The Dartmoor Ghost is an Audax Calendar Event organised by Kevin Presland and CTC Devon. The ride departs from Bovey Tracey at 22:30 on the night after a full moon on 14th June. The moon is a constant companion throughout the night. The route does a complete traverse of Dartmoor from southwest to northeast with a total distance of 145km and an advertised 1850m of ascent, although my GPS recorded 2356m. There are no AAA points for the event which is a shame for those (like me) who collect them, as 2020m of elevation in 140km is enough to generate points and 2280 is enough on a 160km ride.
It is called ‘The Ghost’ because Dartmoor is a land of myth and legend, many of which have grown around tales of a ghoulish origin.
The route passes:
- Birchanger – the location of gallows, the neighbouring house is said to be haunted.
- Jay’s Grave – a young girl hung herself in disgrace and she was buried on crossroads at the boundary of villages to ward off evil spirits. Flowers appear on her grave every night.
- Okehampton Castle – haunted.
- Lydford – the most haunted place on Dartmoor.
- Hairy Hands – attacks on unsuspecting cyclists causing a crash into the undergrowth.
The event is organised to perfection by Kevin Presland, helped by his family and CTC friends. Many thanks to everyone involved organising and running the event on the night. As riders we had a really good night out and greatly appreciate all the hard work from all the people who helped.
The weather forecast for 14th June was perfect. Dry, light winds, no cloud and a warm 16 degrees. 28 riders gathered at Hind House Bovey Tracey to register to ride.
As the minutes ticked towards the start time of 22:30, pizza was provided for last minute carbo loading.
As we gathered on the road ready to start Kevin was just telling us that during the English Civil war in 1646 Oliver Cromwell and a contingent of his Roundhead Army raided the Royalist Troops stationed at Bovey. Suddenly Cromwell’s Ghost appeared…
…and urged us to ride away into the night and keep riding until dawn. Off we went whilst Cromwell wielded his sword at us.
The first info control at Bickington after 6 kilometres took a few by surprise but number 909 was duly recorded and we followed the tail lights heading north to the haunted Birchanger at Smokey Cross.
It was quite dark, despite the full moon, and I was pleased to be navigating by GPS rather than a route card in the maze of lanes. Once up on the B3387 at Haytor we had superb views to the south with the moon reflecting in the sea. We turned north again and my lights picked up a mound at the side of the road with some flowers on it. I realised this was Jays grave. The temperature had dropped eerily and I was pleased to be riding in company.
The next control was at Whiddon Down services where we got our Brevet Card stamped and made use of the facilities.
On the next section towards Okehampton we witnessed the dismay of England Supporters as they came to terms with a 2 -1 defeat in the opening World Cup game with Italy. Okehampton Castle was looking splendid lit by the full moon.
We followed the off road option between Okehampton and Lydford but were joined by 4 other riders on the A386. Just before Lydford one guy experienced a ‘Hairy Hands’ moment and veered off the road and narrowly avoided crashing.
Lydford was very chilly and quiet. The place was completely deserted and as we headed down the temperature chilled. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being up here alone. We soon warmed up again with the climb up to the next control at Brentor Church.
The freewheel down to Tavistock was glorious. The road is straight and the descent gentle and it was well lit by the moon. It felt very fast riding into a narrow beam of light but was only around 50kph. At Tavistock with only 10km to the next control at Yelverton Community Cinema we were starting to feel hungry. At Yelverton Kate welcomed us with food and drinks and we filled up on delicious sweetcorn chowder, bread and jam and rice pudding with peaches. YUM!
Emerging from the Cinema we felt the first light of dawn. After all that chowder, bread and rice pudding my legs were reluctant to get going and the climb back up on to the moor was a complete killer. The diminishing gloom revealed lots of ponies with some very small foals and views that gradually became colourful as the sun rose. Gawler Bottom just before Postbridge looked wonderful with a layer of mist.
In the 30km between Yelverton and Moretonhampstead we did not see a single car.
We had the whole moor to ourselves and it was very special. There are some superb views from this roller coaster of a road which travelling east has more swooping downhills which give some momentum for the ups.
The climb out of Moretonhampstead is quite long but never steep and we were soon flying down into the Teign valley to the last control at Dunsford.
All that remained were 18km of relatively easy riding back to Bovey Tracey.
Family Presland were working hard cooking and serving cooked breakfast for the returning riders. A very welcome feast to finish off what had been a most enjoyable and memorable Audax.