Day 0 - Travel down!!
Sun June 19th 2016
Well, today my little summer adventure starts! After years of dreaming, weeks of planning, and days of packing and preparing, I'm finally ready. One quick last read through my packing checklist & I'm good to go. Wallet? Check. Train tickets? Check. Phone? Check. Bike? Yup, got that. Time to leave!
My fully loaded bike as I set off... let the adventure begin!
A quick mile cycle to the train station (the first time I've actually cycled with loaded panniers - yes it was probably a little stupid not to have tried that before!) and my trip has officially started.
My first challenge (I'm sure there'll be plenty more over the next few weeks...) was to get my bike onto the train - something that hadn't sounded too tricky to do but turned out to be a bit of a challenge. I'd never taken a bike on the train before and the online advice from CrossCountry trains wasn't exactly detailed. Which train carriage does it go in - is it at the front, middle or back of the train? The CrossCountry trains' member of staff on the platform (who to be fair I don't think was working, just catching a train home) didn't seem to know either - or look as if he cared. Luckily though I spotted someone else with a bike and we waited together; as it turned out at the wrong end of platform. Crap! A quick sprint down to the far end and we were on.
It was then, as we pulled away from the station, that a mild panic set in - the space allocated for bikes is tiny! I'd never paid any attention to bikes on trains before; how the hell were we meant to get our bikes in there? The space looked to have been designed for folding Brompton bikes and not normal bikes. My first effort at getting the bike in was a massive failure and ended up with it sticking out blocking the door. After a lot of creativity (and zero help from the grumpy train guard) trying out different positions I finally managed to contort my bike securely into place, albeit upside down with its full weight resting on the front wheel that was bent double in a very unhealthy looking way. For the next 6 hours of the journey I worried whether I'd damaged my bike in the process.
As we sped southwards through the country at high speed I started to realise the enormity of what I'm trying to do - I'm gonna have to cycle all this distance back! Yikes. Why did I ever think this was a good idea?!
And as if to rub it in, as we travelled south of Bristol, the rain started. Heavily. And it suddenly dawned on me (in one of those flashes of inspiration that it would have been oh-so-useful to have had several hours earlier!) - did I pack my waterpoof jacket? (answer: no). When I left Leeds this morning it was a gloriously sunny day and no jacket was needed, which is probably why I forgot it. But why, when going through my packing checklist before leaving, did I get to the "Rain jacket" entry and think yep, got that? Idiot!
At Plymouth I had a spare hour so quickly scooted down to Evans Cycles in town; sadly though they didn't have any jacket in stock that fits. Balls. This is going to be a very wet bike ride without a jacket...
On a positive note however it turned out that my next train to Penzance was much easier for getting the bike loaded; on this train the bikes go into the engine car in a huge area designed for them, saving me and fellow cyclists from having to repeat the whole fit-the-bike-into-a-shoebox exercise again. The downside to this of course is that there's no doorway through to the passenger area - we had to load our bikes and secure them at lightning speed so as not to hold the train up, before disembarking and getting back on the train in the regular passenger carriage. Luckily this time we had a cheery train guard who helped us.
Eventually after 8.5 hours on a train I pulled into a very wet Penzance, where fortunately my B&B was directly opposite the train station meaning I didn't have to get too wet. After checking in and leaving my bike in the reception area I left in search of some food. It turns out there's not much choice in Penzance but soon I managed to find a Chinese restaurant; the buffet looked several days old and horrible. I politely declined the waitresses attempts to get me to eat that and instead ordered something "fresh" off the main menu. The food is good, but having seen the state of the buffet I pray that I'm not going to get food poisoning before my trip has even begun!
Day 1 - Penzance to Lelant, via Lands End
Mon June 20th 2016
Distance: 29.4 miles
Altitude climbed: 563m
So this was it, today it starts! The great thing about doing a lot of cycling is that I'm hopefully not going to feel too guilty about stuffing my face with a full fried breakfast, so I took full advantage of that this morning - yum! Only after eating it did I worry about whether I'd over-eaten and would struggle to cycle as a result - ooops. 😉
Facebook was cheerfully reminding too me that today is meant to be the official start of summer, although the weather outside didn't seem to agree (has Mark Zuckerberg ever been to Cornwall?!). Before checking out I quickly went in search of a rain jacket from amongst the numerous outdoors shops in Penzance and soon located something that will do the job. I don't have to get soaking wet in the rain on this trip - yippee!
