a few years ago and recorded the routes on his Tw*tn*v. You gotta love them things, it means you don't spend too long looking for the right turn off and less chance of straying along the wrong path, upsetting farmers and others.
We had two days of trails mapped, one day on the eastern edge of Dartmoor and the other day spent south leading down towards Dartmouth. There were three for the first day and four for the second. The trails and roads are mainly small and we find small groups work better - less time gathering people together, filling fuel tanks, stopping for tea etc.
Despite the coming of spring, the north wind did blow, which made road sections a tad chilly and our poor little fingers suffered, but the most important thing was, it remained dry - phew. The cold isn't a problem on the trails as you are often stood on the pegs and being a bit more physical generally.
The trails are pretty varied in Devon, giving the opportunity to try loose stones, larger rocky trails, slate and some sloppy-farm-type tracks. There are also some challenging uppy and downy bits too, with the occasional water crossing - always dramatic. All in all, it will keep you engaged and entertained. We didn't see any other trail riders on the Friday and four on the Saturday, which over about 130 miles of riding, is pretty good.
We mainly ride in Kent and Surrey, where the trails and roads connecting them can be busy with ramblers, cyclists, horse riders and dog walkers. It is not unknown for some of these persons to show a degree of antipathy towards us trail riders. In my experience, the dog walkers are the least friendly, giving out plenty of skunk eye, even when we have slowed down to walking pace or even stopped. Surprisingly, the horse riders are the friendliest and always thank us when we stop for them to pass. In Devon, there were fewer people generally and all those we came across seemed happy enough to share the lanes.
One of the good things about riding in new areas is that you can't help but learn stuff about where you are and notice loads of interesting bits and bobs while you are meandering the byways. This area is no exception. We stopped for the inevitable tea and pasty in the village of Widecombe in the Moor, famed for holding Widecombe Fair as well the song with the same name, which features the famous lyric 'old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all'. In my ignorance, I would have assumed that it came from the moors up north.
One bonus for this trip was that the parents of Will, one of our group, who retired down there a number of years ago, welcomed us into their home. We tried to behave and keep the mud outside as their home is conveniently situated in the middle of Devon and we have plans to return to explore trails in the north of the county and maybe over to Cornwall. Having saved on accommodation, we splashed out on a meal Saturday evening in the local gastropub and bloody lovely it was too along with several glasses of something cool and refreshing. A good end to a couple of days of great riding. Hopefully, a foretaste of more to come, part of the Trans European Trail in June, looking forward to that.
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