Devon in November: robjh's autumnal microtour

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by robjh, 7 Nov 2016.

  1. I have a few free days, the weather is not too bad for the time of year, so I've set off for a 4 night mini bike tour in the West Country. Mainly Devon, but it started in Dorset and may well reach Somerset too.
    Like Theresa May I'm keeping my plans close to my chest, as I have only a vague idea of where I'm going, but unlike Hm government, my route map be revealed in the next few days. Currently though I'm envisaging visiting two coasts two moors and maybe a gorge.
    Stage one began today with a train to London then the 11.05 from Waterloo to Dorchester, taking advantage of South West Trains superb value 14.95 advance fare. Poole Harbour positively glistened in the sunshine. DSC_0038.JPG
    Nihal, sotkayak, Dave 123 and 13 others like this.
  2. OP

    robjh Guru

    I arrived in and left Dorchester at 2pm, and left via Poundbury (Prince Charles's pet new suburb in a pastiche of traditional local styles, and IMO an improvement on your bog standard 1990s estate). There was a stiff climb to the obelisk of the Hardy Monument, rewarded with sweeping views of the sea, the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach. Despite the sun though it was cold, with a biting wind.
    I followed the coast from here on, through Abbotsbury, Bridport and Lyme Regis. it was a beautiful ride until it got dark, but Dorset boasts some serious hills, and every village seemed to be followed by a long slow climb that had me down to 3mph at times. Rarely has 39 miles taken so long - even ignoring breaks I averaged just below 10mph - but with luggage, that's my excuse.
    It was fully dark by Lyme Regis but the ride along quiet roads under a starry sky and a sliver of low moon was quite something too, like a little night ride to the coast all on your own.
    I'm now in Beer youth hostel - strangely they seem to have no youths in them these days - and I'm very impressed. Now to work out tomorrow's itinerary.


    Hardy Monument

    Coastal view
    Last edited: 12 Nov 2016
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  3. ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    I did a bit of work on the SW coast path between Beer and Branscombe last summer - it is beautiful! Sounds like a cracking trip. Feeling the itch to plan a mini tour myself now...
    robjh likes this.
  4. OP

    robjh Guru

    Well today has been great but there is some big rain on the way tomorrow
    After a downpour on Dartmoor things may not look so rosy!
    Last edited: 10 Nov 2016
    ChrisEyles likes this.
  5. OP

    robjh Guru

    Just seen a cliff fall along the coast from Sidmouth
  6. Ian H

    Ian H Guru

    I'll be going from Berks down through Dorset later in the month, finishing here in Devon. It's my friend's turn to organise the route, so I've no idea where we'll end up.
  7. OP

    robjh Guru

    Day two started with a bit of faffing on the phone. I tried booking a bed for tonight in a couple of hostels on Dartmoor but they were fully booked - presumably with school or outward-bound type groups. I found a place instead at Moretonhampstead, near but not on the Moor. Then I decided I'd better book my other 2 nights too to avoid any other surprises. So I now have my route more or less planned out. But all that took time and I got away at 10 rather than 9 as I'd hoped.
    I took the steep and narrow road through Branscombe to Sidmouth, and a cafe stop. it was a very busy place, bigger than I expected from the map, and had loads of cafes and at least 4 bakeries - my kind of place. While there I saw a section of red sandy cliff break off down the coast, sending plumes of red dust out over the sea - photo in my previous post.
    After another punishing climb out of Sidmouth I cut across country to Exford just south of Exeter, and crossed over the Exe after Topsham. I then took a series of hilly and tortuous lanes through places such as Dunchideock and Doddiscombsleigh, and finished with the steepest and stupidest route over the hills to Moretonhampstead, when the B Road would have been much quicker. I arrived in the rain and failing light, and was pleased to find a well-stocked kitchen at the hostel where I made a large hot coffee. I am the only guest in this 14-bed place but I have WiFi radio 4 and the kitchen to myself. what more could I want?
    Progress has been so slow on these tiny lanes though that I may need to change my game tomorrow and even take a few numbered roads.

