Bike-Packing Tour 2021
COVID 19 has had millions of people around the world trapped inside their homes – not working and not traveling, so what a relief it is to be back touring. With travel still severely restricted it’s another UK tour this year. The “Kernow Mining Tour 21”, a ten-day ride down to Lands’ End and back. We’ll travel westwards on a more nor, then head up the east coast for the journey home. The original idea of riding to Barcelona seems a distant memory though hopefully we can get back to in 2022.
Been a difficult year to pull everyone together and get the Tour going, the lads have shown great commitment getting their bikes and mind set ready for another escapade down into the depths of Cornwall.
Looking forward to touring this green and pleasant land, cutting through the garden of England onto the rolling Surrey hills, following the ancient trails down to the shining Cornish blue sea. Then back along the east coast, where the romanticised, English countryside still exists:
“A land where windmills turn on the crest of hills, sun drenched fields of long wheat shimmer in the wind, swans glide down the rivers, the hedge rows buzz with fox cubs, birds and badgers, the farmed land below stretches like a mosaic quilt as far as the eye can see.”
Ever present and the inspiration behind this years tour.
Only ever missed one tour, the king of West Hougham now the captain has moved to fresh pastures
Veteran of many tours, his first on a touring bike, we are all hoping it will slow him down a little, not much chance of that though.
Andrew Stubbs (Stubsy)
His second tour, following last years epic ride, excellent to see the big man back in the saddle and scaring all the Aldi shoppers, with his constant look out for middle aisle bargains.
Fantastic to see the Canterbury man (not Blean) joining the fray, his constant banter will keep us all going for first five days of the tour, he sadly must leave us then for family commitments.
Joining us somewhere in Devon after his summer holidays, rode last year with his effortless style, be good to see Mark lead the peloton over the hills of Cornwall.
Once again joining us somewhere in Devon, Stubbsy son with the same powerful physique, very powerful rider, needs to carry more on his bike to slow him down a fraction.
Last and my no means least …
Ever present, effervescent self-appointed captain, leading from the front when it comes to getting the beers.
Summary of the Tour Stages
KMT Day 1 Wingham to Cranleigh
Saturday 28th August
It was weird starting from Wingham this year, but I still had the same nervous apprehension as I rode up to Bingo’s place. We met with Cathal and we’re off.
We then met Dave and Stubbsy at Longage Hill and rode on to Sellindge to pick up Glen. As normal for a Canterbury lad he was half an hour late – it’s a different time zone in Canterbury! Finally got going at 8:55.
It was a nice steady ride, although we missed the coffee stop in Tenterden – who likes coffee anyway!
We enjoyed the lovely ride though the Garden of England and stopped for light refreshments at the King William IV in Pembury. After Tunbridge got onto the trails and followed the Cuckoo trail to East Grinstead. A really good ride. Then another little stop to regroup at the Junction where Glen got told to catch up by a 3 year old! That made him smile. After that we moved on to eat at the Wild West restaurant but Stubbsy was really disappointed that they had relocated, so we moved on to the Red Lyon just outside Horsham. It had Timothy Taylor on draught so all good, and it was a nice meal. Then we moved on to find a site, just off the track in the woods.
It was a good day of around 95 miles.
KMT Day 2 Cranleigh to Hungerford
Sunday 29th August
We had a good camp last night and everyone slept well. After a breakfast of porridge and coffee we hit the road where we headed for Guildford to get Glen another tyre. He’s been nothing but trouble! Really high maintenance! We arrived in Guildford about 9am but the cycle shop did not open till 10am so we all had a full English breakfast. Another wait for Glen: it’s all being noted.
Finally we got going following wonderful trails and canal towpaths. Really great riding. We had some light refreshments in the Rose and Crown in Sandhurst and then carried on through the urban mess of Reading. It was pretty good cycling. Then got on Kennet and Avon canal, which we’ve ridden beside before, and we knew exactly where we where heading; “The Rowbarge”.
I think we were going to get some more detail here, but it never happened. Also I believe the various delays in the day meant they didn’t get as far as they had planned. Perhaps 30 miles short.Ed
KMT Day 3 Hungerford to Barr
Monday 30th August
Woke up on a lovely little lane, no traffic, just deer striding majesticly across the Hungerford plains.
