Author Topic: Bristol - Home  (Read 5737 times)

Bristol - Home
« on: 19 July, 2021, 08:40:44 am »

Home – Bristol – Bath

This was the start of a week away. The plan being a low-contact, Covid avoiding tour, staying in England. I had my Sonder Camino loaded and ready to go.

I got out of the house in good time, to Lewes station. Where my train was cancelled, due to too many being broken. The train timetable app wasn’t advising a dash to Brighton, so I stayed put. I’ve used Southern trains often enough to anticipate a cancellation and a half hour wait left making my connection tight but doable.

I did get to London, on a train that wasn’t packed but with two trains of people wasn’t empty either. Masks all round though. The ride along the edge of Hyde Park to Paddington was fairly brisk, although I was obliged to wait a minute for the Queen’s horses and men to trot past and several traffic lights on the new (to me) cycle route. I had a quick chat to another cyclist at one set of lights, and offered him to go ahead, on account of being rather less laden.

My carriage wasn’t at the far end of the train, and my bike’s reservation in the next carriage. The space was empty, though I wasn’t the only cyclist getting on. The train pulled out as I was hanging it up, and I relaxed – the timetabled part of the trip was working. I’d treated myself to a seat in first class, which was pleasantly empty.

My phone got a charge and a podcast passed the time to Bristol. Here I failed to stop for lunch, wrongly assuming that there’d be somewhere just outside the ticket barriers that was more interesting than platform food. Then, after a small loop as I missed a turn in some roadworks, I was heading away from the center. I rode along an on-brand graffitied, but rideable, cycle path beside the river. In a park I paused to put on sun cream and have a snack. Then wound my way through a Sustrans suburban route to an ex-railway cycle path.

This turned into a lane, climbing steadily, and the first spots of rain appeared. Soon enough I’d paused under a tree for a waterproof, as it was neither as light or brief as I’d first hoped. A little further on I passed someone with their second puncture of the day who was calling for a drier exit.

Around the top of the hill another cyclist offered “it’s like a river down there” as she passed in the opposite direction. I contemplated overshoes, but my feet were soaking already! Then down, to Chew Magna, the road running like a river – as promised. An empty can floating past. My first stop was to visit a friend from work, who had recently moved here. She had a towel ready, and we caught up over a mug of Early Grey.

On setting off again I had a couple of back and forths, trying the wrong hill out of town, before finding my turn. Sandy Lane was indeed sandy, and gave me my first brief push – it takes more tyre than I’m using to do uphill sand. Then some lovely green lanes rolled me along to Stanton Drew. I do like a an ancient place, and I spent a while taking a leisurely walk around with my camera. I had a the field to myself, which was relaxing and let me take in details, experiencing them as a calm space.

By the time I set off again it was gone 4:30, but the next stretch was quiet, rural and rolling – some effort required but enjoyable. Under a big viaduct at Pensford, and over a bigger lump coming into Pensford. Eventually I reached the slightly downhill and traffic free (except all the other cyclists and runners) Bristol – Bath cycle route.

This, as you’d expect, took me into Bath – and with minimal faffing. Somehow I’d put the wrong Travelodge into Komoot, but the right one was all downhill and only took one loop around the theater to find. The bike in the room worked fine, and let me get things dried out and repacked easily.

50km with 600m of climb covered in 5 hours. Which felt like a respectable first day, especially since half the day was spent on the train.

It was an England match tonight, so my plan for supper was to avoid the crowds. The first restaurant I tried (a nice looking Breton, but not pancakes, place) was closing due to lack of trade, but Cafe Rouge provided the right mix of bread, wine, salad and pudding to set me up – and feel like a treat. Especially as I was one of about 5 customers. Football and people avoided, I slept well.


  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #1 on: 19 July, 2021, 09:00:00 am »
My phone got a charge and a podcast passed the time to Bristol. Here I failed to stop for lunch, wrongly assuming that there’d be somewhere just outside the ticket barriers that was more interesting than platform food.
The pasties in the tunnel underneath the platforms are pretty good, as long as you don't mind paying station prices for a pasty. Your best bet might have been Hart's bakery: leave by the main entrance and go down the black metal steps on your left towards an old railway office building, they're in the arches underneath the station approach road. Other than that, not much around there. But the pub in Stanton Drew does food – and, on midsummer solstice evenings, you might encounter some paganistic morris dancers, as well as a bunch of local cyclists!
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #2 on: 19 July, 2021, 11:17:53 pm »
Day 2: Bath – Bulford

I started the day with a cafe breakfast, outside, watching the world go by – bircher, juice and coffee. Once packed, I reversed the end of yesterday’s ride out of the center and was soon onto the two tunnels greenway.

