Nick and Rachel organised the April ride for the Taunton Group which started and finished in the centre of Taunton. 11 tandems and 1 solo took the Bridgwater and Taunton canal towpath passing parts of the town the busy motorist never gets to see: the back of Screwfix, the rear aspect of Taunton Part Worn Tyres, and the local dump. It was refreshing when we reached the countryside. The day was cold and dark with low cloud, but the fields of oil seed rape glowed, as did the high vis yellow line of cyclists. We turned off the towpath to go through North Curry and then climbed some challenging ridges that emerge from the Somerset levels. We had a wholesome lunch at Monks Yard near Ilminster then took a ridge road back towards Taunton with views to the Bristol Channel and the distant Mendips. The sun emerged for a brief surprise visit and the skylarks rose and sang at full volume. A pub called the Farmer’s Arms manifested itself in the middle of the countryside. We dived in, warmed up again, and generated an atmosphere of good cheer. No one seemed to want to leave. Then it was downhill all the way back, so much descent that I am still convinced that Taunton got itself lowered by 200 feet or more of altitude while we had been away. We finished with a formation tandem circuit of Vivary Park. Great company making a very happy day.
When I first learned of the Dartmoor Way I decided it was a ride I'd like to complete. When I asked at our Christmas meal if anyone would like to join us, I was surprised and overwhelmed at the response.
After looking at the Sustrans route I soon realised that some alterations would be needed to make it Tandem friendly, after all we weren't going to be riding mountain bikes!
So, on the 18th May 10 Tandems and 3 solo bikes left Buckfastleigh station for the first stage of our 2 day ride, the weather was better than anticipated, so that was a bonus. After riding up through the Teign Valley we had a pleasant lunch at the Teign House Inn and then a further stop at Whiddon Down. After climbing up through the extremely picturesque villages at Skaigh and Belstone we joined the Granite way at Okehampton Station for the final leg to Lydford.
We all enjoyed an evening meal together at the Castle Inn where Karl and Lisa set us a quiz.
On Sunday we headed off to the west side of the moor and enjoyed fantastic views and bright sunshine. We had a longer than anticipated lunch stop at Clearbrook due to staffing problems. We then tackled the challenging climbs around the south side of the moor before we found ourselves back at Buckfastleigh.
I'm pleased to report that we all made it back and I think we all felt a great sense of achievement, after riding over 90 miles with just over 8,500 feet of ascent.
Thanks for your help Karl and Lisa and thanks to all of you that joined us on the ride, it really wouldn't have been the same without you.
Andy and Anita.
Len and Gill Hampson organised their first ride for the group in June which started and finished at the Lime Kiln Inn near Long Sutton.The route wound around the quiet lanes of South Somerset taking the group through beautiful countryside and pretty villages. There was a stop half way round at Hambridge village green where the riders were treated to homemade cake provided by the organisers. The riders then returned to the Lime Kiln Inn for Sunday lunch, drinks and general socializing.
Clive and Emma organised the July ride for the Taunton Group. Eight tandems and three solos met at the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury to ride across the Somerset Levels.
We set off on the National Cycle Network lanes to Ashcott, Shapwick and Catcott before turning north at Cossington.
We stayed on the lanes passing the peat farms to East Huntspill and then onto a coffee and cake stop at Rich’s Cider Farm. The clouds had cleared and we were all able to enjoy the sunshine at the outside tables.
The return journey took us across the lanes towards Westhay Moor. We all declined the option to stop again at Sweets tearooms and continued through Godney and back to our start point for a lengthy lunch.
Chris and Chris organised the August Ride where an eleventh hour weather reprieve saw 10 tandems and a solo gather at The George Hotel, Castle Cary for pre-ride coffees.
Machines varied from recumbent tandem, “Moustache “ E tandem, lady back elect. assist.model,to a sparkling new “Dolan”.
Jamie and Becky were welcomed to their inaugural ride with the Taunton group as was David from “Somerset Sight “.
Negotiating a service company road closure within the first half mile, on foot, the ride followed quiet lanes through Pitcombe to Wincanton. Having crossed over the A303, we continued on unchallenging terrain via South Cheriton to Milborne Port where we just managed to avoid crossing the county boundary into Dorset. From there we continued through Charlton Horethorne and Compton Pauncefoot to a well-deserved lunch at The Camelot Inn at South Cadbury.
