Sunday, 17 July 2011

NCN27 adventures

I went cycling yesterday, not with any firm plans regarding the route other than perhaps cycling to Lydford and back, obviously trying to stick to NCN 27 as far as possible.

As I've posted before, during the construction of Gem bridge, the "preferred" section of the route is closed, and will remain closed until at least January 2012. The suggested alternative route I cycled last Saturday, and it is just plain nasty. I sincerely urge you to avoid it, especially if (like me) you ride around on a hybrid with panniers and road tyres.

Last Saturday, when passing through Tavistock on my way back to Plymouth, I took a completely different route, following Whitchurch road out of Tavistock all the way to Horrabridge, where I hopped onto Drake's Trail again.

The map below shows the route between Yelverton and Tavistock:


Bike route 1117773 - powered by Bikemap 

This does involve a short stint on the A386, a road that can get rather busy, but you'd only be cycling on it through Horrabridge, where the speed limit is 30. While some drivers plainly cannot care less about the speed limit, most will slow down. It helps that there is a speed camera just where you need to turn right towards the village centre, plus the road is wide.

The route then follows the old road between Tavistock and Yelverton, passing through Grenofen along the way. Now I won't lie to you: it is a hilly road, although none of the hills are anywhere near as steep as what you'd encounter had you followed the Sustrans suggested alternative route.

During yesterday's outing, I took the route shown above outbound and on my return.

From Tavistock, I cycled out of town past Kelly College on the A386 - it has a 40 mph speed limit on this stretch, although predictable some drivers interpret that as the minimum speed they should be driving at.

Shortly before the Pitts Cleave industrial estate, you can make a choice regarding which direction you want to cycle, while still following NCN27. The first option is to turn left, and follow the road up the hill towards Brentor. It isn't a very steep hill, although it does continue for some time.
The second option is to continue parallel to the A386, first on the pavement (shared space along here) before the path veers off to the left on a nice little traffic-free section that crosses under the A386 using an old bridge, before allowing you to join the road to Peter Tavy, just where it meets the A386. This is the route I took.

Shortly after crossing the river Tavy, you will come to a split in the road. There is a large wooden signpost carrying a small sign for the West Devon Way, which points you to the right. As you'd actually be following NCN27 - which, sadly isn't signposted here - you need to keep to the left, following the signs pointing to Peter Tavy.

Once in Peter Tavy, simply follow the road until you get to the intersection where the entrance to the church is, then veer off to the left. There actually IS an NCN27 sign pointing you in the direction you are meant to go, but yesterday it was so hidden by vegetation, I didn't see it at all!
Veer off to the left here!


I continued straight up the hill towards Cudliptown. In all fairness, I'm glad I missed my turning, as I got to cycle along a delightful country lane running parallel to a deep and beautiful valley, with rather exquisite views from certain vantage points.
I realised that I had gone off NCN27 quite some time before I saw the cul-de-sac sign, but I was in a mood for exploring, so I didn't turn around.

I retraced my steps a little while, then took the turning leading down into the valley, towards Hilltown. I followed this road across the Tavy, where it seems a fish ladder had been built just downstream of the bridge.
Eventually, I arrived at the rather aptly named Lane End, where I turned around and took a slightly different route to Mary Tavy.

Up until I reached Lane End I hadn't consulted any maps or GPS. Now an increasing number of people rely on Android or iPhone devices to do their navigation, and that is OK provided you are in an area where you could get a decent signal. Lane End is NOT such an area!

Fortunately, I have my old phone, an HTC Athena. It runs Windows Mobile and has an enormous screen. I have offline navigation software installed on it and I have 1:50 000 and 1:25000 mile scale maps covering all of the Westcountry, as well as some other parts of the UK. This means it is very easy to see exactly where I am, and work out the best route from there, which is exactly what I did.

From Lane End I cycled back to Mary Tavy, then crossed the A386 to continue along Brentor road to North Brentor. At this stage I decided against heading on to Lydford, even though it was quite nearby, and instead turned left and cycled past Brentor church on my way back to Tavistock, and ultimately Plymouth.