Challenging Touring Rides from Paignton, South Devon – September 2013

Ride 1: Newton Abbot / Bovey Tracey / Haytor / Ashburton / Buckfast / Rattery / Totnes = 45m

The day dawned overcast and misty but improvement was forecast, so after dropping my wife at cookery school, I had a good breakfast and putting on my Club summer kit and adding arm and knee warmers, I was ready to ride out of Paignton at 11 a.m. We had travelled down by car, the previous day, having made a small diversion to Bovey Tracey to see the Tour of Britain start the final climb up to Haytor. I was determined to include Haytor in my ride, avoiding the busy main roads where possible – so at a junction in the centre of Paignton, I stopped a “local” and asked him if the side road would take me to Compton. He said “yes” but there is a hill. I said “OK” as I expected a hill from the coast but after 2 minutes, I struggled round a very steep hairpin on this narrow lane and saw that the road continued steeply upwards and I promptly powered out and just managed to get a foot down. I peeled off my warmers and then walked the next 300 yds to where the gradient eased a little and was able to risk riding again, joining a main road through Preston and after crossing the Paignton By-Pass (A380), I was able to enjoy the beautiful but tricky lanes via Compton and its castle, to Ipplepen, to join the A381 and ride around the West and North side of Newton Abbott (in the traffic) and then head for Bovey Tracey on the A382. No traffic and no crowds today in Bovey Tracey, so started the 4 mile climb (3 miles to the Finish line for the ToB riders) in a low gear and as the gradient increased in 4 or 5 stretches, I stuck it on the lowest (34×28) and struggled up through the tree-lined lane. After crossing the cattle grid, which marked the boundary to Dartmoor National Park, the trees were replaced by open moorland giving spectacular views of Haytor rocks and the surrounding area. I was cheered on by cyclists on their way down and by cyclists and walkers at the various cafés and parking spots. The last half mile to the top was a real struggle but the reward followed, with easy undulations, coupled with pleasant views towards Widecombe and then the long descent to Ashburton, stretches of which were wide enough to permit 40 mph but many narrow and twisty sections where much braking was necessary.

Ashburton and its neighbouring Buckfastleigh looked like very pleasant villages but I only stopped briefly at Buckfast Abbey, last visited 65 years ago when on holiday with Mum & Dad and staying at Uncle Jack / Aunty Beattie’s place in Dartmouth. I drank my energy drink and ate a slice of cake, sitting on a bench in the herb garden, in warm sunshine, with a close-up view of the recently restored abbey. I made a note to return within a few days with wife Pat and explore the area in civvies. Somewhat refreshed, I continued southwards to Dean Prior, to turn under the busy A38 and head uphill (again) on more typical Devon lanes, via Rattery and Dartington, to Totnes. The main road (A385) back to the coast at Paignton ought to have been downhill but the long climb out of the Dart valley and over the tops was a struggle after 40+ miles. Once back at our lodgings and after a refreshing shower, I was able relax and appreciate all aspects of the ride.

Buckfast Abbey

Ride 2: Galmpton / Greenway / Stoke Gabriel / Aish / Collaton / Blagdon / Afton / Marldon = 24m

“Recovery Ride” in the lanes, at a gentle pace but with many stiff but shortish ascents. Being a Sunday, the Paignton by-pass was quiet and the lane via Galmpton towards Greenway (Agatha Christie’s home) was very relaxing due to the beautiful scenery, with views down to the Dart estuary. After returning to Galmpton, the left turn took me through open countryside, to Stoke Gabriel, with its picturesque cottages and gardens on hilly streets, leading down to the river Dart. I toiled up to Aish and then took the main road towards Paignton but turned left at Collaton St. Mary and rode through pleasant countryside, through Blagdon, past Berry Pomeroy Castle and down the steep descent, in dark woodland, through Afton and then up the steep bank into open country where a selection of ploughed fields of red soil were highlighted by the surrounding green fields and woods. Farthing lane took me to Marldon where I crossed the Paignton by-pass via a sub-way and then the final descent into Paignton. A short and enjoyable ride.

Peter Hayhurst

25th September 2013