The last day. One last challenge, but also one last chance to live the experience of the ride. No disappointment on either front. There were three hilly sections, a long steady downhill run into Plymouth, and beautiful scenery throughout.
Lydford was a particular delight – ups and downs through the lush gorge, with 30 metre drops to the river below, and dense woodland either side of the road. Reaching the edge of Dartmoor provided an unbeatable vista across the moors, with ponies grazing just off the path. And then there’s the Drake’s Trail, which runs from Tavistock to Plymouth.
Part of this, from around Bickleigh, is along the route of the old Plym Valley railway, and is a gentle downward gradient running through woodland. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, it’s well populated with dog walkers, hikers, and cyclists. It lends a sense of community to the ride, as though they’d all come out to see us finish.
However, once you reach the end of that, there’s a bit of a dreary section through industrial areas of Plymouth. The road around the coast is taken, which then goes through the harbour, and on towards the lighthouse and ferry terminal. This road was busy, and the pavement was full of pedestrians, and we ended up resorting to walking the last mile. I know – highly embarrassing.
And then, as soon as we’d arrived, the guy who was to take our bikes (and us) back to Ilfracombe was there, and we started loading up, and it all felt just a little anti-climactic. No fanfare, or welcoming committee, or anything like that. Just a photo or two, and a trudge to a portaloo. A long trip in a van, and then packing up the cars again. Ideally, it would have been better to spend the night in Plymouth, so that we could at least savour the arrival, soak up the atmosphere in the harbour, and get a real sense of achievement.
But still – it’s a challenge taken up and overcome, and especially for the children, something they can be really proud of. Hopefully, it’s just the start of something more regular, with more family holidays being spent this way. Could next year’s project be a ramble along the edge of the Danube, perhaps? Or down the coast of France? Much planning lies ahead, methinks.