Big Sky on Bodmin Moor

OK, I have to plead guilty of living in a beautiful part of the world. True it’s not on the scale of the Alps, The Grand Canyon or the Norwegian Fjords, but you know in it’s own way Cornwall is right up there with the best of them!

The 80 square miles of Bodmin Moor lies in the heart of Cornwall’s geography and life. To explain, a Moorland is a type of habitat found in upland areas that are generally characterised by low growing sparse and tough vegetation on acidic soil. The United Kingdom hosts approximately 15% of the world’s moorland, which is great for me because I just love the wildness of this type of hard country. Best of all, Dookes H.Q. is right on the edge of the high moor; my moor.

I don’t intentionally take our easy access to the Moor for granted, but occasionally I have to give myself a slight kick on the backside to get out on the wild side and let my senses drink in the landscape. The beauty of the moor can be deceiving, this is truly hard country when the weather takes a turn for the worse and although you are never really very far from civilisation its easy for the unwary to get into trouble. On a day like this though, when skylarks soar and sing and the plaintive mew of the curlew drifts across the landscape all is well in the world. I find that even a short excursion onto the peatlands clears my head, both literally and spiritually, but then I always have loved the high country landscape. On a clear day it is possible to spot the other high moors of South West England, Exmoor and Dartmoor, from the slopes of Bodmin Moor.

Looking East at distant Dartmoor.

Like many moorlands, Bodmin Moor is almost totally bereft of trees. It is believed that clearance started in the neolithic era, between 12,000 – 6000 years ago. Those trees that remain are usually isolated and stunted by the poor soils and constant winds. This particular hawthorn, Crataegus in latin, always fascinates me.

I couldn’t help taking a few shots in black and white just to experiment.

I hope you agree that I am really lucky having all this just five minutes from my front door!

“On the hills where the wind goes over sheep-bitten turf,
where the bent grass beats upon the unploughed poorland..”
John Masefield

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Golden Days

The first storm of the Autumn set in over Cornwall yesterday. Winds along the North coast peaked at gale force eight, that’s around 46mph/74kph. Rain was pretty relentless and quite unpleasant.

It’s been a couple of weeks since we returned from Brittany and I suppose we’ve been spoilt as the weather has generally been pretty fair. This year the golden colours of the season have been stunning; so many people have been talking about it that I’m sure it’s not just my imagination. – Well Mrs Dookes says so anyway!

When Monday dawned bright and sunny it occurred to me that if I was to believe the forecast I really needed or get out, ride and simply enjoy. In other words, a typical Dookes day on two wheels, all legitimised by Mrs D asking me to pick up some shopping!

First stop was the ancient market town of Launceston, which really deserves a post all of its own one day. Once provisions were purchased it was time to gently hit the road.

I say “gently” because it was that sort of day; soft golden light, a slight chill in the clean air, azure blue sky and golden leaves all around. No need to rush this ride, just sit back and enjoy.image

I have a bit of a love affair with the old “London Turnpike” road out of Cornwall. It has been one of the most important British roads since the 17th century, when it was a major coaching route. It’s a road that’s seen plenty of history over the centuries, in 1805 the news of Admiral Nelson’s victory and death at Trafalgar was conveyed by carriage along it’s 284miles. In 1923 the road was given the grand title of “A30” and official recognition of it’s status as the major trunk route from London to Penzance. Then, when traffic became too heavy for it’s cart-horse based civil engineering, it was replaced by it’s modern dual carriageway namesake. Today the old road is classed as a minor route and certainly the lack of traffic reinforces this, it’s been given the delightful title of “The West Devon Ride” and what a lovely ride it is on two wheels!image

With the sun on my back I let “Baby Blue” purr along at around 55mph, like I said I wasn’t rushing around at all. Mostly the road lay dry in front of us, but in places, where the shade was deep, damp leaves lay lurking ready to lubricate the road as good as any oil slick…oh the joys of Autumn motorcycling!image

We looped through the small village of Bridestowe, which lies right on the edge of Dartmoor and paused by the old railway station. It’s amazing how many places in Britain have a “Station Road,” but sadly these days, no railway. Bridestowe’s station closed in 1968 and today is a private house shielded by high conifer trees. The old line is happily seeing use as a footpath and cycle trail allowing access to stunning scenery on gentle gradients; Cool eh?image

Our trundle back home was directly into the bright setting sun, tricky stuff on a winding road, so my Schuberth helmet’s integral sun visor was very much appreciated; having the right equipment pays-off you know!image

So, OK a fifty-one mile trundle is by my standards pretty small beer, but you know it’s not about how far or how fast you ride it’s all about the journey and what a Golden Day we had.

