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Exeter Bike Bus - Ride Reports - February 2011

24 February Stoke Canon ~ Pete & Jean’s ~ 29th Birthday Celebrations

Last Week

Last week the Bike Bus took an unusual urban route to Stoke Canon. This involved the pleasant trail opposite Prince of Wales Road up past the University and the distinctly unpleasant (steep, muddy & potholed) Cheynegate Lane around the back of Stoke Hill.

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We were headed to Pete and Jean's house to celebrate 29 years of Coffee Pots. The Bike Bus wouldn't have been possible without the Coffee Pots and we are incredibly grateful for the hard work that Pete and Jean have put in over the years to nurture and sustain this institution.

The Bike Bus Executive had previously met and unanimously decided that Pete and Jean should be awarded Honorary Bike Bus Leader's Badges ... which were duly presented.

After copious quantities of cake, bacon butties, tea and coffee had been consumed Ian led a party towards the new cafe in the Post Office in Broadhembury.

Unfortunately I didn't make it ... at Higher Tale my left pedal came off. The bare facts are

  12:50  Higher Tale: Left pedal came off
  12:55  Set off for Feniton using only right leg
  13:02  Rang Marianne James to find out times of trains ... to find ... she's in a meeting
  13:08  Ran over left foot with rear wheel
  13:19  Arrived at Feniton to find level crossing barrier down 
  13:21  Feniton Station:  Exeter train leaves minus one one-legged cyclist, next train 2 hours later 
  13:22  Set off for Ottery using only right leg
  13:27  Rear wheel puncture
  13:48  Arrive Ottery
  13:50  Lock up bike
  13:51  Catch bus to Exeter
  14:30  Arrive Exeter
The offending crank

The Bike Bus Executive were summoned to an extraordinary emergency meeting late on Thursday evening. After a distinctly acrimonious meeting they decided to confer a Black Sheep Award on Kirby.

Mike Booth's version of events is

It could all have been so easy - a meandering pootle to Pete and Jean's at Stoke Canon, nothing too strenuous on a day forecast to be almost spring like. However, Kirby had other plans for us.

It started at a leisurely pace along the Exe River Cycle Path but soon we were led up (& up, & up) Cheynegate Lane – almost unrecognisable as a road, more like a mountain river bed. A couple of the more sensible riders dismounted, others headed on. As a result, we were a disjointed group that arrived at P and J's. Renowned for their generosity, the amount of bacon butties & other goodies laid on for the 29th birthday of the coffee pot was overwhelming. Dozens of cyclist had turned up, filling every corner. The birthday cake was duly cut, & then nine were reluctantly on our way.

The warm weather encouraged Mike to at last take off his coat and even un-zip the leggings from his trousers to reveal winter white knees. Spring has indeed arrived!

Broadhembury's New Cafe

Kirby used the flimsy excuse of his pedal dropping off to make a premature exit home via Feniton Station. Apparently he missed a train by 20 seconds and so had to resort to his trusty bus pass. (Not sure where he put his bike-was it thrown over a hedge in a fit of pique?) An unnamed bus passenger was heard to mutter the words "looks like a Bike Maintenance Course is needed" & "doesn't lack of maintenance qualify for Black Sheep Award?"

Trevor's Good Deed

Ian led us on to a twee cafe in the village of Broadhembury, a new venue new for the Bike Bus. Whilst basking in the sunshine at outside tables, Trevor spied an attractive young lady elderly resident trying to unload a mountain of logs from her car, staggering under the weight of her wheelbarrow.

Gallantly, Sir Trevor of Broadhembury went to her aid. She was so delighted with his help that she invited him in for tea, but he wisely blushingly declined. Trevor is thus mentioned in dispatches to the absent Bike Bus Management, as a candidate for the elusive White Sheep Award. We await the awards committee's decision (don't hold your breath, Trevor).

We eventually dragged ourselves away from this rural idyll, and were back in Exeter by five.

Tuesday Mini Bike Bus ~ Ullacombe & Dartmoor

Ian reports:-

This week, 7 bike mini-busers (new record attendance), conquered the eastern route up Haytor (404m altitude) via a coffee stop at Ullacombe farm shop with the Teign Valley Pedal Bashers.


Although the views from the top were superb, we did not dwell on them as it was very windy. With the wind chill, the temperatures must have been close to freezing, so we hurried off the top down into Moretonhampstead for lunch.

A couple of hills later and we found ourselves back at the Swing Bridges, with everyone intact. 45 mile route with almost 1,500m of climbing - probably not the best preparation for this weekend's audax, but a good dry day out anyway.

