Nick and Rachel organised a glorious November ride with coffee to start and then a mixture of gentle and more aggressive undulations over 22 miles. There were 27 of us and, had we laid our tandems end to end, it looked like nearly a furlong's worth! We went west from Taunton and strung out across the lanes of Taunton Vale to descend into Milverton. A Somerset local who on another day might have had a smock and a wisp of straw in his mouth asked us what we were doing clogging up his village, and encouraged all those on the back of tandems to rise up against their oppressors on the front. Then we went east back to Taunton and shared some good beer and delicious food at the Vivary Arms. It was then back to Nick and Rachel’s for a very generous afternoon tea and cakes spread
The Taunton Group had a short ride planned for the day of their Christmas meal which was organised by Ian and Lisa but the weather was so bad that it was shortened to just three and a half miles! Only 3 couples agreed to tackle the challenge – a ride up the hill to Peter Merson’s house where he kindly supplied coffee and a slide show of his early tandeming years. We also saw Peter and Jenny’s pictures of Salviac.
The Christmas meal for 39 Tandemists at the Walnut Tree was up to the usual standard and the Christmas quiz was followed by the prize for the best fancy dress – awarded this year to Nick and Rachel. The trophy for the couple who had attended the most rides was awarded to John and Judy. Nick then led us in song to the ‘French’ version of the Tandemists anthem ‘Daisy Daisy’ which the Taunton Group had sung previously in Salviac.
Lisa and Ian were thanked for their work as ROs and presented with a bottle of wine and flowers.
James and Liz organised the January ride where ten tandems and 5 solos met at Combwich just outside Bridgwater.
It’s rather fitting that the attached photo is taken in the pub - it was only a short ride and the weather wasn’t really on our side, but the majority of the ride was spent in the pub as the food took for ever to arrive! Lovely people, as always, and an interesting part of Somerset to explore but maybe the constant inhalation of fumes from Hinkley Point Power Station slows the cooking somehow. And they ran out of peas!
After cancelling the scheduled March ride due to 8' snow drifts, 9 tandems and 2 solos met at Bovey Tracey on a beautiful sunny morning for a ride over Dartmoor organised by Steve and Maggie.
We started with the challenging climb of Haytor stopping halfway (about 700') at Ullacombe Farm Shop, where we enjoyed a leisurely break sitting in the sunshine. After our fix of coffee, we were now ready to attack the steeper part of the climb, which then plateaued out before another steeper section to the summit of about 1400',where we regrouped, taking photos of the iconic rock and the wild Dartmoor ponies. We then continued across the undulating Moor, enjoying the bluebells, gorse and stunning views, eventually winding down through the Devon lanes to the B3212. Heading east with the road twisting and turning and with a couple of fast descents, lunch at Moretonhampstead was calling. The Union Inn was welcoming and we were well looked after.
Remounting our trusty steads, we were ready for the slow, steady climb towards Doccombe, after which we were able to enjoy the long 4mile decent towards Dunsford. Regrouping once again at Steps Bridge, we then turned south to follow the pretty Teign Valley road towards Chudleigh Knighton and back to the finish at Bovey. We rode 32 miles and climbed just over 2700'. The ride seemed to be enjoyed by all and there were no complaints about the downhill sections!!!
John & Judy together with Rex & Hannah organised the June ride for the Taunton Group. 10 tandems met at Hestercombe Gardens and set out in the sunshine for a gentle meander and morning coffee in the lovely walled garden of the Bike Barn in Taunton. 10 tandems continued over more challenging terrain, 2 turned round and took the low road while 8 hard core tandems carried on to climb up to Fyne Court at Broomfield. 10 tandems then met back at Hestercombe for lunch.
Andy & Anita organised the July ride where eleven tandems and one solo started from the Crediton Leisure Centre. Amongst the tandems were two Pinos, one was John and Judy's new mount, the other was ridden by 'Freetrike' Tom and his young son Oliver. Tom supplies a range of bikes and tandems specifically adapted to meet a variety of special needs. We were also joined by two of James' grandchildren, one on his tandem and one on a solo, so good to see youngsters on a club ride.
We set off at a leisurely pace through the back lanes towards Killerton House and our coffee and cake stop. On the way we happened upon our friends Julia and Meg who were out on a training run, getting ready for a 24 hour mountain bike race and then later in the year a run from Lands End to John o' Groats. They were soon pressed into service directing everyone through a staggered junction - thanks ladies. They rode with us until the picturesque village of Thorverton. A few more miles saw us at Killerton and their excellent cakes and drinks.
The ride back from Killerton through Silverton was slightly more challenging than the way out, steadily climbing until just outside Shobrooke where we dropped 200 feet and then promptly had to climb 90 feet back up again before we reached the Red Lion and our lunch stop. The joys of cycling in Devon! The food was pre ordered so we didn't have to wait too long for lunch, which was well received by all.
A short ride back to Crediton, and as if by magic, an Ice Cream van turned up just outside Mid Devon Tyres, I'm not sure who was more pleased, us or the guy in the Ice Cream van who suddenly had a massive increase in Ice Cream sales!
Thanks everyone for joining us, we look forward to riding with you again soon.
Chris and Chris organised the August ride for the Taunton and West Country Groups where 14 tandems and 2 solos assembled at The George Hotel in Castle Cary on a warm and overcast Saturday. Members Carol & Tim and Mandy & Mike were making their first foray into Group rides.
After pre-ride coffee and cakes we followed the South Somerset Cycle Route south out of town and through charming villages such as North Cadbury, South Cadbury (past the site of the Iron Age hill fort, Cadbury Castle) Corton Denham, Sandford Orcas and Trent.
