In Tavistock: Day One - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

May 23, 2024

In Tavistock: Day One

The day starts with a terrific breakfast, if you’re a breakfast person.  First off the location is lovely, looking out the back of the house down on the Tavy River raging past just yards below.  We’re down a few minutes before eight and are the first to claim a table.  A few minutes later Paul shows up, asks what beverages we’d like, and tells us to help ourselves to the array of cereals, yogurt and OJ on a counter in the corner.  A few minutes later he returns with a large French press that he sets on the table and then takes our food orders from the menu card before us.  Here’s what’s presented about ten minutes later:

This should stoke us well for the adventures ahead.
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Patrick O'HaraVery nice. I love English breakfasts.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob KoreisI’m quite calorie conscious. Something had to go.
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4 weeks ago

Conditions look fair today, but just fair.  It’s not expected to rain, always a plus.  But it’s quite windy and chilly - the expected 15mph winds will add a lot of chill to a day that’s barely 50 now and will top off at only 55.  We’re not in Almeria any more, Rachael!

It’s not the sort of day that temps Rachael to get on her bike, so she’s off mid-morning on the loop hike into the lower moors I’ve drawn out for her.  Paul had suggested that she consider flagging down a bus and ride it up to Princetown and walk back from there, which is tempting but logistically complicated enough that a loop from home sounds better. She returns 12 miles later after thoroughly enjoying most of her walk - but not the last two, spent on the shoulder of a too busy road past the golf course that surprised both of us by how congested it was.

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It’s not an ideal day for a ride up into the moors, that’s for sure; but tomorrow’s weather looks uncertain so today looks like my best chance.  Paul, as he’ll do every morning, asks where we ate last night (Robertson’s, the place he had recommended to us - they served us up an excellent large pizza which we enjoyed enough that we followed up with a small one) and what our plans are for the day.  I say I’m thinking of biking up to Princetown on the far side of Pork Hill where we rode two years ago.  His eyes cross a bit and he asks how I am with hills, adding that the ride up to Princetown is one of the twelve toughest hill climbs in England.

It’s not that - I don’t know where he gets his info, but it’s just average awful based on our limited experience here.  Still, I stare at the map back at the room and find a zigzagged route through the small roads that softens the climbs a bit.

An hour later I’m off, working my way up those small roads - and they really are small, and quiet, and challenging.  I bike when I can and walk when I can’t, and eventually find myself up in the wide open moors relishing the views and the free range animals that signs warn drivers to slow down and watch out for.  It’s lambing season, and the sheep are endearing; but the real showstoppers are the gorgeous wild ponies that Dartmoor is famous for.  Their numbers are much diminished from the 30,000 that reportedly ranged here 70 years ago, but there are still about 1,500 of them - enough that you’re assured of seeing them around - off in the distance, or nearby, or right in the road and walking at you making you wonder if you need protection.

It’s a fantastic day even under today’s conditions, but when I return to the room in the late afternoon I’m elated but well chilled after a fast nine mile steep descent into a strong headwind.  Like the last time we were here, this is a ride I don’t expect I’ll forget soon.

When I return to the room, Rachael’s only just returned herself and is trying to thaw out her hands with a cup of coffee.  When she arrived they were too cold for her to open the door with the key and had to ring the bell so the host could let her into the house and then our room.  Embarrassing! She made a note to remember to take warm gloves with her next time out.