First some round the houses, then soon enough onto an easy going, gentle uphill track. Two tunnels, as promised – the air cool enough to make my breath visible. The second, a mile long – without ventilation along the way. This is fine for a few cyclists, but much have been rough with a steam train. There was just enough light to see, though I added a headtorch. The greenway was well used, by a range of people – and I got a wave from a small child. It made an enjoyable, different start to the day.

Then, onto lanes, past an expensive looking school, and quickly loosing most of the height gained as I arrive at the canal. There were lots of boats being lived in, or stayed on, and a few on the go. A mix of older and bright blue hair types. The towpath was mostly not muddy, but there were a few people about and some belongings surrounding boats so I took it steady, not wanting a swim.

I left the canal at Avoncliff. The clue was in the name really. This was hilariously steep, especially with luggage. I pushed a bit, after having let a car by. It also set the tone for the next section – stabby climbs on roads with gravel down the center, and hedges too high for a view for much of the time. On a more positive note, I did start to yo-yo with a pair of less laden riders going a similar way. I also saw a pair of huge centipedes crossing the road ahead – maybe 20cm long and finger thick – but gone before I got a camera out!

After a short section of busy road the scene changed and I was on the edge of Salisbury Plain and skirting Warminster and it’s military bases. The no-cars tracks round Scratchbury Hill fort were big and concrete. The views views opening up was very welcome. I paused for photos and a bite to eat by the hill, with Skylarks, butterflies and wildflowers making a beautiful scene.

Then down again, the close-up nettles of water lane and onto a good 20km of the benignly rolling lanes of the Wylye valley. Lunch was had at the Ginger Piggery cafe, sat outside with another cyclist for company – he was doing a 100 mile loop covering some of the same ground as me.

Then a busy road to cross and the hills were back. More open farmland rather than hedges though, and a sense of getting closer. A good thing, as I was getting tired by now – a good 70, hill, km in my legs and weirdly humid but not quite hot weather.

There was a group of women out for a ride as I was checking how far it was, then soon I was going through Amesbury, over the A303 on a bridge, a little byway and a short footpath to my bed for the next two nights. This was an AirBnB “shepherd’s hut” – on wheels, with a friendly host, great shower, little kitchen, G&T in the fridge, a raised bed and peacock theme to go with the birds outside. After a wash and change, it turned out the peacocks had chicks and the dog was friendly in a non-demanding way.

I had Chinese takeaway and a beer by my hut for supper as the pub didn’t particularly appeal, but 82.5km and 920m climb in a bit under 7 hours had left me hungry – even though that was a bit less distance than I’d expected.


  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #3 on: 20 July, 2021, 09:12:13 am »
You must be the first person ever to write about the Two Tunnels without mentioning the music!
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #4 on: 20 July, 2021, 02:40:00 pm »
You must be the first person ever to write about the Two Tunnels without mentioning the music!

I don't even remember there being music!


  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #5 on: 20 July, 2021, 02:56:34 pm »
It's approximately in the middle of the long tunnel, in a section where there are also some coloured lights set into the walls. Perhaps they've turned it off for some covid-related reason or something???
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #6 on: 25 July, 2021, 09:50:13 pm »
Day 3: Bulford Day Out – Standing Stones and Red Flags

Today was always planned as an easier day, a loop without the panniers.

I woke early – daylight peeking in, wanting lower light and fewer people for the first part, and peacocks next door. By 7:45 I was on my way.

First a rural curve to avoid main roads at rush hour, then soon a track and Woodhenge. David St. Hubbins came to mind, but I passed a little while taking pictures with the shadows and edge-lit clouds – and avoiding the camper van just beyond. My new wide-angle lens being just the thing to make drama out of the knee-high representation of the long-gone wood.

On towards Stonehenge. I changed my plan a little as the view and the tracks on the ground seduced me – a walk down the Cursus through a field, instead of a ride through an army base with less view. Looking down amongst the still-dewy grass there were webs everywhere and a few mushrooms starting to show. Looking out there was a big rolling view, with Stonehenge clear but distant and the various mounds of the wider landscape around.

At the end of the field I exchanged greetings with the man parked up next to the gate, and rode up the line of vans, buses and campers to a view near the A303. I paused to let someone turn, and was rewarded with a friendly chat about whether my bike was human powered.