Splendid “sheep dog” work was done by Malcolm to gather up strays that missed one of the many twists and turns.
Lunch was taken at The Lamb&Lark @ Limington and both very good service and meals were fully appreciated.
Following lunch a gentle return through Kingsdon and Babcary to Castle Cary completed the 35 miles of occasional undulations.
Afternoon tea and cakes were enjoyed by several at The George once more and an enjoyable event was concluded without any mishaps.
Mark and Liz organised the September ride for the Taunton Group where 6 tandems and 2 singletons met at Yatton in slight drizzle which rapidly improved to a pleasant day. Quiet small lanes were taken to Clevedon where the tide was in and there were fine views over the Bristol Channel. After coffee on the seafront we tackled a hill out of Clevedon and then onward to Weston in Gordano before joining sustrans route 410 towards Nailsea. Suburban roads were taken around the edge of Nailsea and Backwell to take us to lunch at the Rising Sun.
Food was served promptly and portions were ample! Finally a rural route was taken to Claverham and back to Yatton.
James and Andy organised the October ride for the Taunton Group which trialled a different way of leading a route.
As the group has become bigger it has brought obvious social advantages, but some problems as well. If 24 people turn up at a cafe and ask for double shot flat whites with skinny almond milk and sprinkles, basically the rest of the day is a right off. Add on a puncture or two and someone missing a turning and it becomes tricky for the organiser and frustrating for everyone else.
So October’s route from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead and back was really simple; almost everyone could self-navigate, cycle at their own speed, arrive at the cafes in their own time and the organisers rode at the back to sweep up any problems. So because we were ready for problems…..there weren’t any. And we had great weather, autumn leaves, super company and the best cycling cafe in the west.
Altogether a good day out!!
Karl and Lisa organised the November ride for the Taunton Group where 8 tandems and 4 solos, including a recumbent, set out from Lutzy’s coffee shop at Exeter Quay.
Fully satisfied with the home baked Portuguese tarts (the house speciality) we headed off for a level ride to Dawlish along the Exe Estuary. The weather couldn’t have been better, a cold sharp day with awesome clear blue sunny skies. We passed many train and bird spotters lining the way, giving them a rare but fabulous sighting of an exotic group of tandemists.
At the mid way point of 12 miles we visited Daisy’s Tearoom in Dawlish to sample their cakes and once again satisfied we headed back to Exeter Quay for a leisurely lunch at the Puerto Lounge.
Although this was a level ride, not too taxing!! it provided a chance to take in beautiful scenery and a chance to catch up with the happenings of the group along the Estuary.
Lisa and Ian organised the December ride and Christmas Meal for the Taunton Group where 15 tandems met at The Walnut Tree in North Petherton. We Started with Coffee in the Hotel which gave everyone a chance to change into their Fancy Dress. We then went for a short ride through Durleigh, Chilton Trinity and into the centre of Bridgwater where we stopped at the Bandstand for a group photo and an impromptu Carol Service.
A short ride back to the Walnut Tree saw another 4 tandem crews join us for an excellent Christmas Meal.
The annual award for the most Group rides attended went to John and Judy for the 3rd consecutive year! Fierce competition for this year’s Fancy Dress, which included a Christmas Tree with Fairy, Mary and Joseph (complete with a baby Jesus), went to the 2 Sugar Plum Fairies (with Christmas Music) – well done Nick and Rachel. This year’s Christmas Quiz was won by Andy and Anita and a special prize was awarded to Richard and Michelle for the ‘most bagged Trig Points’ (long story!). The meal finished with the usual singalong provided by James and Nick.
Lisa and Ian were presented with gifts and thanked for organising another successful year for the Taunton Group.
Rob and Sally organised the January ride for the Taunton Group where a last minute surge in numbers saw eight tandems and one solo gather in the centre of Wiveliscombe on a chilly but dry morning. Fortified with coffee from the White Hart pub we set off on a circular route which we had described as ‘undulating’. We completed twenty miles on quiet roads and back lanes with approximately 500m of climb passing through Ford, Pitsford Hill, Ash Priors, Halse, Oake, Nynehead, Langford Budville and then back to Wiveliscombe. Ian and Lisa well and truly christened their clean shiny new tandem on the muddy lanes but at least no one accidentally went off route into the farmyard which has a mud and slurry lake about a foot deep, as Rob and I had done when planning the route a couple of weeks ago.
The views on this route are beautiful and the verges and hedgerows at this time of year festooned with snowdrops. We saw pheasants, free range chickens, the usual farm livestock and even alpacas. There were even moments when the clouds gave way to patches of blue sky although the sun remained elusive.
We returned to the White Hart for lunch where we were also joined by Rex and Hannah. The White Hart catered excellently for our large group although there was some haggling over dessert when there were only six portions of apple and blackberry crumble left and ten people wanted them (me included). I kept my head down and fortunately there were more gallant people than I who gracefully made other choices. I was glad because the crumble was superb!
Richard and Michelle organised the February ride for the Taunton Group. The route that was planned took into account that it would probably be cold and icy or wet and miserable. It was in fact a perfect spring like day. The skylarks were singing and there were snowdrops in abundance.
11 tandems left Hestercombe and set off on a route that circumnavigated part of Taunton. We were pleased to have Neil and Bridget from the West Country group join us although trying to keep up with them up the few hills was difficult! Trish and Paul left us near Trull and the remaining 10 tandems headed to the Cross Keys Pub for lunch. Finding a venue suitable for large numbers is becoming increasingly difficult but they put us in the Conservatory which we had to ourselves – perfect!
The ride back to Hestercombe was short - just as well after all the roast dinners that had been consumed!
It was good to see Grace back on the bike after an enforced rest from cycling and to catch up with tandem friends
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.