Next week, Mrs B's Magical Mystery Tour - full details to follow.

The 7 who will go down in Bike Mini-Bus history were: Ian - Kirby - Sue B - Graham - Trevor - Roger - Marilyn

17 February ~ Otterton Mill

Over the last few weeks the Bike Bus Executive have been concerned about the way in which the Bus has been developing. Of particular concern have been

  • the participants' erroneous belief that the Bus is operated for their benefit
  • the appalling levels of fitness of participants
  • the increasing numbers participating – rapidly approaching unsustainable levels
  • the participants' irritating, irrational desire to avoid Sidmouth, and
  • a decidedly unwelcome interest in non-road-bike activities (birds, mountain biking, listed buildings, rocks, etc.)

And so last Thursday twenty one passengers found themselves (together with the whole of the Bike Bus Executive) on a sunny day in the Mill Cafe in Otterton – secure in the knowledge that the road up over Peak Hill to Sidmouth was closed ...

... or so they thought.

Spirits high a the top of Peak Hill

None had factored in the sheer bloody mindedness of the Executive – and at eleven-fifteen eighteen found themselves pedalling past the road closed signs in the direction of Sidmouth. A handful produced excuses (Stuart – I hope your guinea pig is feeling better).

Hill 22 percent sign.jpg

At the top of Peak Hill (note approached from the easy side) spirits remained high. The party continued through Sidmouth, along the Byes, through Sidford, past Harcombe Farm and then ...

... they saw the 22% hill ...

Last year half of the Bike Bus managed to cycle up the steep side of Peak Hill ... how would they fare this year?

Some dismounted immediately, other struggled a few metres up the hill before giving up ... but only six out of eighteen managed to climb the hill (33%). That's twelve failures. Shamefull!!

Profile 2011 02 17.png

Rather than take the easy way to Honiton the Executive then decided to descend to Southleigh and climb past Northleigh up to the Golf Club before descending to lunch. In Southleigh Geoff suffered a lapse of concentration and stopped to blow his nose. Meanwhile the Bus disappeared and he was left stranded. For this reason he has been given this week’s Black Sheep Award.

Mike Booth survived to report

Whilst a half-dozen masochists were gasping your way to the top, thought you might like to know that you climbed from the Sidmouth Mudstone Formation with superficial head deposits of clay, silt, sand & gravel, up to the Upper Greensand Formation with superficial deposits of clay-with-flints.

In your eagerness to rush to the top, I expect all but the most observant of you missed this vital information. Hope this puts your mind's at rest.

Clearly the Executive have much more work to do to curb these extra curricular interests.

Tuesday Bike Bus - Bampton

For some reason we have multiple reports this week.

Mike Booth writes opaquely

Siderodromophobia not overcome, so Sus & I headed to Haldon Ridge Cafe via Exminster, Black Forest Lodge, Mamhead & Telegraph Hill. Had sent a txt to Marilyn & Roger last night to see if they wanted to join us, but their 11 pm slurred reply revealed they had spent the evening in a pub & would either be hungover or unable to balance! Saw Steph Exeter-bound as we headed down the Canal path - she was attending some training course & had already seen 'Bampton-bound' Ian as she came passed Rockbeare. We then had an uneventful but enjoyable ride in good weather.

As we neared the meet we saw several TVPB's parking cars & then jumping on bikes to head for the cafe - what a cheat, not the standard us Bike Busers are expected to adhere to! Sus had a bacon sarnie at the cafe, & I could not resist a full breakfast (well we had climbed Haldon). Only about a dozen riders there, (including one just returned from Christchurch NZ!) so not the usual rowdy group. We returned via Belvedere Tower & Dunchideock to Alphington Lidls (where I managed to purchase some seam-free boxers courtesy of a tip-off from Trevor, who has all the gen on the in-store bargains). Great to have another ride with no rain, but the roads still wet with run-off from the fields, & pothole/mud/gravel strewn! Sorry, no interesting rocks or birdies to report - will try harder in future. Saw some snowdrops (so Sus said), but they looked a bit dowdy; not sure they'll last until Sunday next.

Ian reports

This week's ride commenced on time form Rockbeare at 08h40. It was interrupted 1 minute later with a chance encounter with Mrs Houghton. She writes

Having reached the Airport in good time, I did then go the longer, but safer way through Sowton, Clyst Heath, Swing Bridge and canal cycle path. Whereupon, shortly after the Swing Bridge, I met Mike and Sue heading for the Black Forest (a bit ambitious I thought) – then top of Haldon Hill.

