Sunday, 29 January 2017

Dartmoor

Sunday 22nd January 2017

There's not really much to say about today!  We left Caemawr Farm (Wales) just before 10am, nipped to Aldi to stock up, and then mostly travelled along motorways as we made our way down to Devon - about a 200 mile journey.  So by the time we arrived at The Tavistock Camping and Caravan Club site at Higher Longford the day had more or less passed, but we did take the time to gather up some information about Dartmoor so that we could do a bit of planning for our 9 night stay on this very pretty site.


Monday 23rd January 2017

Once again today we were blessed with 🌞and clear blue skies, so we were determined to make the most of this lovely weather.  With that in mind John had planned a circular ride to take in The Burrator Reservoir, the hamlet of Clearbook, and then to complete the loop, a ride along part of Drake's Trail back into Tavistock, from where we would have to ride about 2 miles back home.
Burrator Reservoir

However, even with the aid of our battery bikes the ride wasn't easy and the first part took us along helta skelta like lanes with huge hills and deep dips and it wasn't until about  mile 9 that it calmed down as we arrived at the very picturesque Reservoir which has been part of the landscape for over century.  Apparently it took 5 years to build and was completed in 1898, but as the years went by it proved insufficient for the areas needs, so in 1923 it was enlarged from a capacity of 668 to 1026 million gallons - however today the levels were quite low, but even though it looks as if the area needs some water we'd got our  fingers crossed that it doesn't get any for the next few days while we're in this area!

Our ride took us around the circumference of the water, which was only about 5 miles, but when we spied an idyllic little picnic spot with ponies roaming we couldn't resist stopping of for a break, and while we were sitting sipping our coffee the inquisitive youngster on the right looked as if he wanted to come and share - I think he was almost to tame for his own good!

We later learnt that ponies have lived and roamed free on Dartmoor since prehistoric times, but nowadays they all belong to different pony keepers, and apparently, the owners round up their ponies every year in the autumn and then decide which to sell and which to keep and set free for another years roaming!  However, we did wonder how they know which ones are theirs because non of them seemed to have any kind of mark to identify them.




Eventually, we tore ourselves away and continued on our way uphill to Clearbook where we found a bench perched right on top of a hill - a vantage point from where we had Clear views  for many miles, and as by then it was lunch time it made another perfect stopping point.  While we sat and munched our sandwiches we also reminisced about a previous visit to this area that we had made with our friends Sharon and Paul - when we had completed a 450 mile bike tour of Devon and Cornwall back in 2014 - on that occasion we'd indulged in large 🍦😁.

Gem Bridge
Anyway, once all our goodies had been scoffed we only had to cross the road to access the part of Drake's Trail  that would take us back to Tavistock.   The trail provided a mixture of open vistas and more closed in wooded areas, but along the way there was plenty to see.  First it took us through the village of Yelverton, and then onto the Magpie Viaduct were we found step ups so we could peer over it's high walls.   A little further on we crossed the Gem Bridge and at it's far side we learnt that we had travelled 79 feet above the River Walkham.  The bridge stands in the same location as the old railway viaduct that was designed by the famous Victorian engineer Isambard Brunell, but his structure was 52 feet higher, and although the viaduct is long gone you can still see two of the huge earth and masonry abutments which took the railway line onto the viaduct at either end.

The next point of interest along the route was the Grenofen Tunnel - a place where we really needed our ☂! In it's dark interior water poured from it's arched  brick ceiling, and of course numerous icy drops found their way down our necks resulting in shrill shouts that echoed around the tunnels closed in cavity!  The 350 metre tunnel was built in 1859 for the South Devon and Tavistock Railway, but after long service it was closed in the 1960's and fell into disrepair.  However, it was given a new lease of life when it was purchased by Devon County Council for just £1.00 ahead of it's inclusion in the Drakes Trail project.


