Last Friday evening my wife and I, along with the kids and dog, travelled down to Devon for the weekend to help celebrate my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary. They’d booked a couple of adjoining cottages at Combrew Farm, a lovely place just outside of Bickington.
One of the things that we’d been alerted too was the ability to rent bikes from the farm itself and the close proximity of the Tarka Trail – a section of the Devon coast-to-coast path – which runs entirely traffic-free for 30-odd miles between Braunton and Meeth. With our accommodation just a mile or so from Fremington Quay – a convenient place to join the trail and boasting a dog-friendly café – it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
And so it was that on Sunday morning we arranged to hire some bikes and head out. For my wife, number two son and myself we opted for Specialized hardtail mountain bikes, whilst number three son had a junior sized machine. My regular trail buddy, our beautiful dog, had to be content with being attached to her Halti and lead to begin with. Only daughter opted out of the excursion and stayed at the holiday cottage allowing her eyes to become ever-more square(!).
We set off from the farm and, as is usual, I had the content with a very eager dog who was extremely keen to get moving and off her lead. Crossing the main road we were quickly onto the single track road heading to Fremington Quay and thus were able to unleash the four-legged member of the party to lead the way.
Arriving at the Quay I took a moment to start my GoPro (helmet mounted for this trip) to record and we took the Tarka Trail in the direction of Instow – having already arrange that we would meet the parents and my sister and her family for coffee either in Instow or back at the Quay – and across the metal bridge over the river.
There were a few walkers and fellow cyclists along the path but for the most part the first mile or so was very quiet and with the weather bright and sunny – if a little chilly with the landscape being so flat! Having two irregular riders meant that we took a relatively sedate pace, which gave plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery on either side of the trail as we rode along.
Not so enjoyable was the near-miss that the dog had soon after. She has yet to have a collision with any walkers or cyclists whilst out walking and running but did have a near-miss on this trip as a chap coming in the opposite direction was heading directly towards her and vise-versa! As expected the dog changed course before there could be any contact but unfortunately the cyclist had slowed so much that he was unable to maintain his balance and having clip-in pedals ended up collapsing in a heap on the grass verge. Queue much swearing from the cyclist in question and complaints over dogs being allowed on the path. Still, no harm was done so on we went!
A few minutes of riding later it was time for another brief stop as by now son number two – having declared when we started our journey that he was warm enough in a t-shirt and unbuttoned shirt and declined advice to button up said shirt – was feeling the cold! My wife, who had sensibly layered up, took of one of the layers (my Endura rain jacket) and passed it over for the chilly child to wear. Kids, eh?!
We were now getting very close to Instow, where I’d spent many happy hours in the dues during summer holidays as a child. This had taken much less time than I’d expected as the trail is much more level and direct than the road that I could vaguely remember from my childhood.
It was at this point that we discovered that Sunday morning was when the Bideford 10 Miler was being run! This we found out when we encountered a runner coming up fast from behind us bellowing “coming through!”, leading my wife to almost end up getting up close and personal with a grass verge herself!
A few hundred yards more – any stopping to let lots more runners stream past – and we arrived at the crossing at Marine Parade. The decision was made that we would exit the trail and head to Johns Of Instow for some refreshment. From this point on I neglected to re-start the GoPro – as will become clear by the lack of stills below!
Coffees and pasties purchased we sat next to the River Torridge for a few minutes and relayed news of the race to parents etc., arranging to meet them back at Fremington Quay. Nicely warmed by our purchases (well, except for number two son who was still complaining about how cold it was and how we really needed to go home!!) we walked along to beachfront for a while before making our way back onto the now runner-less trail and back to the Quay.
Luckily the return journey took place without any incident and we were soon back at the Fremington Quay café. We’d made it there a good twenty minutes or so before we had arranged to meet the rest of the family, so number three son went off the play in the pirate ship whilst my wife and number two son used the facilities.
Once they’d returned to keep an eye on the bikes I took the dog for a quick blast along the trail in the direction of Barnstaple. I knew we had a bit of time to kill, but also a long trek back to the Forest of Dean later in the day and figured giving her an extra bit of running would ensure she slept soundly in the car.
So the two of us shot off towards Barnstaple for a few minutes until we were getting close to the A361 bridge over the River Taw, at which point we turned tail and headed back to the café to meet everyone else.
As the weather was so good the café was very busy so eventually the general consensus was that rather than queueing we would decamp back to the farm and partake of tea and rather nice scones etc. there instead.
All in all I have to say this was a good excursion. A decent ride with good company, weather clear and bright, not too much incident and some great grub both at Instow and back at the farm. I did miss my own bike though!…