This Issue: Dawlish, Devon and Water Breaks its Neck, Mid Wales
These two trails are fairly straightforward and virtually back to back. They are good fun to ride and not too difficult, being perfectly suitable for bigger bikes. The views down to Dawlish, which is on the coast, are fantastic. Make sure you ride into Dawlish at the end, just head for the sea.
It’s a great small town with an excellent fish and chip shop. The surrounding area is littered with trails and one of my favourite things about them is that none that I’ve come across have been gated. Living and riding up north, I’ve become accustomed to having to dismount every so often just to open a gate across a trail, but riding in Devon, I’ve not had this issue.
Leave the tarmac road and head along a well-defined track. It starts off wide, but this is only for 50m or so to where the gate enters a field is as far as farm traffic will go. The trail from here is a lot narrower. It may be possible to pass with a four-wheel drive, but it would get seriously scratched.
There are bushes overgrowing the sides of the track leaving a single motorcycle-width track in the middle to follow. The rut isn’t too deep and it’s easy pleasant riding. Continue along, winding between the bushes as the trial progresses.
At this point the view opens up to the right. It’s worth stopping to admire before it vanishes again between the bushes. Continue along the track, where you’ll find much of the same. Singletrack in the middle to follow.
You can opt to go left here. I didn’t, it looks a steep descent, so I would suggest walking it first to make sure you’d be comfortable riding it. There are great views to the left where you can see the sea. Keep going to the end along more of the same kind of terrain.
There are shallow ruts and lots of overhanging bushes. The ground can occasionally be muddy but, for the most part, it has a solid base. There are a few small puddles but they’re not difficult or troublesome to navigate. This section ends at tarmac crossroads. Head straight over.
Short tarmac section. As the road goes round to the right, take the left-hand turn. A short way up, the trail starts after the houses on the left.
The track starts off wide and it’s easy to get speed up. It has a solid, muddy base beneath trees which is not too slippery. There are great views to the left. It is easier, more pleasant riding than the last section as the track is wider for the most part. You still ride between hedges with occasional ruts, but nothing severe. Continue to the tarmac where the trail ends before descending down a rocky section. Take care here. Go through a gate and a small ford.
Water Breaks it’s neck, Mid Wales
This is a fairly remote trail and a lot of work has been done on it in recent months. In fact, from 22 November 2018 up until 21 May 2019, it had a temporary TRO imposed on it. This was to allow the works time to be completed and bed down.
The first time I visited this trail many years ago, we missed the entrance and ended up at a locked gate. The farmer was not impressed. Apparently, a lot of people do this as the actual legal trail veers off from the main track, only to re-join it a few hundred metres away, it is pretty understandable.
Before the recent works, this meant crossing the ‘field of doom’. This used to be an imposing, slippery grassy field with a 45-degree slope. It was like trying to ride on a knife edge. This section has now been widened and graded with decent fences either side.
It’s like riding down the M1 now compared to what it used to be like. Further along the trail other improvements can be noted. The horrible, rutty sections have been reduced to a more manageable amount. Personally, I class the improvements and selected grading to be a vast improvement for the trail. Take care on the grassy sections and try not to roost. It’s obvious in places that the start doesn’t get much use.
Set off from main road. Head uphill, past an ideal wild camping spot (ask me how I know!). It’s a solid-based wide track used to access farm, so easy riding for the first part. There are a few small puddles and dents in hard-core but nothing troublesome. Proceed through a gate. At the first obvious fork in the road head left through the gate. Right will take you to the farm which is not where you want to head.
Continue slightly uphill along a well graded track. Enter the wood and keep an eye out for the track heading to the left.
This track runs parallel with the lower track for a while. The going is still straightforward. Leave the forest and into open fields. This is the tricky bit. Continue about 100m along a muddy trail. You will see a track joining from the right, and then the main track heads uphill to the left.
At this stage, you want to head straight on across the grassy field in front. When I was there last, there was no obvious signs of a route, and due to the soft grass I would have expected one. I can guarantee the correct route is straight over this grassy field, not on the track that goes up the hill to the left.
Head towards the trees in the distance across the grassy field. Take care not to roost. At the trees you will see a gate to identify the correct route forward
Proceed through the gate and along a forest track. This leads to another gate. Again, it’s not obvious where the trail is. You will see some trees on the hillside in front of you. Head to the left of these. As you progress over the field the gate that you are aiming for will become apparent.
Through the gate and you will see the nice graded track straight ahead (don’t go left or right). You can see the steepness of the field, this used to have a single goat track running right through it, not the easiest to ride! Now it’s really easy and straightforward.
Turn left, you are on the main track again. What you have just done is bypass the farm from point two – if you had continued here you would have got to the same point but would have had to come through the farm, which is not the legal route. Continue along the track until you reach three gates. One goes left, one goes right. The one you want is straight on, onto the moorland section.
From here on is the best section of the trail in my opinion. As you leave the farmland behind and head over the moorland, the track is fantastic. It starts off fairly straightforward. A wide track and hardly any ruts (how times have changed, I’ve done this in the past with serious rut issues). It really is fantastic riding. Proceed down a steep section before climbing around a corner up to a gate.
Head through the gate and up a rutty section (I’m assuming this may be graded in the future if previous sections are to go by) in between fences. At the top it becomes more graded and easy riding. Keep heading uphill. Continue to gate.
You are now riding on a ridge with great views to the left and right (I say ridge, it’s not really, just the top of the hill). Keep an eye out for Red Kites. Continue riding over the moorland on a well-defined track. It really is great riding. A few rutty bits but nothing serious or too taxing.
It can be slippery in places, especially if stuck in one of the ruts. Proceed through the next gate and continue along much more of the same. You soon start to descend down the trail along a rutty stoney base. Through another gate. Cracking views always to the left.
As you leave the moors by passing through a gate into fields the route is almost over. The fields are slippery so take care. Through another gate and onto a more defined farmers track. Continue to the tarmac where the trail ends.