Most of the first few miles look like this - narrow, a bit rough, but I’m alone in the world as I steadily climb at 8-10% with the occasional breather that keeps me in the game.
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Rachael AndersonTo Keith AdamsThat says it all!
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4 weeks ago
Road quality varies. Occasionally I’m on pavement, and the few cars that come along require us both to slow down and squeeze to the either side.
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I love this fantastic beech anchoring this ancient wall.
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The roadside flowers make a good distraction when the pitch hits 17% and I decide it’s time for a walk. The bluebells are prolific here, providing much of the roadside color.
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As are the red campions, a flower new to me. Apparently we’re lucky on the timing here and the two are both in bloom together for only a few weeks. The bluebells will apparently die back soon.
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Bill ShaneyfeltFunny...
I looked it up 2 days in a row, and now the third day I knew what it was, but didn't need to share the knowledge!
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4 weeks ago
Starting to break into the open.
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The view to the west, away from the moors. Rachael’s probably down in there somewhere.
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I’m really pleased by how fine some of these minor path-like roads are in this part of the park.
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Aww!
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I think this must be Saint Mary’s Church in Walkhampton.
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This one hurt a bit.
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They mean it. It won’t be long until I start seeing sheep and lambs lying on the margins or wandering onto the road.
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Remarkable country. Not a view-blocker in sight.
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Even without the hills there are many reasons to slow down.
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Unbearably cute.
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Not quite as cute. This is notorious Dartmoor Prison, built in the early 1800’s as a prison camp for French and American POW’s captured in the British Wars with Napoleonic France and the War of 1812. There are many stories, factual and fictional, of prisoners escaping and trying to evade capture for ten miles across the moors.
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At the far point of the loop, trying to decide it it’s worth it to drop down to Two Bridge for a more photogenic side view of its bridge and then climb back again.
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Inspired by the intrepid Grampies, I go for it and find it worth the effort.
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Shaggy!
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I biked along this unbroken stone wall for about two miles, contemplating the incomprehensible amount of labor that must have gone into building it.
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One of the only two bikers I saw here today: this elderly gent, and a fit young woman keeping a good pace climbing the other direction.
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Keith AdamsThe woman was probably Polly Low. :)
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsNope, unless she’s taken to hair extensions. She was trailing. Long braid.
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4 weeks ago
Some wheal lucky sheep.
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It’s like a scene at Yellowstone. You know where the wildlife sightings ahead are by the traffic jams.
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Should I be worried? I was starting to be and was relieved when they suddenly turned left and sauntered up the middle of the road.
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Dartmoor ponies were a centuries old breed adapted to this harsh environment, but most of the ponies here now are a mix of other breeds (Shetland, Welsh, Arab) that commoners (the farmers that operate within the park) have released here. Because dartmoor Ponies are a solid chestnut brown, all but maybe that brown one in the back are Dartmoor Hill Ponies (ponies born here but with other lineage). I don’t care - I find them all wonderfully beautiful.
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Most of my work done other than keeping my temperature up, I face a chilling nine mile descent into the wind on the way home.
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Not bad. Around the bend though there’s a 17% warning. I’m glad I’m going this direction now, and that I zigzagged my way up.
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Not hard to find raw materials for your fencing needs.
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This would be that 17% bit coming up. I’m glad it’s not raining or I’d be worried about my traction.
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From a distance I thought this was a tombstone, but it’s an ancient distance marker. Four miles to go by the direct route, but mine’s longer.
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Rooks.
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Some Dartmoor Hill Ponies.
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#241: Meadow pipit. I’m sorry I didn’t get a better shot, but I’m glad he stopped long enough for this at least.
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Such gorgeous, mesmerizing country.
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Tavistock and a warm shower ahead.
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Patrick O'HaraLumpy. Good on ya, Scott!
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4 weeks ago
Keith Adams"Lumpy" indeed. When we rode in Somerset, West Sussex, and Dorset 20+ years ago our host used the term "a bit lumpy" regularly in describing a day's route; I learned quickly to be very wary when he did.
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4 weeks ago

Today's ride: 24 miles (39 km)
Total: 1,677 miles (2,699 km)

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Mark BinghamIf you're looking for a place to eat The Cornish Arms is supposed to be really great. While it's not cheap, I would expect it to be excellent, and reasonably priced for the meal you get.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Mark BinghamOh, poop! We’re a couple of days behind and have moved on by now. Any recommendations for Okehampton?
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4 weeks ago