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Old 2005-11-06, 05:46 PM   #1
rob.northcott
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Dartmoor muni weekend, 5th and 6th November 2005

The weather on Saturday morning wasn't too bad, so we decided it was best to get a long ride in before it deteriorated. Four of us (Phil, Tue, Paul and myself) set off at about 10am down the road into the centre of Princetown, then up the hill onto the track towards South Hessary Tor. Legs nicely warmed up by this early climb, we set off at a good pace across the moor, over some quite challenging v-shaped granite water bars until we reached the top of the long stoney downhill to Burrator reservoir. This is easily my favourite piece of trail near home, almost three miles of rock-strewn downhill riding with a few stream crossings thrown in. It's all rideable but I've never managed it all without a few UPDs. We all fell off a few times, but no injuries were sustained apart from a few gorse thorns. When we reached the bottom we followed the road along the south edge of the reservoir and through Sheepstor village, with a good view of the sheer top of Sheeps Tor itself. From here there is a short but steep climb up the road to the scout hut near Gutter Tor. This is quite a hard climb, but all four of us made it to the top, except I slipped on a cattle grid at the top and shamefully had to walk the last few yards. At the scout hut there's a river to cross, with a choice of ford or bridge. With all the rain we've had, the ford was looking rather deep and intimidating so we all took the wimp's route over the bridge. From here the track becomes rocky again and climbs back up onto the high moor. I've never managed to ride this section, and this ride was no different, with Phil and Paul also being reduced to walking. Tue somehow rode the whole hill without even holding onto his saddle - "the man's a machine" as Paul remarked. Then there is a slight downhill and another climb, but much more rideable than the first bit from the scout hut - even I can ride most of it. At the top of this climb the path levels out passes the old tin mine at Eylesbarrow, winding around some of the old mine shafts, at least one of which is uncovered, very deep and right next to the track - best if you know it's there, so I warned the others before we lost anybody into the abyss! After a bit of an eroded stoney "half-pipe", it's an easy ride across the top of the moor on a smooth fine-gravel surface. Ironically this is where we sustained our only injury of the day when Paul did a flying high-speed "superman" in front of me and wore a hole through his leggings and his knee. We dropped down to Nun's Cross, imrpressing a group of walkers and encountering a few tricky bits of sticky mud just to make it a bit more interesting, with Tue riding one-footed for some of the way down the hill. We soon arrived at the top of the rocky downhill where we started, with an annoying side-wind starting to blow, and then back to Princetown over all the granite water bars again. Then it was a quick ride up through Princetown and back home for a lunch of sausage sandwiches and for Paul to tape up his knee. 14 miles in 2 3/4 hours - not bad considering we stopped a few times for photos and food breaks. And the rain held off, with nothing more than a bit of light drizzle for the whole morning.

The rain started coming down and the wind was picking up - only a fool would go out for an afternoon ride. But in our sausaged-up state we decided to do a quick easy loop mostly on the old railway line to the west out towards King's Tor. Paul declined the afternoon ride to save his knee, so the three of us set off into the rain and ever-strengthening wind (after I took the chance to grab a dry t-shirt - the perks of the weekend being based at my house ), down into Princetown and out on the old railway line. The strong wind was making it hard going, so we were glad to turn off the path and down a short but fun rocky downhill (that was doing a very good impression of a river) next to King's Tor, cutting off a loop of the railway. By then we weren't going to get any wetter so we opted to venture slightly further down the railway line and try a bit of grassy downhill that I hadn't ridden before. It was steep, slippery and great fun! From here it seemed like a good idea to follow the gravel track out to rejoin the railway line near the house at Routerundle. Not such a good idea as it turned out - the track was utterly waterlogged and I took an unexpected swim in a foot-deep puddle before we ended up bogged down in ankle-deep mud (actually most of it wasn't mud - best not to think about it) before emerging back onto the very welcome gravel of the railway for the relatively easy ride back up to Princetown - easy, that is, apart from the enormous side wind on the last stretch. Despite the weather, an enjoyable 8 miles.

Then it was showers, stuff shoes with newspaper, discuss plans for Sunday morning and off to the pub (still raining hard ) for food and beer.

