DAY 1: Home – Penzance – Land’s End – St. Just
Saturday 4th August and we are up early. Half the kit was packed the other half spread out on the living room floor. I knew where it was all going and quickly stuffed it in the relevant panniers and bags. Collected up the last few bits and bobs we’d need and loaded up the bikes.
Bikes ready we scoff our breakfast, fill our bottles and say our good byes to Mummy. This was going to be hard on Mummy and it was only the first leg so we’d be home, all going well, in a week. She put a brave face on, took photos, dished out the cuddles and waved us on our way to the train station.
08:15 train from Temple Meads, arriving in Penzance 12:35. Over four hours to while away. Connect Four begins: Daddy 2-1 Red. No more playing, R gets the hump. I play to win. Harsh? May be but read the rest of the adventure. I also point stratergy things out to R as I’m playing. R keeps a vigil on the roads out the window as we pass through villages, towns and citys; the 🔺 #drainspotting tally has begun and will continue throughout the adventure, not to mention a few other shapes not commonly seen.
Suddenly a head pops up from under the seats.
R is a little bemused but soon enjoying the company. She’s off to St. Ives for the day with her Mum and sister, luckily the clouds are clearing the further south west we go.
One more stop after Hayle where they alight and we are there, the beginning of the prelude, Penzance!
We head off through the streets, first things first I needed to go to the hospital! In making the bamboo bikes I threw a Stanley knife at my thumb, it required stitches and I hadn’t had the chance to have them out. On arrival I was told to expect a 2-3hr wait, I asked for some tweezers and a scalpel for some DIY, I was quickly seen and soon we were off, proper job!
Negotiating our way to Land’s End R was struggling with his bike due to the custom design’s geometry not being ideal (again bike post when done) and this being the first real test of the bike. He was finding it difficult when coming to a stop, I’d have to grab him and give him a bump start. His rack setup also put the panniers high and wide adding to the instability. We had a few steep toughies to contend with, this added to R’s troubles and there were a couple of spectacular dismounts at slow speed. I knew there’d be more to come over the following days in Cornwall & Devon.
Having arrived at Land’s End we made our way to the finger post. It makes a good income for the owners now with you having to pay for photos within the fenced area; cash only, I had £2.45 in my pocket so we resided to photos on the other side. Later that evening I was dismayed to realise I had ample change in my pencil case that I was keeping the important stuff and the adventure’s receipts in 🙁
We don’t stay long, all a bit commercial with arcade plazas, food stalls and the likes. 15:30 and we begin the trek to the other end!
But whilst we’re here what kid doesn’t like the beach? Via Sennen Cove it is for a couple of hours building dams, making lakes, destroying dams, building more, adding sand castles, more destroying, repeat! I do manage a few minutes of respite but enjoy the building too; leaving the destruction to one more qualified…….
For the first night we’d be staying at a regular haunt of ours, St Just’s Rugby Club. Before arriving we stop in the town for a pub dinner then make our way down, I pop my head in the club house to pay our dues for the night and we make our way to the other side of the field to pitch our tent. R got stuck in putting the poles together and sticking in the pegs ready for me to finish off; this was the modus operandi for the rest of the adventure.
It’s getting late, the rooks are hopping from tree canopies to power lines then swooping over head producing a cacophony of squawks. Not content with the day’s ride R wants to do a night ride to test his lights….
….and go find some more 🔺s! I happily oblige. R has with him a nature I spy book, collecting points for everything from trees, to rock formations to butterflies. After the little extra excursion we tick off the common pipistrelle bat; whilst almost impossible to identify a shadow in the dark they are the most common and the area matches their habitat range. I tuck R in, he is soon asleep, I make my way to the club house for a pint!
🔺s = 29
35km forwards and round and about | 570m of up
DAY 2: St. Just – St. Day
Blue skies. Noodles for breakfast, they become a staple. Quick shower. I take a few minutes to address R’s panniers. I’d stuffed my top bag in at the last minute just in case, transfer the bulk of his clothes over and rejig my panniers. I stripped out most of the weight but the draw back was R had to take the sleeping matts on top of his rack so couldn’t swing his leg over at all now. A not ideal compromise but better.
We have some good friends in St. Just who we thought we weren’t going to get to see, lucky for us CKM&F got back from holiday early so we head up in to town to see them, saying good bye to the RFC. Coffee consumed RM&F settle down to a couple of hours playing. The adults chat about the usual things; the world of Beatrix Potter vs Hill Top cottage, moving kitchen cabinets, bikes, knocking down false walls, maps, festivals, an out of action ferry in The Lakes which luckily I found out about during planning as it was going to be our route across Windermere, etc etc. It’s getting on so I extract R and we say our goodbyes, promising to sort a proper visit out soon; I must sort the campervan interior out!
