Annoyingly, you can’t always be on a “proper” bike tour………. so the next best alternative (I guess) is to go on a proper day out on a bike. We escaped from our “boat slave” status for the day (we are in the midst of helping our son renovate a classic historic wooden yacht) and decided to investigate one of our (fairly) local off road cycle routes.
(photo above – Haytor, Dartmoor)
Now we could have ridden from home, but that would have added not just an extra 40 odd miles but also an uphill finish to Haytor (included in the mountain stage of the Tour of Britain)- we were after a relaxing day, not a test of our endurance!
(photo above – grounds of Powderham Castle – deer)
We started the ride from Starcross (following part of Route 2 -the National Cycle Network – NCN 2) and headed to Exmouth. This is mostly off-road and a mainly flat route, which runs along the banks of the river Exe on both sides. Starting from Starcross was perfect (easy and cheap to park) right next to the route, with a loo just a couple of hundred metres away. The off-road route 2 heads towards Exeter, passing Powderham castle and it’s resident deer, now has a bridge over the railway line (instead of having to cross the line on foot) and passes Turf Locks, which was noted as “ideal” for a stop on the way back! and then follows the canal into Exeter.
(photo above – Iain at Turf Locks, where the Exe river meets the canal)
We chose not to cycle into the centre of the city of Exeter – but could have done so without going on the road. Instead we followed the cycle route towards (still mainly off road – apart from the weird bit which directs the cycle path through a housing estates – until you hit) the town of Topsham. Here we diverted off the cycle route a bit and headed to Dart’s Farm to pick up some lunch and have a picnic. Iain had no difficulty slipping back into “tour mode” as the photographic evidence shows! After finally managing to wake him, we headed back on the well signed route towards Exmouth.
(Photo above – Iain asleep at Dart’s Farm)
Now with the river on our right, and heading back out towards the sea, we passed the back of the Royal Marines Training centre, through the pretty village of Lympstone (tiny bit of very quiet and slightly hilly on-road section, with a couple of lovely looking pubs, cafes and ice-cream shops) and onto Exmouth. It really was a perfect summer’s day to be cycling along the river with the scent and sight of wild roses and honeysuckle adding to the pleasure of the experience.
(photo above – Me & Polo near Lympstone)
The beach at Exmouth was busy – not surprising as it was the hottest day since 1976! Still at the far end, there was plenty of space for us to secure the bikes and find a generous space on the sand in the sun!
(photo above – Exmouth beach, Devon)
After a snooze, an ice-cream and a bracing swim (the outside temperature might have been Mediterranean – but the water blinking wasn’t!) we rode back the way we came – feeling just a little smug that we weren’t stuck in the traffic now heading out of town.
(photo above – Goat Path, Topsham)*
In total our return trip was 50km (31 miles). But if you don’t fancy retracing your steps or doing so many miles you can reduce it by either getting a train from Topsham to Exmouth or vice-versa. Or, if you would like a change of perspective why not catch a ferry back? Either the whole way back, from Exmouth to Starcross. Or the smaller one from Topsham across the river to Turf Locks (so you don’t have to go back into Exeter again). We quite fancied one of these but the tides and times weren’t in our favour, so make sure you check that out first if you intend a boat trip to be part of your plan!
(photo above – canal between Exeter & Turf locks)
We missed the last ferry from Topsham, which was a bit of a shame, because we might have been tempted to have a pizza and glass of wine from Pepplebed – if we hadn’t still got so many miles left to do. However, all was not lost and we headed back on our bikes to Turf Locks for a glass (or two!) from there instead. What could be better than rounding off a day on a bike than sitting in a beautiful English Pub Garden on a warm summer’s evening, especially one nestled between a river and a canal, with mature trees and views to die for? Bliss and only the short ride back past the deer of Powderham Castle to do before rejoining our bike rack (and the rest of the car) in Starcross.
(photo above – Turf locks, pub garden)
In summary – a brilliant and easy little trip out, mainly flat, mainly off road in a beautiful part of the country (more commonly known for it’s hills than it is for easy cycling). Plenty of great places to stop and refuel, in both the solid and liquid varieties. Perfect for cycling novices or for just a leisurely day out.
*Goat path is not part of the cycle route! (it’s a footpath – oops!)