Baby Blue rests in Golden Shadows. Heaven on two wheels!

Baby Blue rests in Golden Shadows. Heaven on two wheels!

“May the good Lord shine a light on you
Make every song you sing your favorite tune
May the good Lord shine a light on you
Warm like the evening sun.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Soul Mover

I have friends who ride and friends who don’t. 

Someone once wrote that a car moves the body, but only a motorbike can move the soul.

Clearly that person was an officiando of two-wheeled transport and those of us who have been blessed with the motorcycling bug know exactly what they were getting at!

It’s often difficult to convey to a non-rider just what it is that us two-wheelers get from our machines. 

Many folk say it’s all about speed and certainly that rings true for some riders; I’m not going to deny that travelling at 100 and silly mph is one big adrenaline rush!

To others it’s about the fluid motion of the machine through bends and twisty sections of road when you ride it well, whilst to some it’s the “wind in your face” thing. Just ask any dog why they stick their head out of a car window?

I fall into the total package school, for me it’s a bit of everything and with the addition thrill of winning the daily battle against the idiots out there on the road who seem hell-bent on trying to kill you! Oh and of course there’s the noise….!

I must also add that to me riding is such an immersive activity that I really can forget everything else in the world whilst I am out on two wheels. It really does move my soul!

Last Wednesday I was in need of a bit of soul lifting. I was up early, three spaniels generally make sure of that at Dookes H.Q. normally it’s a good sing-song as the sun comes up, but with such things come great benefits. This was a classic early Autumn morning, crisp sunlight breaking through early mists that still hugged the landscape and hedges. image

The urge to ride suddenly became very pressing, I didn’t just want to ride; I needed to ride!

Dogs and breakfast sorted, I got into my riding gear and wandered out to “The Man Cave,” which also passes for my workshop. What a lovely conundrum now faced me, which of my two faithful Harley’s should I take out?
No contest this morning, it had to be Harls, my beloved Centenary Softail. I needed that rawness she possesses, her crisp handling, open to the elements riding position and most of all that staccato exhaust growl! 

I made a pact with myself to keep off the major roads, the day was about riding for pleasure not for working hard, at least that was what I thought….!

We set off East, skirting Launceston and dropped into the valley of the River Tamar, passing into Devon as we crossed the old bridge at Greystone. I decided that the high tors of Dartmoor would be our first target, on such a beautiful morning the scenery there should be spectacular.

Trundling through the ancient Stannary Town of Tavistock we turned right and began our climb towards the high moor.

Wisps of cloud hugged the hillside ahead and the air took on a distinct chill, it looked like things were going to get interesting. We climbed some more and sure enough were soon enveloped by thick wet Dartmoor cloud. So much for the stunning views, I spent the next twenty miles trundling along trying to spot white sheep in dense white fog whilst wiping the enveloping water droplets off my visor every few seconds! So dear blogonaughts my apologies for the lack of wonderful scenery photos, here some in the fog instead.image
One of the biggest problems with riding in fog or mist is the way that the water droplets deposit themselves on helmet visors, it’s a bit like trying to look through wet tissue paper! In rain you never have the same problem as the water droplets are bigger and flow off the visor with the slipstream, but riding sensibly slower in fog there’s less slipstream as well.image
We swung through the small and pretty village of Moretonhamstead before briefly pausing at Okehampton where delightfully we passed back into warm sunshine!

Heading North West now, my heart was lifted by both the warm sun and the contented roar from Harls’ exhaust as we ate up the miles considerably faster than over Dartmoor! 

Our route was following the old railway through the delightfully named village of Halwill Junction and on towards Holsworthy. This was the line over which part of the romantically named “Atlantic Coast Express” once trundled behind gleaming steam locomotives near the end of its 300 mile journey from London.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

Now there’s an idea for a future ride…

We stopped to take in the view over the bucolic Devon landscape and then it was time to push on. image

With delightfully quiet roads, it was clear that most of the summer tourists have slipped home with the return of children to school. It’s one of the downsides of living in such a beautiful region, we can hardly move for visitors invading during the peak holiday season of July and August, but like the swallows they fly away at the end of summer and we get the place back to ourselves again!
I stuck to the plan and by the time we returned to Dookes H.Q. after 140 wonderful miles and not one major route had been touched by our tyre rubber.

