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

May 24, 2024

In Tavistock: Day Two

Today’s a repeat of yesterday’s.  We start with another iteration of Paul’s excellent breakfast, digest in our room for about an hour and then go our own way for the day.  Rachael maps out a walking trail for herself that she likes even better than the one I curated for her yesterday, so I think I’ll encourage her to do more of her own mapping in the future.  

She took a mix of stills and walking videos of her day, so walk along with her and see why she liked it so much.

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The weather looks a little chancier today even though the winds have dialed down a notch or two, so I’m not sure about climbing up into the moors again.  My legs are thinking I don’t need to be doing quite so much hill work today anyway, so I come up with a loop to the northwest that is easier on them - somewhat anyway, although you don’t get all that far most places in England before you round a bend and find a 15 percenter looming ahead.

No semi-feral ponies to liven up the day this time, but the unexpected delights of Brent Tor and a sheep shearing party are enough highlights for another fine day in Devon.  It starts with me unexpectedly claiming a new bird right on the outskirts of town, one I’ve been hoping for a shot of for a long time.  I’m both elated and disappointed by it though.  Elated, because I’ve finally seen a Eurasian jay stopped long enough and close enough to me for a shot - it’s a distinctively colorful bird, and I recognize it immediately hopping on the grass when I enter a small park.  But disappointed, because I arrive on the scene at the same time as a walker who scares it off almost as soon as I’ve spotted it.  I can still see him working through the canopy above and wait for about five minutes for a clear shot before finally giving up and moving on.  

#242: Eurasian jay, finally. I’ll see one occasionally, but invariably when flying across the road and disappearing into the trees. I’ve been watching for two years for one of these to stay put long enough for a shot. Not the best, but I might wait a long time for another one.
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The bike path through town crosses the viaduct of the old train line. It’s a bit of work getting up here but it gives you a nice view down on the town once you’re here.
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Looking down on central Tavistock from its viaduct. That’s its Protestant parish church at the center.
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This one’s Saint Mary’s, the Catholic parish church.
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Where the old rail line still exists it provides miles of fine riding, with frequent sight lines like this. It’s still spring, and the vegetation is colorful. Rhododendrons are in bloom here and there all along the way.
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Once I leave the old train line my route follows the quietest paved roads I could spot on the map.  The first five or six miles are brilliant, following Creasy Road northwest and then doubling back on a no name lane to the old road to Launceston.  Looking at the shape of my track it doesn’t make much sense if you’re trying to get anywhere in particular, but today I’m not.  Really, I don’t ride a road of any consequence until I’m about halfway through my loop and turning back south again.  I’ve done well with my route selection up to this point.

Creasy Road is a good choice and gives me a mile completely to myself. Nothing here but me and these unbroken hedgerows blocking the views to either side - a fact of life that just goes with the territory in Britain.
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Looks like I’m on the old road to Milton Abbot and Launceston.
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Fine also. There’s the occasional car to share the pavement with, but there’s room for it.
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No idea what this old road is. Like most of them on the first half of my ride the map doesn’t even label it.
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#243: Ring-necked pheasant. I’m surprised this is the first of the year for this bird, but they look to be pretty common here. I’ll see three others today, and Rachael spots some also.
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The countryside is Devon-beautiful, when you come to a break in your tunnel of green and can see out to it.
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I liked everything about this old structure: the slate if that’s what it is, the see-thru windows, the tree or shrub sprawled across its face.
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There’s a surprising amount of color in the stonework when you zoom in on it.
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The way back is busier, at least for the next five miles as I ride a two-laner back toward Chillaton.  There’s not much traffic, but it’s a bus route and drivers are moving faster and giving less quarter than I like.  Its a relief when I turn off just before Chillaton and find a quieter route the rest of the way back toward town.

The prominent feature going this direction is Brent Tor, rising up needlelike on the horizon with a structure of some kind up on top.  I first notice it several miles off, taking note and planning to research it later.  No research is needed though, because it turns out my route goes right past it so I’ll get a name for the place and closer views from several angles before I’m done.

I stop when I come to a break in the hedgerow where there’s a hiking path up to the structure on top: Saint Michael’s, the still functioning parish church for the village of Brentor down below.  The church’s website gives its interesting story:

St Michael de Rupe is our main parish church – and is one of the iconic landmarks of West Devon.  Founded in 1130 by the local landowner Robert Giffard, St Michael’s is the fourth smallest parish church in the UK, and is, we believe, the highest working church in southern England. We have a regular service of sung Evensong here at 6pm in the spring and summer, and occasional services all year round.

Although the foundation is 12th Century, most of the church as you see it today dates to the 13th and 14th centuries, when the original chantry chapel was enlarged to act as a parish church. However, the church has been continually updated over the years to meet the needs of the local community. Following major repair works in 2016, the roof has been fully refurbished, and we have now installed the electric lighting running off solar panels on the roof (sadly, the Victorian gas lamps have been condemned as unsafe) – this is the first off the grid installation in the diocese! 

I’m zoomed in here on this distinctive formation off to the south, with a castle or church crowning it. I figure I’ll find out it’s identity back in the room, but later I’ll be surprised to see that I’m looking straight up at it.
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Even outside the national park, Devon has such a captivating landscape.
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In Devon.
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Saint Mary the Virgin Church, Marystowe.
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Another white wagtail, but the first time I’ve seen one perched on a wire. And probably not coincidentally it’s the first time I’ve seen one not constantly pumping its tail, which presumably would hamper its stability.
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When I stop to look up at Brentor Church there’s another pair of cyclists there staring up already.  They’re a couple of about my age on tour themselves, having crossed the channel by ferry from their home in Holland.  Their English is excellent and we enjoy a long chat before it’s time to move on.  Among other things, they tell me they stopped to admire a sheep shearing party a few miles back, not far from Tavistock.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and stumble upon it myself on the way home.

And I do get lucky.  After following along the border of the notional park for several miles stopping to admire the views when I can see through to them I hear a radio playing up ahead, and when I come to a break in the hedgerow I see the work still in progress.  I ask permission first and then take a video to remember it by.  It looks like sweaty work, but fun!

Admiring Brenton’s ancient church, magnificently sited high above its surroundings. I’m impressed that it’s still in use, especially given that you have to park at the bottom of the hill and hike up. If we’re ever back this way I’d like to go up myself.
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Nice car, with the driver absent for the moment.
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Keith AdamsA classic, for sure!
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4 weeks ago
He’s back here, helping diagnose a mechanical of some sort.
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Keith AdamsDiagnosing problems is an essential skill for MG owner/operators, from what I understand.
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4 weeks ago
I don’t think I’ve realized before that these old granite posts are waymarkers. Were standing here at the border of the national park, which begins at the hedgerow.
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Tavistock’s one way, Mary Tavy’s the other.
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A look east into the national park, looking across the valley cut by the River Burn.
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Entering town, I get a look down on the rooftops below. They are growing an impressive clover crop - they could graze a goat up here. The red wallflower is red valerian, another common roadside attraction here.
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Today's ride: 27 miles (43 km)
Total: 1,704 miles (2,742 km)

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Janice BranhamVery cool video of the sheep shearing. The animals seem quite used to being handled in this way.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Janice BranhamThey seem very calm about it. It’s probably not his first rodeo, so maybe he knows the drill by now.
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3 weeks ago