For a while I wanted to record and post about one of Bracknell´s greatest attractions for cycling, the Mountain Biking trails in the Swinley Forest. I took a young friend to the trails yesterday, but I made too many stops and I wanted to get a continuous footage of the ride / trails.
Just as my luck would be as I arrived in the Swinley Forest it started to rain. If you read / watched the post and video about my Bath Two Tunnels ride under rain you must think, this guy loves to ride bicycles when is raining… No, I don´t! But I live in the UK and you can´t escape it here. It´s a beautiful country, but rains a lot. I don´t think I need to write what already exists available in the web, so I did some copy and paste from some of these resources. All credit goes to the authors and the links are available. From the Bracknell Forest Council Page: “Swinley Forest is an area of the Windsor Estate between Bracknell and Bagshot to the west of the A322. Owned and managed by The Crown Estate, it comprises 1000 hectares of mainly Scots Pine woodland. Three cycle trails in line with the International Mountain Bike Association industry standards are available for you to enjoy in Swinley Forest. The green, blue and (*) red cycle routes all begin from The Look Out Discovery Centre and provide a range of challenges for families cycling for fun to highly skilled riders. Further information about the cycle trails is provided by The Crown Estate on the Royal Landscape website. Please visit The Look Out Discovery Centre’s outdoor activities page for information about how to get there, about car parking charges and bike hire available from Swinley Bike Hub. (*) A small part of the red trail is currently diverted owing to the presence of ground nesting birds.”
I found out through Google that there is a Mountain Biking group called Swinley Riders. They are a lot of information available in their WEB site: http://www.swinleyriders.co.uk/. Will try to get in touch with them.
If you are visiting and don´t have a bike, you can rent an excellent one at the Swinley Bike Hut. Rental Prices, according to their web site is £15 for 2 hours (includes helmets) and £5 for additional hours. 2 Hours is sufficient if you only want to do the green and blue trail. Please check their web site for any pricing changes.
If you want a map of the trails, there is one in PDF format here.
OK, enough info, right? I did the green and the Blue trails today. When I have time, and hopefully the weather improves, I will try to update this post to include the Red trail too. The data below is from my Garmin Edge 810 and does not coincide with the data given in some of the resources above.
Very Easy – For total beginners, families and small children.
Yeah, I know, this post was well overdue, sorry. This is about the 4th day of our Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage by bike which happened on the 28th of May 2015. We´ve done this stage of 64.24 Km (40 miles) from Viana to Santo Domingo de la Calzada in 8h and 19m, of which 4h 54m were of moving time.
We left the hostel just before 8am on this beautiful sunny day. As with previous days we were not certain where we would stop. We were trying to keep an average of 60 Km per day or, failing that, stop cycling by around 5pm, which would enable us to get to a hostel early enough to find plenty of beds available, shower and get ready for an early dinner.
We were near Logroño, the next big city in the Camino. The initial 5 Km were on the NA-111 with another 3 Km on a very nice and wide tarmac covered, cycle path (the “red road” you see in the video).
As we arrived in Logroño we crossed the river Ebro to get to the town centre and stopped briefly at a hostel we passed by to ask for directions and stamp our pilgrim´s credentials. We then started to look for a place to have breakfast and found this nice and friendly café bar under the arches of Calle Portales called Calenda.
While we were waiting for breakfast to be served, we managed to contact Paula via Facebook messenger, who, unlike us, rode all the way to Logroño the day before. She was, actually staying not far from where we were. It was a pleasure to have her company for breakfast.
After a nice and fulfilling breakfast the 3 of us walked a little, pushing our bikes, to the tourist information centre to stamp our pilgrim´s credentials (again, yes). There was a small market in the square in front of the tourist information with music and lots of young people.
Back on the bikes again we crossed Logroño riding together as a group for another 8 or 9 Km until we reached Marcelino´s “Ermita del peregrino Pasante” (hermitage of the passing pilgrim). What a nice bloke he is. I´d recommend you buy some mementos or souvenirs to help him out.
The ride to his hermitage was really nice, on a wide shared cycle / pedestrian path. There were a lot of pedestrians and runners on the path though, so caution is advised.