Unbelievablely we had no issues this morning from Glen, so we rode on through the towpaths up to the Crofton Steam engine. This is the the oldest beam engine still working in the UK. It was not open but it was good to read the information.
After that we carried on riding through the lanes onto the Mendip hills; good and tough riding. Then we stopped for lunch just outside Shepton Manor at ‘The Thached Inn’. We had a few ciders and beer then off again towards the oasis of Glastonbury. It was great to ride down the High Street with the vibrant colour atmosphere. The Hari Krishna people we dancing down the street – excellent.
We spent the afternoon singing the festival anthems all the way to Bridgewater riding still on great country lanes. Then we joined the towpath on the Bridgewater to Taunton canal. Once again lovely ride as we met some great people on the canal side.
We stopped for dinner at the HQ of the Somerset boat centre – just burger and chips and a few beers. After a cheery good-bye and gold fish bag full of water we set for the last few miles aim with the aim to get through Taunton then find a camp for the night.
Unfortunately the bag got a hole in so only managed to get half of it back. We rode 99 miles in all. Stubbsy was not happy and so he rode around the block to get to the 100 mark!
KMT Day 4 Barr to Laucell
Tuesday 31st August
Last night we camped in a field just outside Taunton after riding through the town last night where we went past Somerset cricket ground the famous ground where Botham and Viv Richards graced the square many years ago.
It was a fantastic great rolling ride in the morning with some steep vicious climbs but breautiful riding through Devon into Tiverton where we stopped for something to eat at the local shop.
The hills got steeper and longer on our ride to Barnstaple. We had a bit of problem here as the bridge over the river was closed. Nothing can go wrong! We regrouped in the Red Lion and re-routed after a few beers and carried on. It did not get any flatter as we rode up and up towards Bradworthy. We got there before the the Inn opened so it was a good job Stubbsy was a bit late. The pub opened by the time he arrived. We had a massive meal then headed onto the moors. Beware of the Hounds of Baskervilles!
We found ourselves a camp at Laucells on the road to Bude.
Mark & Conor got the train down from Paddington with the intention of meeting the team at Bodmin and joining the ride. The team have finished the day about 35 miles short. I imagine they’ll rendezvous just as soon as they can tomorrow.Ed
Wednesday 1st September
Once again we had acracking camping spot last night; and it was nothing like the hound of the Baskervilles! Following the banquet we had at the Brandworthy Arms we sat around the burners drinking coffee and waxing lyrical and celebrating Glen’s last night.
A massive thank you to Glen it was a great pleasure riding with you mate, a really strong rider with a personality to match, always welcome on any Tour. He’s the lovely gentleman from Blean. Now, sod all this being nice stuff!
Back to the riding. We climbed over the top of the Bodmin Moor. A lovely spectacular ride besides being tracked by jet fighters – it was just like the Clash song “Rock the Casbah“.
Then down to the Snail Trail cafe before we hit the Camel trail into Bodmin.
Then it’s down to Bodmin for final goodbyes to Glen (he’ll get the train home) and meet up with Conor and Mark (who arrived by train last night).
After that we carried on riding the up and down rolling hills of Cornwall and stopped at the Red Lion in Saint Columb Major for lunch. It was a lovely meal and the landlady was friendly too! Took the opportunity for a full strip bodywash in the restrooms.
Off we go again heading for Newquay. Sadly we ended up on the main road which was not great riding for a few miles but hey ho eventually we got off the main road and were heading back on the tracks to Redruth past the remains of the tin mining industry at Wheal Peevor mines.
Nice meal at Robartes Arms in Illogan. We never did catch up wuth Mark & Conor but we’ll attemp to re-connect tomorrow.
Thursday 2nd September
Last night we camped in the Tehidy Woods about 2 miles away from where we had eaten. It was underneath a Rookery so we imagined we’d be woken early by the noise.
We woke to a lovely morning with the dog walkers giving us weird looks as we were having our porridge mixed with Mars bar – this is a Cathal special.
