Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Off roading without a mountain bike

The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry. (I know, I know, Robbie Burns didn't say it quite like that!) The plan had been for Mick and I to get off nice and early and as it was going to be sunny, ride down to Weston again, as I wished to make some improvements to the route. But we were hindered by the following factors:

1. It was not sunny, it was cold and foggy
2. We decided we couldn't leave without first consuming an egg and bacon roll at Wetherspoons next to the station.
3. On leaving Wetherspoons I realised I had lost my gloves and spent half an hour looking for them in the pub and in the station.
4. Advancing years combined with too many cups of tea necessitated a ridiculous amount of loo stops.

It therefore took two hours to cycle from Temple Meads station to Ashton Court, a distance of about two miles.

Having lost my gloves I was forced to wear Mick's Maintenance Marigolds
The new cross harbour ferry in Bristol Docks

Annoying sign at toilets in Ashton Court. Is a rubbish bin too much to ask for?

After this inauspicious start we made good time though, initially retracing the route of the previous ride (but without the Nailsea loop) along to the top of the Strawberry Line at Yatton. The path is initially very rutted and we bumped our way slowly along before it smoothed itself out. At Congresbury there is a stretch of the A370 to be traversed before rejoining the old railway line; we were pleased to see work going on to build a parallel cycle path linking them , away from the traffic.

New ramp on section linking two halves of the Strawberry Line

Several posts had posters asking for information about Peppa, a dog that had gone missing in the area. Plastered over the top was a second notice saying that the dog had been found - safe and skinny - having fallen down a mineshaft.

Thatcher's orchard - Katy Way through young trees which presumably will one day produce Katy apples for Katy cider
 Down through the Thatchers cider orchards and then at Winscombe I led the way off the path. I had a shortcut to try so we picked up the quiet lane that ran around the back of Crook Peak, emerging near the Webbington Hotel and the M5. Mick was suitably impressed.

Feeling peckish we stopped for some scram at a farm gate (Mick is on catering and surpassed himself with Yorkshire ham and mustard rolls, pasta and pesto salad, little cheeses and some energy bars. I had brought a little picnic blanket so we sat and had a feast.) Replete, we re-mounted our bikes and headed on towards Bleadon. On the way up the hill, Mick started the campaign. Opening gambit was a query about the time.
'Almost one o'clock,' I replied.
'Ok. We've made good time since leaving Bristol haven't we?'
'Not really!'
'Are you cold? Would you like to warm up somewhere?'
'No I'm fine.' (I was cold actually but I knew what he was doing and I like winding him up.) We passed through the village and I swung left, ignoring the turning to the Queens Arms on the right.
'Shall we pull in a second?' said Mick, sounding a little panicky now.
I pulled in, trying not to laugh. 'What is it?'
'Um, you don't fancy the pub?'
'Oh ok. Maybe we could have a coffee.'
Mick, now in sight of the pub door, had finally had enough. 'What are you, my effing doctor? I'm having a beer!'
Happy now

After a pint I was still shivering and went to the Ladies and stood under the hot air dryer for a while. The weather was not behaving today. When we left we (I) decided to try following a back route into Weston. This should be Route 33 but it evidently requires some work. The quiet flat lane was pleasant but then we turned right, into a field of shitty, runny slurry. 'Ugh!' said Mick,  who is borderline OCD, 'I'm covered in crap!' We made our way through the stinking slime and into a field before emerging under the cliffs at Uphill quarry. On the top was the roofless church of St Nicholas, below which some lunatic was hanging off the cliff on a rope. The church looked interesting so we made our way round to the other side of the quarry, tied up the steeds and climbed the hill to the church. Which was locked. A sign outside said the church was open to all. Not today it wasn't.

 If you think it looks bad you should smell it!
Hanging about in Uphill
St Nicholas church, Uphill

Leaving Uphill we followed the road next to the beach until it abruptly ended in a carpark. We could see Weston front, a few yards on, and so decided to cycle along the beach. 'It's quite hard going!' said Mick, puffing, his wheels gradually sinking deeper into the sand. It was a bit of an effort but better than going all the way round and soon we were coasting along the promenade on shit and sand smothered bicycles.
'Shall we have a bag of chips each today?' I said. 'I think we've earned them.'

Cycling on the beach
It's quite hard going!

Birnbeck Pier

Same road back round to Kewstoke as before but this time I was keeping an eye out for the left turn to take us out towards Wick St Lawrence and Bourton, a longer route than the A370 but flat and quiet. We passed
Very, very old
RCH Brewery, producers of Pitchfork and other fine ales, before continuing to Puxton.
Time was getting on but Mick persuaded me that we should stop and have a look at the little church. I'm so glad we did, it was wonderful. Holy Saviour Church is a Grade 1 listed building dating from the twelfth century with a dramatic leaning tower. It was open, and the interior was ancient too, with unusual old box pews and Jacobean pulpit. I loved it.

The Leaning Tower of Puxton

The road back was a gamble - it was marked as a bridleway on the map. It was not a good choice - full of massive ruts and potholes - and hellish to cycle. 'Hope my frame survives this,' said Mick. A farmer coming the other way in his land rover gave us a strange look. 'I expect he's thinking "unbelievable, what are they doing here when she's carrying a bloody map!"'
Around the corner it got worse as we were confronted by three massive puddles. no choice though so we peddled through them, trying desperately to keep up momentum in the mud and not put our feet down.
'Interesting choice Routes,' Mick commented on the other side, after we had also negotiated passing three massive Dobermans. On we went, bumping up the Strawberry Line. I felt like my brain was leaking out through my ears. Finally, and this one was not my fault, Mick said he knew a shortcut back into Yatton. Which it was. Through a farmyard.
On Ellie's 'improved' route

Weary and with the fog descending lower, we cycled back to Bristol. The sun had not put in appearance all day, the bastard. I began to worry whether I would be allowed on the train with my stinking, shit-soiled bike. We stopped for a quick pint in the 'Spoon before going our separate ways.
'That route,' said Mick, after sinking a long draught of beer, 'was definitely NOT an improvement.'
I had to admit he was right.

Oh, and  when I got home - my gloves were on the chair in the garage - right where I had left them.
Our route is here


  1. Always an adventure on the bike, right? I sometimes take my folding bike out to the end of the train line and then go for a day's ride, but I've never gone through anything quite like your photos.

  2. I expect you're better at navigating than I am Chris!

  3. Despite the inauspicious start, as you said, looks like you still enjoyed your day. Your photos are very enjoyable to scroll through, too. Glad that dog was safe.