English Heritage were running pre-booked visits only, so I was turned away at the bus drop-off – but pointed towards a gate and path parallel to the boundary – and so almost as close as a paying visitor. This early in the day there were just a handful of security / guides there – the tickets not on sale yet – and they were mostly out of sight. It did occur to me that had I booked, I probably wouldn’t be here without anyone else around. A friendly family asked how I got where I was, from the field behind me – but I basically had the place to myself.

I double backed to the track, and west at the junction. I wandered into Fargo Plantation and saw some of the mounds, then carried on. The visitors were starting to walk towards Stonehenge by now. I chatted to a member of staff, who said there were some tickets available if I wanted. However, it was getting busy and I quite fancied getting on to Salisbury plain and so didn’t stop for now.

A quick bit of fairly quiet main road took me to quieter road beside well-fenced barracks. However, as I got to the byways it turned out that red flags had a chunk of my planned route closed. I’d checked the online diary while planning, but must have misunderstood the extent of what was off-limits (assuming the army wasn’t doing something spur of the moment). The policeman was nice about it, and took the time to look at what I had been hoping to ride. He suggested one alternative, but that involved rather more A-road than I fancied – so I opted for a safe route to the east. I set off into the plain where I went a fair way without seeing anyone on wide, tank-ribbed, gravel tracks.

My next junction was beside another red flag, and I decided to err on the side of caution and less danger and avoid the turn off. Rather than a longer gravel ride I wondered whether a ride back to the stones and taking the tour was an option.

I came down the west side of Larkhill, past big hangers and armored vehicles. However, at the end “The Packway” looked positively hostile after the peace of the byways – fast trucks swishing the verges in both directions. So I headed back onto the plain, and followed the byways round north of the base and then further east. One police car passed with a cloud of dust, but I was mostly alone with a big view.

After coming to a road, I paused to check that the route through was OK with two other cyclists. I crossed a river on a bridge with warnings about one vehicle at a time. A bit further on I saw a group of armored vehicles. I’d left my OS behind, and so without a reference to rights of way I turned and took a quiet lane back to Bulford.

Today was about half the distance I’d planned, at 30km and 330m of climb in a leisurely 3 hours 45 – including a lot of stopping for pictures and walking sections. I was washed and done in time for lunch – which was a ploughman’s in a quiet (there were two other customers) pub garden. I pondered heading back to Stonehenge, but decided that in the heat of the afternoon amongst a crowd I wasn’t going to improve much on the pictures or experience I had earlier. So, I took a walk around the grounds where I was staying – they keep a range of poultry and have created a great space for wildlife, and then read some book and generally took it easy before what promised to be a long next day.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #7 on: 07 August, 2021, 04:14:00 pm »

The write up (and photo processing) is going even slower than some of my riding, but another day is ready :)

There's a few more pictures and the same words on my blog.

Day 4: Bulford – Ower (near Studland)

Today was going to be a longer day of riding – not feat of endurance long, but with some places to stop and explore along the way it was going to be a full day’s ride. The forecast was for rain, clearing up later – but not late enough to be avoided. In any case, the peacocks woke me up early.

I was fed, packed and ready to go at 8. I thanked my hosts and set off. The first section was retracing my arrival through Amesbury. This time I found the bridleway immediately out of Bulford, rather than taking the foodpath. The footpath would have been better – the bridleway being first overgrown and then a little used field margin.

Then, through Amesbury – seeing the infamous Friar Tuck cafe, though far too early to justify a stop! The Dunkirk Social Club had union flags better suited to a much taller pole – embracing the current fashion for performative patriotism in a way that had passers by bowing. Then a rolling lane, the titter inducing Wilsford Cum Lake, and settling into the damp riding.

Getting up the climb from Woodford without a stop reassured me that my legs were working. The road down to Wilton had roadworks with alternating direction traffic lights, which gave me another test. There were more climbs getting out of Wilton, but with less traffic and pleasant tree lined lanes.

A resumption of traffic and a quitling pass (obvious risks, zero benefit) near Bishopstone had me seeking a smaller back lane for a while. Then soon onto a civilized byway from Bowerchalke through a wood and between fields. Even in the rain, this was being a good day out.

The next section of bridleway, along Ackling Dyke, started well – a wide forest path then a cautious roll along wet grass. It then turned into a kilometer or so of close undergrowth, with enough nettles and thorns to make my legs tingle.