Back to Penzance we go, no messing we main road it over the Penwith Peninsula straight in and back to the station to pick up the coastal cycle route along to Marazion. Stopping to have lunch perched on the sea defence rocks with St Michael’s Mount in the distance we bask in the sun. A cheeky 🔺 is spotted on the path. A quick paddle by the mount.
Then inland we head to find a spot to camp. Aiming for St. Day RFC this time, not official but tucked out the way wild camping. We stop en route late afternoon and climb up to an open reservior’s edge; swallows and swifts skim the surface, the way we came being spread out behind us having gradually climbed from the coast. We continue on passing through Redruth to St. Day in the warmth of the late afternoon. I’m being lazy and decide to go for a pub dinner again stopping at The Star, very much in Vogue just before the village. It has swings which is a bonus, and a large field out back. After enquiries we’re camping there for the night for free, less dinner and a couple of pints once R is asleep; that is after we chat to Mummy and explore the village, well I thought it was a village but R rightly points out it has a market place and sure enough it used to be the thriving prosperous district town when the mines were at their height!
🔺s = 22 | Total = 51
48km forwards | 630m of up
DAY 3: Vogue, St. Day – somewhere on the Camel Trail
More noodles! Take it as given that it is noodles for breakfast every morning we are camping unless otherwise stated. Packed up and ready to go we set off to Truro our first port of call for the day. Today is a longer day, later the climbs a bit easier but to start we are off a couple of times in the first half hour to push the steep corners; again R struggles to find his footing. We then run between watersheds before joining the National Cycle Network into the city. Grumble time; I do wonder sometimes how parts of the cycle network are selected, on paper this narrow lane would look like the ideal quiet route in between larger roads. It turns out to be rat run particularily for delivery vans. Negotiating a couple of short steep climbs with big banks either side and a van up your arse with one waiting ahead is annoying for all parties involved!
Truro and pasty time. R notices a few 🔺s and looking round rightly notes that he spotted them out of the window of the train – #superbrain & #innermap!
After we claw our way out of the centre up another hill we stop for a quick swing sesh, then on. Talking about our route before hand, another Audax Club Bristol (ACB) member noted we’d be using a Time Trial route up to Indian Queens. Must be conducive for that type of riding as suddenly R drops down into his aero position and smashes it; drying my shirt that little bit more in the process!
🔺s. Not as ubiquitous as squares, rectangles or circles. But there are several types; the standard having flattened corners for the hinges but with several pattern types atop. We are in Fraddon and suddenly R is shouting and pulling over. We stow our bikes against a wall and cross the road. One happy chappy!
Just up the road we spot a special but the camera says no, maybe you’ll be indulged with one of those later 😉
Ever since reading R the Peter Rabbit books Old Brown has induced lots of owl queries. Several had been brought into school by a local conservation sanctuary. On other cycle camping trips we’ve heard them in the woods. I knew The Screech Owl Sanctuary was on the edge of Goss Moor and we would be passing it so as a suprise we stop off for a couple of hours to look round. R tentatively gave a little hawk owl a stroke which we then got to see later in an aerial display. Named a hawk owl as they hunt their prey on the wingrather than capturing on the ground. Quite amazing its skills; abandoned by its mother after 6hrs it was raised by hand at the centre, it taught the handlers a thing or two as they realised after it wouldn’t take food from the glove but small birds above the centre that they’d have to adapt. On launching its food high in the air it settled for this easy option rather than dismembering the local bird life in front of unsuspecting visitors. Ingrained natural instinct at work!
Crossing Goss Moor on the now closed old A30 and on to Victoria we have a lovely long descent to the Camel Trail; a popular shared path on an old railway line. Again time is getting on so we go for a pub dinner once more, to top it off it also has a play area so R is happy. I leave him too it and enjoy the afternoon sun. Occasionally, especially with new people, R struggles with social situations and things can become overwhelming. I’ve always got one eye on him hoping he finds the means to get through it himself. All good. Dinner munched. Back he goes to the park as I imbibe the last of my beer. The kids are collecting fallen apples and launching them down the slide creating a massive applefall. I hear a siren, high pitched and piercing. R make’s a great siren, it cuts through the skull, it also tells me things are too much so I beckon him over to finish his drink and we set off. Back to the Camel Trail to look for a spot to wild camp, after a couple of false starts we find a great place next to the river with a couple of picnic tables. We set up camp and tuck in for the night. As we’ll be in The Lakes later I’ve borrowed Swallows and Amazons from another ACB mate so begin the tale as R snuggles up against me for the night.
