Three days in, we have 160 miles under our belts having reached the charming city of Gloucester, with its glorious Cathedral and regenerated docklands. Our entry to Gloucester was simply lovely and so easy along quiet lanes and sections of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal tow path; Sustrans Route 41. Odd sections of the tow path required a cycling equivalent of a trapeze walker, so narrow and rutted was the path.
Having set out from Radstock, North Somerset we took a combination of lanes bypassing Bath on our west. A very bumpy section along the Kennet and Avon Canal, exiting at Bathampton, cost me my mirror which had worked loose and fell off. Not knowing quite when it went and given the long distance to go, returning to look for it was not an option.
There are so many lovely villages, Marshfield and Wickwar, where we enjoyed our picnic lunch on a bench in the playing field, to name just two. Progress was marked when we passed over the M4 and, heading West, the M5 at Thornbury, junction 14. The countryside sandwiched between the A38 and river Severn is relatively flat, a joy to roll along. The grassy fields are abundant with glossy beef cattle who look up as we pedal by and cows whose milk make Cadbury’s chocolate according to the farm signs. Altogether a great day blessed with warm, dry weather with frequent sunny spells, a stark contrast to day two…
Waking to light rain at the Piddle Inn, the dye was cast from Piddletrenthiden; three very soggy bottoms made the distance to Radstock on day two. Despite the persistent heavy drizzle, it was an enjoyable ride, if somewhat hilly at times. Heading largely north-west the route took us through the delightful village of Milbourne Port (miles from the sea)?? Wincanton and Bruton. At the little village of Nunney we stopped for a wander around the ruins of a 1300’s Castle. A Sustrans route along a disused railway line was an easy and pleasant run in to Radstock, a Somerset town which celebrates a coal mining heritage – who knew?
Our good friend Keith’s arrival from New Zealand heralds yet another cycling adventure. Planned and plotted by Gavin, this alternative ‘end to end’ (Lands End to John O’Groats) will take us from Portland Bill to Unst in the Shetland Islands over the next four weeks. We are looking forward to being joined next week in Dumfries by Maree and Phil, fellows of St Malo to Nice in 2015 and Corsica/Sardinia last year.
The train journey from Newton Abbot to Weymouth, changing lines at Castle Cary was not without stress! An instruction by the train manager to put the bikes in the Buffet car was overturned by the ticket collector by the time we hit the coast at Teignmouth, resulting in a helter-skelter dash to the guard van, bags everywhere, at Exeter. The two carriage train from Castle Cary required us to carry the bags and bikes up and across the over bridge to get to the right platform then manhandle them into a reasonably crowded space. Just as we settled down to enjoy the scenic countryside rolling by, one of the bikes fell over causing consternation from fellow passengers and a hero dash by Gavin to sort the situation. Our arrival to the sedate Victorian resort of Weymouth in the sunshine was not a moment to soon.
A ten mile cycle out of town, behind Chesil Beach and over the causeway took us to the Isle of Portland where a very long, very steep, heavily trafficked hill proved the first test of our metal. All passed and progressed in a less strenuous manner to the official starting point, the lighthouse at Portland Bill on the southern most tip of the island.
Our billet for the night was a delightful room at the charmingly named, Piddle Inn at Piddletrenthide, arriving on fabulous cycle paths and quiet lanes from Weymouth, through Dorchester and beyond. The countryside screams ‘harvest’, with fields of corn now mostly gathered in spite of August’s awful weather and hedgerows laden with an abundance of juicy ripe blackberries. A convivial supper was enhanced by Gavin’s university friend, John who joined us from his Dorchester home, recounting tales of his cycle touring youth on a bike and with equipment that makes our sound positively lightweight.