Half an hour later then and I was checked out, standing with my bike ready to go. This was it, eek! I did a quick final check of my gear - panniers secure? Check. Both GPS computers switched on & recording? Check. All bike lights on, given the weather? Check. And then I was off.
The "Last Inn In England" just before Lands End (also called the "First Inn" when coming the other direction!)
Any thought I may have had of an easy ride was washed (quite literally) from my mind straight away as the route started uphill and into the rain. It wasn't heavy rain but rather the type of drizzle that somehow seems to permeate any waterproof clothing you have - my less-than-an-hour-old jacket is a good one but even that was struggling to hold back the water. And I found too that my waterproof trousers are, well, no longer waterproof. Re-proofing them is another thing to add to the list of tasks for the halfway point at home in Leeds!
Arriving at Lands End!
After about 10 miles, seemingly endless hills, and being soaked to the skin, I eventually made it to Lands End, the official start point. I'd never been here before but it's much more commercialised than I'd imagined. John o'Groats, when I visited a few years ago, was quite barren with a derelict hotel and a small cafe, and for some reason I just assumed it'd be similar here. Wrong. By contrast Lands End has several restaurants and cafes, a museum, and many coach loads of tourists (and this is on a weekday before the school holidays begin - what will it be like in a few weeks time in the height of summer?!). It's been done fairly well though; it's nothing like as tacky as some other tourist traps I've been to such as the Niagara Falls.
At the official start in Lands End!
The infamous Lands End sign is even commercialised, relieving tourists of a crisp £10 for the pleasure of standing in front of it. I'm not planning on ever doing this trip again so I handed over the Queens head on paper and had my photo taken there to mark the occasion. The weather had dried up somewhat by this point but it was a shame there still wasn't any view - you could barely see the cliffs with all the thick cloud cover. At least the Cornish pasties they serve at Lands End are amazing! 🙂
My ride from this point took me back the exact same way to Penzance. I'd have preferred to avoid doubling back but there wasn't really any alternative, and anyway the weather had cleared up by this point so I could enjoy it some more. To my happiness too I found that cars were passing me with respect, phew! Fingers crossed that continues over the next few weeks. My side mirror also proved very useful during the day, at one point letting me see that I was holding up the world's quietest coach - even when I knew it was there I still couldn't hear it. How was that possible?!
I passed through Penzance, briefly detouring to see the harbour, and headed straight past my B&B from last night. After safely negotiating a horrible roundabout I turned onto quieter roads by the coast and cycled on towards St Michaels Mount. It's a shame the sun wasn't out but that didn't stop me from enjoying a Cornish ice cream by the beach (and worrying as to whether I'll actually end up gaining weight instead of losing it on this trip!).
St Michael's Mount
Less than an hour later I arrived at the B&B, puffing and panting heavily from the brutal final hill up to it. My legs are going to have to get used to these hills - and quickly! The B&B itself is a really nice large house, a big family home with an amazing conservatory and large garden with views down to the sea.
When booking B&B's one tip I'd picked up from my research was to make sure you find ones that are within walking distance of a pub or restaurant - without a car you're a bit limited as to how far you can travel. Fortunately tonight's B&B is just a short walk from the local pub which was also showing the England vs Slovakia game as well, our last group stage game in the Euro 2016 tournament. What a dull match and one we only managed a goalless draw in. C'mon England, you can do better!
Day 2 - Lelant to Perranporth
Tues June 21st 2016
Distance: 22.6 miles
Altitude climbed: 420m
Today was my first morning after a day's cycling and I was glad to realise I wasn't too achey! The day starts political - over a yummy breakfast I ended up discussing the UK's upcoming referendum on EU membership with a Swiss couple. It was interesting to hear their take on it, especially as Switzerland is outside of the EU (for what it's worth, they're opinion was that we'd be foolish to leave).
