Sunday, 30 September 2012

Back in the saddle again

It's been a little while since my last blog entry. But now I'm back in the saddle again...

In more ways than one. After a disgracefully long break I've dusted off the old Dawes. It's time to get back out on the bike. I have done hardly any cycling since the Ireland trip back in May and it's time to get some rides in before I forget how to do it.

Mick has moved to Ilfracombe and we decided it would be a jolly good wheeze to cycle from my place in Keynsham to his. He manfully overcame the usual obstacles of booking his bike on the train and brought his Cannondale up from Barnstaple on Friday. We planned to cycle back down to Ilfracombe on Monday/Tuesday and so had a free weekend ahead. I was idly browsing facebook when I came up with something to do on Saturday. Butcombe Brewery were having an open day. The brewery is at Wrington, having moved operations there in 2005 from the nearby small village of Butcombe. Morris Men and Adam Henson would be in attendance. Being rather partial to a drop of Butcombe's brews, this seemed like the perfect destination for a dayride before the Big One on Monday.

We headed out through the small village of Queen Charlton. On the way out of the village on the right is an impressive Norman arch, the gateway to the grange belonging to the once mighty Keynsham abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries Henry VIII gave the land to his last wife, Catherine Parr, presumably she is the Queen of Queen Charlton.

Further along the road we passed a lovely old milestone set into the hedge. It read: 'From BRISTOL 4 Miles To Q. CHARLTON Church 7 Furlongs 16 Poles'.
'How far is 7 furlongs and 16 poles?' I asked.
Mick shrugged. 'No idea. I know what a furlong is but I don't know what a pole is. Well I do know what a pole is, obviously, but I don't know how far it is.' When I got home I looked it up. Turns out a pole (or a perch or a rod) equals 16.5 feet, and is the standardised version of the length from the back of the plough to the front of the ox. So now I know. (Incidentally, if old milestones are your thing, the Milestone Society have an excellent website with a database of milestones around the country.)

We had intended to follow the Sustrans Route 3 to Chew Magna but I made an early navigational mistake and we ended up on the B3130. It wasn't disastrous though, taking us past the very photogenic 'mushroom house', the hexagonal old toll house that sits on the junction with the road to Stanton Drew, from where it was a short ride into Chew Magna, a pretty village marred only by the collosal amount of traffic that trundles through the narrow main street. We turned left towards Chew Valley Lake and stopped at the cafe for a cuppa. The bike racks were packed already, this is clearly a popular spot for cyclists. We went to lock the bikes up and realised that neither of us had remembered to bring a lock. Bugger.

The reservoir, unsurprisingly given the summer we've had, is pretty full at the moment. In fact its been 100% full since July. In comparison, in July 2011 the lake was only 59% full. The lake is a mecca for bird-watches and twitchers. (A 'twitcher' looks for rare birds, not just yer average mallard.) For those that know about these things there are a vast array of different birds to be spotted, although they all just look like ducks to me.

Chew Valley Lake
From here we took a series of minor and muddy roads with wonderful rural sounding names: Broad Mead Lane, Hen Lane, Green Lane,  Row of Ashes Lane before being chucked out onto the hideous A38. Quickly swinging into Long Lane we regained our sanity on the long coast down into Wrington.

When we got to the brewery things were in full swing. The Mendip Morris Men were dancing out the front, encouraging people to join in the merriment. We dithered with our bikes for a moment before deciding to park them out of sight behind a fence in the brewery yard. Hopefully the fact that they were not locked would not be an issue. (It's a shame to be so paranoid but bicycle theft is such a major issue these days. If leaving my bike in the centre of town I now have to carry a lock that's as heavy as the bike. It's ridiculous.)
'I believe it's your turn to buy a round,' said Mick.
'No, it can't be! I bought them last time we were out,' I said. I couldn't remember actually but I thought I'd give it a go.
'Nope, it's definitely your turn. Anyway, I haven't got any money.'
'Why haven't you brought any money? Who comes to a beer festival without any money?'
At that point another cyclist (or at least a man in a pair of lycra shorts - presumably he had a bike somewhere) came out of the brewery. 'Free beer, now that's what I like!' he said.
'Ha ha, that would be great,' I said, taking this to be a joke. I headed to the bar with my purse.
The bar was busy and I waited whilst the man next to me was served. He got out his wallet. 'How much is that?'
'Beer's free today,' came the reply.
'Oh my word,' said the chap, 'I do believe Christmas has come early this year!'

When I emerged with my two pints I said to Mick, 'do you want the good news or the good news?'
'What's that?'
'The good news is (holding up one of the drinks) that this pint is free. And (holding up the other one) the other good news is that this one is too!'
And so an enjoyable hour passed enjoying the autumn sunshine.

There was  a brief moment of panic when one of the Butcombe staff came out and yelled something that we couldn't quite catch.
'Last orders! He said last orders!' said Mick in a panic. He rushed to the bar. When he came out with two more beers he looked relieved. 'It's ok. it was the last shout for the brewery tour. We've got another half an hour.'

Adam Henson signing tins of Rare Breed
When we regretfully left the brewery we cycled back along the A368 through Blagdon. Compton Martin and West Harptree. Along the way Mick decided to indulge in a bit of pheasant chasing:
Flapping in a field

Another route finding error meant we accidentally ended up on the A37 for a brief spell before turning onto the quieter lanes through Publow and Compton Dando and then home.

'Sorry about the navigational foul-ups today,' I said later.
'Anyone,' said Mick, 'who leads me on a ride to a brewery which is serving free beer can make as many navigational foul ups as they like.'
'Fair enough,' I said.

Me enjoying a pint of Butcombe at Compton Dando
despite having a pole sticking out of my head
Our route is here