It was a good ride out but got a bit busy heading into St Ives. Then we headed to the Gurnards Head Inn, following the route of the Tour of Britain. They come through next week. It was a bit early so had a coffee and cake and re-evaluated where the other lads were. We decided to meet up in Penzance.
All went well and we finally met up in Penzance. After that it went a bit pear shaped as Bingo and Dave fell off in the sand by St Michael’s Mount. The walkway was under repair for the forthcoming Tour of Britain.
Now we were seven, though sadly missing the “The Gentleman from Bleam”(TGB), with his constant chatter. But life goes on!
We pushed on out of Penzance through the Winsum mining district with plenty of old Engine sheds scattered about the hills. A few had been converted to dwellings (like Guildford Colliery) – they looked very smart.
After that it was along an old railway line into Turo, then up and up again into the little hamlets and old mining villages nestled into the stunning countryside. We had dinner in the Polgooth Inn but stayed later than normal. This meant we had to ride with lights to an old builders yard to camp – it was less than 2 miles so no worries.
Friday 3rd September
We woke up to a lovely, but dewy morning, in the construction site where we made our camp just a 1/4 mile from the Poolgooth Inn – that’s where we had our evening meal in last night. It was nice food and good company.
As usual we set off in the morning in the wrong way, but this was soon rectified!
Settled in to the very very steep climbs and technical descents in wooded areas with the sunlight breaking through. Absolutely stunning countryside. Rode to a breakfast stop just outside Liskeard full English. What can be better. We all reconvened and set of again heading for the Cornish / Devon border. The climbing did not relent on some very long climbs which we over course compensated by long decents. We all got together in a pub in Launceston for refreshments as we were still full from the breakfast. The lovely barmaid washed our waterbottles and filled them with ice and water.
After that we crossed the bridge into Devon. I got a little lost looking for a little track to the side of Blacksmiths Arms. I got distracted and spent 15 minutes going around in circles. Eventually I found it, and finally caught up with Stubbsy – spent the afternoon riding together. We had a bite to eat in a farmhouse at Lydford and checked the maps headed for the Granite trail. Here met a father and daughter doing a jog and had a bit of a photo shoot. It’s stunning scenery on this trail and beautiful scenery as we rode into Okehampton. We got a pindrop from the guys and all met together in Whitton Down. Unfortunately the place had no food.
So we back tracked slightly to the King’s Arms in South Zeal, which is a lovely thatched pub. They let us camp in the back garden and kindly arranged for a full breakfast in the morning. It had been a great but tough ride with a few beers to finish off the day.
Saturday 4th September
We all woke up to a cooked breakfast and all the posh restroom facilities on hand at the King’s Arms in South Zeal. Superb!
The ride started with a 15% climb which is not ideal after a large breakfast but after that we settled into the ride and made good progress to Exeter. Conor mentioned how nice it was to be riding with very little climbing, a big mistake, as two very steep climbs as we approached Exeter. Then we rolled into the city and picked up a few supplies. After that we headed north on a small B road to Honiton where we stopped for lunch at the thatched GreyhoundCountry Inn just outside Fenny Bridges.
It was difficult riding for a while on the busy A303 for around an hour or so after lunch. Not ideal, but needs must. Naturally it was a relief to get off the busy road and back into the comfort of the minor roads and tracks. We stopped for refreshments at Fleu de Lis pub in Stoke-sub-Hamdon and then examined the route and decided we could possibly get to to Sherborne for something to eat and a camp.
It’s a very nice quaint town, pretty busy on a Saturday night. We got a table in an exclusion zone, as we have all been wild camping for a week now. For the first time Bingo could not finish his meal – it was huge. We left the bar just as it was getting dark, got back on on the road, and headed for the lanes for a suitable spot found with ease.
Sunday 5th September
We camped in a field with long grass and stingy nettles last night under clear skies. It’s Autumn and you could feel the cold at night – least the stings kept us warm. Breakfast was a bit weird as we ran out of porridge and so had to settle for a coffee and pot noodle – just like being back in China!