Suitably refreshed we pedalled on through Sparkford and North Barrow to return to Castle Cary for tea and cake, having said goodbye to Rex and Hannah en-route to their onward journey home.
Having largely avoided vehicular traffic and serious fluctuations in elevation a pleasant and easy-ish ride was enjoyed by all in the most benevolent weather.
Chris & Chris Davis.
James organised the September Taunton group ride which was attended by four tandems and two halves.
Bow garden centre, between Okehampton and Crediton did us proud for breakfast, and we decided pretty quickly to split into two groups. The riders and the walkers. That isn’t walking all the time. Just when excessively gravitationally challenged. Andy knows the area well as his workshop, where he makes the wonderful Brook guitars, is close by. He led the riders whose bikes were powered by dark matter; we, the walkers, plodded on about half an hour behind.
After rather a lot of climbing we reached the Hog and Hedge. We read the sign: “Pull in and Pig out” and we did just that.
Now we could lose the height we had gained in the morning. A very rural ride in excellent company. We were back before the rain started and nobody mentioned the B word, but I could kill a pint this evening.
Mark and Liz organised the October Ride where 8 tandems and 3 solos met at Escot Country House. Escot has very large grounds with a maze and a variety of captive animals -they include red squirrels, European otters, wolves and the Scottish wildcat- some are on a plan to be reintroduced to the wild.
Our route was fairly sparse on steep hills for Devon, passing the hamlets of Fairmile and Coombelake then past Kings School at Ottery St Mary. We then went to Tipton St John where we crossed the river Otter. Now on the east side, we went through the particularly pretty village of Harpford before crossing the main Exeter to Sidmouth road. The route then took us to Otterton Mill for a coffee stop. Beavers have been seen on the river Otter just upstream from this village in previous years but have been more elusive this summer.
We then cycled on down to the sea at Budleigh Salterton where the sun came out for our photos .It is a great spot for swimming , but a bit cold these last few weeks and had we more time ,we might have visited the creamery at the town end of Budleigh beach ,with a huge range of ice creams. Our lunch booking at the “Lamb and Flag “in Ottery was, however more pressing.
We took a fairly similar route back up the Otter to the pub in the town. They did us proud with prompt service for our pre- booked meals. Ed, local to Ottery told us it’s a pub famous for serving Christmas dinner to people on their own, following a first dinner funded by a local lady.
Back to Escot for the end of the ride -this one a 25 mile trip. The day started with fantastic sunshine and then was more mixed .For the first week of October, we were very lucky to have no significant rain and sunshine at the seaside at Budleigh.
Mark and Liz Nicholson
11 tandems and 2 solos joined us for the November ride around the Somerset Levels. Everyone was well wrapped up and the weather was kind to us as we left The Crown at Catcott and rode to the Avalon Marches Hub for tea and cakes – Grace and Malcolm dropped by to say hello.
The group then cycled the Shapwick Heath Reserve path for some gentle bumps and bird watching. A group effort saw everyone safely through the cycle gate at the Ashcott Road end before cycling through Meare to the Westhay Reserve and some very bumpy off roading – Well Done All!
We then put some speed on to cross Tillham Moor – where it was quite cold – back to the Crown for a lovely carvery – veggies catered for too!
Special mentions go to David and Fiona who managed two punctures in short time after our tea stop – we met them back at the pub and commiserated.
David from Somerset Sight joined us again with Ed as his pilot.
And we should all say a big CONGRATULATIONS to Martha who was on her first Tandem Club ride snuggly sat behind her Mum and Dad – she is 15 months old!
This was the first ride we have planned and led and would like to thank everyone for their positive comments about the route and meal – in fact Ian has managed to persuade us to have another go in July 2020 when the marshes will have their summer coat.
Rex and Hannah Whitcombe
The Taunton group met at the Walnut Tree at North Petherton for their Christmas Meal and ride – a record number of 40 people attended the meal.
