10th July 2016.
SAILING HOME ACROSS THE MOORS.
I was keen to get up and get going on my final leg home back on English turf, but staying in the student digs I had to wait for Max to wake up as he’d promised to lend me a tenner so I could get some food on my way home to fuel the ride! But alas, he had forgotten and so all I could do was beg to pilfer what little food he had left to take with me. It’ll always make a good story – as the saying goes – beggars can’t be choosers – so he put a whole frozen garlic baguette in the oven whilst I polished off two rounds of toast.
With the French bread wrapped in foil and warming my side in my pocket, I headed off into the grey Plymouth morning. It felt good to be back on familiar roads again, and my legs felt much fresher than in recent days having had some rest and proper food. The route planned was not ominous, I knew it would be about 50 miles and a route I had done before in the opposite direction, so I was looking forward to doing it this time with a tailwind!
Leaving the Plymouth streets and main roads behind me I soon started to climb up onto Dartmoor, steady climbs past the Dartmoor Diner and over the cattlegrids that welcome you into this spectacular place. Even on a grey and damp day, the Moors have this incredible beauty – perhaps as a living, moving entity rather than just a physical place, one not to be underestimated as many have suffered at it’s most foul moods.
Up on the Moors I was feeling great, soon through misty Princetown and down past Two Bridges. The roads were very quiet too, being a Sunday morning, so I had the place almost to myself, with the exception of the local residents – the scattering of Dartmoor ponies and cattle ranging the Moors. The road across the tops is just so fun, especially with a tailwind, I soared along, with the brilliant descents and then little climbs as you tour across the barren landscape. I squealed – yes actually squealed – with delight when I saw two cyclists approaching, wearing Exeter Wheelers kit, I was nearly home! By this time I knew that I ought to eat something so I reached for the now cold baton in my jersey pocket and tore off a couple of chunks of garlic bread. Compared to the delectable pastries and artisan baguettes of France it was pretty disgusting and the overwhelming garlic was not the best to stomach so early in the morning, but I was glad of whatever I could fuel myself with so I could just get home.
Welcome back to England! The final stage back to Exeter over the spectacular but misty Dartmoor, these roads are always incredible to ride whatever the weather. Feeling great to be back on home roads and a much appreciated tailwind! #katherinesgranddepart #devon #dartmoor #swisbest #southwestisbest #devoncycling #mistymorning #grandfinale #cycletouring @devoncycling
Soon the general descent came – down into Moretonhampstead to start. Here I clocked a rather nice S-Works propped up so stopped to chat to three blokes sat in a cafe having a mid-ride cuppa. For a few minutes, we shared stories of touring holidays and they seemed pretty impressed by my solo jolly, so when the offer of half a teacake came along, I was mighty glad!
I knew there was a treat in store for me next on the descent off of Dartmoor – it’s one of my favourite roads in Devon. With the wind at my back, I had an amazing road from Doccombe down to Dunsford with a very curteous VW Camper driver behind who gave me a big grin and thumbs up at the end. I felt like a pro as I took each corner, leaning my weight onto the outside hip and flying round, putting everything I’d been taught into good practice. With the steep wooded valley and barrier to one side it almost feels like you could be almost anywhere in Europe. Feeling high, I motored on into Exeter via Longdown and popped by Exeter Quay to see if the Wheelers were at their favourite post-ride coffee stop. I didn’t find them but I was lucky enough to have a good chat with a couple of chaps promoting their local bike charity, restoring second hand bike and teaching local children to ride.
The final five miles of the whole trip took me back to my starting place – my own family front door. I cried out when I arrived and Mum and Dad weren’t far, we all had a big hug but the only thing that I really wanted to do was to brush my teeth because of that damn garlic bread…! I’ve been so privileged to be able to go on such an adventure that so many other people wouldn’t be able to afford to do or often wouldn’t have the confidence to do, yet when it comes down to it, and especially after so much time away with such little contact, there really is no place like home.