Approaching Knowlton I stopped for 5 minutes while a farmer’s cows crossed the road. Then took a break to explore Knowlton ring and the ruined church there. There were a few people about, but not enough to feel like a crowd. One man stopped for a chat, giving me a quick guide to local ley lines and other ancient sites in the area. There was also a small grove, which he informed me is used by the local white druids, and was festooned with ribbons. He talked about the beliefs in a slightly distant way, but I couldn’t help but think he appreciated them more deeply.

The church bore some carved graffiti, which could be imagined as having a significance beyond marking a visit, and nature certainly felt welcome here. The grove and walking slowly round the ring made me glad I’d come here.

Carrying on, there was a quite formal tree lined road going into Moor Critchel. Then I found a nice bench for a snack. The roads were starting to steam as the rain had been replaced by sun, so I packed my jacket away too. A little gap in the hedge revealed a path across fields – not my route, but it gave a nice doorway off the road sort of feel.

There was more off-road to get to Badbury Rings. Dirt under-wheel felt like an appropriate way to arrive. A beautiful space: expansive views with looming clouds and a hovering hawk, more flowers and insects and more trees.

A few people said hello, though one boy looked quite worried – I’m not sure whether it was me in general (wet, scratched and grass-flecked), or the idea of being close enough to both look at the same information post marking out the surrounding places. I moved on and left him to it.

A descent and the sun going in had a long sleeve on for a while in the next run of lanes. I felt like I was getting closer now, though not quite done yet. The next stretch was on forestry tracks through Wareham Forest. The geology changed – from chalky downland to sand and peat. There had been a large fire last year, and there were still sections of burnt trees and open ground. The tracks through the forest wound around, making it hard to keep a sense of direction and certainly giving the impression that this wasn’t the shortest path – though it was when I planned it! It was nice to take in easy though, mixing with mountain bikers out for a blast, families and walkers – one couple taking an interest in my trip as I put on a waterproof for a shower.

Through Wareham, Komoot had me taking alleys through housing, which felt a bit weird and wasn’t always easy to follow. Then some cycle path, other the railway, and a pause to buy some supper before the shops closed.

I picked up another cycle route across the heath, mixing lane and sandy tracks. My chain was now a bit more audible, rain and distance having removed the lubrication. I misjudged the approach to a gate as a lady with a dog held it open but standing in the place I’d normally have ridden to open it myself – and picked up a scratch from my chainring.

Soon enough I arrived at my “pod”. It was pretty basic – as advertised – more like camping than glamping. There was a compost toilet, a shower in a farm shed, more chickens running about – but also Swallows nesting and many birds in the trees. I took a walk at sunset, saw some nodding donkeys at the local oil works and met no-one (though a party with music was happening by the bay). Not uninhabited, but far from the bustle.

My bed wasn’t the most comfy, but a good day out had me sleeping well all the same. My GPS said I’d covered 100km and 1200m of climb in just under 10 hours – of which just over 7 hours were “moving”. I suspect some of my walking around ancient places and pushing through undergrowth didn’t count as cycling in the mind of the Garmin.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #8 on: 07 August, 2021, 06:21:42 pm »
I'm enjoying reading this.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #9 on: 08 August, 2021, 11:45:03 am »
Thank you!

Day 5: A Day Out Round Studland

Today was another staying in one place sort of day. I had a couple of possible routes planned, to choose depending on how I was feeling. To be frank, I wasn’t feeling like a day of Dorset hills – yesterday had been long, and the next two days were also planned to be long. So I looked at the map and decided on an even shorter day of local sightseeing.

First, I meandered through Godlingston Heath, stopping for photos of peaty streams and sandy paths.

Then, to the little shop in Studland, to replenish my food supply. Fortified with crisps, one hill seemed like a reasonable prospect. So I set off up Ballard Down. There was a fair stream of people walking down to Old Harry Rocks, which I joined. Part freewheeling, part walking to avoid being anti-social.

It was quite busy there, but enough space to go round. I paused for photos and a snack before heading off along a hill-avoiding track into Studland. The village now seemed really quite busy so I headed north back to the quieter heathland. A mix of road and track got me to the ferry, where I turned back and did some more exploring in the heath – which included some interestingly swampy woodland.

I pushed on as far as the beach. I hadn’t brought my trunks with me, but there’s a section of beach for those that have forgotten their trunks. However, collective opinion was that it was a bit chilly for that sort of thing and everyone was fully clothed. In any case, all this sand didn’t seem so good for my gears so I headed back inland.

It was into the afternoon now, so I headed back to my pod. A shower, change and bite to eat later I then headed back to Studland – this time on foot. The pub there wasn’t showing the football, so was pretty sparsely occupied and social distancing in the marquee was easy.

