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East Devon weekend ride

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by ChrisEyles, 13 May 2017.

  1. ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    I've always wanted to do some cycle touring, and the one thing that kept putting me off was my awful heavy, big two man tent... somehow just the thought of trying to erect that flappy great thing in the wind and rain was always enough to make me put off a trip 'til "next weekend maybe".

    This happened enough times that eventually I bought myself a bivy bag and tarp and did a couple of test overnighters close to work on my MTB, and was very pleased with the result - lighter than my tent, quicker to put up, keeps the wind and rain off if you need it to or you can set it up for a nice view or even sleep under the stars if it's warm and dry enough.

    Next up I did some serious fettling on my old commuter bike, which had sadly fallen out of use since I moved work places and was no longer able to ride to work. A quick once over, new bar tape, and a lot of faffing around with stems and hoods to get a more relaxed riding position just right and I've totally fallen back in love with it :smile:

    So without further ado, here's my mini-travelogue from the past two days!
     
  2. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    The journey of 100km begins with a single pedal stroke - heading out up the hill out of our village. This is the first time I've had this bike fully loaded up and it became immediately apparent that I was going to have to back off a bit on the uphills and take things a touch easier than usual.

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    I wanted to keep the road riding to a minimum so planned a route out down the river Exe and along the coast that was almost entirely on cycle routes - again this encouraged a nice gentle pace rather than haring along like I usually (try to) do when I'm out for a ride. Here's a rather attractive suspension bridge over the Exe that I stopped on to watch the swans drifting by underneath.

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    Heading down the Exe from Exeter, you reach Topsham, an historic port on the Estuary - you can see an old beached wreck in the background of this shot. This is one of my favourite spots to go birding in the winter, looking out for avocets, golden plover, and other waders.

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    The Exe valley trail winds its way down the Exe over mostly boardwalks due to the marshy ground until you get to Exmouth. I took a brief detour into the town to pick up some fruit for a snack and enjoyed some excellent apricots looking back at the shore I'd just ridden along.

    20170512_165432.jpg

    As you'd expect from a river based cycle, the going so far was flat and easy, with only a bit of a headwind to contend with. But that was OK, I had plenty of time to reach my intended camping spot and could afford to take it nice and slow. In fact, I don't think I've ever been as relaxed on a bike as I was yesterday afternoon!

    From Exmouth I headed on to Budleigh via the old railway line. It's a lovely quiet lane with the trees forming a tunnel over your head for much of the way, and some nice old bridges every so often. There was the odd spot of rain and the only thing I could hear was the drops falling through the leaves overhead. Much more relaxing and I'd have fallen off the bike ;)

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    Heading out of Budleigh I saw this road name, and thought it must be a good omen - so here's my Raleigh on Raleigh Road :smile:

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  3. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    I criss-crossed the river Otter a couple of times on my travels - here's the first crossing heading into the quiet little village of Otterton.

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    It was definitely time for a cuppa by now, as I had to steel my legs for the last bit of the day's riding, up onto the aptly named Peak Hill.

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    Peak Hill isn't such a bad climb approach it from the West... or so I used to think before tackling it with full panniers and after a possibly ill advised cider in Otterton! The view from the top is more than worth it though, even on a cloudy day.

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    The descent down the other side of Peak Hill is much, much steeper and not one I really wanted to tackle if I could avoid it. Instead, I planned a route over the heathland out from the coast taking in some of the bridleways and tracks there. I've not had this bike off-road much, but the higher bars made it a bit more confidence inspiring. I would say the bike felt *much* more at home off-road than it used to, but that's just because I have done a *lot* more MTB'ing since then!

    20170512_184014.jpg

    Finally I reached the site I'd intended to camp in, right on the cliff edge.

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    I'd even picked which tree to pitch my tarp from...

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    But sadly the site was a lot closer to the SW coast path than I'd remembered (in fact it was pretty much slap-bang on it!) so I thought I'd better find somewhere a tad more discreet. Not to waste being in such a beautiful spot, I settled down and cooked (well, heated up!) my dinner on my little folding camping stove. It was tastier than it looked, honest (especially after cycling up Peak Hill to get there).

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  4. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    After dinner it was back on the trails to find a nice quiet spot to pitch up in. I am really enjoying my MTBing at the moment, so it was nice to throw in a bit of trail riding on this trip.

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    This was the spot I settled on in the end... not quite on the coast, but there is still a sea view if you squint hard enough!

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    As I was pitching up my tarp, the dusk chorus got going and I was incredibly excited to hear a grasshopper warbler (you're forgiven for not sharing my excited if you're not a keen birder!) - only the third I've ever head, and he kept on going on and off for a couple of hours.

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    I was also very pleased with the tarp pitch - since there was no convenient tree to use for the high corner I tried a new method, effectively pitching the bike first with four guy ropes and then using the bike as a support.

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    This was the view I fell asleep to last night, listening to my grasshopper warbler :smile: The weather was quite a bit worse than forecast, and there was a considerable amount of rain during the night, but the tarp/bivy combo worked perfectly and I stayed nice and dry. It's not ideal having to pack a wet tarp into panniers the next day, but it's drying out on the washing line now so all good!

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  5. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    After a nice early start (listening out in vain for a re-appearance of the grasshopper warbler, but he didn't show) I stowed my gear in the panniers and aimed to make a couple of miles before breakfast.