Next stop was the small town of Navarrete on a mix of minor road and dirty roads/tracks with a few places in which we had to push our bikes. In Navarrete we had some water and a bite to eat.
From Navarrete we continued on the NA-120 for another 5 to 6 Km where we left the road and continued on a dirty road that followed besides the A-12 motorway for 2 to 3 Km and then turned right onto another dirty road in the direction to Ventosa. After Ventosa we took some dirt tracks that proved quite difficult in places. This dirt track actually led us back to the same dirt road that ran besides the A-12, so we later realised we had made a big detour for nothing.
We intentionally followed mostly the same way the pilgrims on foot do this day, but in retrospect, had we stayed on the N-120 we would have probably saved some time, even though we might have had ridden a few Kilometres more.
The next town was Najera, where we stopped at a local hostel to stamp our pilgrim´s credentials and rest for a few minutes. Najera has an interesting rock formation, almost like a wall on one side of the town which led to some climbs on a dirt road in good condition.
For the first time we started seeing sign posts with the distance still remaining to Santiago. I took a picture at one of them (580 Km remaining). This region has a lot of olive plantations. That is the small bush you can see in the video.
After Azofra is essentially just dirt roads but there is a long and difficult climb full of pebbles as we approached Cirueña in which we had to push the bikes up for quite a distance. With the strong sun on top of our heads that wasn´t very easy. Cirueña is small but has a big and rather luxurious (it seemed) golf camp, in which the
restaurant welcomes pilgrims with special prices, apparently (we didn´t stop, but lunch was advertised at 6€ and breakfast 3€). We stopped briefly at a restaurant in town for some rest and water.
We left Cirueña on the LR-204 which had some nice and colourful wheat fields on both sides of the road.
The LR-204 took us straight into Santo Domingo de la Calzada where we stopped for the night. Almost at the same time as we arrived in Santo Domingo so did Paula. If we had agreed on a meeting time and place it would have probably not worked so well.
Paula, Fernando and I stayed at the same Albergue, the “Abadía Cisterciense” managed by sisters of the monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Anunciación. The albergue is very basic and the rooms felt a bit tight, with rooms that you have to pass through to get to other rooms sometimes. It’s a building built around 1609, 330 years old, so no wonder the design is a bit odd. The rooms I saw had no bunk beds. It was 5€ a night.
After we settled down, the 3 of us left the hostel in the early evening to find a place to eat and it was in the restaurant that we met Elenice, also from Brazil. After dinner we all had a walk around town together. Elenice was walking the Camino, so after that day we never saw her again, but we all kept in touch through Facebook ever since and I am aware that after returning home Paula and Elenice accidentally bumped into each other in São Paulo, a small city of only 25 million inhabitants… small world this one we live in, isn´t it?
If you visit Santo Domingo, make sure you go into the cathedral as they keep a live Hen and a Rooster by the altar in a small chicken coop, which may seem odd until you learn about the legend of the Hen that sang after being roasted.
This is a follow-up post of my previous report about my bike ride from Bracknell to Bath on the National Cycle Route 4.
As I mentioned before the reason I cycled to Bath was to experience the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway Circular Route. After two days of brilliant weather and sunshine the day of this ride was pouring down with rain. Unfortunately weather is something we still cannot control and unlike people who might be doing this for living, this is my hobby and as such I don´t have the luxury of choosing to ride and record only in good weather.
Despite the bad weather it was worth it.
Just a few notes before we proceed to the video:
The route I took didn´t follow exactly the Sustrans route (PDF), but is very close. In urban areas the Sustrans signage is very poor and I got a bit lost a few times. Google Maps helped a lot as well as passers-by to which I am very grateful (if you can recognize yourself in the video drop me a note).
If you are planning to do this with small children note there are portions of this route on busy urban roads
The Combe Down tunnel is said to be the longest cycling / walking tunnel only in the UK and possibly in Europe. It´s just over 1 mile long (or 1672 metres to be precise). It has some quite interesting light / music displays inside.
The Devonshire Tunnels is smaller at 409 m
On the cycle paths the surface is paved and smooth.
If you are not local and are staying at the YHA Bath, like I did, the closest point to the route appears to be the The Holburne Museum, which is where I started from and went back to.
