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Woodbury Common Off-road Ride

Off Road Run Report: Sunday 3rd February, John Rowland

Some rather clean off-road riders ...
... it wouldn't last

The weather forecast could not have been worse. We were led to expect strong winds and periods of heavy rain and in this, for once, the omens were on target. Several off-roaders were away but Kirby and Roy joined me together with two lady visitors, Debbie and Jill. For Debbie this was to be her first off-road experience so in fact she was in at the deep end.

Woodbury Common has much to offer so we started from the Castle by winding our way to and fro to reach Kettle Plantation before turning north along the eastern edge of the common following a tree lined muddy path some one mile in length. Thence past Stoneyford to climb up a long gritty hill to Hawkerland. There we crossed the A3502 main Sidmouth road to pass through the Aylesbeare Bird Reserve descending steeply across a small shallow brook and climb the other side before following the crest of a wooded rise into Newton Poppleford. Surprisingly, being in amongst the trees for much of the time, the wind now gusting at some 50+mph (?) in strength did not affect us directly. What is more the rain had held off so far!

The Off-road, Standard and Alternative riders all meet at the Southern Cross Cafe, Newton Poppleford

We met our teammates at coffee all of whom had come their various ways by road. Jim Ephraums joined the off-roaders at this point but we lost Roy who turned back for Exeter. After a brief road run through Newton Poppleford we turned off for a climb through Harpford Wood to join the old railway track that leads to the Dowd Inn. The wind by now was howling through the trees and it had gone quite dark, so it was rather like a sinister Tolkin setting in the Lord of the Rings. The rain now started but was only to hazard us for about an hour as we climbed steeply along a long track to the crest of Bulverton Hill. Now for a change we could enjoy a flattish but waterlogged and muddy track for a mile or two, albeit open against the strong wind and rain. A quick glance from the viewpoint over Horstone in the teeth of the gale persuaded us not to stop there for lunch. Instead we pressed on to the coast at Peak Hill, where, with glimpses of a very angry sea, we followed the coastal path (where one member bit the mud) to wend behind High Peak and descend rapidly in more sticky mud to join the Otterton road. We discovered that the village has no sheltered seats for travellers, so we compromised by sheltering in the church porch resting against the window ledges while we ate our lunch. By now the rain has stopped but the wind was a strong as ever.

Loath to stay for too long and become cold we soon set off again by road to East Budleigh then to follow the one mile climb back up to the main common by Hayes Lane Track. This became quite a challenge being the last part of the day. Once back on the crest Jim headed off for home while we wended our way close to Black Hill where Kirby also left us. For the remaining three there was just the gradual climb back up to the Castle. We finished at 3pm both our bikes and ourselves being liberally covered in mud.
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CTC Exeter Sunday Rides Coffee Pots Bike Bus Devon News