🔺s = 29 (inc the teeny) | Total = 80
66km forward | 665m of up
DAY 4: nr Wenford Bridge – Lifton
Finishing off the Camel Trail we climb the western edge of Bodmin Moor. Stopping first half way up for another swing sesh; its amazing how 15mins on the swings revitalises R. We continue our appraisal of swing facilities for the length of Britain!
Second stop after the big climb and it is elevenses, with pasty in hand we settle into a very large deckchair – what it must be like to be a hobbit!
All fuelled we head on around the edge of the moor crossing an old airfield before another long run down to Launceston through the wooded valley of the river Kensey, home of a narrow gauge steam railway.
We get to the station in the centre of the town just as the train departs; fiddlesticks! It’s another hour till the next one which is the last so no option to alight at the half way adventure park which I don’t mention to avoid disappointment. We have some afternoon tea from the old waiting room then set about looking around the station and its outhouses with classic cars, motorbikes, an old Royal Mail underground train and other odities.
The last train isn’t busy and we settle back into the open air carriage for the 40min round trip. Watching the valley we’d just ridden down pass us by to the clickety clack of the track below. This was once part of London & South Western Railway’s Atlantic Coast Express route to Padstow.
The final part of the day’s ride sees us pass over the Tamar and into Devon. We’d be wild camping again tonight and I’d found a village recreational ground with en suite swings in Lifton. At dusk we tick off Canadian Geese from the I spy book; twice as first they went one way then an hour later just as R was nodding off they went the other; he scrambled over me and out of the tent to watch their distictive formation make a vee-line for the horizon…..
🔺s = 17 | Total = 97
49km forwards | 635m of up
Day 5: Lifton – Newton St. Cyres
The road out of Lifton is the old A30. Easy, not very busy but boring old main road. We turn off and head to Lydford through quiet wooded lanes. It’s overcast and there is the odd shower. Arriving in the village we stop at the pub for crisps, coffee for me and lime & soda for R. We look around the castle next door and have an early lunch on its banks.
We head on and pick up The Granite Way, another old rail trail, skirting aound Dartmoor. Clouds darken (see header photo) and race overhead pushed by the stiff south westerly breeze. We stop atop Lake Viaduct, admire the view, ogle the map and eat another roll.
The sun is still glinting through as we continue on with heavy rain seen lashing it down on distant hills to the north. Soon a grey, almost black, heavily laden monster of a cloud catches us up.
The heavens open and we quickly don our jackets. It is belting it down, no point hanging around we grin and bear it pushing on, no chance to stop at Maldon Viaduct, whizzing past the eerie train carriage graveyard at the adjacent quarry, into Oakhampton where we find some indoor cover (pub). Others however had different ideas, families out with little provision for the weather huddle under bridges waiting it out, it was going to be a long wait as it was atleast a half hour indoors before it finally subsided. Chancing our luck we leave using the old A30 again to get to Whiddon Down; a little busy until we pass the new A30’s Oakhampton junction then quiet, our luck hadn’t lasted long and again it was pouring down. As we pass over the new A30 the relentless splatter of raindrops ceases just as we begin another joyous long descent towards Crediton; we avoid it heading to the south to our destination.
Newton St. Cyres and a proper bed at Aunty M & Uncle W’s cottage nestled away off the beaten track. They have a trampoline covered in green, and a fiery Fallow who R entertains for the evening.
🔺s = 26 | Total = 123
68km forwards | 975m of up
DAY 6: Day off in the woods and across fields
Proper bed! I lie in but R is up early and downstairs in the garden on the trampoline jumping to his heart’s content. Where does he get the energy from? For me travelling at the slower speed than normal is actually quite exhausting!
Once up and breakfast is done R and I set about giving the trampoline covered in green a good scrub. Judging by the size of some of the lichens there is a few good years growth on it. It comes off easily and M&W book us in for a refresh next year 😉
We mosey about, on and off I join R on the trampoline, if we don’t hold hands we make a static spark with a good pop when we touch each other or the frame. Reminds me of the old cricket nets at school; astro turf and polyester socks, if you grabbed hands the one at the end would get a big jolt! Anyway as we bounce we pick apples from the brimming tree behind. Big succulent sweetly tasting ones. R says they’re much better than shop ones and he is spot on. We take a few with us when we leave tomorrow. I gain access to W’s hacksaw and set about fettling R’s front mudguard reducing the toe-overlap; another of the custom design’s cock ups….
In the afternoon we go for a wonder down to the stream, back through the woods and across some fields. It’s relaxing just wandering not having to think about getting somewhere, what we were going to do for food, having to put up a tent etc.
