Stairway To Devon

It’s the first week in April, a season notorious for rain but capable of any kind of weather. The destination – Devon, famed for it’s spectacular coast line, picturesque cottages and bad ass cream teas. The perfect way to kick off 2012.

As is the norm for many of our local adventures we’re riding with MashUp and District Cycling Club. Last minute phone calls to other members of the elite touring club reveal several riders are well into late night drinking sessions and no one can get hold of the guy with half the train tickets, who’s no longer coming with us due to a lame excuse. Jim is going to be delayed until Sunday because he’s on a stag do and a severe snow warning has been issued for most of the country. Hmmm

By hook or by crook we eventually make it to Exeter, in varying states. We have had the great fortune of one of our top riders Tom ‘The Hen’ Hennessy being a proper Devon lad and offering up his local knowledge and his parents pad for us to crash in for the weekend. So we start the proceedings with a couple of Hen’s favorite day rides out of Exeter, day one we head to the eastern villages. We end up with a fish supper at a cracking chippy in Exmouth then potter back along the recently completed cycle route that takes us up the estuary to Exeter and Hen’s local pub where we get to work on cider and cheese plates

The shenanigans roll on, day two and we’re heading to the notoriously bleak Dartmoor, but the weather is on our side remarkably, no sign of the Blizards which are battering the north of the country. We soon find our selves lounging about in the sunshine drinking tea in Morten Hampstead, 10 minutes out of the village we hit a killer climb closely followed with a chain snap from our rookie mascot Dave. 6 riders, no chain tool, Whoopsie! It’s back to Morten to beg from the locals. Soon enough a knight in shining armour comes over to us with a chain break, having heard news of our plight, what a legend! Meanwhile Steve, the MashUp and District food and drink advisor goes off to interrogate the local cafe. Within minutes a raging argument spills out of the door and into the street. Steve has offered some friendly advise about customer service and the owner has blown his top. It’s all kicking off. Our new friend gives us an insight into village politics while I fix Dave’s chain as quickly as possible. Back on the road the confrontation has given Stevo a huge adrenaline boost and he leads the charge for the rest of the day!

So after our nice warm up it’s time to get to business, Jim arrives with the rest of our camping gear and we get fully loaded up with a superb curry on Sunday night. The plan is to camp for the rest of the week so we can do some distance, we want to see what the North coast has to offer. The rest of the MashUp crew decide to join us for the first day which takes us up onto Exmoor with spectacular views over mid Devon, we depart with a pub feast just outside of Barnstaple then roll off into night to become reacquainted with the world of wild camping. While technically illegal, wild camping is pretty safe in England, we find a perfect spot and get a fire going as quick as we can…it’s getting pretty cold!

I think If I could sum up our tour of Devon with one word it would probably be ‘Diverse’. Over the next 4 days we rode in wind, rain, fog, sunshine, sleet and snow. Through the desolate Exmoor and down to the picturesque North coast villages of Lynton and Porlock, through forests and farms, cutting down canals and racing along the dramatic cliff tops of the southern ‘Jurrasic’ coast. We couldn’t resist a stop off in the best named village in Britain while we were there, so it was down to Beer, that’s right the village is called Beer! It’s not just the name that’s impressive either, the captains cottage tea room rocks. Call in for some fresh crab sarnies and cream tea, I urge you!

I wouldn’t say that that the weather conditions were ideal, it was pretty nasty at times but you’re never too far from a welcoming pub and an open fire. Some of the climbs, particularly those along the cycle routes which follow the north and south coast are incredibly steep and narrow so I wouldn’t recommend it for a leisurely introduction to cycling but if you like a challenge then this has to be one of the most rewarding places to ride in the UK. If you’re not up for wild camping there are lots of small camp sites too, we stopped at a cracking one in the middle of Porlock village, warm showers with a sea view too, can’t say fairer than that. We heart Devon!