And then I was on the road again! After descending back down the brutal hill from last night, and following the road round to Hayle, I stopped by the police station to sort out an issue with my GPS. As I did this a scruffy man who looked drunk suddenly came from behind & grabbed my handlebars, asking where I was going. He took me by surprise and I wasn't sure if he was about to grab something such as my cycle computers, but I quickly figured that he a) was just trying to be friendly, and b) didn't look capable of running anywhere fast in his inebriated state! I quickly figured I could handle him.
Not long after leaving Hayle I crossed over the A30; a quick glance down and I was extremely glad that I'm not going to be riding on it! The downside to avoiding the main roads of course is that the smaller country roads are hillier - I'd read that Cornwall is the hilliest part of the trip (more so than Scotland) but I hadn't quite believed it at first. The roads so far have just constantly been up and down, and as soon as you gain a little height you immediately descend again before facing another hill.
As I left Cambourne I passed a lot of old mine buildings that would probably be fascinating to explore if I had the time (which I later realised I did, as I arrived at the B&B by 2pm...!). During some long stretches on a busy road I started to hear something clunking in the spokes whilst going downhill, which on stopping to investigate I discovered was caused by a USB cable wrapped in my wheel. Huh?! I have no idea how that got there - I was just glad that that's all it was!
Before I knew it I arrived at my accommodation for the night, St George's Country House. I've intentionally planned on keeping my mileage low during my first week since I don't know how far I'd be able to manage each day, but today was just too short and it feels like a waste of an afternoon. I wish I had a support car so I could continue on and drive back here later this evening!
At least the B&B is gorgeous though! It's a large house with massive beautiful gardens. The owners are a Finnish lady & Australian guy (stereotypically with surfboards in the garage!!) who moved in last year and have totally redecorated the building - it even had new carpet laid in my room just yesterday. They've done a great job and have a huge lounge and bar where I ate tonight; sadly the other guests (a big group) all decided to eat out so I ended up eating solo. ☹
Day 3 - Perranporth to Bodmin
Weds June 22nd 2016
Distance: 30.5 miles
Altitude climbed: 770m
Today started very foggy with no view at all, despite the weather forecast yesterday being for more sun. Grrr! The ride started though with a great run downhill into Perranporth, where I took a slight detour to admire the beach. I wouldn't want to have been in the water this morning in the cold and the fog - the surf lesson going on didn't look too appealing to me!
A misty Perranporth beach
Today was also the day that Cornwall really started to ratchet up the hills, which wasn't helped by couple of forced detours due to my route being impassable in places. I'm using Strava to plan my routes and had so far trusted the accuracy of its maps, however not long into today it directed me onto a very narrow and muddy footpath that I'd expected to be a paved road. Checking another map I had with me also showed it as a paved track, whilst Google showed it starting out as a road but coming to a dead end. Lesson learnt - never totally trust maps, even when several different ones all think it's suitable for bikes! (verify everything with satellite views & Google StreetView where possible)
I wonder what the average age of residents in this village is?
I'd fortunately got some detailed maps with me on my phone (using the app UK Map) and so could check for alternative routes but sadly that showed there was no convenient detour available - I just had to suck it up and go along this path. It turns out a heavily laden bike with narrow tyres is not made for muddy paths - what a surprise!!
Fortunately this part of the footpath was wide and a good surface.
The path got very narrow in places with my legs brushing past over-growing nettles - as I was only wearing shorts I wasn't best pleased by this. Ouch! Eventually the path widened out and became a proper forest track before meeting the road again. Phew!
Later on the same thing happened again - the track I should have taken was impassable, this time because it was a bridleway that was underwater for the first 20 metres or so (I really didn't fancy wading through that!). And then further on too my route turned out to be on a private road that was locked shut with a gate. Luckily though, for both these occasions, I was able to find a fairly straightforward detour that didn't add too much distance on.
My B&B in Bodmin.