Life had been refocused and all was good in the world!

“I have seen rings of smoke through the trees and the voices of those who standing looking”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Simple Things

Sometimes it’s the simple things that make me smile.
No, let me correct that, it’s always the simple things that make me smile!

Take for example last Friday.

My old mate G, who you may recall is currently undergoing chemo-therapy for a particularly nasty form of leukaemia, though what form isn’t nasty, called me up and asked if I fancied getting out on two wheels. Do bears crap in the woods? Yeah, of course I was up for a trundle around on the bikes!

One thing you have to understand about my mate G, is that if he didn’t have bad luck he would have no luck at all. Having to endure regular sessions of Chemo-Therapy is rough enough, but the previous weekend G got knocked off his motorbike by an elderly lady in a car who jumped a red light and didn’t stop!
Fortunately G got off pretty lightly with only some bumps and bruises, mostly testament to wearing good protective gear, his Triumph Tiger was similarly lucky as it fell on top of G!

Anyway, the thing was that he needed a good ride with someone he trusted to get his confidence back and I was very happy to oblige!

I had a small errand to run first, dropping in on Lewtrenchard Manor, a really nice country house hotel, that was conveniently on the route. image

I hooked up with G in a cafe on the Northern edge of Dartmoor and after a coffee we trundled off to the delightful old market town of Moretonhamstead.
Following G, I concluded that if his confidence had taken a knock by his accident, well it wasn’t showing as he expertly flicked his nimble bike round the corners leaving me to heave Baby around in his wake!

Mortonhamstead is an ancient town, noted in the Domesday Book in 1086 and granted a weekly market in 1207. It’s one of those places where everyone feels at home and a sense of belonging. Our mission there was to visit the noted butcher and delicatessen of Michael Howard, famous for his sausages and faggots!  

Now before anyone gets carried away and wrongly assumes the modern, Americanised, derogatory use of the word, let me explain something for you!

Faggots are a traditional dish here in Britain, especially in the English Midlands and more importantly, Wales. Do you see where I’m coming from? It is normally made from pork meat off-cuts, offal and bacon minced together, wrapped in caul and formed into fist-size balls with onion and herbs added for flavouring. They were a cheap food of ordinary people and followed the maxim that the only part of a pig not used was it’s oink!image
Today faggots have largely slipped from favour, except in their regional strongholds, but for aficionados such as G and I it’s well worth taking the trouble to hunt out the real thing, such as made by our butcher friend in Moretonhamstead. Not surprisingly I also ended up buying a pile of other tasty goodies!

Now, I mentioned that we were on the Northern edge of Dartmoor and regular blogonaughts will know that this is one of my favourite local playgrounds; 368 square miles of wonderful granite upland peaking at over 2000 feet and with lonely lovely twisty roads. I adore every wild inch of it, so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. Fortunately G feels the same as me about the place and it wasn’t long before I was following him across the wonderful wilderness. The unfenced roads across the moor all have a blanket 40mph limit to protect animals, I like it because it forces you to slow down and take a good look around and just enjoy the view a bit more. image
Riding behind G the best view in the world for me was seeing him on his bike in front of me. The past months of chemo have been tough on my mate and his family and there have been times when our ride would have been out of the question. I’m keeping everything crossed, because it’s looking OK at the moment; G’s test results have been getting better and he seems to be responding well to the treatment. To see him in his element on his beloved Triumph made me very happy and judging by the grin on his face it did the same for him too!

We cut across Dartmoor and through the Stannary town of Tavistock, I must do a post about that place one day.

Soon we were into Cornwall and briskly heading into the vibrant fishing port of Looe, fresh fish for lunch was calling us!

During the summer months Looe creaks under the weight of invading holiday-makers, but last Friday it was an altogether more relaxed place and after a leisurely meal we took a gentle stroll along the quay and enjoyed an ice cream where the fishing boats were tied up.imageThe afternoon was marching on and the light began to take on a golden tint, time to head for Dookes H.Q. across my beloved Bodmin Moor.