And from here we hadn't got much further to go before we reached almost the end of our route at Tavistock, however we didn't linger long in the town because it was just on school run time and therefore incredibly busy.  So all that remained was to ride the last two and half miles up hill back to the campsite where we wrung the last rays from the sunshine by getting  our chairs out while we enjoyed a lovely cup of Chai tea!



Tuesday 24th January 2017

Well, today John had planned another ride - but it included several long steep climbs and the distance was far - so, after yesterday's exertions we πŸ”out!  Instead we opted for what John said would be a gentle ride, mostly on Drake's Trail, and with a plan to only go about 20 miles and to stop off at yesterdays perfect vantage point for lunch again.  And mostly our ride went according to plan - all except the first bit, because to avoid cycling on a busy road John had chosen to take us via some lanes!

But, he didn't tell me (or maybe he didn't know) that the lanes led steeply upwards, and that even with the aid of my battery 🚴 on full power I might feel more than a bit nauseated when I got to the top.  Luckily however, I was soon distracted from that horrible feeling by the sight of 2 sheep standing literally on top of a dense hedge - they obviously thought the grass was greener on the other side.

Anyway, on with the story - as we'd only planned a short ride we took the time to stop off at a place we'd only flown by the day before - namely the  RAF Station Harrowbeer - an old World War II airfield ✈.  We learnt it was opened on 15th August 1941 and closed in July 1945, and that during it's service nationals from Britain, Poland, Canada, America, France and Czechoslovakia served there.

Today, there's nothing left of the buildings except what looked like sealed off air-raid shelters, but the old runways are still in evidence and the privately owned land that is part of Roborough Down  is now open for people and of course ponies to roam and explore.  So of course we did, and we rode our bikes along part of the runways where Spitfires, Hurricanes, Walruses, Mustangs, Typhoons and Anson aircraft had taken off as they flew to Plymouth to protect shipping from E-boat and U-boat attacks in the English Channel.


Drake's Leat

Sir Frances Drake
Then after lunch we found our way back onto Drakes Trail, and while we were there we learnt a bit more about the areas history and it's connection with the famous Elizabethan sea-fairer Sir Francis Drake.  The trail is quite close to his birthplace and to the house that he owned at the time of his death, but part of it also followed the 16th Century Drake's Leat which was an artificial water course that was constructed under the guidance of Sir Francis Drake.  The Leat carried water down from the River Meavy, across Roborough Down and into Plymouth, and although the distance would only have been about 10 miles as the crow flies, the water channel ended up being about 18.5 miles long so that a consistent downhill gradient could be achieved. Drake's leat opened on 24th April 1591 and legend has it that Drake himself rode ahead of the water on his white horse all the way into Plymouth.  It then remained in service until 1890s when the cities water supply was obtained from the more reliable Burrator Reservoir.


Wednesday 25th January 2017

When we drew back our blinds this morning we couldn't quite believe we were being treated to even more 🌞, so although it was quite blustery we decided to head out for a little treat - lunch at the Warren Public House.  The Warren can be found way up on the High Dartmoor Moorlands and is surrounded by fantastic far reaching views of the Moors and the animals who roam there, but in getting there we certainly earned our lunch!   The route required us to cycle about 12 miles much of which was once again a bit like a roller-costar but with more ups than downs, so we were very very glad of our little bit of battery assistance because even with that we were knackered worn out by the time we got there!


However, although our ride was hard we mostly thoroughly enjoyed the ever changing vistas and views and luckily a couple of massive birds of prey circling in the thermals provided entertainment as we went.  Then when we arrived we found the food and beer were excellent - I had Rabbit Pie (what else would you have at the Warren) and John had Moussaka (with lamb not moose😁)




And then it was time for the easier traverse back down the hills, but it was a good job we hadn't completley exhausted our batteries because there were still several steep up sections in our way.  We also found a lovely little glade by a stream to stop off for coffee (we never forget our flask), and later when we spied an ice-cream van in a car park that was just before our final decent we treated ourselves again.   And as an added bonus the ice cream man (who looked a bit like Santa) told us tall tales about the area as we licked our 99s.