Despite these issues I arrived in Bodmin a little early, absolutely shattered from the hills, and so had half an hour to kill exploring the town centre before I could check into my B&B - which I was a tad disappointed to find was at the top of a ridiculously steep hill! I'd made a pact with myself before setting off that I wouldn't ever let any hill beat me on this trip but this one came close to it. Very close. A van driver even started applauding me as he passed by (which was good for my ego!) The B&B itself was another great place, a large country house run by a very environmentally conscious and friendly couple who'd moved to Bodmin from London several years ago.
Day 4 - Bodmin to Colacott
Thurs June 23rd 2016
Distance: 30.8 miles
Altitude climbed: 598m
Day 4 and I'm still surviving! It's often said that days 4 and 5 are the toughest of a long trip like this whilst your body and mind get used to the hours on the road, and whilst it wasn't too bad for me, I did feel to be lacking in energy today. Despite that though it was a truly gorgeous day.
It was a great (albeit very short!) start to the morning, straight down the steep road I'd come up last night before heading onto the Camel Trail out of Bodmin. Years ago I cycled the (short) stretch of the Camel Trail between Padstow and Wadebridge so today felt like I was trying to complete some unfinished business! (only the stretch between Wadebridge and Bodmin to go now... 😉)
The Camel trail wasn't the easiest to cycle at times - it was rough in places and slightly muddy - but was at least flat. I passed several other cyclists coming the other way along the trail who were loaded up with panniers; I did wonder whether any of them are nearing the end of a full JOGLE ride? Sadly nobody looked like wanting to stop and talk.
After 10 miles or so I reached the welcome sight of the Snails Pace cafe and stopped for coffee & cake in the sun (I felt guilty about the calories as I hadn't cycled too far by then, but so what!). Here I got talking to a couple of other long distance cyclists; one of whom has done both LEJOG and JOGLE and who passed on a few tips to me. After we parted I suddenly realised it was nearly midday and I'd only done about 10 miles - ooops!
At the start of Bodmin Moor
Leaving the coffee stop I turned off the Camel Trail and started climbing a road uphill. I passed a couple of tiny villages and saw several residents heading into polling stations for today's EU referendum (I'm glad I remembered to post my vote in a couple of weeks ago!). Before long I was in the middle of nowhere on Bodmin Moor, the remotest I've been so far, and it's what this ride is all about. It's just beautiful!
After crossing the moor, and passing several mountain bikers and a Duke of Edinburgh expedition team, I ended up on Davidstow Airfield, a disused airfield from World War 2. It was a bit eerie cycling on the crumbling runway and numerous taxiways but pretty cool! It's a huge expansive site where most buildings have long gone, and I can only begin to imagine the activity that must have gone on here back in its day. Oh to have a time machine! It's up here that I meet the couple from the cafe again (edit: and it's not the last time I meet them either... I randomly bump into the guy, Keith, up near John o'Groats 4 weeks later!), they were heading around Cornwall today but have done many cycling expeditions before.
The eerie Davidstow Airfield on Bodmin Moor
After descending down from the airfield (its high up on the moor) I got talking to a female cyclist who was coming the other way. She's had a fascinating ride; she's made it down from Newcastle in just over a week and is planning to meet up with her mum in Cornwall in a couple of days. On the way she'd stopped at Stonehenge, and realising it was summer solstice, ended up camping right next to the stones and waking up to a Stonehenge sunrise! Awesome; I'm jealous!
Tonight I was really glad for my GPS units since my B&B is truly in the middle of nowhere - I had to locate it using Google Earth and drop a pin on the exact spot. It's worth it though, the B&B is amazing!
It's a converted barn with just 2 rooms (and I'm the only guest tonight) and superb hosts (John & Helen) - there's even a little personalised chalkboard message welcoming me! I'm greeted with a freshly baked chocolate brownie too; my B&Bs just keep getting better on this trip - is it too much to hope that this will last?! The owners cook me a gorgeous evening meal as well (by prior arrangement obviously!) which I'm extremely grateful for as there's no pubs or restaurants for miles around. Tonight is the EU referendum night, so after doing some route planning (managing to save 5 miles on tomorrow's trip by finding a route through an area I thought I'd have to detour around!) I stay up later than planned to write this and watch the first few results come in. I wish I hadn't bothered.