The fancy dress/decorated tandem competition is always amazing. Rob and Sally stole the show dressed as oven ready turkeys. They cycled the 18 mile route and must’ve roasted! Other costumes included Christmas trees with flashing lights, reindeers, and of course Santa himself.
Coffee and biscuits is a great way to start then Ian led the ride with daughter-in-law Sarah as his stoker to provide much needed pedal power - Lisa had just had a replacement shoulder operation and will be back in action later in the year. Heavy rain delayed the start but fortunately the sun came out as 14 tandems and 2 solos cycled to North Newton. We then continued across the levels and up the ‘steep’ hill into North Curry where we re-grouped. From there we made our way to Burrowbridge and then alongside a very high River Parrett up to Huntworth and back to North Petherton. A lovely ride with lots of friendly chatting and numerous comments from those watching us pass by. Thanks must go to Richard and Michelle for keeping the group together.
The Christmas Meal was as good as always and it’s lovely to see so many people attend. The trophy for the most rides done in the year was awarded to Nick and Rachel who rode 9 out of the 11 rides in 2019, including the successful 100 mile Tour de Dartmoor weekend organised by Andy and Anita with help from Karl and Lisa. The Christmas quiz was won by Tim and Mary and Ian and Lisa were presented with gifts in appreciation of their work as Regional Officers.
Richard and Michelle organised the January ride for the Taunton Group starting from Wiveliscombe. Organising a winter ride can have its challenges - namely weather conditions and lack of open cafes. Two days before the ride our concerns were the very wet and muddy lanes, however, on the day it was the cold and ice. Five tandems plus two solos set off towards Bampton on a road that was supposed to have been gritted. One icy patch resulted in a few walking but everyone stayed upright. The Toucan Café, in Bampton, kindly opened early for a coffee stop. Bikes were safely stored and we thawed out before continuing. Although a few were up for following the planned route along the lanes the general view was to stick to the bigger roads so we looped round to The Black Cat and Exeter Inn before heading back to Wiveliscombe where we jumped in the cars and drove to The Globe in Appley for lunch. Nick and Rachel joined us in Bampton for the short loop and then drove on to lunch on the original route and confirmed that we had made the correct decision! Driving on from the pub was also not very pleasant.
The second Taunton group quiz was very well supported. Nick and Rachel hosted the Zoom event and 14 tandems took part. There were seven rounds of (very hard) questions but the most popular was Malcolm and Grace’s Generation Game. Twenty topical items were briefly shown including hand sanitizer, toilet roll, flour, pasta and as a nod to the past, a cuddly toy! We then had 45 seconds to write down all the items with the Generation Game theme tune playing in the background.
It was good to see everyone again and another evening is planned with a slight change of format.
A third quiz was organised by Nick and Rachel for the Taunton group. Ten couples attended and questions ranged from trees to gin and ‘seconds’ (highest, longest etc).
Malcolm suggested a bingo game next time and to get us into the spirit, Grace’s questions were based on the bingo nicknames that callers have traditionally used: half a crown in pre-decimal currency was two & six - 26! The pre-decimal currency also featured in Ian and Lisa’s questions so perhaps some of us are ‘of a certain age’.
A new feature this evening was newsround and we learned that John and Judy had been out and about; their questions were based on their rides. Tim and Mary’s tandem is still locked down in France, Mark and Liz are still hoping to work in the Shetlands and many of us were looking forward to meeting up with family (socially distanced of course!) Several members have birthdays in May. We usually celebrate with them on a Tandem Club Rally but not this year. Many happy returns went to Grace, Katherine, Rachel, Ian and Len.
Round 4 of the now regular two weekly Zoom virtual quiz night for the Taunton Group saw 14 couples arrive and a move away from the regular quiz format. Organised by Malcolm & Grace it was eyes down for our first Bingo night, all the Bingo cards were emailed out in advance and we played two exciting games. From the outset it was clear we had some hardened Bingo regulars keen to show their expertise, others however were completely new to the game and took some while to grasp the concept with questions like “what do we do with the blank squares”…………. All this was put to one side once the games got underway with everyone remaining very focused and surprisingly quiet as they all concentrated on crossing their numbers off.
Two games proceeded with a line then a full house in each game and a coffee break in between. Winners were Gill & Nick in the first game and Karl & Ian in the second. Huge cash prizes were awarded (chocolate 10 pence pieces) which unsurprisingly are still awaiting to be claimed.