Colliford Lake, Bodmin Moor.

Colliford Lake, Bodmin Moor.

Our two bikes roared in harmony as we sped through the clear moorland air.
Yes, the simple things definitely make me smile and riding a motorbike alongside my mate, as he fights his biggest battle, was one of life’s greatest privileges and gave me one of my happiest smiles!

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels —
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.”

Thanks everyone for your support. Catch you soon.

Dookes

Ghost Hunting

Since returning from Brittany, life seems to have taken a slightly hectic turn, but needless to say I haven’t let that get in the way of enjoying my bikes on a series of nice little rides!

Most of the UK has been blessed with an early autumn of stunningly beautiful weather and our little corner has been well within the sunshine zone, so it was only right to give both bikes a breath of fresh air. First up a quick blast across Bodmin Moor on Harls! As always it was great to be on two wheels, even better on a bike that I absolutely adore riding. It’s funny, but since I bought the new Ultra Limited I somehow appreciate my old Harls even more than ever. Her staccato exhaust, open riding position and laid-back style may not be to everyone’s taste, but I love her! Sure she’s not as hi-tech as her new stable mate, could do with another top gear and better brakes, but she has character and personality in abundance. They can bury me sitting on that bike! P1040943

One morning recently I had to do some business in Bodmin, one of our local towns, and after that was concluded the whole day was begging not to be wasted. With a mind to getting out on the open road I took “Baby Harls,” my Ultra Limited and had one of those lovely moments as I pondered, “Now, where shall we go?”

The sky looked a deeper shade of blue towards the East, so we hit the A38 trunk road and headed across the River Tamar.

Now at this point I must confess that the two main trunk roads out of Cornwall, the A30 and A38, are best described as “tedious.” Sure, they get you to where you want to go reasonably quickly and actually both cover some pretty scenery, but that’s it. They can both get snarled up with traffic at times and also seem to attract more than their fair share of really bad drivers, but no I’m not about to launch into a Dookes rant, so lets just leave it there!

After cruising about sixty miles we turned off the ’38 and passed through the old market town and tidal port of Totnes. Feeling a “heritage” moment coming on, I followed the signs towards the small village of Berry Pomeroy and it’s romantic, though magnificently ruined castle.

Once a medieval castle and later a sumptuous Elizabethan mansion, Berry was the home of the Seymour and Pomeroy families. The remains lie in a beautiful woodland setting and have the reputation of being one of the most haunted castles in England; I just had to go see for myself!

What I found I pretty much fell in love with straight away.

The Gatehouse.

The Gatehouse.

The original castle dates from the 1400’s, but by 1560 the owning Seymour family began a re-construction odyssey that was to last nearly 100 years and would never be completed. Sadly, much of the finest building work was dismantled in the Eighteenth Century, but plenty remains to show just how grand the place must have been in it’s heyday.

The Elizabethan House

The Elizabethan House

Today the castle is in the custodianship of English Heritage and open to the public, but still belongs to the descendants of the original owners. To find out more about it you can follow the link here.

I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The East Range 1600-10.

The East Range 1600-10.

Inside the Elizabethan Ruins.

Inside the Elizabethan Ruins.

The Elizabethan House From The Great Hall.

The Elizabethan House From The Great Hall.

The Curtain Wall and St Margaret's Tower.

The Curtain Wall and St Margaret’s Tower.

Leaving Berry Pomeroy and not having spotted any ghosts, we headed North to Ashburton and set off across Dartmoor, this was turning into a very self-indulgent day!

The road across the moor initially starts by back tracking the River Dart through its narrow valley and deep woodland. This road was one of the first that I rode my new “Baby” on earlier in the year and brought back many happy memories.

Early Spring on the River Dart.

Early Spring on the River Dart.

It was early spring then and now the seasons have moved on, autumn is getting well into her lovely stride. The woods held the unmistakable smell of resinous falling leaves, something that to me embodies this time of year. On the high moor the summer bracken has tuned the same red as the wild native ponies and grass is beginning to take on a slightly yellow hue as it’s feed value diminishes.P1040994 There are hard cold days ahead and this country can be very hard indeed, though at the same time stunningly beautiful.P1050001

It makes you appreciate how good it is to be alive and enjoying it!P1040999

“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Springing Forward and Coast Update.

