This past summer, I found myself spending 10 glorious weeks in magical and stunning Southwest England. I had somehow managed to land an amazing housesitting opportunity just north of Exeter in a small little town called Stawley. Actually, calling Stawely a town is a bit of a joke because it's really just a few houses, some barns and lots of sheep. There's not much else there other than stunning scenery and very (very!) narrow driving lanes. Think bike path width. As you can imagine, it was a little stressful trying to navigate those lanes while driving on the 'other side' of the road. But really, there was only one side of the road because the lanes are so narrow. An oncoming car necessitated a sharp veer into the hedges. It's amazing I didn't bang up the mini coupe the homeowners generously left for me to use.
But anyway, having grown up in Vermont, I'm pretty accustomed to life in the boondocks so I was in my element. The old farmhouse was beautiful, I had two black labs to love, three goats to laugh at, two degus feed and water, and a neighbor about my age to befriend. Amy and I will actually be doing a California road trip together in April, which I'm so excited about!
I also had my mountain bike. It was my brothers suggestion to bring it (the thought haven't even crossed my mind) and while it ended up being a big pain to lug all the way across the pond and cost me more baggage fees than I wanted to spend, it was totally worth it. Biking, in my opinion, is the best way to explore and southwest England, I found, has some great cross-country routes.
So how did I know where to go? Well, on my first venture into the big city of Exeter, I discovered a the book Southwest England Mountain Biking at a local bookstore and that was all it took to get me going. My intention was to try to ride every route in the book (there were maybe 20?), but that didn't happen for various reasons: the rides were pretty long and I needed a few days in between to recoup, gas is expensive in England and some of the rides were over an hour drive away, the dogs couldn't come with me so I did a lot of hiking as well, etc... But the rides I did do were amazing! Below are a few recaps:
Lynton and the Valley of Rocks
Monkton & Brompton Ralph Ride
My only regret is that I didn't get any mountain biking done in Dartmoor National Park. I'll just have to go back :)