Tuesday, 10 January 2012

To Bradford and back. (Not that one, the on-Avon one)

Since Christmas I have been suffering from an evil cough, but finally it abated enough for me to venture out on my bike for the first ride of 2012. The original plan was a loop through Radstock in east Mendip but there is a monster hill on the route so at the last minute I decided on a completely flat cycle and towpath 25 mile route from Keynsham to Bradford-on-Avon and back. As it was a little while since I last rode my bike any distance, I decided that would probably be enough for me.
My friend Adrian was accompanying me. He turned up with his bike looking very professional. Adrian cycles sportives for fun.
Uh oh. (Small internal panic.)
'Erm, Adrian, I'm not very fast,' I warned him.
'That's fine,' he said.

We shot off along the lanes to Saltford and got onto the Bristol Bath cycle path. This is also Sustrans Route 4 which starts in Fishguard and ends in London. In an effort to show I was not completely useless I set a good pace even though it was nearly killing me. I tried not to allow my gasps for breath to become audible, although he must have noticed that my face was now an interesting shade of puce.

Mercifully at Bath we joined the path alongside the River Avon for a short stretch which necessitated  slowing down and gave me a chance to catch my breath.
'I thought you said you were slow,' Adrian said.
'Well, you know, one has to try,'  I gasped, trying to sound casual.

Very soon though we were forced off onto the road as the towpath was closed. The river is also closed to boaters, I hear, because of concerns about the safety of Victoria Bridge. This bridge was the first one designed
 The Bridge of Oich -
if you look closely you can see my bike...
by James Dredge. Dredge was a brewer from Bath who designed the bridge in 1836 to a revolutionary new design, which he used in other bridges all over the country. That the bridge has been allowed to deteriorate to the stage where is it about to fall down is a disgrace. Apparently the last time it was properly looked at was in the nineteen-fifties. Dredge also built the Bridge of Oich which we passed on our Lejog a couple of years ago. In contrast, that bridge has been restored and looks fabulous. I hope the Bath one receives similar treatment in the near future.

On the road we opted for a belt down the A36 through traffic road from Twerton to Widcombe  where, with some relief, we got off the road and joined the towpath at the start of the Bath end of the Kennet and Avon Canal. This was not Route 4, as was evident when we had to haul our bikes up a flight of steps and cross the road to rejoin the towpath on the other side  
Widcombe flight, Bath
at the entrance to Sidney Gardens. Back on the towpath it was nice and quiet, although a bit puddly. Adrian had brought his mountain bike, a good choice. I only have one bike - my Dawes Horizon - but we managed to bump along ok until we reached Dundas Aqueduct and stopped for a cup of tea.

The cafe just down the spur of the Somerset Coal Canal is nice enough, but why are the staff always so miserable? Every time I have been here it's the same, you can barely get a word or a smile out of them, it's quite noticable. I don't think I will patronise them again. Still, a nice cup of tea before the final push on to Bradford-on-Avon, a stretch along the Limpley Stoke Valley and which was pleasant and uneventful, aside from the dead badger we saw floating in the canal. Yeuch.

In contrast, the people at the Lock Inn Cafe are always friendly. I went in to order our sandwiches, and as we had forgotten bike locks Adrian stayed outside with the bikes. Oh no! On the counter was a beer pump. It was Wadworth's Boundary. I was tempted, I had not tried this one before. Such a shame not to. I ordered us a half each. It was a new barrel and needed pulling through, so I had already sat down when the proprietor brought them over.

Adrian looked at the beer in dismay. 'What's that?' he asked.
'Um, beer. Haven't tried this one before,' I said lamely.
'I didn't want to drink today,' he said.
So I had to force them both down. Which wasn't too much of a trial, admittedly.

Bradford on Avon

After we left the cafe and headed back down the towpath I told Adrian that I had detected a key difference in our cycling styles.
'What's that?' he said.
'You cycle to get fit. I cycle to get to the pub.'
Adrian agreed that this was indeed so.

It turned out Ade also had to get back home for an important phonecall so we belted back along the towpath getting pretty muddy in the process. By the time we headed back through Bath I was exhausted and my legs were aching. This was not good. I need to up my training if I'm going to cycle Ireland's End to End in April as I plan.
'Time for a cup of tea?' I asked hopefully.
'No, not really, we'd best get on,' he said.
Aaargh. We made good time though so thankfully could stop for a quick coffee at the Bird in Hand in Saltford before the last leg back to Keynsham. Twenty-five flat miles and I was done in! As soon as Adrian left I went and lay down on the bed for a jolly good nap.

Re-cycle sculpture on Kennet and Avon

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