I carried on to my meeting – only to find out that on NO account must bikes be taken into the building (BIG NOTICE ON MAIN DOOR WARNING CYCLISTS). I didn’t like the look of the nearby cycle rack – bit of a dodgey area and rack not overlooked by staff). After explaining to reception what I thought about their site managers interpretation of Devon County Council's encouragement to cycle, I then proceeded to take my bike to the Bike Shed and asked them to babysit it for me! Expecting to simply padlock it outside their shop – instead a nice man called Rodney carried my bike upstairs and kept it warm and dry for the morning! (I later thanked them with chocolate because I’m sure they wouldn’t want people to assume they normally offer this service)!

Kirby radar.jpg

As bike reports have to mention refreshments – for your information, I had rubbish machine made coffee during meeting (although some-one softened the blow by providing chocolate chewy crispie yummy things) but followed at lunch time by soup and salad bowl in Herbies, before completing the 34 mile return journey back home.

Continuing on our way, Graham and Richard joined the bus at Broadclyst and then Kirby at Tiverton Parkway courtesy of British Rail and their useless bike holding facilities (further details can be obtained from Senior Bike Bus Management if required). Due to their siderodromophobia, Mike and Sue Booth did not partake this week (secret spy data suggests they consumed full english breakfasts at Haldon Hill with the Teign Valley Pedal Bashers!!)

The rendezvous with the Wellington Wheelers at Uplowman was successful, courtesy of various hedges. A good ride then followed to the Bawdens Bakery at Bampton - still haven't worked out how they make a profit - had a pork and apple pasty and a hot chocolate - £3.

After Bampton, we climbed up to the weather radar at Bampton Down, which coincedentally was the last weather radar that Kirby installed.

We encountered much mud on our descent, so Yvonne took a shortcut back to Culmstock to discuss Wellington Wheelers's business with Ken and Martin (who had a big smile on his face all day, riding his new Rohloff Thorn touring bike).

Ian, Kirby, Richard and Graham went to the Verbeer Manor in Willand for lunch. Richard and Graham grabbed some air before setting off for Exeter along the Broadclyst road. A successful day out with lots of mud but luckily no rain - next week Dartmoor beckons!!!!!

10 February - Uffculme ~ Cold Harbour Mill

Last Week

Sue Booth reports:-

By some flukey coincidence the Met office weather forecast actually coincided with the weather this morning – persistent drizzle. As if this was not enough to put off Bike Bus passengers, the Driver decided to move the bus stop. Therefore the Trews Weir quartet were waiting, carefully hidden from view, near Digby Station. Miraculously Marilyn eventually tracked us down, as did Jill, despite ringing the optimistically-labelled Bus 'Helpline', and receiving devilishly complicated instructions from Kirby.

We picked up other passengers on the way, including Geoff and Alan dressed in yellow tents. Eventually Alan's tent collected a body of water the size of Lake Geneva, which he deftly flicked off, almost drowning Mike ...

Ian sandwich.jpg

Kirby lingered at the back of the group, gossiping with Marilyn and Pauline, and a large gap developed between them and the rest of the team, who steamed ahead to reach Cold Harbour Mill Cafe at Uffculme, and their bacon butties. For some reason, Roger had arrived from a totally different direction. There was some concern as time moved on, gallons of tea were drunk, and still no sign of the rearguard. They eventually staggered in having suffered 3 punctures. Marilyn’s spare had been found to have a large hole in it, to Roger's shame.

Glenis sandwich.jpg

Again we entertained the other unsuspecting customers by stripping off various garments to try on Keith's new jerseys - why Stef needed to measure John's inside leg we have yet to discover. On leaving the cafe, it was noted that certain riders were still consuming sandwiches (you know who you are!!!)

Bike bus 2011 02 10.png

The rain showed no sign of easing, so Saint Stefi shepherded us all through mud-filled lanes to her house near Payhembury, and more gallons of tea. As we approached her driveway, Geoff found his brakes no longer functioned but he expertly whizzed up a neighbour's drive to a safe halt. Penny would not let him come in out of the rain as he had got so dirty fitting new brake blocks, (which were kindly supplied by Stef). The rain almost disappeared on the uneventful return via Broadclyst, with the sun even struggling through for 30 seconds.


As a result of this outing Jill (unable to find start) and Roger (providing his poor wife with a spare inner tube with a hole in it - and then cycling separately from her) have been given Black Sheep Awards.

