Our route: 60 miles (98 km); 1270 m climbed. (Although, as you can see from the Strava screen shot below, Susie and I might have joined the group a bit later for a very comfortable 38 miles (61.5 k) and considerably less climbing!)
My confident note that the forecast was “good” looked less likely by Saturday morning but our group set off in a bit of drizzle optimistic as ever that the downpour might be less severe than promised and would not spoil our annual summer outing. A very big thank you to Mary for delivering a crate of beer and wine to the beginning to top up our picnic for the end of the ride.
It was lovely to have Kaja with us, trying out a longer ride after a nasty accident in the spring. Mike was geared up for the weather with the latest version of a retro cycle cape; and John had had an unlucky encounter with a pothole on his way in from Callington which meant a couple of punctures and a bit of a delay with the start.
Any weather issues were forgotten on the road up from Rilla Mill to Coads Green as the group stopped to watch a mother stoat and her babies eating another small mammal on the side of the road – quite a rare sight for these normally secretive animals. A welcome break for coffee at Number Eight Cycle Café in Launceston and then down the hill and north on the A386 to meet Ann and Susie at St. Giles on the Heath – 20 miles from the start.
Now the heavens opened and we all began to wonder what it might be like to be at home with a mug of hot chocolate. However, a good warming roll along the ridgeway to Halwill Junction was a boost to our spirits and by the time we reached The Junction PH (30 miles from start) the rain had petered out and, in fact, it would then stay dry to the end of the ride.
After our pub lunch we headed north again towards Sheepwash – mostly level straight road with a final down and up into this very traditional and pretty north Devon market village. Here Ann W-B had her van waiting and we waved her off so she could get home for a social engagement (would like to know where she gets her energy from!). More gently undulating roads and then a downhill to Petrockstowe where we met up with both the Tarka Trail and Neil for the final 20 miles along to Fremington Quay, just this side of Barnstaple. I always find cycling along railway line tiring and so was pleased to reach our tea stop at The Puffing Billy (50 miles from the start). From here to the end, the Tarka Trail had a welcome smooth tarmac surface and we could enjoy the waterside views and incredible evening light (staggeringly beautiful) as we headed with the estuary on our left through Bideford and then past the beautiful beach cafes of Instow(pics to follow, I hope). Finally, we could see the lorry parked up in the coastal car park at Fremington Quay. A change of clothes, a beer and a hot supper (a big thank you to Geoff, Ann W-B and to Rose, as usual) and we all felt a bit more normal. Long drive home in very heavy rain for all of us (thank you to Geoff and to Neil) except David and John who, of course, planned to cycle back the next day, and I bet we all got a very good night’s sleep.
Another great cycle adventure for our group and a big thank you to David for organising it for us.