The chosen route for this morning started off with another run of the long downhill towards Burrator by popular request (so it's not just me who can't get enough of that track!). The overnight torrential rain had stopped, the wind had dropped, and it was looking like we were going to get a nice dry start to the ride. Then Phil was called away to rescue a wayward fence in his garden. And then there were two. Tue and myself set off down the road just as another torrential shower started. Oh well, we were determined to do that downhill again, but we wimped out slightly and followed the lane parallel with the track out past South Hessary Tor and up to the top of the track. The walls and trees either side of the lane provided welcome shelter from the wind and horizontal rain and we made good time up to the top, having to pass very close to a small group of cows with sharp-looking horns and a tiny calf who luckily didn't seem threatened by our passing and we got past without incident. Just after leaving the road there was a HUGE puddle which I somehow managed to ride through, with my feet dipping in the water on every pedal stroke. I was just starting to feel a bit smug when I heard a huge splash behind me - Tue hadn't been so lucky and found a rock somewhere in the murk, sending him for a swim. By now the rain had stopped and the wind had dropped and we headed off undeterred down the very wet track. Near the bottom of the descent, which was as exhilarating as always, we stopped for a quick snack break before turning off northwards over Leather Tor bridge and the raging torrent that is usually just a quiet stream. Then a short steep climb (almost made it) and a fairly easy track, with some fun to be had swerving round some more deep puddles, before joining the road for an easy climb before the sharp drop down to cross the main road from Yelverton to Princetown. A quick spin down the hill into Welltown village, then a long but rideable climb up past Walkhampton church, where the incline mercifully gets kinder to our burning legs, and on to the top of the hill where there is a steep grassy climb up to meet the railway line again. There were torrents of water rushing down the track, but we decided to give it a go anyway - made it almost halfway up then squelched the rest of the way on foot. The ride back up the railway is usually pretty easy, but the waterlogged ground made for some tricky riding in places with a couple of UPDs caused by the wheel sliding out on the slimy mud. We still had some legs left by this point and elected to ride the extra loop of the railway round the back of King's Tor and across the "spikey bit" where I took Mikefule back in the summer. The slimy conditions made this more of a challenge than usual, with tired legs and slippery mud working in league with the pointy rocks to ensure that we didn't make it through cleanly. A nice tail wind made the final run into Princetown easy and we arrived back having done another 15 miles in 2 1/2 hours.

After hosing ourselves down it was time for another shower and some toast before Tue headed off back to deepest Cornwall.

A very enjoyable weekend - with the weather last week I was having a few second thoughts about a Dartmoor muni weekend in November, but Nature was reasonably good to us and we had three excellent rides. Thanks to Tue, Phil and Paul for coming - we'll have to do it again sometime.

Phil and Tue took quite a few pictures over the weekend so hopefully there should be some posted soon.

Rob
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Old 2005-11-06, 07:40 PM   #2
cathwood
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Great write-up. I'm looking forward to the photos.

Cathy
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Old 2005-11-06, 09:27 PM   #3
phil
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There's some very good riding on Dartmoor, it seems. I don't know what I missed by not doing the last ride, but the first descent on the long Saturday ride was fantastic! It went on for ages, and had the lot... everything from sketchy rocky sections to uber-fast bits with loads of little jumps over rocks. The ride back was great, too; the track went across a bit of the moor that looked really remote, and gave the feeling of being "out there" when looking around and seeing nothing but bleak moorland. Great stuff.

Next time it'll be blue skies and dry, dusty trails without a puddle in sight. On the way back to the motorway today, mine was one of very few cars without a whitewater kayak on the top; I don't know if there was an event on or whether the storm water in the rivers brought everyone out anyway, but there was a *lot* of water everywhere!

On Saturday I was trying to think of a muni event in the UK when it hasn't rained at some point, but I honestly can't think of one I've been to. Statistically, surely we're due a rain-free weekend soon?!

I was in the grip of a mad photographic frenzy throughout the first ride and took loads of pictures, most of which can be seen here.

That was a great weekend, thanks Rob.

Phil
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Old 2005-11-06, 10:53 PM   #4
rob.northcott
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Some nice pics there Phil - thanks for putting those up. It's almost weird to see us all without waterproofs on! The other two rides were more like sub-muni... I'm sure somebody had a camera with them on the afternoon ride - perhaps it was Tue. He certainly took a few this morning after the rain eased off.

Rob
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Old 2005-11-07, 08:18 AM   #5
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Sod's Law: The day after, which I will be spending stuffed in an office all day, there isn't a cloud in the sky, the sun is shining and the visibility is excellent.

Bah!

Phil
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Old 2005-11-07, 09:38 AM   #6
rob.northcott
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Yup, I've just ridden to work in bright sunlight and clear skies
Ground's still very wet though.
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Old 2005-11-07, 08:37 PM   #7
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Sounds intrepid. As it happens, I was in Devon this weekend, but sans uni, and helping Ruth with some furniture removals. Had a nice walk on the moors this morning, and the rivers were well up, and the ground underfoot very wet.

Glad you had a good time.
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Old 2005-11-07, 08:52 PM   #8
paul.selwood
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Rob - great write up. Thanks for being a great host and guide. Even though I was the total wimp and only did the dry ride, I really enjoyed it. That 3 mile rocky downhill was fab!

Phil - cool photos...

Cheers all for a fun ride!
Paul
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Old 2005-11-08, 03:36 PM   #9
rob.northcott
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Thanks for the positive replies, people! It might be nice to do something similar in the summer, perhaps get some more people together (last weekend was a bit of an impromptu affair just to see how people liked the riding round here).
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