Note to self 1: Next time I go out to cycle under heavy rain, need to remember to wipe the water of the camera lens more often.
Note to self 2: Find a better solution to protect my phone during rides under heavy rain. The phone pouch got completely wet inside.
Planning my next cycling to be around this area as well, taking the route from Bath to Bristol which is only 13 miles long, completely paved over an old railway track and full of things to see.
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(If you don´t like reading, scrool down for the videos)
Few weeks ago I was watching the Cycle Show on ITV4 and they brought a piece celebrating the 20 years of Sustrans in the UK. They recorded a portion of that show riding on what is known as the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway circuit, a 13 miles (21 Km) long circular route around Bath.
Bath on it own is already worth the trip, but what is interesting about this route are the two re-purposed railway tunnels, that had their tracks replaced by paved and smooth shared pedestrian / cycle way.
With just over 1 mile, the Combe Down tunnel is the UK´s longest pedestrian / cycle ONLY tunnel and possibly the longest in Europe as well.
That sparked my interest! I was already thinking of riding the route 4 to Bath or Bristol, so, naturally I had to go check it out. The plan was to leave Bracknell and ride to initially to Reading and take route 4 from there.
The trip was done in 2 days.
In day 1 the plan was to ride from Bracknell to Pewsey, which is half way between Reading and Bath. On Day 2 I would complete the trip to Bath. Pewsey is a small town and there aren´t a lot of places to stay for the night. The only B&B in town (well, the only I could find) was already fully booked as there was a music festival happening in town that weekend.
I didn´t take my tent with me, but took an air mattress and a sleeping bag just in case. As I was getting closer to Pewsey I was stopping and asking people for places to stay and was already thinking I would have to sleep under the stars that night. Thankfully I met a nice gentleman, whose name I unfortunately can no longer remember, who suggested a small change in the route and a pub along the way where I may find accommodation.
The Bruce Arms has actually a good camping ground, with all facilities available, but as I hadn´t brought my tend, Matt, the owner of Bruce Arms, kindly offered a small caravan for the night.
I did just under 80 Km that day and the beer was well deserved.
Day 1 video is below
Things to watch out for on this ride:
The NCR4 between Reading and Bath follows mostly the towpath of the rivers Kennet and Avon as well as the canals. The towpath is smooth in a few places, but mostly very bumpy. Lots of loose gravel and exposed tree roots. In places the path is very close to the edge of the canal especially when you go under bridges, so be careful.
Lots of gates, I mean, lots really. It´s a very rural area and you find cattle roaming around. Make sure you don´t leave any gates open.
Don´t take too much on your rack as you will have to remove the cargo to overcome some of the gates and obstacles along the way. If you use quick release panniers you won´t have a problem, but if you have to unload and load again you´re going to be pissed.
On day Day 2 the ride was shorter, just 62 Km or 39 miles. Initially on minor roads and then back on the towpath.
I left the Bruce Arms without breakfast, so the plan was to ride a few miles and find a nice café along the way. I was thinking I would find one in Pewsey few miles down the road, but it was Sunday and pretty much everything was closed. So I continued on my way until a small village called Honey Street where I found the Honey Street café. definitely a great place for tea or breakfast.
Their garden is full of flowers and is right alongside the canal and the food is also delicious. To my surprise they had freshly squeezed Orange juice and it tasted almost the same as the Spanish juice during my Pilgrimage couple of months ago. I had the Big Boaters Breakfast which is essentially a double English Breakfast. I truly recommend this small café.
From that point on I was back on the towpath and would be pretty much towpath all the way to Bath.
If you have time there are many points worth stopping along the way, but the Caen Hill Locks in Devizes is one of the most impressive.
As you approach Bath you´s pass by 2 aqueducts as well (bridges of water over water). The Avoncliff aqueduct near Bradford on Avon is the first and a few miles later the Dundas Aqueduct near Bath. Although I didn´t, there are nice cafés and pubs nearby for a stop if you want.
The day 2 video is below
Things to watch out for on this route:
Same as above
Lots of vegetation on both side of the towpath, sometimes completely covering the view ahead.