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    When I got here, I couldn't possibly not have had breakfast there. What a view!
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    What looked like it should have been a nice quiet, manageable green lane on the OS map at home turned out to be a rather steep descent with rain wash gulleys full of fist sized rocks and flints! It would have been a (scary) blast on the MTB, but I didn't fancy it much on this bike with the panniers and just having eaten a great big bowl of porridge. The hedgerows were full of wildflowers, the birds were still singing away, and every so often a cracking view opened up in the gaps in the hedge.

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  6. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    The route from here on was all on roads I'd cycled before, but again sticking to the quietist ones I could find. The weather brightened up quite quickly and soon it was blue skies and sunshine.

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    I criss-crossed the river Otter a couple more times and stopped for a cuppa in a greasy spoon in Ottery St Mary (and had a nice chat with some of the old boys in there) before winding my way back home through the East and Mid Devon lanes.

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    I was (and still am!) so relaxed I was making slow progress with lots of stops to enjoy the view or listen to the birds (I heard a pair of blackcaps in these apple trees, I'm pretty sure they were feeding fledglings in the nest). I'm also collecting a library of wildflower pics at the moment in an attempt to learn them all better so there were plenty of stops and 100 yard reverses up the lane to snap a few of those too!

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    If you'll allow me a second bird-nerd moment, I was also very pleased to see this little owl perched on a telegraph wire outside a farm on the way back - we usually get plenty of tawnies but not so many of these around, so he was nice to spot.

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    Nearing home, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to ride up one of my favourite local climbs for one last view... it took rather a while longer than I thought it would, but it was worth it when I got to the top (and promptly devoured a pack of sweeties).

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    This little chap seemed to want some of my cola bottles!

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    I definitely felt like I'd earnt a treat after that hill, so headed into Exeter for a coffee and cake, and well, it'd be rude not to snap the cathedral on the way through.

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    One last pastoral scene heading back towards our village - a few proper Devon Shire horses.

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    So, all in all a lovely relaxing ride and a great intro into cycle touring. I mapped out the route I took when I got back, and it was only 60 miles or so, but what with all the stops and breaks it still made a lovely couple of days riding.

    Next up is going to be a mini-tour of Dartmoor! I was planning to do that this weekend, but changed my mind when I saw the forecast (and I'm glad I did - if it was a bit rainy and blowy where I was I dread to think what it would have been like up on the high moor), so that's one to look forward to another time.

    I'd thoroughly recommend the tarp/bivy combo to anyone thinking about doing minimalist camping!

    I'd also thoroughly recommend taking time to smell the roses next time you're out on a bike :smile:
     
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  7. videoman

    videoman Über Member

    Looks like you had a great few days and thanks for taking the time and trouble to post your trip report and great photos.

    Surprising how different everything seems when you ride more slowly and take in the scenery.
     
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  8. Cycleops

    Cycleops Veteran

    Location:
    Accra, Ghana
    Some lovely pics and an interesting commentary, thanks for that.
    Wouldn't it be a good idea to put some of that on a low rider rack to even things out a bit? I see you have the mounts.

    Could you give a link for the tarp please.
     
  9. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    @Cycleops here's the link to the tarp I bought. It's about 8' x 7' so not the biggest out there but that's not necessarily a bad thing, makes it more manageable.

    http://www.britishmilitarysurplus.co.uk/shop/hardwear/british-army-basha-dpm-camo-grade-1124047.html

    It's a quality piece of kit, very nicely made - you can see the exact same thing being sold at over three times the price elsewhere!

    http://www.fieldtextiles.co.uk/shop/hardware/british-army-dpm-camo-basha-1123716.html

    The bivy bag I got from an army surplus site on ebay, the particular one I bought is now sold out, but I think it cost me around £25, and again British Army DPM camo gore-tex, very nicely made (though it is somewhat bigger than it needs to be so if you're gram counting you might want to look elsewhere).

    While you can just about get a one man tent for the price of the two combined (£40) it probably wouldn't be as high quality, would probably be a tad heavier, and is a bit less versatile (and I seem to have this weird mental block about pitching tents!).
     
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  10. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    Interesting idea about getting a front rack and panniers. If I was going for a week's touring I think I'd have to do that, I was pretty much full to capacity for one night on my current storage space. Need to use what I've got a fair bit first to justify the expense before buying more kit though!
     
  11. OP
    OP
    ChrisEyles

    ChrisEyles Veteran

    Location:
    Devon
    @Cycleops if you're thinking of getting one of those tarps, they don't come with guy ropes, so you might want to order a roll of para cord to make some. I put 6ft guys on the corners, 3ft guys on the middle of each edge, then took a couple of extra 6ft lengths to guy out the bike, and a couple of 3ft lengths to tie up my bivy bag/survival bag and for general use.

    If you look up how to tie a bowline know that works pretty well to do the loops. You can use a truckers hitch or other self-tightening knot to tighten up the guys, but I've found it's not really necessary. It's far quicker just to move the pegs out a little to tension the guys, and works adequately well.
     
  12. galaxy

    galaxy Über Member

    Great thread
     
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  13. Ian H

    Ian H Guru

    Excellent! You were only a few miles from me past Otterton.
     
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