Everyone is now waiting with anticipation to see what the next quiz night brings as James and Liz promise to conjure up something a little different.
This was our last zoom Taunton group party and it was my turn to choose the theme.
So, I chose a game where we had to remove our adult hats and put on our kids hats. It was a scavenger hunt. Just incase you didn’t know scavenger hunt is a kids game, where you have to find a said item
. . First item to be found was a wine glass or a beer glass. So, as you can imagine there was a very quick response to this request!
I think two of the funniest requests were, a. some cyclists bum cream and b. a pair of the wife’s knickers placed on the chaps head! (I did have a winner for this but wouldn’t want to embarrass him especially as I heard he kept them on for 24hrs.)
It’s been a fun way for us all to stay in touch.
But, I’m thinking, that by now, we are, all of us ZOOMED out.
Liz & James Goodwin
19th July – socially distanced group tandem ride!
This was our first group ride since the beginning of the New Year and with some restrictions lifted we decided to try out something new.
We would need to socially distance, only 6 people in a group, this meant putting cyclists into pods and sending them off at intervals – no catching up and chatting! A maximum of 12 tandem places were offered for our trial ride.
Maps were issued and leaders for each pod were sure they knew the route which took riders through nature reserves and moors on the Somerset levels.
It was a beautiful day and the reserves and moors looked their summer best. Some riders were pleased with the flat ride, there were wildlife photo opportunities and time to walk the bumpy bits and share news.
The pods worked well, thanks to our guides Malcolm, Isaac and Alex.
We used the Avalon Marshes Centre as our base where we could park, use the facilities and enjoy the café which was well set up with a one way system and tables spread out in the open air to accommodate our social distancing.
Though our group has been in contact on Zoom doing quizzes and Bingo it was refreshing to catch up in person finding out how we spent our time in lock down and speculate on the future. We had 9 tandems and three solos and welcomed new members Nic and Jane.
We enjoyed showing off our corner of Somerset – ‘the north levels’ recently featured on the One Show. There was plenty of information on the area available from the Avalon Marshes representative which may encourage some of us back for a spot of bird watching. In the mean time we were treated to a bee swarm at the information point!
As a trial ride the pods worked well, looking to the future we will need to brush up on our map reading skills as we set the pattern for further meetings.
Rex and Hannah Whitcombe
Eighteen cyclists, on 8 tandems and 2 singles, met at Darts Farm, Topsham on Sunday 9th August. It was one of the hottest days of the year but we were off cycling in 3 groups before the heat built up and later there was time to relax and converse in the picnic area with plenty of space. It was impressive that people had travelled so far to be there, most folk from Somerset but special mention to Lisa and Ian who came across from Bournemouth, James who interrupted his holiday at Lydford and also Anita and Andy who cycled in from near Crediton.
Two of the three groups went south, with staggered start times, to Exmouth on the East side of the Exe Estuary trail including boardwalks and views of the Estuary. The first group, kindly led by Andy and Anita, went straight onto Budleigh Salterton for a coffee stop, picking up the cycle track on the old railway route through farmland and woods. They then went over Woodbury Common, a renowned pebble bed heath, on quiet roads to make a circular route back to Darts Farm.
The second group, led by Ruth at the front and James as sweeper, stopped for coffee at the National Trust Farm on the edge of Exmouth. The foresight and generosity of a farmer leaving this farm to the National Trust stopped ribbon development along the East side of the Estuary. The group then cycled onto Budleigh using the same route as group one. After a pause at the seafront, they returned to Darts the same way with less hills than group one though in fact a longer route.
The third group, led by Liz and Mark (who also planned the overall day), went north through Topsham to Countess Wear then across the Exe onto Exminster. After a short, steep hill to the Exminter golf course, extensive views opened up over the Estuary. Back roads through the countryside were taken down to Powderham Castle then along the Estuary to Starcross. There was welcome coffee and flapjacks at an enterprising coffee trailer in the carpark, then a return on the cycle path past Turf Hotel and under the motorway to Countess Wear. The route was then retraced back to Topsham and Darts.