Day 5 - Colacott to Okehampton
Fri June 24th 2016
Distance: 25 miles
Altitude climbed: 588m
As comfortable as the B&B was (and it was incredibly comfortable!) I didn't get too much sleep last night as I woke up a couple of times to check on the EU referendum results. Let's just say I wasn't best pleased with the result, but enough of the politics for here 😕.
After seeing some more Breakfast news and watching the Prime Minister resign (I say that as if it's the type of thing that happens every day!) I finally bid farewell to John & Helen and set off for a sunny day's cycling. Having saved myself 5 miles through some canny route planning I knew I could take it fairly easy today as I didn't have too far to go, which was probably just as well as I kept stopping to check the latest news on the BBC website and to join in some lively debates with friends on Facebook. I also stopped off early on, on the recommendation of John & Helen, at a farm shop for a coffee. I'll be surprised if I have another day with an average pace as slow as today was!
My first county border!
The riding today was along a lot of fairly busy roads with a lot of uphill. Luckily most of the uphill was short and sharp followed by long gradual descents - the uphills may have been tiring but the long descents did wonders for my average speed and helped make up for all my stopping. I also had a mini celebration by passing out of Cornwall and into Devon. My first county complete - break open the champagne! The only problem was my chain jumping off on quite literally my first pedal stroke past the "Welcome to Devon" sign. This was the first issue of any sort with my bike so far - fingers crossed Devon isn't jinxxed for me!
Then after an uncharacteristically (for today anyway) long uphill slog I made it to a little coffee shop / cycle hire hut by the edge of the Granite Way; a disused railway that's been converted into a cycle track into Okehampton. Here I stopped for yet another coffee and bought some trouser clips (the gaffer tape I'd used a couple of days ago to keep my trouser ankles under control and out of the way of the chain worked but not as well as dedicated cycle clips!), and got chatting to someone else (who today was looking after a large group of schoolchildren on a sponsored walk) who's also cycled both LEJOG & JOGLE before. He told me that both times the ride was just an excuse for a long pub crawl with friends and that they all gained weight! Great. I might be taking easy on the booze myself but I had been hoping to get away with enjoying my food! Fingers crossed I don't gain weight too...
Cycling along the Granite Trail, including over the Meldon viaduct near Okehampton
The last few miles then were a very easy gentle descent down into Okehampton along this cycle path - I could probably have freewheeled the whole way if I'd wanted 🙂. Tonight I'm staying at the Youth Hostel; my first hostel of the trip. It's partly for sentimental reasons as I stayed at this YHA 15 years previously, and also to see what youth hostels are like these days. Quickly I regretted booking in here though.....
Firstly reception didn't open until 5pm (which I wasn't aware of), which given that I arrived about 3pm would have meant hanging around for 2 hours. Fortunately a member of staff had popped in briefly for something so after a little persuasion checked me in early. My room though is horrible; it's a pair of bunk beds with a metal frame that creaks horribly. And as a tall guy having a metal bar across the bottom of the bed is not particularly comfortable either, especially on a narrow single bed where there's no room to angle myself across. There's also no space to unpack and sort my panniers, one of the toilets in the communal toilet area was leaking across the floor, and the shower unit was effectively a small cupboard off the corridor with no way of keeping your clothes dry from the shower. I'm not impressed!
Lots of people on TripAdvisor say this is one of the best youth hostels they've stayed in - am I just having a bad experience? Maybe I was spoilt last night and the contrast is just making it seem bad, but I don't think I'll be staying in another Youth Hostel again on this trip.
Dinner however wasn't too bad, it was just a simple spaghetti bolognese but pretty tasty and served by a cheerful fella who gave me extra helpings. I also met an interesting guy (Chris) who is just 2 days from finishing an 8 year round-the-world bike ride. Wow! He's done it in 3 sections, this latest leg having come from New Zealand via Canada (as you do....). I wanted to ask him so many questions but he didn't seem in the mood for talking tonight so I left him be. I bet he's got a ton of stories to tell though!
