Leg 69 – to Newton Ferrers via 4 ferries

Link to map of today’s route: http://connect.garmin.com/course/4124115

09 July 2013

What an ace day, covering 85 miles through Cornwall and Devon, over 4 ferries, in gorgeous weather. And my legs seems to have acclimatised to the West Country hills too.

My tent was pretty hot when I woke up, indicating another great day was on the cards weather wise. I rolled out into the fresh air, quick to get out of the oven like conditions the Akto can create in direct sunlight. One drawback of sleeping in a tent is you can’t really have a lie in when it gets hot, unless you want to emerge slightly hard boiled. Mind you when the weather gets good you don’t need a tent, unless there’s an abundance of midges or mosquitoes as there had been in Scotland.

After a shower and a quick breakfast – I was still full from last nights feasting – I packed up and was on the road by 09.30. My objective for the day was to use 4 ferries to cross rivers along the coast, and get back into Devon.

My first stop was Helford Village, a picturesque spot on the banks of the Helford River. It’s a lovely small village with a great pub, the Shipwrights Arms, but it was a little early to be frequenting a drinking establishment.

Helford Village - another bright day

Helford Village – another bright day

There’s a bit of a ford you can ride through, but there wasn’t a lot of water in it.

Helford Village - picturesque spot

Helford Village – picturesque spot

Helford Village Pub

Helford Village Pub – bit early for a pint

I followed a narrow path down to the ferry landing, and had to use the orange disk to summon the boat from the other side of the river. You just open up the disk, which can be clearly seen from the other side, when you want to cross. Better than a phone with little reception in the area, and more fun.

Orange Disk of ferry summoning

Orange Disk of ferry summoning

After unloading my bike to get it down the steps to the jetty, I sat on the wall to wait for the boat, idly swinging my legs to work some of the latent stiffness out of my muscles. It was a perfect morning and a perfect spot.

The ferry duly arrived, and as the lone passenger I loaded my panniers and bike on board with help from the ferry boat skipper Stephanie (think that was her name anyway, apologies if not). Stephanie comes down from Cambridge each year to work the ferry for a few months, which sounds like sounds a pretty idyllic way to spend your summer. I only just had enough money to pay for the crossing, which costs £6 with a bike, however it was worth it for the scenery and experience and saved me a long trek inland to find a bridge. It’s only a short crossing over to Helford Passage, the village on the other side, where I disembarked and a group with an enormous dog got on for a trip back. The dog really wasn’t sure about the whole thing but was eventually coaxed into the boat.

I added Helford to my list of places to come back to , as I pedalled off up a big climb out of the village and took the road around to Falmouth and my next ferry crossing of the day. The Cornish countryside looked and smelt lovely in the sunshine, as I passed through Mawnan Smith and Penjerrick, very Cornish sounding place-names.

Falmouth is a much bigger town and I stopped to get some cash out, as well as pick up some supplies. I bought six ripe bananas for 48p from a greengrocers, a bargain, as well as some more sun-cream and multi-vitamins. After a cold drink I headed down to the harbour to find a ferry over to St. Mawes.

After a bit of a circuit of the town I located a promising ferry, and had to carry my bike and panniers down some steps to get to the boat on Princess Pier. I only just made the 12.15 sailing, and thankfully the crew were on hand to help load everything into the boat, a slightly bigger affair than the Helford ferry.

It was a nice crossing over to St. Mawes, during which I chatted to one of the crew for whom today was his first day on the job. It’s a long day and hard work but nice being out in the sunshine and fresh air, providing the weather stays good. It was good to relate a few of my experiences and learn a bit about the route ahead over to Fowey. There was a guitarist on board who entertained us with a few melodies on the way across, made me miss my guitar but it really wouldn’t have been practical to bring it on tour.

St. Mawes harbour

St. Mawes harbour

I stopped for a bite to eat in St. Mawes, fish and chips; sustainably sourced Icelandic Cod from the Watch House. I don’t usually eat Cod however as the restaurant had gone to great lengths to promote the fact it was from sustainable resources I thought it a safe option. I was glad I’d decided to opt for the traditional seaside delicacy, as it rivalled that I’d had a couple of months back in Whitby, which felt like a long time ago now.

St. Mawes - looking over to St. Anthony

St. Mawes – looking over to St. Anthony

With my energy levels restored I pressed on, deciding against using the ferry across to St. Anthony, it was getting expensive on the wallet, and instead taking the A3078 up the hill to St. Just in Roseland. There are a lot of towns and villages around here named after saints.

There followed a long stint along country roads towards St. Austell. The lanes are a little maze like around this neck of the woods and I took a wrong turning up to Grampound. I also had a few close encounters with the drivers of large 4×4’s and vans, including one interesting altercation between a farm tractor and a shiny Chelsea tractor. As with other day I slipped through leaving them to sort out who was going to back down. Things would be a lot easier if people would just buy smaller cars, half of them only had one or two people in.

Back on track I headed past St. Austell and down to Fowey, drinking copious amounts of water due to the heat. I paused in Fowey for what I reckoned was a well earned cold pint after tackling a lot of hills, then had a quick look around. Fowey is another lovely small coastal town, with a ferry that runs across the River Fowey to Polruan.