Hello everyone!

OK, apologies first…

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted on the blog; that old problem of life just getting in the way of everything again I’m afraid! I’m sorry I have been “Off Air” for a bit, but I’m back now and have some lost ground to make up.

So what have I been up to?

Well, the seasons are marching on and here in the South West corner of England Spring is setting in with a gentle vengeance. We have lambs joyfully leaping around in the field behind Dookes H.Q. celebrating their new care-free lives; the trees are bursting into leaf and the early cherry and crab-apple blossom is beginning to show from dormant buds. Birds are busy squabbling over the best nesting sites and I have even had to cut the not inconsiderable acreage of grass at Dookes H.Q. a couple of times too. The last of the post-winter garden tidy up is nearly finished and best of all, the sound of my Harley Davidson’s engine has been singing it’s “Milwaukee Music” around the country roads that I love!

Yep, it’s always good to ride… but sometimes in the Spring is best of all!

A couple of weeks ago I took a long, meandering, ride over Dartmoor. Instead of heading for my normal haunts of the high ground, I thought I’d take in some of the valley scenery before the hoards of tourists arrived!
This is Holne Bridge over the River Dart near Ashburton, taken just before the trees started to really green up.P1030487

I have certainly been clocking up a few miles and not just aboard the ride-on mower either. The world, for me, certainly looks better from behind a set of handle bars. It gives me time to get my head clear of all those things that we often think are important, but in reality are not. Time to concentrate on staying alive and living this one life in the way that I choose.

The longer days bring the bonus of light evenings and the opportunity to watch the sun take it’s daily dip into the Atlantic Ocean in often glorious golden hues. Last Tuesday we popped over to Bude on the North Cornwall coast about twenty minutes from Dookes H.Q. by Harley and were treated to a delightful sunset.

The remaining section of the old Bude Canal enters the ocean by a sea lock and provides interest to the scene.P1030510
Whilst in the bay boats rest on their moorings as the sun disappears into the sea; if you listen carefully you can sometimes hear the hiss!
P1030513

To the left and noticeably lower than the canal, the River Neet runs it course, whilst the old rails of the narrow gauge hay tramway glint in the last rays of the sun.P1030508
All that was left to do then was to mount up and enjoy the ride home, life can be tough sometimes!

“See me ride out of the sunset, on your coloured TV screen.”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes

Saying Goodbye To David

One way or other, last year ended on a bit of a low note. I lost a number of old friends in a relatively short space of time and it all seemed a bit dark for a while.

Today we made our final farewell to David, a friend and colleague from the days when I earned my living running railways. Sadly, he was one of the losses of 2014.

David had instructed his family that he wished his ashes to be laid in a beautiful woodland setting alongside the South Devon Railway, a heritage steam railway that he loved and helped to rescue from scrapping way back in the 1970’s.

It was with mixed feelings this morning that I fired up Harley in delightful spring sunshine and headed for Buckfastleigh, the headquarters of the railway.

The trip took us across some of South West England’s most rugged and beautiful landscape, Dartmoor. Despite the wonderful day, I was not really in the mood to stop and take photos, so please forgive me and I hope you understand. I was aware of the loveliness, but felt a bit grim about what was to come.

On arriving at the railway I met up with David’s family and other friends. We all boarded the special train and it was unanimously agreed that David’s ashes should make the trip on the locomotive, he would have loved that!

Soon the train arrived at the designated spot adjacent to the lovely River Dart and after a short committal ceremony, the ashes were interred. As we climbed back aboard the train, the locomotive sounded a shrill sad whistle and we started our return journey, I instinctively waved good-bye to my late friend.

Back at Buckfastleigh, we swapped stories and anecdotes and generally enjoyed sharing our memories over a late lunch; whilst not forgetting to watch the public service train depart, this was a railway occasion after all!

GWR Pannier Tank 6412, built 1934 at Buckfastleigh.

GWR Pannier Tank 6412, built Swindon 1934, at Buckfastleigh.

Where the hard work is done!

Where the hard work is done!


Departure and on the left the next generation learns about steam engines!

Departure and on the left the next generation learns about steam engines!


In due course we made our farewells and as I threw my leg over Harley I sat and remembered one of David’s favourite sayings when a job had gone perfectly:
“Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?”

I do indeed my friend, I do indeed.

Dookes