To Barnstaple and back by bike (and train)

Volunteer Veronica arrived and left on her bike, and while she was here took a day out and did a full circuit from Wheatland Farm to Barnstaple and back. Bike to the station, Tarka Line to Barnstaple, Tarka Trail to Fremington, to Instow, to Bideford, to Puffing Billy at Torrington, on to East Yarde and then nearly to Meeth, and finally back on Devon country lanes to the farm. About 40 miles cycling in all, so suitable for fit adults! But we’ve also done it with an eleven year old, as a challenge.

Here’s what Veronica said about it (and a few pics along the way from other posts on sections of this circuit):

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Two Wheels at Wheatland

Not owning a car, I am used to getting about by public transport, bicycle and on foot – very easy if you live in the city. So, I was interested to see whether I could make my own way whilst staying in rural Devon and had a great weekend touring the countryside finding out.
Saturday had the better weather forecast so I decided to try a cycle route, setting off from Wheatland Farm in the morning sunshine for Eggesford Station to catch the train to Barnstaple. It’s only 5 miles and mostly downhill on quiet country lanes. The train has enough space for about 4 bikes and fortunately weren’t any others on there, but it may be a problem on a busy summer’s day. The 20 minute train ride to Barnstaple follows the Taw valley criss-crossing the river here and there.

On arrival in Barnstaple you can’t miss the signs for the cycle routes and the cycle lanes are really clear and keep you well away from traffic. National Cycle Routes 3 and 27 both pass by here.

Route 3 takes you along some of the Tarka Trail and is a really lovely bike ride on which you can see many different aspects of Devon’s natural environment. From Barnstaple to Bideford the smooth flat route runs along the Taw estuary with views out over the mud flats and a host of birdlife. After and hour’s gentle ride, I stopped for a morning cuppa at an old railway carriage turned tea-room right on the trail in Bideford before the route moved further inland. The trail follows an old railway track, so it is lovely and flat and suitable for any level of cyclist and pretty much any kind of bike.

After Bideford, it rolls through the Devonshire countryside passing pastures, woods and river. Interpretation boards and info points that correspond to an audio trail tell you about the varied wildlife and other points of interest. There are plenty of tempting places to stop – picnic spots or cafes.

After that it was only another 4 miles on the Tarka Trail before I left it to find my way back to Wheatland through lanes and villages. Having cycled almost 40 miles by now, my legs were a little weary for the Devon hills – there was a fair bit of uphill and I was grateful for the lowest of my 24 gears, but the views and the speeding downhill were reward enough for the added effort.

The return ride took me through Dowland, Iddesleigh, without a stop at the Duke of York sadly, and Winkleigh, without a stop at the Kings Arms either! It was about 15 miles and took a couple of hours taking all those hills quite slowly, but a really enjoyable ride and very satisfying to make it back on my own two wheels.