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Dartmoor on a Motorcycle


Dartmoor is more than capable for setting challenges of all shapes and sizes but probably one of the more stranger of such took place over one hundred years ago. It involved a man, a vintage motorcycle and over fifteen miles of the moor’s rugged landscape. The man was Mr. J. E. D. Moysesy of Venton, his motorcycle was a O. K. Junior, two horse power machine and his challenge was to ride from South Brent across the moor to Princetown on it. Anybody who has walked the South Moor will know that the terrain is rugged with scattered boulders, the odd bog or two along with dense gorse and heather thrown in for good measure. Hardly the type of landscape anyone would want to ride an early motorcycle over.

The adventure began at 10.00 am. in the June of 1914 when Mr. Mosey and a large crowd gathered to witness what could be a first for the Dartmoor record books. By the very fact that Voysey had equipped himself with spare tyres, drive belts, tools of every descript and repair kits indicated that he knew a rough ride was ahead. Being a member of the Exeter District Motoring Club he was attended by various members of the club, a representative from the English Motoring Club, the editor of ‘Motoring World’ and an official photographer, some of which were on horseback. At precisely 10.45 am. Mosey clambered aboard his motorcycle and chugged off through the cheering crowd. The initial part of his route took him across Rook Bridge and over Aish Ridge which proved to be his first steep ascent of the day. The crowd in the square were silent as they watched man and bike slowly puffing their way up the hill some two miles away.

Once over the hill he came to the track which led up to Corrington Ball Gate some 45 minutes after leaving South Brent. This rocky and bumpy old track more used to carrying pack horses and ponies than motorcycles was to be the first real test for the motorcycle which, give it and its rider their due, both managed to get up it. Once onto the moor the next port of call was the steep climb up to the ancient prehistoric cairn cluster at Three Barrows.  Somewhere between Corrington Ball Gate and Three Barrows Voysey ran into difficulties, the engine had become extremely hot and oil had leaked onto the drive band causing it to slip. By shortening the band Voysey was able to continue his arduous journey over the ridge above the Left Lake from whence he ventured over towards Stony Bottom. It was somewhere between the two that Voysey was pitched off his mount and thrown over a bank, fortunately he was unharmed and managed to get to Stony Bottom albeit slightly shaken. His next point of call was Erme Pound where he picked up part of the Abbot’s Way on which he went over Brown Heath to Red Lake Ford. Miraculously he managed to deal with the rough ground and from the ford steered a course to Green Hill across more rocky terrain. By the time he had reached Broad Rock it was time for a short and well earned break for something to eat and drink. Fully refreshed the intrepid traveller then took a strange direction as he motored over to the Eylesbarrow Mine which again was no barrel of laughs. Thanks to numerous pits which were hidden by thick coverings of heather Voysey was on several occasions acquainted with the ground via way of his handlebars. Being the stalwart he was after each tumble he remounted his iron steed and sped off down to the River Plym which thanks to some ‘wellie’ on the throttle he managed to power his bike through. Again, inexplicably he then went over to Fox Tor when all he had to do was follow the old track but who am I to argue? From Fox Tor again he had some dodgy ground to cover as he trundled across to Nun’s Cross. By this time fatigue was setting in and this was not helped by the thick heather that he had to ride through. It was at this point Voysey was beginning to wonder if his little escapade was worth doing but with aching arms and battered body he bravely soldiered on towards Princetown. Finally he sailed into Princetown at 2.50 pm where he was greeted by his faithful horsemen who had some well earned refreshment waiting for him.  All in all he had covered at least 15 miles in just over 4 hours which considering the terrain he had been over was not bad going. Having caught his breath Voysey then returned to South Brent by riding along the roads by way of Two Bridges, Holne, Buckfastleigh and finally reaching South Brent at 8.00 pm.

As you can see from the above landscape profile of Voyseys’ route there were plenty of up hills and down dales for him to contend with, especially on such an antiquated motorcycle. If you have an Ordnance Survey map handy try plotting this route and you will see that there are some strange deviations in it. There is a footnote to this story, once news of his achievement reached the motorcycling world he was immediately challenged to complete a marathon route from Okehampton Station to Haytor. Unfortunately I can find no mention of him accepting this quest.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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