All three groups were miraculously back within half an hour of each other. As well as fulfilling social distancing, we reflected on the advantages of these smaller groups of six people. These included making it easier for cars to pass, creating a good social group and helping the role of the leaders with a smaller group to keep together. Thank you everyone for coming to the Exe Estuary on such a hot day, enabling us to share our local and wonderful Exe Estuary trail for the three routes.
Liz and Mark Nicholson
On Sunday 20th September a smaller than usual group of the Taunton Tandem Club met at the Bridge Bakery and Café in Langport.
Ian and Lisa Warren, Andy and Anita Petherick, Rex and Hannah Whitcombe, Len and Gill Hampson, Nick and Rachel Warner were joined by new recruits Mike Dunning and his partner Helen Smith and Andy and Netty Sale.
Due to the Covid restrictions we were unable to ride in one group, so we split into three groups and set off to the all-important coffee stop at Frogmary Green Farm at South Petherton.
The ride took us out from Langport, across the Levels to Muchelney, then from Long Load we took some lanes less travelled to Stoke sub Hamden and then a back road which took us into South Petherton. Len, who designed the route, specialises in obscure, but interesting lanes!
We fuelled up well at Frogmary and enjoyed the lovely sunshine for a while before heading back to Langport via Hambridge and Curry Rivel, enjoying the long downhill stretch from Curry into Langport.
It was a good, if uneventful day, made even better by the sun and great company of the other tandemers, we all had a good catch up and were met back at the Bridge by John and Judy Beveridge, who seem to be regulars there!
Len & Gill Hampson
Well. How do you organise a tandem ride with 12 tandems that can only cycle in groups of three? Some of them want to be challenged; some of them want to have a leisurely social; some are very fit and young; others are…….less fit and young.
This is how we did it. Four routes were sent out by email. They included a printable map showing the routes highlighted on an OS map and a GPX file. The routes were called the Aliens - dark matter in their legs and fit, the Proletariat - hard working class of cyclist, the Intellectuals - need time to discuss matters, and the Lone Ranger - for the off the wall individual who needs an extreme challenge. We all met at the lovely Cafe 360 in Bovey and very quickly sorted ourselves out into like-minded groups. We all cycled up to Moretonhampstead in groups, fastest first and then returned to Bovey by the different routes.
I’m very grateful for the fact that the Taunton Group have a high proportion of good map readers and competent mechanics. Their navigation skills were called on and everyone rose to the occasion, but no-one could salvage Andy’s car which was sadly collected by the RAC at the end of the ride. I also want to recommend the OS app. which makes this sort of planning much easier.
I think everyone enjoyed it; I think everyone returned but sadly we weren’t able to have a group hug at the end cos’ of……you know what.
James & Liz Goodwin
The Taunton Group’s Christmas ride was held on December 13th and started with socially distanced coffee and cake in the gazebo outside Mr Miles Tea Rooms in the High Street in Taunton.
Two groups of 3 tandems set off in different directions. Ian and Lisa had planned four routes but unfortunately the weather forecast was not encouraging and a few couples were deterred. On the day the weather wasn’t too bad – the first group headed out south-west from Taunton through Pitminster and West Buckland while the second group headed out north-west through Bradford-on-Tone and Bishops Lydeard. Upon return to Taunton several couples decided to have lunch and the staff at Mr Miles Tea Rooms obligingly found tables for us.
The event was great in the circumstances, the two groups didn’t mingle and riding in small groups was quite acceptable, almost feeling normal. This year has been so different and rides have been organised to conform with the current regulations and have proved popular. The trophy for the couple attending the most events organised during the year was awarded to Rex and Hannah.
To include those unable to attend the ride we also held a Zoom Christmas Party on December 18th. Nick and Rachel planned it meticulously with a spectacular simultaneous switch on of Christmas lights, a magnificent firework display (complete with fire alarm!), a game of pontoon, a fancy dress competition and, being the Taunton Group, included community singing culminating in an unusual rendition of ‘Daisy Daisy’ to the tune of Auld Lang Syne (?).
What a year! Many thanks to all those who have supported the Taunton Group throughout this year – and special thanks to those who have agreed to lead rides in 2021.
Lisa & Ian Warren