Day 6 - Okehampton to Tiverton
Sat June 25th 2016
Distance: 37 miles
Altitude climbed: 618m
Well, the best bit about today was leaving my accommodation! I'll not be booking into a YHA again 😕 They might suit some people, but for not that much more money the massive jump up in comfort that B&Bs provide make it a no brainer for me.
I started today by doing a full wash in the local launderette - I've been handwashing my clothes as I go, however nothing beats the feel of properly clean clothes. It only took an hour and a half and then I was able to set off properly.
Beautiful Devon scenery
The morning today felt great - I had lots of energy and for the first time realised that I was starting to feel much fitter. Yay! The miles just melted away as I made my way round lots of small country roads; even the hills didn't seem too bad. Some of the villages I went through were spectacular too; truly quintessential English villages of old tudor style cottages alongside little streams and with colourful flower displays everywhere I looked.
There was one particular point I suddenly came across that I really wanted a photo from, however the road down was so steep that I found I couldn't stop in time! That was a little concerning but the road was freakishly steep and I managed to come to a halt within a reasonable distance, just unfortunately past the ideal point for the photo. I (very lazily!) couldn't be bothered at the time to walk back up the road but I regret that now - the sun went in after then and the view was never quite as good again. Damn.
Pub lunch in the sun!
After such a good morning's cycling then, and with about 25 miles down and just 10 to go, I thought I'd relax and stop for a solid pub lunch. At the first pub I stopped at the barman told me they didn't do food, only Cornish pasties. I was about to settle for that until a customer at the bar started telling me about a pub down the road with a better beer garden and a full menu - the barman didn't look very impressed with him for losing the pub my business!! I wish I'd videoed his expression 😉 I was grateful for the tip though.
If there's one lesson I learnt today that I'll take with me for the rest of the trip, it's not to have a big lunch when riding! Don't get me wrong, the burger was stunning and even more gorgeous given the sunny beer garden I was in, but having a full stomach was not good for my energy levels ☹ In contrast to the great riding in the morning, the afternoon was incredibly painful. There weren't many hills (luckily) but the extremely strong headwinds just sapped all my morale and made cycling a huge struggle. I was constantly looking at my GPS and counting down the last 4 or 5 miles into Tiverton in just 0.1 mile increments it was that bad!
Eventually though I made it, and once again had lucked out with another great B&B. After last night's hostel it felt especially luxurious, and probably the biggest bedroom I've seen in my life. By now my legs are starting to feel achy, and walking into town this evening must have been amusing for anyone watching as I was probably waddling like a penguin! Fingers crossed I'll loosen up a little by tomorrow.
Day 7 - Tiverton to Bridgwater
Sun June 26th 2016
Distance: 37.9 miles
Altitude climbed: 291m
One of the great things about this tour so far is the people I'm meeting - it turns out that loads of people are really curious at seeing a bike heavily loaded with panniers. If I'd had front panniers too I'm sure I'd have been stopped even more! As I was checking out of the B&B this morning one of the other guests started telling me about a ride he'd done years ago, from Venice to Athens. That sounded like a great ride - maybe I'll try it in the future!
One of the many bridges to pass under - this one actually had a relatively wide path
Today's riding was mainly along canals, both the Grand Western Canal from Tiverton to Taunton, and then the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal to, well, Bridgwater. I was a little apprehensive of today as I didn't know how the track surface would be; some of the canals near my home in Leeds have very poor paths especially after the boxing day floods in 2015 had washed a lot of the paths away. For the large part though the surface was good - there was a mixture of surfaces from tarmacced, to compressed gravel (rough but no problem), to grass paths.
The main issue slowing me down was having to keep getting off to walk my bike under the bridges. Some people might brave cycling the narrow paths under the low bridges but I didn't fancy it. Last year I fell off my bike and very nearly into a canal (long story....😕), being stopped only by some painful gorse bushes, and which no doubt was subconsciously affecting my confidence today!