Thursday 26th January 2017

After 3 days of cycling we decided we'd go for a walk today, and although the 🌞 managed to put in an appearance, the blusteryness of yesterday had increased overnight to 40 mph gusts πŸƒπŸŽ.   So with a weather forecast  that predicted improvement by early afternoon  we had a late breakfast of  black pudding and eggs on waffles,  before setting of for the nearby town of Tavistock.  To get there we walked about 3 miles mostly across the moors, but it was a good job we'd wrapped up warm because it was bitingly cold, and at times it almost looked as if it might snow.

Once we were in the town  we found the famous Pannier Market which was filled with all manner of Artisan stalls selling all sorts of odd items, and then later along side the canal, there was lots more history about the area's metal mining industry.


However, we didn't linger to long in the town because we still had to cross the Moor again, and the snug warmth of T4rdis2, along with a home cooked Rogan Josh Curry πŸ› cooked in our Crock Pot (a Christmas gift from John's Mum which we have certainly made very good use off) was calling loudly!



Friday 27th January 2017

☔☂🌧🌧🌧☂☔  Rain, Wind, Rain, more Wind and more Rain all day, so it was another duvet day where we stayed warm and snug in the van😁

Saturday 28th January 2017

So after our very lazy day yesterday we were quite determined to go out today, even though heavy wintery showers were forecast.  However, having said that we also experienced some good stretches where the sun almost dazzled 😎 us with it's warm rays.

Today our target was Oakhampton on our 🚡 , a ride that we thought would be about 40 miles, and one that required us to start by riding along more hilly country lanes that were slightly less than enjoyable, because as well as being wet and muddy, they had  high hedge rows that obscured the views.   However, after about 6 miles we peddled into Smallacombe Bottom and then up onto the open Moor, and from then on our journey become much more interesting.   As we went we enjoyed the far reaching Moor views, and when these disappeared, we found ourselves in Lyford Gorge where we paused for coffee and hot cross buns (that were cold), and once back on our bikes we were soon on the  Granite Way - a cycle trail that starts near Lyford Gorge and kicks you out by Oakhampton πŸš‚ station.





Along the way we passed over the Meldon Viaduct which was built in 1874 and spans 165 metres over the remains of several mineral mines.  From it's grand heights we could see the Meldon Dam which was an addition to the valley as recently as 1972 and which dammed the Okement river to form a reservoir that holds 300 million litres of water.







The trail also took us past the old Meldon Quarry and a defunct Railway Station that was built specifically for the movement of the spoils from the quarry,  and even today stone is still blasted on this site but only used for aggregates.   However, apparently nothing goes to waste because unwanted products are recycled to restore the older quarry workings.

Eventually we came to the end of the trail, but not before we'd been caught in a vicious hale storm that hurled icy particles at us, but luckily this was on our backs so it wasn't to bad.  But by the time we found our way down to Simmons Park, which is on the edge of Oakhampton, we were quite soggy so we were quite glad to find a sheltered bench by the riverside to sit while we ate out picnic.

Once fed and watered we had a little potter around the town, and then it was time for our return journey, however, on this leg we were quite kind to ourselves and used Battery power to zoom along and speed us on our way - and it was a good job we did because we just managed to get home before another deluge arrived - and our total mileage was 38.5πŸ˜€

Sunday 29th January 2017

Well, what a day! More ☂🌧☔🌧☔🌧☂ - maybe now the Burrator Reservoir might be nearly full!  So what do you do on a very wet Sunday?  Should we go out and get soaked and cold - or should we stay in, have another duvet day, and cook ourselves a nice Sunday dinner?  The later won, and we both agree, it feels quite nice being snug and warm in here while the rain is banging on the roof indicating how cold it might be out there!

Anyway, that's it for another week - so bye for now from Dartmoor😘