Late afternoon we head into Crediton with W to grab supplies (thinking again) for the following day and provisions for the evening; food, beer and wine. It doesn’t take long and pizza is ready shortly after we get back. Between the trampolining and everything else R has been designing a cityscape with M in the sitting room over several sheets of paper all stuck together, he continues after dinner before I persuade him it’s bed time. We need a good sleep ready for our big day tomorrow….
DAY 7: Newton St. Cyres – Home, Bristol
Before we started I talked through the route with R. The beginning through Cornwall & Devon were going to be tough days but shorter in distance than mainly planned later. One option was to spend a night at M&W’s then do a two day leg back home. The other, more bold, was what R decided upon; day off then go for 150km back. I’d picked out a route minimising hills and using quite a few lengths of canal paths, it did however have Cheddar Gorge and the last blip into Bristol at the end both of which R had done before. We agreed we’d stop at The White Hart in Cheddar to gorge on pizza for dinner! His longest ride to date had been 134kms and he’d been full of beans at the end so I thought 150km was within his grasp.
We’re up early. I begin packing, R goes trampolining. The morning ebbs away. After 2hrs of almost continual bouncing I convince R it is time to leave. Hugs and kisses all-round we leave M&W’s and begin. First we have a quick stop in the village; you remember the special 🔺 I mentioned before? Well we knew there were 2 so we get a quick photo of 1. Perfect equilateral with rounded corners and concentric patterning. R spots a normal that we hadn’t noticed previously.
The beginning of the ride sees a little bit of climbing as we make our way to Wellington. Showers on and off. 🔺s here and there. Coming into Halberton we spot another special, “and another one, and another one” shouts R as we roll across them. 15 specials in one village, a record! We pick up the first of the canal paths.
Whilst flat they are a bit bumpy and slow us down; however knowing the landscape around us it is probably still quicker. We stop for lunch under a big tree on the lawn of an old church now Wellington art centre. Soon after we are done, with most of the hills behind us we get to Taunton. Again another canal path, this time a very long stretch into Bridgwater; in hindsight I should have sacked it off and found some roads as the surface was eating into our average speed. The time ticks by, it is looking like a late finish. I start thinking perhaps we will need to camp somewhere after all. There aren’t many sites en route, one at Cheddar. It is early evening and we get onto the Somerset Levels.
The flat is easier but the westerly wind is strong. Mainly riding with it beside us it is just an inconvenience, I lend R a hand on the odd occasion we turn head on into its full force. The showers stopped hours ago and the sun blazes with fluffy clouds racing in the fading light. 20:15 we are stowing our bikes outside the pub and go about ordering pizza, twice in 2 days :D. We discuss what to do. R says he is back to 100% and feeling awake. I’m thinking ‘can we find a wild camping spot on top of The Mendips?’ Having chatted to a group of bikers about the bamboo bikes they wish us luck as we depart, it’s about 21:45 as we begin the gorge in the dark!
Music on to give us a beat to ride to. The boy racers are out spinning cars in the car parks adorning the side of the road. Every so often a few would race pass, having waited till it was safe to do so, giving plenty of room and cheering R on! For those that haven’t done Cheddar Gorge it is an iconic climb; slowly building up to a couple of steep corners at about 20-25% (which this time we push) flanked by sheer rock faces before leveling out. Here’s a pic at the steepest section in daylight from another time.
As we speed up R tells me his energy is going up; by the top he is at 15000%! We’re moving quickly now over the top, the glow of Bristol on the horizon. I’m worried about the steep descent on the otherside in the dark but R assures me he is wide awake; his brain is quiet and he is focusing. Love him!
We pass Chew Lake in the silence of the night. I continually ask him if his brain is tired? Can he see ok? Having done many multiday rides involving riding through the night I know the markers to look out for. He is on the ball, he is picking out 🔺s and keeping the tally. Not far now but we have slowed, we pass through Chew Magna and begin the final climb. We are crawling now. Norton Hawkfield and I ask R his levels; 50% and dropping fast. I call Mummy, they have a chat, I request the van. Midnight is fast approaching. We make our way to Whitchurch on the outskirts of Bristol. We sit under a lamppost and wait, R is still happily chatting away. I should have curtailed the trampolining in the morning sooner. He want’s to give a 150km ago another time, I agree, but not after several days through Cornwall & Devon would probably help! The lights of the camper loom, big cuddles from Mummy I load the bikes and we head home for bed ready for the Birthday Weekend. However Red the Rocket is again full of beans and duvet diving doesn’t happen immediately!
🔺s = 148 including 20 special | Total = 271
143km forward! | 1005m of up
Stage: 409km | 4480m
DAYS 8 & 9: Birthday Weekend
A family affair. PIZZAAAAAA! Thrice in 3. I’ll leave it there!