On the other hand Stephanie's heroics (including raising a magnificent £17.25 over lunch) have led to her being considered for a White Sheep Award.

Bike Bus Jersey Order Placed

Final design

Twenty-five Bike Bussers responded before the deadline to place orders for the first batch of jerseys. Stephanie is now busy with her mum's sewing machine and we expect delivery of the order by Friday 18th March.

Even More RSPB Dates

Three more dates have been announced for RSPB cycling/bird watching trips

  • Saturday 26th February at 13:15
  • Saturday 12th March at 10:45
  • Saturday 26 March at 11:45

Rspb bird watching 2011 crop.png

More details can be found and bookings arranged by ringing either Nick Gillon (07813 314 274) pr the RPSB Shop at Dart's Farm (01392 879 438). Additional details are also on this flyer

This has elicited the following somewhat technical expose from a Ms Sarah Skinner of Woodbury:-

Yes, the golden sandwich is a summer visitor normally preferring to stay close to home in winter and the little blue tern is rarely seen out on the estuary on Thursdays. The purple ring-necked tufted duck is an active bird continually bobbing up to the surface! The male is unmistakable in red but the female is sometimes confused with the larger, longer bodied smew, with pink stripes about the head.

A Chance to Try Out the New Killerton Cycle Paths - Thursday 24th February

Cycle devon 2.png

The National Trust is launching a new 5km route along rural tracks and quiet lanes through the beautiful Killerton Estate near Broadclyst.

In partnership with Devon County Council's Leisure Cycling Project the trail has been fully upgraded and is officially open to all. To mark the launch of the new route we're offering FREE guided rides and more during February half term holidays.

Bike Busers will be especially interested in the sample ride taking place at 12:00 on Thursday 24th February. The ride lasts one hour and will be led by a qualified cycle instructor.

To book a place, simply email Liz Cop with your name, telephone number and number of people cycling and we will get in touch to confirm your booking. Alternatively you can telephone 08451 551 004 to reserve a place.

Tuesday Bike Bus - North Curry

Ian Lindsay reports:-

North Curry Cafe

We have a new leader in the price war for Bike Bus Cafes. With the previous leader being Bawdens Bakery in Bampton, at £1.70 for a flapjack and a pot of tea for one, the community cafe at North Curry has stormed into the lead with a price of £1.50 for the same deal.

The downside is the 35 mile ride to get there! - at least there was only one significant hill on the way (Hembury Fort) and there was a strong tailwind.

Amazingly, for the first time in the history of all cycling, having being joined by KJ (courtesy of British Rail), we had didn't have a full-on headwind when we turned for home. The lee of the Blackdown Hills were doing their job perfectly.

Whilst diving off the top of the Wellington Monument ridge into Hemyock and then Culmstock for lunch, we managed to lose a Wellington Wheeler - it later transpired that the homemade carrot and coriander soup at the new Strand Cafe in Culmstock had lured him to take a more direct route than the group!! - the only snag was the fact that the chief of the Wellington Wheelers thought he had had an accident, so went back up the 1 in 5 climb out of Hemyock to find him!!

After lunch, KJ returned to Exeter via British Rail, whilst the others rode home via various floods and rain showers!!

70+ miles this week, 2 good cafes, and plenty of rain!!

3 February - Exmouth ~ Kings Garden Centre

Last Week

Sue Booth reports

Well the good news was that for a change, no one ended up in a heap on the tarmac, but almost everyone, at some stage or other, was rather carelessly left behind.

Pauline & I were abandoned in the traffic in Topsham. To be fair, Kirby did eventually text us to tell us where the rest of the mob were heading, but this was no good to either of us as we couldn`t find our reading glasses, and so could only guess at his instructions. We did pass the time usefully, however, directing all passing joggers and cyclists onto the new, not-officially-opened cycle path.


A knight in shining armour in the form of Mike soon appeared to rescue us, and we were reunited to the swelling numbers at Woodbury, only to be branded as errant 'black sheep'* by Kirby! Ian led the way over Woodbury Common, managing to temporarily lose a few as we sped off down a side road. Steph was going so fast she whizzed on past us in a blur and was not seen until coffee. By the time we reached King`s Garden Centre their carpark was full of bikes, a testament to their fab range of calorific cakes. We basked in temporary celeb status when we discovered copious copies of the 'Exmouth Journal' on sale here, featuring 3 photos of the Birding Ride from last Thursday. We then proceeded to disgrace ourselves by stripping off in front of startled pensioner cafe customers, to try on Keith's smart new jerseys. He is banned from cycling to make sure he is in one piece to fly off to New Zealand Friday.

