Until I buckle down and write up an account of my recent trip to Mongolia – pictures of which can be seen on Tumblr – here’s a brief post on our family outing to Exmoor National Park in June.
A small but enchanting parcel of land, Exmoor is amongst my favourite spots in the UK. Located in the rolling hills of the South West, the land ranges from verdant coombes harbouring secret mossy glades, to open and windswept moorland, where views can be enjoyed across the Bristol Channel to Wales. What’s more, the park is strangely overlooked by mountain bikers. Which means its trails are all but empty, even on a fine summer’s day; miles and miles of rooty singletrack, stony double track, stream crossings and lung busting climbs, all to yourself…
If you would like to keep up with where I am between tardy blog entries, I keep my While Out Riding Facebook page more regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. Occasionally, I post pictures on my Instagram feed. And if you haven’t overdosed by then, I’ve also started a While Out Riding Tumblr edition, focusing on images – many of which don’t make it onto the blog.
For this 3 day trip, we parked up in Exford, criss-crossing the park to the coastal village of Porlock via Hawcombe, then looping back again on singletrack and backroads.
Exmoor abounds in these ‘tree tunnels’, as Sage calls them. Ferns reach out to brush us as we ride by, and light flickers on and off through a canopy of summer foliage.
Headbutt of Happiness.
Working our way out of Exford’s deep valley folds, towards the highest point in Devon.
Dunkery Beacon, 520m!! We enjoyed fantastic views to Wales across the Bristol Channel.
Although it doesn’t look steep in this image, much of the descent that follows is awkward and rocky – perfect terrain for testing the capabilities of the Singletrailer.
These days Sage is an old hand at camping. He knows the drill.
A perfect little wild camp spot. The Black Diamond Megalight scores highly in Sage’s book – it’s fun to pitch, and he can stand up inside.
Asphalt is just fine when it’s cupped by valleys like these.
Here begins a multitude of stream crossings, as we descend to Hawcombe.
The narrow profile of the Singletrailer really comes into its own.
Even pushing it through rock-strewn river crossings is a lot easier than a two wheeled trailer.
Shoes are soon abandoned for the pleasures (and practicalities) of being barefoot.
Horner Vale offers a welcome excuse for a cream tea.
There’s few finer places to be than England when the sun’s shining in the summer…
A pretty vintage MG.
And Sage’s open top…
A Sage moment.
A Nancy moment.
Sage has gravitated from jumping off curbs… to any available object.
A long way from New Mexico!
Our second night camping is in a riverside clearing.
At two and a half, Sage is beginning to really enjoy these experiences, rather than merely participating in them. He delights in helping to pitch the tent and throws himself into camp duties with gusto – choosing the campsite, preparing dinner…
and even washing up!
Enjoying a lie in.
Before scouting a good route for our last day of riding.
Back up to Dunkery.
Then it’s down to Exford once more.
I migrated parts from my Surly Pugsley to a pre-production Tumbleweed, which I’m borrowing at the moment. Handmade in San Francisco by Cameron Falconer, it’s as at home lugging a family’s worth of gear and sundries, as it is traversing the Mongol steppe or railing down technical singletrack. Designed around a 135mm Rohloff Speedhub, it can run 26x4in tyres or 29+ and B+ wheel sizes too, all with a standard crankset. Clever!
Nancy’s ride: a custom-coupled Travellin’ Trolloff, sporting 2.75in Dirt Wizards. Built up with a Rohloff Speedhub, Jeff Jones Bend H-bars, Middleburn cranks, Velocity P-35s, and an SP dynamo hub, it’s a dream travel bike!
Keep Pedalling in Manchester, for lending us their personal Surly Troll (details above).
Tumbleweed Bicycle Company for the loan of a pre-production frame (details above).
Tout Terrain for lending us their latest incarnation of the Singletrailer, with a redesigned arm offering extra clearance for 29er (and fatbike) tyres.
Howard and Nicky for feeding us in their beautiful Exmoor home!
Super write up 🙂
How long ago was it that we rode here??
Enjoy India! Look forward to the blog posts.
a long time ago… oh this is quite frightening, a quick look back.. March 2005! Yikes, 10 years gone in a flash!
Really looking forward to some exploratory cruising around Spiti 🙂
Great photos! 🙂
Looks like a wonderful family bikepacking trip!
Short but sweet. We didn’t ride a massive distance by any means, but we all had a really good time… and the weather held out (-:
Great post as always Cass. Sage looks so grown up and so sweet. Hope you guys are all doing well. Looking forward to your mongolian posts. Take is easy Lorely
Thanks Lorely. Sage is so tall now… all that baby fat is going )-: Sorry we missed you guys before. But I’m hoping to get back to Bristol/Bath in the next couple of weeks.
That picture of Sage carrying gear is priceless!!
Yeah – he looks so focused on the task at hand!
He loves being given jobs to do.
A funny thing happened yesterday morning (Sunday). Jenny and I were sitting in the Exford Tea Rooms with James & Sarah (Big Sur) when you published this. We had just arrived after camping atop Dunkery the night before. I saw the notification on my phone and I shared it around. Very timely! Such a lovely scene up there.
Glad you’re having a nice time there. What a lovely spot huh! And those cream teas…
Any chance of sharing the .GPX track?