I walked back a slightly different route, via Aggkestone Rock, over the empty heath, as evening arrived. The 4G there was sketchy, but I looked in on Twitter and got an early night. The day had been easy: a 26km, 350m climb ride in just under 5 hours; and 14km, 170m climb of walking to the pub and back.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #10 on: 08 August, 2021, 01:41:07 pm »
Day 6: Heading Home

The plan today was 90-something km of riding, including through the New Forest, 4 ferries, and to Gosport for the night.

During the night the rain hammered the roof of my pod. It was still going in the morning. Breakfast (scrambled egg, mushrooms, toast and coffee – provided by my host and delicious) came at 7:30. I ate breakfast indoors and then packed. The forecast was that the rain would be easing off this afternoon, but with a long day ahead I couldn’t wait until then to get going. So, waterproofs and overshoes on, everything in dry bags, I got going just before 8:30.

The first part I’d walked easily last night, then turn left and catch the ferry. Except quite soon the track became more like a lake, and a rushing ford was ahead. I rode cautiously in, but was brake-disc (and more than overshoe) deep well before getting to the rushing flow of the actual ford. (The ford is the whiter water in the photo below.) The heath had a lot of night time rain to shed.

This didn’t seem wise, especially alone and on a track that wouldn’t see many people today. This wasn’t the only way out, so I turned and found a track that went a little higher. At the next place to join the track I actually wanted to be on the path was overwhelmed with even faster flowing water than before.

Again, I looked for a way round – using Komoot’s map on my phone. This time a longer route over the heath was the next shortest option. It was a bit further than I wanted, but higher ground. This worked, although as I got higher the path narrowed and was hemmed in by gorse. I picked up a few scratches on the way, and ended up pushing a fair way.

Eventually, I made the road a bit before Studland. My bake brake was fairly ineffectual, but this felt like a good place to get a fix wrong. Gingerly I headed on. Through Studland and onto the lower, less hilly, road to the ferry. By now this B road had large flooded sections and a few drivers that didn’t inclined to slow as much as I would have passing a cyclist.

To the chain ferry, the only cyclist and greeted with some surprise by the man taking my fare. I took the obligatory bike on a ferry photo, but the route checking on the way had left me with a rather damp lens.

Off the ferry at the other end, my planned route was along the sea-front. I was already questioning the wisdom of doing the full day, and more flooded roads didn’t swing me the other way.

In towards Bournemouth, the roads have plenty of space but the drivers still managed to be inconsiderate. I was too late now to get along the seafront before the 10am cycling ban, but the main road was hilly and unappealing.

At the seafront I topped up on water, enjoyed the manhole-fountain, and started to push along past the beach huts. There were a few people out, but it was far from busy. The most striking thing though was the range and frequency of prohibition signs (not just cycling, but a range of other activities too and who was allowed where around the huts) and three word slogans. I got a thumbs-up from the council man driving a pick-up along the promenade, presumably for following the rules and walking. I’ve lived in Brighton long enough at appreciate the feel of a seaside town on a crappy day, but this really felt joyless.

I decided to head for the station. I was going much slower than I’d hoped, and neither the New Forest as a quagmire nor more busy town driving appealed in this weather. At the station I had a choice: a ticket for Gosport, arriving early for my planned overnight; or a ticket for home. The next day was to be 120km along the coast, the forecast better but not summery. The ice-cream fueled seaside ride I’d imagined in May was fading. It was at this point that my phone stopped responding to my fingers and shut down. This made the choice much easier – home it was.

The direct coast train was also having a hard time in the wet, so three trains via Clapham Junction were needed. They weren’t too busy, but it took a while. A change of top in one toilet felt good, though I was leaving damp bum-prints on the seats. I also met a rider who had scratched the Pan-Celtic and was on his way home.

The final day was 24km and 410m of climb, in 2 hours, plus the ferry. The overall trip cut short, but the days I had had been good fun, visiting interesting places. The type-two-fun parts had kept in proportion. I’ve ridden in the New Forest before and can ride the coast section from home some day, so it’s not as disappointing as cutting short a ride that would be harder to go back to.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #11 on: 03 May, 2022, 07:42:04 pm »
A fab write up and pictures. I very much enjoyed reading this.

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #12 on: 09 May, 2022, 05:49:15 pm »
Thanks for that enjoyed it tremendously.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: Bristol - Home
« Reply #13 on: 31 May, 2022, 10:44:30 pm »
Enjoyed reading this very much and you have a nice way with words!