... click on image to enlarge ...

Kirby threatened to take us on from here up the horrible hill to Sidmouth, but we eventually persuaded him that the gentler route to Escot was more humane. Experimenting with a virgin Bike Bus side road, Ian again managed to lose most followers, including Kirby, so more 'Black Sheep' mutterings, & a refusal to blow the customary new-route-whistle. Escot was most welcoming, and the rain restricted to a brief, light drizzle.

In the confusion of folks taking several options after lunch Steph was lost yet again, only to come across Don, also left behind; but almost accidentally, we all converged again later.

By the time we had retraced our steps to Topsham there was only Kirby, The Booths and Jill remaining. Kirby's new found enthusiasm for birding was demonstrated when he insisted in a detour to the hide at Bowling Green Marsh, even though we had no binoculars. We sat in amongst the serious birders there feeling a little self conscious .We think we saw Pintail, Lapwing, Shelduck, Wigeon and Curlew – but who knows? Mike decided to try out the foreshore rather than walk his bike around the Goat Walk, and amazingly did not fall in the estuary.

We were quite impressed with the newly widened cycle path from Topsham to Exeter, and arrived home in one piece. We hope everyone else did too.

* As hinted above Bike Bus Management have decided to introduce two new awards - black sheep awards and white sheep awards. Sue and Pauline are the first to receive 'black sheep' awards.

CTC Exeter Finance

John Rowland writes:

CTC Devon approved our request for financial support at their meeting on 25th January. Accordingly we have now received a cheque for £150, which sets up and consolidates our budget for the current year. Alan Harding is busy finalising the opening of our own bank account 'CTC Exeter' so we should be ready for business shortly. There will be four signatures on the account any two of which will needed to authorise a cheque. Further details are available from Runs Committee members. This news of course means that we will not now have to support the whole year’s expenditure ourselves, so there is no need for a subscription linked to the Bike Bus. It will however still be appropriate from time to time to raise money from events such as the Christmas Lunch and occasional Coffee Pot.

Another RSPB Bird Watching Trip - Saturday 26th February

Following the successful Bird Watching trip two week's ago ... another is planned ... full details here.

Nick Gillon writes

... click on image to enlarge ...

Thank you again for promoting the first bird tour to your group – we had an energetic bunch attend and it made for a great afternoon’s entertainment!

I have attached details of the next tour that the RSPB have agreed to run with us – I have made a 'poster' for it this time to make promotion a little easier, but further details perhaps, as you did before could be posted on your website and a pdf file?

I would ask you to promote to your members or their family or friends that have not been before please.

Appreciate your assistance in promoting these leisure rides to further broaden the cycling experiences of Devon residents.

Exeter CTC Cycling Weekend - Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th July 2011 - Marlbourough

John Rowland writes

An on and off road cycling weekend is being arranged for the 22nd to 24th July in the Marlborough Downs area. This will be on similar lines to the weekend held in the Cotswolds in July 2010. A campsite has been identified and local pub warned. Those who would like further details should contact John Rowland at jvrowland39@btinternet.com or tel: 01395 232 610.

<googlemap lat="51.421" lon="-1.730" width="500" height="350" type="map" zoom="11"> 51.421,-1.730, Marlborough </googlemap>

Tuesday Bike Bus - Dowlish Wake

Ian found two new customers this week - a recumbent rider and a paralympic contender.

Ian reports:-

This week, the bike mini-bus travelled to Dowlish Wake with the Wellington Wheelers.

Ian started the mini-bus off at 08h45 in Rockbeare - a new member, Hank, joined at Talaton and they both went off towards the Dunkeswell ridge via the Hembury Fort. En route, it became apparent that Hank had just moved into the area, from Gillingham, where he was not only a member of the Gillingham District Wheelers, but also a member of the 2004 para-Olympic Cycling team.

The faired recumbent

Having completed the climb, they went along the ride to Culmhead where they met the Wellington Wheelers - Ken, Yvonne and Martin - a long descent then followed, all the way to Dowlish Wake and the lunch stop at a Somerset Cider Farm

Ian supped a glass of cider and after sandwiches all round, Kirby arrived, having trained it to Yeovil, before riding back to Dowlish Wake.

After lunch, the Wellington Wheelers went on their way and Ian, Hank and Kirby tackled the numerous hills to Honiton - a quick stop at the Boston Tea Party for some refueling - and then the last push back to Exeter before the dark and drizzle set in.

60+ miles ride in the sun, cider stop, cheesecake stop - does it get any better??

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