Camping & Mountain Biking in Devon #1 - Woodovis/Gawton Gravity

Updated: Jan 30


My YouTube video of this trip can be found here and my run at Gawton Gravity Hub here

It had been around ten days since my Wales camping trip and I was getting cabin fever staying at home. But I needed to find a job, so being at home was important. I’d applied for two jobs, either of which I really wanted, so didn’t want to apply for more until I heard from those companies, so it was fine for me to go away again! That's my reasoning anyway!!

On the Monday I had been on a trip out to the Specialized Concept bike store in Birmingham, with a friend, who bought a new bike whilst there. I so wanted a trail bike myself and was drooling over the new Stumpjumper that’s just come out. The one I want, the Evo, is really expensive and luckily isn’t available until October, which prevented me from loading up my credit card with a stupidly expensive bike.

I spent all Monday evening thinking I really need a trail bike! So, scoured the internet for hours searching for something nice but cheap. Eventually settling for a low specification 2017 Specialized Camber. There was one for sale in Bath, at a small bike shop, I emailed them and asked them to let me know if the price drops at any point.

On getting up Tuesday morning I’d received an email from the bike shop saying they’d reduce it from £1540 to £1470. This started me thinking, Bath is a couple of hours away and is half way to Devon, and I’d really wanted to visit a couple of bike parks in Devon and Cornwall, so phoned the bike shop asking if I could pick it up that afternoon, to which they agreed they could get it prepared that day.

Luckily I have a routine on returning from a camping trip, which goes thus;

· A cup of tea and some food

· A nap

· Unload the car

· Wash the car

· Wash my bikes

· Wash my camping gear and biking gear

· Shop for more camping gas

· Shop for camping food

· Re-pack my camping gear and biking gear

The above routine makes it possible to 'just go' at any time and I made the snap decision at around midday to go for it. I researched the bike parks and decided upon my campsites. Hurriedly having to pay for and print a pass for the first bike park, online. Which meant I’d have to ride the day I booked, which was Thursday, Wednesday was forecast rain.

I hurriedly gathered up all my camping gear and loaded it into the car, along with Desmond my Downhill bike, and set off for Bath at lunchtime, arriving at the little bike shop, Total Fitness, at around 4pm. Even though a low specification bike, the Camber was a perfect compromise. And on seeing him I named him Bay….not to be confused with the chavvy bae!! Sounds the same but is different, haha!!

I made a big mistake on my journey to Devon, as I mistakenly put the postcode of the Cornwall campsite in my Satnav argh! I’m such a dipstick. So on arriving realised that I needed to go back an hour, which meant arriving at the Woodovis campsite near Tavistock, Devon just after 8pm.

Arriving this late didn’t give me enough time to go elsewhere, as I discovered on checking-in it was going to cost over twice as much as a ‘normal’ campsite. Anyway, it was too late, so I’d have to stay there. I knew it was going to rain on the Wednesday, so made no plans, it would be a chill day.

I set-up my camp, I was very hungry and tired after driving for over six hours. The site was quiet, with no road noise, so I had a fabulous sleep after some dinner.

The rain started in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and continued at varying levels, from drizzle to proper rain, until around 6pm. I was really pleased with my Marmot Fortress tent, it didn’t get wet inside at all.

The Woodovis campsite is a ‘proper’ holiday camp type site. It has pretty, well-tended grounds, lots of wild and planted flowers and shrubs. It also has excellent facilities. There's an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna, a games room, wifi, laundry etc. They’ve thought of everything, even an electric car charging point! I spent the rainy Wednesday mooching around the site, they have a small woodland and a wild-flower meadow.

There is an old style red phone box on site, that contains maps of the local hikes. The area, the Tamar valley is so very beautiful, so I considered going for a hike even if it was raining. Alas I remember purposely thinking before leaving, I’m not going to hike on this trip, so didn’t bring along my hiking boots, bugger! Trainers would have gotten too wet, so I didn’t go for a proper hike, just a mooch.

After the rain stopped that evening, the skies cleared and there was the most beautiful sunset, and that night a wonderfully starry sky. It’s a shame that the campsite has waist level ‘street lights’ that don’t go off until 1am, so I had to wait to star-gaze until after then. It was worth the wait though.

The next morning was bright and sunny. I was up early, being excited that it was ‘New Bike Day’. I planned to ride Bay at the Gawton Gravity Hub not Desmond. After packing up camp I drove the ten minutes to the bike park. On arrival at the bike club hut, there was no one around so wasn't really sure if it was OK to ride. I got my camping stove out and had a cuppa, watching the wildlife; a squirrel in the bin and a friendly Robin.

Around 10:30 a couple of guys turned up, they were working on a re-vamp of one of the trails and gave me some info on the trails.

When you go to a new downhill bike park you never know whether the car park is at the top of the hill or the bottom. This was at the top. There was no uplift available, so it would mean walking back up after riding down.

An important thing when riding downhill is getting your bike seat really low. As Bay is more a general trail bike, I couldn’t get the seat down very low at all. I’ll need to chop the seat post down when I get home. It can be quite restrictive on jumps and drops, and can get caught on your legs or in your shorts.

All the trails start from a rather impressive wooden start ramp. I decided I would only ride the easiest trail, named the HSD. It’s not really gnarly and is quite flowy, with loose ground. It starts with a small gap-drop, that I decided I wasn’t confident enough to do on Bay, there were two further drops, bigger than the first one, but not huge. Again, I decided to take the chicken-run on those as well.

I did a few runs of the top-most section of HSD, I didn’t want to go further for a few reasons. One, I’d have to ride by the guys working on the Proper Job trail and was embarrassed about my rubbish riding! And two, that it was a hot sunny day and I couldn’t be arsed with the push-up! That was until another lady turned up.

Polly was really friendly, which isn't usual with younger people, often avoiding old people like me! I was sitting making some Marmite sandwiches for lunch, she came over with her salad lunch, and we sat on the car park ground eating our lunch and chatting. She really was a lovely girl, from Plymouth, Gawton being one of her favourite ‘local’ bike parks. And as it turned out, she was a super fast rider as well.

We both rode on our own that afternoon, as did a guy called Gareth, both of them encouraging me to go to the bottom! Eventually Polly said to follow her to the bottom, so I did. Then I wished I’d done it earlier as it's a fab trail! The push-up wasn’t too bad at all, although she wasn’t doing the third split sector, pushing back up after the second split.

I did another run to the second split on my own, but my chain came off and spoiled my run a bit. For my last run of the day I decided to do the full run to the third split, the only full run I’d do. And it was fab. Again I wished I’d done it all day!

I finished riding at 4, although I could have continued, but I wanted to do my bit and help the guys working on the Proper Job trail. It’s kind of an etiquette to ‘put-back’ and help repair trails. So, I spent an hour or so shifting stones out of the fast and flowy berms the guys were building. They bought some chips, my first chips for ages, they were so yummy. I finished with the guys at a quarter to six and made my way back up to the car park.

Now to return to the campsite in Cornwall, that I had mistakenly been to already! ................ To be Continued in my Camping & Mountain biking in Cornwall blog, coming soon!

Info

Woodovis Campsite link £24 per night for a tent!

Gawton Gravity Hub link - It is necessary to pay £5 online to ride here, a printed copy of your pass needs placing on your dashboard, if you are not a member.


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