Britain by Bike

North Devon

Series 1 - Episode 1 North Devon



Clare Balding whizzes gleefully downhill and puffs up steep climbs as she tours the rugged landscape of north Devon. She’s following the route of avid cyclist Harold Briercliffe, whose series of touring guides to Britain were bestsellers in the 1940s and 50s. For the full nostalgic feel she’s riding Briercliffe’s very own bike and — shock! horror! — not wearing a helmet while riding along clifftop trails. I bet she had to sign multiple health and safety forms for that.

While enjoying the stunning landscape — including the precipitous gorge known as Little Switzerland — Clare also learns how the locals live with the forces of nature and use natural resources. So the chilling story of the devastating flood of 1952 that almost wiped Lynmouth off the map is followed by a jolly trip up the village’s water-powered cliff railway, in which poor Clare fails miserably to grasp the engineering behind the gravity-based mechanism.

Irene Stacey, an indomitable 92-year-old who was a member of Harold Briercliffe’s cycling club, the Hitchin Nomads, is a delight as she recounts how the club would spend all day in the saddle. She brings to life the joys of cycling in the 50s better than any of the director’s pointless sepia-tinged re-creations.


Clare Balding follows in the tracks of author Harold Briercliffe, embarking on a cross-country journey to experience the thrills of 1950s-style cycling. In north Devon, she visits Lynmouth and the nearby village of Lynton, before heading to Woody Bay and concluding her trip with stops at the silver mines of Combe Martin and seaside town of Ilfracombe.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Clare Balding
Director Alison Pinkney
Executive Producer Steve Bailey