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Dartmoor MTB Epic – Day 1

Dartmoor MTB Epic

Leaving behind your ‘way out’, the car that can take you home. Heading off into the moors, not knowing what the trails will be like, not knowing which will be ridable, which you’ll have to push up and carry over and which will provide the long lasting buzz that doesn’t die down for weeks.  Not knowing exactly where you’ll end up camping but knowing full well that you’ve got the kit, the drive and the  ability to make it all work.  That almost sums up the feeling as I pedal off on the first day of one of my 3 day bikecamping epics.

And so with that feeling I set off from a car park in a little village called Christow, in search of adventure, with my mate Malcolm, just as we had last year from Cropton in the North York Moors.

All set and ready to roll
All set and ready to roll

It’s the same with a lot of national parks in the UK, some of the biggest climbs are at the edge; essentially where you climb from down in the low lands up into the hills. So it came as no rude awakening to find ourselves slogging our way up trails from the off. Whenever you ride up a rocky ascent there’s always that pang of regret that you’re riding the trail this way round and not the other, but you have to ignore it and look ahead to the trails that you will get to fly down. The trail from Christow up to Bowden Farm was one of these such climbs.

That's me!  At Kennick Reservoir
That’s me! At Kennick Reservoir

First ‘sunny day/nice scenery’ photo opportunity and a chance to take a short rest came at Kennick Reservoir. From there we rode through Lustleigh, Hound Torr Woods and onward up and over Hayne Down. This was a really tough climb up but the views were well worth the effort in my opinion and it’s where I took the title photo for this blog post. From there we went up onto Hamel Down and we lost our planned route for a while, continuing along the trail southward instead of turning right, before turning back and coming down a good hearty mtb descent to the road. Out here there are a few ‘hardpacked mud’ woodland descents but the Dartmoor style is definitely more ‘loose & rocky’ instead.

Winner of 'Trail of the day'
Winner of ‘Trail of the day’

At this point the afternoon was becoming more scarce and we decided to pick up the pace by using the road around Challacombe Down, rather than going across it. We then took the track to Pizwell Farm and a bridleway onwards from there to Postbridge. Then at Postbridge, decision time came and had there been food options we may have eaten there and continued the planned route over the moors to Tavistock but there’s very little there and the general store was closed for the day. So we abandoned the day’s planned route for the faster road alternative via two bridges & Merrivale instead.

One of Dartmoor's many 'Clapper' bridges
One of Dartmoor’s many ‘Clapper’ bridges

A road route really shouldn’t provide much for me to say and if it wasn’t for the storm that we could see to the south it wouldn’t have. Of course the scenery was stunning but then it is around these parts; that’s why it’s a national park after all. But the storm to the south added a little something to our ride onward to Tavistock. We received a fair splatter of rain ourselves but not enough to warrant stopping and putting on waterproofs, it was off to the south where we could see the storm clouds and the rain and ‘ooh what was that’, oh yes, lightening! Every so often lighting up the sky to our left as we flew down the road and off the moors and in to Tavistock.

Arriving in Tavistock we made a bee-line for the Tavi Frier and tucked into Fish & Chips which we took to the park and ate while relaxing on the grass. It was quite late by the time we’d finished and we did toy with the idea of camping there in the park but we came to our senses and rode back up onto the moors and pitched up, using my now tried and tested Bike-Tarp solution.

It's getting dark but the tarp is up.
It’s getting dark but the tarp is up.

In the end we had plenty of time to choose our prime camping spot and get the Bike-Tarp up well before it got dark. One of the advantages of the Bike-Tarp is the speed at which it can be put up and taken down. Another advantage is its simplicity. So full of Fish & Chips and with a comfy spot to kip down in I got some sleep ahead of the next days trek south to Ivybridge.

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