Field in Devon
At Taunton I had to ride through the centre, passing by the Somerset Cricket ground which let me know I'd finally left Devon. There was one point where I met a cyclist at some traffic lights on red; we both went off in different directions but then he zoomed past me again a few minutes later on, giving me a puzzled look as he did so. Given my leisurely pace compared to his speed I'd obviously found the shortcut!
Getting onto the Taunton & Bridgwater canal was a little tricky at one point; I couldn't zoom into the map on my GPS enough to see which side of canal I should be on (there was a path on both sides at this point) so I had to guess, fortunately guessing right.
Taunton & Bridgwater canal
The path surface along this canal was pretty good to start with but soon became a bit problematic as it turned into a narrow dirt footpath on grass that was tricky to keep my wheels within. At another point there were overhanging nettles that ended up brushing against my bare legs, and it even became so narrow at one point that I was literally just cm's away from the canal - very nerve wracking!
My accommodation for the night, the Bower Inn.
As I approached Bridgwater the surroundings started to get a little industrial; I'm definitely out of the scenic Cornwall & Devon countryside now! I also had to cross the canal via a bridge; it was a great looking industrial bridge but the only way to access it was to carry my bike up some narrow steep steps. Carrying a heavy bike with luggage up steps is not easy!!
It had started to rain by the time I made it to my hotel (a pub with rooms) so I was glad to be finishing for the day. And being a pub on a Sunday, it does a great Sunday roast! Yum yum.
Day 8 - Bridgwater to Bristol
Mon June 27th 2016
Distance: 39.4 miles
Altitude climbed: 353m
In doing some route planning last night I had become a little confused about whether my route for the first couple of miles actually existed - the roads appear on some maps but look just like a big field on aerial photos. I was hoping the aerial photo that both Google & Bing are using is an old one and that the roads were a new housing estate; unfortunately the waiter in the bar last night didn't know. Fortunately it became clear this morning that the roads were there and were indeed new, meaning I didn't need to do a lengthy detour. Phew!
Cycling along the "Strawberry Line" cycle path
A lot of today was along some main roads but also with a few miles along another disused railway line - known now as the "Strawberry Line". This would have been great and fast cycling, had it not been for numerous bloody annoying motorbike barriers that I had to keep stopping to squeeze through. These ones weren't easy to squeeze through either, they were too narrow for my bike's handlebars. Surely there's an easier solution for blocking motorbikes whilst allowing bikes easy access? I'll get my thinking cap on. Who knows, in a few years you might see me on Dragon's Den!
I approached Bristol from Long Ashton, with my hotel being right in the city centre. For anyone who knows Bristol this means I could have gone straight to my hotel on a flat route, however as I'd previously lived in Bristol for 5 years I really wanted to visit many of my old haunts, and this meant cycling up some steep hills to Clifton (Bristol is anything but a flat city!). Ah well, needs must!
About to cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The sun was shining brightly today which made my arrival into Bristol all the happier. I went to university in Bristol so returning to what felt like home was brilliant. I passed through Ashton court, stopping for some ice cream (well I'm earning it with these extra hills!), and slowly made my way up the steep paths through the estate whilst re-living many memories of different festivals there with friends.
Crossing the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge was amazing due to the sun shining so brightly today; the views were spectacular. I did a little tour of the gorgeous Clifton village and then onto my old hall of residence where freakishly, as I stopped for a photo there, an old university friend who I'd not seen for 15 years walked by! Small world. That's definitely a highlight of my trip and it was brilliant to reconnect and catch up, albeit very briefly.
Looking down towards Bristol from the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Then it was down to the hotel, a Premier Inn where I could store my bike in my room (only just about managing to squeeze my bike into the lift!). There was a couple of bike shops nearby too so I took the opportunity to stock up on more energy gels whilst I could.
The evening today was great as, after having eaten dinners by myself for the last week, I was able to be sociable again and visit a good university friend (Angela) and her family who live in Bristol. It was great to catch up and to see their new house too (well, it's not so new anymore, I've just not been to Bristol in a long time!). The only downer on today was that England were knocked out of the Euro 2016 tournament by Iceland. No disrespect to Iceland - it's a great country - but they're not known as a footballing nation and England just got far too complacent! Grrr.