I’m afraid we didn’t record a track Jose. And the distance we rode was pretty minimal… But just grab a 1:25 000 Ordnance Survey Explorer map… and explore!
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Great photos as always Cass! Love the shot of Sage with the poncho carrying camping gear.
Finding time to look at some photos from Ex-moor and feeling nostalgic. Sage is delightful of course and your photography second to none. Amazing journey and a pleasure to view as always!
Thank you! Always inspired by your brilliant images. Love X
This is great, Cass!
I slept on Dunkery Beacon recently:
Great to see Nancy and Sage in these shots, Cas.
Geez he has grown up from the shots i remember from Patagonia.
A bit sad we didn’t manage to cross paths in the UK this time but looking forward to the next time wherever that may be. Hope all is well, safe travels. Mx
What shoes were you wearing? I love Nancy’s choice!
Mine are some kind of ageing Shimano ‘leisure’ shoe from several years back. Nancy’s are way more stylish…
Really? This trail is overlooked? Wow. This looks like the perfect trail for MTB, and the perfect campsite for a family trip! Thank you for the pictures. The family looks like it had a blast!
I love Exmoor – it’s small, but generally very quiet. Wild camping is (perhaps unofficially) allowed in the National Park, as long as you’re out of eyesight of the trails, considerate, and tidy up after yourself, of course.
Thanks Cass, I really enjoyed this.
For what it’s worth there’s a collection of awesome Exmoor photo on this page: https://www.facebook.com/Exmoor4all
sorry for my english, but I’m french !!!!
congrats for all your travels, your work, and pictures !!!!
I don’t find information about the trailer. Was it a good choice or do you think a child seat is better ?
I would carry my 3 years old daughter during a bipacking trip on tracks and roads….
Thanks for your help 😉
take care of you and your beautiful family
Any plans to return to the UK? Would you be interested in being involved with the Capital Trail (http://edfoc.org.uk/events/event/capital-trail-2016/) in Sept? Markus Stitz would love to have you along 😉
Thanks for the message Tim. As it happens, I’m back in the UK in August – not sure yet if I’ll still be around in Sept. Would love to make it up to Scotland!
Drop us an e-mail if you are interested in joining in, we are also looking for a speaker for the night before the race.
Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
Thanks for hosting us in Osh. It was absolutely amazing !!! Your mother is a star and she is really friendly and sympathetic. We enjoyed being with her a lot and she cooks great 🙂 Say Hello to her. Also thanks Rumia and you for all the help with Zuza`s uzi etc. We are in Aktau now and we will fly to Berlin on 24. The trip is ending but we still think about Kyrgystan-one of most beautiful and friendly country we ever been – mainly due to super nice people 🙂
In case you or you family will go one day to Czech please let us know so that we can meet and host you !!
All the best for you and your family and say hello to them !
Big regards from Michal and Zuza
The above is obviously wrong insert. Please delete it 🙂
I was wondering to write you few words. Not sure if you remember me but I wrote you before regarding few advices about equipment etc. while touring in Americas plus I consider your blog as one of the best amongst many.
I opened it time to time and there is nothing new so I was naturally wondering what do you do these day?
Do you work some where or do just spend so much time with your son? I hope all is good and you all are keeping happy 🙂
Me and my (touring) partner Zuzana are actually on the end of our 3,5-year trip through Americas and Asia and we habe only few days left before we gonna fly from Kazachstan to Berlin and ride to Czech from there. Yeah, Zuza is 5 months pregnant now and money pretty much finished some we plan to go to Europe for few years, save some money and then do something big again.
We were also wondering to buy some trailer for the little girl and I noted you have some photos of Tout Terrain and Chariot on your blog. These two look both quite different and it looks like both are for different type of use with different characteristics.
I like TT but it looks that it is designed much more or, if not only, for trails, dirt roads and off-road adventures rather then riding on European bike paths, UK small county lanes or paved back roads. What do you think?
Is the trailer stable enough when you stop, open the stand and you want to take kid out of the trailer?
It also looks quite narrow and there is not any space for belongings. Did you actually carried everything for your boy ( sorry I can’t recall his name now) on bikes ?
I like the weight of TT and although it is little pricey I like the adventurous side of it, suspension and minimalistic design but I am little bit worried about enough space for kid and comfort of using the trailer in daily life ( such as short trips, shopping, etc.)
Chariot looks like the exact opposite of TT: stable when you stop, bigger inside and with external storage. But 5kg heavier and I read somewhere that Chariot`s suspension is actually quite hard. And both trailers look well built.
Cass, do you think you can share some of your practical experience with us and which one would you prefer and why, etc. ?
I think that we might be able tonsee and try them some where, definitely the broadly used Chariot, but I was still wondering it might be nice to have an oponion from someone with very similar interests and lifestyle.
Cass, Iwas also wondering if you plan any bigger or smaller trips for future? Czech Republic, Slovakia, Western Ukraine, Romania, Albania and what used to be Yugoslavia are really nice countries to go with a lot of options for free movement in spectacular landscapes and with hospitable people 🙂
Anyway, if you have time, please let me know how you keep, what you plan and perhaps something about baby carriers 🙂
All the best for you and your closest!
Regards Michal and Zuza