Suitably rehydrated I took ferry number 3 over to Polruan, after negotiating steep steps down to the stone jetty. I was developing a pretty slick process of loading and unloading the panniers from my bike as I carried it and my kit to and from ferries, often up and down steep steps to jetties or piers.

The road out of Polruan involved a leg burning hill climb. I made it up but attracted curious looks from quite a few villagers and tourists, who obviously thought I was slightly mad for not just pushing my bike up. I pedalled on to Looe, via a slightly roundabout route due to bad map reading skills and warren like roads…again.

Looe 1

Looe 1

There’s a bridge over the river at Looe, rather than a ferry, which I crossed before heading up the A387, intending to join the B3253.

Looe 2

Looe 2

Unfortunately the B3253 was closed so I had to take the long way around, continuing inland on the A387 over rolling hills on my way to Torpoint.

B3253 closed - not a sign you want to see on a cycle tour

B3253 closed – not a sign you want to see on a cycle tour

After a lovely ride through more great countryside, and waving to several other cyclists, I made it to Torpoint. I was impressed with my stamina today, my legs seemed to be working well taking on one hill after another without too much trouble.

I met another cyclist whilst waiting for the chain ferry across to Plymouth, who advised on the protocol for boarding. The ferry is free for cyclists, and seems like a far better option than tackling the busy main road which runs further inland around the north side of Plymouth.

Torpoint 1

Torpoint 1

Chatting to the fellow cyclist on the way across I learned she worked for the Department of Fisheries, so I asked her what she thought of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. She agreed that he’s done some great work in challenging the fish discard rules, but needs to be careful with some of his more recent Fish Fight campaigns which could just result in putting honest fishermen out of work; as always it’s important people follow expert advice and not just reckon one knows best. I feel quite passionately about giving the oceans a chance to recover, and banning irresponsible fishing techniques, but like everything you need to know the facts to make an informed argument.

Torpoint 2

Torpoint 2

She also recommended a good campsite, just on from Plymouth in Newton Ferrers. There was allegedly a very nice pub in the village, so I decided to take her advice and head there for the evening. Where a nice pub is concerned I don’t need a lot of convincing.

Bike on board the Plymouth chain ferry

Bike on board the Plymouth chain ferry

Riding off the ferry at Devonport I successfully negotiated Plymouth and some pretty intense traffic, heading for the A379. There are several cycle paths running alongside the road which I was able to take advantage of. These are great aside from when cars decide to park in them.

I was cycling along minding my own business, well actually I was looking down at my map trying to work out where I was, when I looked up to see the rear end of a Volvo estate a couple of metres in front of me. Unable to stop in time, but taking the edge off my speed by slamming on my brakes, I smacked into the back of it. I didn’t go over the handlebars, but did end up on my cross bar, and my rear panniers came off in the impact. It would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t looked up. Unfortunately I bent my front forks in slightly, meaning my fuel bottle would no longer fit in its cage without interfering with the front mud guard. I think my front wheel was bit battered too, not to mention me. After relocating my fuel bottle and reattaching panniers I was able to continue. The Ridgeback proved its toughness by not being otherwise adversely affected, as far as I could tell anyway.

The Volvo was of course completely unharmed in the altercation. There was no-one in it at the time, and whilst it’s a bit annoying to have someone stopped in the cycle lane it wasn’t illegally parked, so it was completely my fault.

With a slight case of bruising in my nether regions I continued on out of Plymouth via Pomphey, taking the bridge over the River Plym on to the A379. I turned right at Yealmpton, on the B3186, down to Newton Ferrers and tackling the last hills of the day with my bike still running well despite the collision.

I arrived at Briar Farm campsite as afternoon turned into evening, quickly pitching my tent and heading down to the pub to find something to eat. Newton Ferrers is a pretty village, and evidently home to quite a few people with a lot of money, there being a yacht club and expensive looking houses. There’s one shop where I was able to buy a few supplies for the morning.

Newton Ferrers

Newton Ferrers

I met the campsite owner in the Dolphin Inn where apparently he spends quite a bit of his time, so paid the £7.00 site fee, before enjoying the food that had been laid out for the pub quiz. I’d arrived a bit late to participate in the actual quiz, however they were quite happy for me to finish up some of the food, which I proceeded to do with some gusto over a couple of pints. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, listening to the quiz whilst chatting to Ed the bar manager. Newton Ferrers was the birthplace of the famous pirate Henry Every, who plied his trade in the late 17th century in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. He was never caught and retired very rich, somewhere unknown, inspiring others to take up the pirate way of life.

Dolphin Inn, Newton Ferrers

Dolphin Inn, Newton Ferrers

I was somewhat amused to hear one of the younger patrons talking to her friends about her busy day planned for tomorrow. She needed to visit the solicitor to sign the papers for the house daddy had bought her, alright for some.

Newton Ferrers Cross

Newton Ferrers Cross

After a great day encompassing 4 ferries and some beautiful coastline and countryside, a long with my fair share of hills, I retired to my tent ready for sleep. Tomorrow I planned to head for Torquay to stay with friends, Chris and Sam, which meant more ferry crossings and more steep climbs. Bring it on.

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