Hilly Dartmoor 100k

The route

The route

I had planned a day riding some hills on Dartmoor with my regular cycling buddy Steve. The inspiration for the ride came from 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills by Simon Warren. In order to bag 2.5 Audax Altitude Award points I devised a 100k route taking in these 4 hills. With over 2,600m (8,500’) of ascent in total this was a continuously hilly ride and believe me, there were a lot more than 4 hills!

The November day was perfect for an outing on Dartmoor, warm dry and sunny in a November that had generally been wet and windy. We left Bovey Tracey at 08:30

Steve ready to roll at Bovey Tracey

Steve ready to roll at Bovey Tracey

and were shortly on the first hill, Haytor Vale – 5.4km with 335m of elevation and a grade of 12%. On fresh legs in the sunshine this passed by easily enough and we were soon up on the moor at Haytor.

On the moor at Haytor

On the moor at Haytor

On the outward journey to our turn point at Tavistock we were to descend the other 3 ‘targeted’ hills and climb them on the return trip. The first descent was into Widecombe in the Moor.

Steep descent into Widdecombe in the Moor.

Steep descent into Widdecombe in the Moor.

We headed NE to North Bovey through delightful, quiet, undulating (!) lanes in the autumn sunshine with very pretty colours.

Autumn colours near North Bovey

Autumn colours near North Bovey

From North Bovey we climbed onto the moor and made quicker progress across to Postbridge on the B3212.

Postbridge

Postbridge

We then headed south passing Bellever YHA and Yar Tor to Dartmeet. The descent to Dartmeet was scary as the prospect of climbing back up on the return journey was quite daunting. On the B3357 following the West Dart we reached Two Bridges and then ascended to the Rundlestone at 454m. After the plunge down into Merrivale, there is only a short climb before the long descent into Tavistock where we stopped for hot chocolate and sandwiches. At this point we had ridden 65 of the 100km and climbed 1700m of the 2619m of elevation.

Our return to Bovey Tracey started with the climb up Rundlestone Hill – 9km with 346m of ascent at a grade of 15%. We had enjoyed the speedy descent and the ride back up was fine. The scenery is superb with constant interest. The road is good with considerate traffic and we were into the dip at Merrivale and the final pull up to the Rundlestone with views across to Princetown. We retraced the road back down to Two Bridges before the undulating ride along the B3357 following the West Dart towards the next objective, Dartmeet.

Having descended this hill on the outward journey we knew we were in for quite a tough climb. There is a cattle grid on a bend just after Dartmeet Bridge so no momentum from the descent can help on the initial 20% grade. Dartmeet is the shortest of the four hills at only 1km but it has 119m of elevation and is consistently steep. It’s just a case of selecting a low gear at the start of the hill and getting a rhythm with cadence and breathing and not looking too far up the road!

Phew – made it!

Views from the top of Dartmeet hill

Views from the top of Dartmeet hill

and wonderful Dartmoor scenery is the reward.

I had told myself only one ‘proper’ hill remained but I had overlooked the 20% climb out of Ponsworthy which took us back up to 300m on the moor again at Windwhistle. Clouds had gathered in the afternoon and the Autumn colours were muted as we continued once again to Widdecombe.

Gathering clouds at Widecombe

Gathering clouds at Widecombe

There really was only one hill left now but it was probably the toughest of the day. Widdecombe Hill is 1.64km long with 163m of ascent – (so for every 10 metres there is a metre of ascent). Once again head down into a rhythm and just pedal away until the crest is reached. Onwards and upwards back to Haytor

Haytor

Haytor

before the final fantastic 6.5km descent down Haytor Vale to Bovey Tracey. The road was mostly dry and speeds of 70kph were recorded on the GPS. We had earned our free ride off the moor to Bovey Tracey and had enjoyed our hilly day on Dartmoor.

As an Audax 100k DIY Perm with 2.5 AAA points this was a very successful route and one which we intend to repeat.

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