07 November 2012

Cyclo-camping in Dartmoor

We've only had a few opportunities so far to take our tent with us as we head away from London for a weekend of cycling, but we always enjoy it. It makes a more pure getaway than staying in a crappy chain hotel or run-down B&B (which is all we can afford most of the time!).

A few weeks ago we headed to Dartmoor National Park for the weekend after signing up for the Dartmoor Devil 100km audax. Despite our poor showing in the audax, we had a great time.

We took the train to Exeter on Friday afternoon, and by 7pm were pedalling through the darkened countryside lanes towards the campsite in Moretonhampstead. The campsite was actually the field adjoining the village's community and sports centre, and doubled as a football pitch as we learned the next morning! Predictably for late October, we were the only people camping, which meant we had the shower and bathroom facilities to ourselves and didn't have to worry about anyone disturbing our slumber (except the cows in the field nearby!).

Cooking breakfast on the morning of day 1.
We awoke on Saturday morning to a sunny, if chilly, day. After a breakfast of porridge made on our Trangia camp stove, we headed off for a short route exploring the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

We headed up to Drewsteighton and then to Chagford which was such a cute town that we decided to stop for an early lunch. The hills were relentless and I was glad I had decided at the last minute to bring my mountain bike (with newly installed slick tires) to take advantage of the granny gear. I was even more glad when we encoutered a significant section of road that was entirely covered in running water--I guess it had been raining heavily before we arrived. The fat tires on both our bikes meant that we got through this without trouble. I don't know what I would have done on the road bike, given that I would have been scared to go through the water on skinny tires, but couldnt have walked the bike without soaking my feet!

Road or river?
At any rate, we realised we were making much slower progress than usual. Probably down to a combination of the heavier bikes, the very hilly terrain, and our desire to enjoy the scenery in this new part of the country.  We ultimately decided to cut our route a bit short in order to make it back to camp early.  We headed through Widecombe in the Moor and then to Bovey Tracey to scope it out for the following day's start. We took the lanes back up to Moretonhampstead, which was beautiful, but featured some of the most brutal hills of the day -- we decided we'd chance our luck on the A382 the following morning.

Enjoying the views 
Gorgeous conditions on the moor
Some of the lanes up to Moretonhampstead had some extremely posh-looking houses and ridiculously ostentatious cars...but have you ever spotted a helicopter in someone's backyard? We did! Certainly a quick way to get in to town isn't it?

A helicopter in someone's garden
Arriving back to camp with about an hour of daylight left, we (well, mainly Alberto) set to work cooking our dinner of soup followed by cous cous and rice. As the sun set and we sat in the vestibule of the tent, frost began to form on the grass around us. We knew we'd be in for a cold night and were glad for our down jackets, wool socks, and other cold weather attire. Fortunately, having invested in good sleeping bags last year after learning our lesson the hard way, we knew we'd be nice and toasty once we settled in for the night.

Wintry conditions on the morning of day 2.
Sunday's ride was just as beautiful and challenging as the day before, except we had the time limits to contend with. It was disappointing to register our first ever DNF, but overall I still felt the weekend was a roaring success.

We have unfinished business in Dartmoor. Now that we've seen the beautiful scenery, quiet roads, and lovely towns that make up the region, we'll definitely be back.

Dartmoor is enticing us to return!

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