When you wake to grey skies and the whistle of the wind battering the bedroom window you sometimes want to snuggle back under the covers for just that little bit longer, but we didn’t have time. The plan was to cycle the Granite Way, a mainly traffic-free cycle path between the towns of Okehampton and Lydford in Devon.
Excited, but still sleepy-eyed we crawled into our warm cycling gear, had breakfast and said our thankyou’s to our very friendly B&B hosts. As we were checking our bicycles a local fisherman appeared from know where. He was very chatty and extremely keen to show off his morning catch from the hidden stream out the back of the B&B. He had caught a trout that was so shiny and long that it had me captivated. It dangled in his fingers like a piece of Xmas tinsel touching the ground.
The wind blew and it made the grey clouds appear a shade darker. We had to set off if we were to beat the probability of rain. Okehampton station was our starting point where we joined a flat gravel path which ran parallel to the railway track. Our wet weather gear had to be put on as a slight drizzle had begun and beaten us in the race to be first.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves passing the very quiet and gloomy Meldon quarry after which we stopped for quick photos at the dizzying heights of a steel viaduct spanning 165 metres! The Meldon viaduct offered us views of the greenery below and the Meldon Dam in the distance. The Meldon visitor centre and cafe (a former buffet carriage) was closed which was a shame as they looked rather interesting as we peeked in at their windows.
As we cycled onwards over cattle grids and through rolling hills. The grazing horses and sheep on the hills didn’t look bothered by the falling rain continuing to graze quite contentedly.
We spotted the craggy features of Sourton Tors which were clearly visible and we soon found ourselves travelling on an undulating muddy track through a cave of trees dripping water on us at every gust of wind.
We cycled upon the impressive arches of Lake viaduct then took a turn towards Bearslake and down small country lanes towards the village of Bridestowe. The local pub looked cosy, but we carried onwards while the rain finally began to ease.
Quiet country roads lead us to the village of Lydford and the highlight of the day: the Lydford gorge. Looked after by the National Trust, the Lydnford gorge is a place of fairytale magic. It is the deepest gorge in south-west England and a tiny path gladly weaves you down the steep banks among the depths of over grown oak trees which stretch upwards to find the sunlight.
We carefully followed the flow of the river Lyd as it swirled and plunged itself forging an endless journey through the rocks and it lead us to many slippery steps and the spectacular “Devil’s Cauldron” whirlpool.
As the water crashed and gurgled around us we were joined by a very curious robin who happily sung along to the sound of the water. It was a surreal moment.
Eventually we left the beauty of the gorge and began to cycle back to Okehampton via Bridestowe to have a delicious lunch in that cosy pub that we had spotted, the White Hart Inn. As we greedily tucked into a hot meal we noticed that the rain had returned with force. It was hard to leave the warmth of the pub, but off we went cycling as fast as we could so as not to get too cold. The rain was relentless and the closer we got to Okehampton the more it fell from the sky. The scenery became hidden in mist and as we became a pair of drenched rats to make matters worse I got a puncture!
The cold rain bucketed down on us as we tried to fix the puncture, but it was near impossible as our wet hands and continual rain stopped the sealant from working. We were freezing and frustrated – eventually we sought a tree for shelter, dried our hands and finally managed to fix the tyre. Back at the car with the bikes strapped on the back and our soaked bodies warmly inside we managed to have a good laugh about our unfortunate situation. Rain or no rain – the Granite Way had been a delight in so many ways!
If you would like to see more photos from this ride I have more on my Facebook page.