Day 1 – Conrad and I arrived at Harcombe House, Chudleigh, Devon on Thursday morning around 1030am, having left Suffolk around 0500, a few solitary moments of taking in the surroundings were had before checking in at Reception, for what at the time we didn’t realise was going to be 3-4 days of quite an amazing and fulfilling experience.
We quickly met up with Richard Jenkins, Estates and Facilities Lead for The Firefighters Charity, friendly, professional, full of enthusiasm and as you would imagine, extremely knowledgeable about everything the Charity has to offer.
I will mention here to save repeating myself and typing this out on every update, throughout our 4 day visit, we were fed, watered and generally looked after amazingly well!
Richard kindly gave Conrad and I a few hours off for some unpacking, reconnaissance of the area surrounding Harcombe House and it goes with out saying – our first bike ride (training session) of the trip.
This got a little bit interesting, dare I say it…but Conrad planned the route, 25ish miles (ended up at 34!) near to a place unbeknown to us at the time called #HaytorVale, “only a few thousand feet in elevation”, a nice warm up session for the rest of the stay and good training for LEJOG in September…..we thought! Again pictures are on our social media channels – links can be found here.
Off we set on a lovely ride, fairly straight forward, a few undulations for the first 5-6 miles and then we came across Bovey Tracey Fire Station, nice we thought and a gradual gradient ensued, we made a left turn (fork) and Conrad mentioned we had “gone off course“, lets carry on we said, “looks like a nice climb“, oh it was, it went on and on and on, around 3.5 – 4 miles in fact of climbing.
We huffed and we puffed and finally we reached #HaytorRock, incredible scenery, the views from here are just awesome, there was an ice cream van but, sadly we weren’t stopping, we carried on where a quite deceitful descent appeared, well and truly tricked, the hills kept coming and after approximately a few miles and not knowing where we were (needing to get back to Harcombe for volunteering work), we turned around, heading back down Haytor, potentially harder work than the climbing, fingers on brakes for 3-4 miles is quite painful, that is without mentioning the sheep crossing the road when you are over 30mph downhill (plus the cattle grid – ouch), near to the bottom Con shouted “left turn here”, it will take you to “Beckys Falls”, he was right it did but it also meant we spent another 2-3 miles climbing.
I remember it well as it was nearing 16:00 hours and I had a Microsoft Teams meeting with Suffolk’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer – Dave Collins, Ben Matthews our County Council Comms Officer and fellow rider/Area Manager Ken Williamson, to attend (remotely), we stopped at Beckys Fall, placed the bikes down in the car park and I dialled in (smartphone) to my Teams video call, great to update The Deputy sitting on a hill, with our bikes, whilst training for an event that will hopefully benefit The Service and Firefighters Charity greatly!
The meeting finished, Con and I continued on to what was ‘the hardest cycle ride’ I have ever ridden, climb after climb after climb, no flats, nothing even remotely looking like a straight piece of road, don’t get me wrong there were plenty of downhills too, but blimey they were narrow, overgrown hedges, with potholes and loose gravel everywhere, our forearms and wrists ached from clinging on to the brakes for the descents and our quads and calves ached from the huge ascents. We did eventually return to Chudleigh @Firefighters999 😲😀.
Following the tour and information sessions, it was time for fellow @LongestRide2021 rider Kevin Driver to arrive, he was a good few hours behind us having worked his last night shift at Princes Street, Ipswich before travelling to Devon (he had some calls in the night too – #teddytiredeyes🥱).
We settled in to our bungalow, had some amazing food in the dining room of Harcombe House, wandered around the site with Kev, down to the fishing lakes then for the final part of the day, well you can see for yourselves………. #ShockHorror
End of Day 1….