    Bike at the seaside

    A rainy Devon lane (one of the bigger ones)
    Last edited: 8 Nov 2016
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  8. Elybazza61

    Elybazza61 Veteran

    Nice write up:thumbsup:;look forward to the rest.

    Better not show this to the better half as we were thinking about going there some time but sge doesn't like hills so this would put her off:whistle:

    Can't say I can agree about Poundbury,looks just like any other Georgian pastiche estate(with a few balcony's to jazz it up).
    robjh likes this.
  9. Tilley

    Tilley Well-Known Member

    Great write up. I spent a year in Dorchester many moons ago and have fond recollections of the ride up to Hardys monument and around Abbotsbury. I have also taken in parts of Dartmoor and Exmoor both on and off road. However my riding has been curtailed by a chest infection so can only await your next instalment. Enjoy the trip and keep up the good work.
    robjh likes this.
  10. ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Great to hear you're having a good time :smile: Those sections are all local-ish to me (I'm based near Exeter) - I have definitely optimised my route when I head out to Moretonhampstead to avoid some of the worst hills! Hope you didn't get too soaked in the showers today.
    robjh likes this.
  11. OP

    robjh Guru

    Day three began with the shock of the news from America, as Trump's win was announced just as I switched the radio on at 7.30.
    It started off as a good morning for cycling, very breezy but with bright sunny patches that highlighted all the autumn colours. I took small lanes from Chagford to South Zeal that ran almost along the edge of the open moorland. everything looked great at this time.
    After that I stuck (almost) to my resolution to choose bigger roads, as I needed to get some miles in to Exmoor.
    The serious rain and hail started around lunchtime, and caught me for 90 minutes as far as South Molton, where the sunbriefly reappeared and I dived into a cafe. There followed a long, long slog up onto Exmoor, but the ride over the open moor to Withypool in the twilight was one of the highlights of the day. I arrived at Exford at 6, in darkness, and am now in the youth hostel, feeling recovered after a hot shower and big bowl of pasta. it was only 59 miles but my legs are telling me it was much much more.

    Some pictures from the sunny morning, near Chagford
    DSC_0056.JPG DSC_0055.JPG
    Last edited: 9 Nov 2016
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  12. Ian H

    Ian H Guru

    Excellent photos. I was near there the other day and it was difficult to follow the tarmac because of the leaves.
  13. OP

    robjh Guru

    Agreed - it's very autumnal indeed at the moment. Also getting through a lot of brake rubber on the descents and will need new pads once I'm home.
    The good news is that the weather is much better today despite an early drenching.

    Sunny Watchet harbour
  14. OP

    robjh Guru

    Day four started with a sharp cloudburst as I was leaving Exford. Exford is actually in Somerset so the last two days of my mini--tour will be in the latter county rather than Devon.
    By the top of the moor though the sun was coming out, making it a magnificent ride with clear views across the Bristol Channel to South Wales.
    I detoured into Minehead out of curiosity, then stuck with the coast through Blue Anchor and Watchet.The going was easier today on better roads and with a tail wind, but there was still plenty of climbing at every headland or turn inland.
    Next came the Quantocks whose heather-covered flanks loomed invitingly as I rode up from Minehead. I chose a minor road to cross them from Crowcombe to Over Stowey. I should turned back when I saw the 1-in-4 sign but didn't. I made it about 3/4 of the way, then stopped for a stretch and a quick breather, and found I couldn't push off on the bike as the road was just too steep, so I pushed for about 100 yards. The top however was spectacular, woods and heath in its full autumn glory.
    I had to go through Bridgwater, which was the least pleasant part of the ride. Too much traffic and a town that just looks like it's seen better days ad doesn't invite you to linger. Not that I really had the time to - it was 3.30 and I had another 20 miles to go to Cheddar (and with sunset about 4.15).
    This part was easy and almost all flat, as it crosses the Somerset Levels and I got to Cheddar Yha just before 6.


    Crossing the Quantocks
    DSC_0065.JPG DSC_0066.JPG

    On the Somerset Levels
    Last edited: 11 Nov 2016
  15. lutonloony

    lutonloony Über Member

    nice pics, must get out and see more of devon myself!!
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