We made for a relatively early start in the morning and are on our way just after 7, riding through the country lanes of East Somerset. It was so quiet we met only three cars in the first two hours. However we did have an incident with a runway horse. Fair play the young rider did amazingly well to get it under control and we gingerly walked past. Even the Alpaca in the field came over to see what all the commotion was about.
It made for really nice relaxing ride and then we stopped in the lovely Semley Village Stores,a community run shop/cafe, for a pot of tea and the biggest current bun in living memory. It was here where we met a guy who had just taken up cycling after a 70 year sabbatical – lovely guy and very interesting.
The ride carried on as before rolling through the stunning countryside into the ancient capital of Wessex, Wilton where we had lunch in the Pembroke Arms (named after an old Earl bully for him) – nice pub though. We then rolled into Salisbury with its Gothic designed cathedral and the tallest Church sprire in the UK – seemed a nice vibrant city.
After that we crossed into Hampshire twisting and turning through the exquisite countryside on to Romsey. Here we had to say goodbye to Cathal and Stubbsy – family commitments meant they had to get home. We will miss them for many different reasons, mainly Cathal pulling us along with his effortless elegant style and Stubbsy for his ability to always find food.
From Romsey we carried on through the outskirts of Southampton on to pretty village Bishop’s Waltham. Unfortunately no food at the pub, but they let us eat fish and chips in the garden and the customers brought us a round of drinks. Good stuff.
We pulled out of the village at dusk and found a nice wooden area to set up camp. A very enjoyable day in the saddle.
Monday 6th September
Another lovely morning and a good camp last night in the woods. We were all up and ready to roll just after 7, heading for Brighton and beyond.
Bit of a contrast this morning riding through the lanes from Hampshire into West Sussex, definitely used as a rat run for commuters and the school run, very busy.
Missed the normal Coffee and cake stop, as we did not pass anything, so had a meal deal in Tescos just outside Chichester, which we skirted around. The lanes did quieten down as we steamed to the coast, with it being so hot I was looking forward to having a swim. We headed to Bognor Regis, then on to Littlehampton, though the Marina and along the promenade all very nice. Then we headed on to Worthing and stopped for lunch right on the promenade. A liquid lunch for me. As the rest of the team had a meal I took the chance to have a swim and full wash in the sea. Very warm and refreshing and I felt brand new and clean.
We all knew Brighton was going to be very busy, however it was OK, and quite fun cycling through the crowds. Brighton is always an energetic vibrant place. We headed up Minera Drive on Brighton sea-front hitting the small climbs up to the South Downs and heading for Seaford. We had a beer in a pub and decided to head for Polegate, find a place to eat and then camp. When we got there we all sat outside the Horse & Groom pub and had a lovely meal. Afterwards we rode up to the windfarm above the town to find a camp. All done with ease.
Tuesday 7th September
Well it’s the last days cycling on this year’s tour. Elevan days without rain. Brilliant! Would have been difficult wild camping in the rain.
It was a lovely morning on the South Downs just outside Polegate and we hit the road just after 7 with the lads in fine form looking forward to finally having a shower.
We rode down to the coast just by Pevensey Bay, then hugged the coast all the way to Hastings. Dave and I got a little lost in Bexhill, but no dramas soon had it all under control.
After the climb coming out of Hastings we stopped for breakfast at Icklesham and had massive all English with duck eggs for the captain. It’s the first time ever we left two rounds of toast. It would never happen on Stubbsy’s watch.
We are back in familiar territory now, riding along the not too busy A259, though it was good to get back on the minor roads just after Brenzett. The pace picked up as we headed to the infamous West Hythe hill. It’s nothing like the climbs in Cornwall, but steep enough to afford liquid refreshments at the top. Hence the reason for the rush.
From here it was just a gentle run in to Elham, then follow the Valley to the final destination – the Red Lion in Bridge.
Cracking tour Thanks all for the memories
Thanks all for a great trip with loads of memories aches pains & smells like you wouldn’t believe. A special thanks to Dale & Keith for all their hard work in organising & planning on a faultless trip. Cheers guys
Another Tour over. Great stuff lads, it has been a pleasure and privilege to ride with you lot, here’s to next years Tour. Maybe Barcelona and back! Who knows