A lot of traffic with cyclists and pedestrians (remember if was Sunday and it was a nice day. Work days the route is likely quieter)
I had booked 2 nights in the Youth Hostel in Bath, which is almost on top of Bathwick Hill. The hostel is great, one of the best I stayed. Rooms and facilities are very clean, staff is extremely friendly and always ready to help, breakfast and dinner are really good. The room I stayed had 5 bunk beds (10 beds) and everyone has a locker, but you have to remember to bring your own lock to secure your stuff in the locker. The hostel is only about 15 – 20 min walk from Bath´s historic town centre or there is a frequent bus service right in front (Bus 18 or U18). The only problem with the hostel really is that is on top of the hill and after having ridden 62 Km on a loaded bike that hill is a challenge.
I won´t go much about how nice Bath is. Go there and see for yourself… It´s worth it!
Well, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I went to Bath to ride the Two Tunnels circuit and so I did on the next day, under heavy rain. unfortunately 2 sunny days seems to be the limit of nice days in a row in the UK 🙂
I´m working on the video for the Two Tunnels now and will add another post about it here shortly.
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This post is about the 3rd day of my Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage by bike. It happened on the 27th of May 2015.
Before we get started you should know that the time-lapsed pictures for this day started about 2 Km away from Puente la Reina where we stopped the day before. I thought I had turned the camera on as I left the hostel, but it turned out I didn´t. Unfortunately the day didn´t start with a time-lapse, but with a memory-lapse, I´m afraid 🙂
We´ve done this stage of 63.67 Km from Puente la Reina to Viana in 8h and 11m, of which 4h 55m were of moving time.
As we were getting our bikes ready to leave the hostel we met Paula from Brazil. Paula was also cycling the Camino, but having started from the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris she was already on the road for much longer than we were at that point. We met Paula along the way several times this day and thereafter all the way to Santiago.
We left Puente la Reina around 7:40am, not quite sure where we were going to stop. Weather improved significantly as you can see and we had a wonderful sunny day all day. Like in previous days, we left the hostel without having had breakfast. We stopped for breakfast 47 min later at a little village called Cirauqui about 10 Km away from Puente la Reina.
One thing I learned pretty quickly is that in Spain Breakfast is not a big meal. People typically only have a cup of coffee with toast and one or 2 pastries. My strategy was, however, to eat only once during the ride and then have dinner in the early evening after the day´s ride. I don´t like to fill up with food in the middle of a bike ride. I feel heavy and drowsy and don´t perform well.
After breakfast we continued on the NA-1110 which was the road we stayed pretty much all day, with the exception of the 10Km I rode by myself following the walker´s path after Irache, but I am going ahead of myself.
As we arrived in Estella and crossed the river Ega we decided to enter this historic town for a quick look around. Few moments later Paula arrived there also and we took a few pictures together.
Not long after leaving Estella we arrived at another known pilgrim landmark on the Camino: The winery known as “Bodegas Irache” with its famous wine fountain. It lies right beside the Irache Monastery witch is also a Camino landmark and served as a hospital for pilgrims for many years having been also a pontifical University, between 1615 and 1824, the first university of the kingdom of Navarra.
Although it´s called a fountain, wine does not flow continuously. Like in modern water fountains, you have to press a button for the red wine to flow. Wine comes out at natural temperature. It wasn´t really to my taste. This place is usually crowded with people trying to taste the wine and take pictures or selfies of themselves at the fountain.
After Irache, I was keen to experience the same paths as the walker pilgrims do, so I decided to take the walkers path and Fernando continued on the road. We agreed to meet in Los Arcos later that day.
This was the most challenging ride of that day. Please read the blog post for more information about this path and make sure that if you also want to take the walker´s path with your bike you understand the consequences.
The 1st 2 Km was done through a rather narrow forest path with various degrees of difficulty. Had to push my bike quite a few times because of the boulders and other obstacles along the way. The nice thing was that it was cool as the forest provided a welcome shade from the strong sun.
The remaining 8 Km are on dirt roads full of stones, sand and generally difficult to ride. Unfortunately most of it is upwards leading to a heights of above 700m in places, which is higher than that of the Alto del Perdón. If like me, you are keen to try the walker´s path with your bicycle, beware of the consequences before you commit to it. It took me 1.5 h to cover just 10 Km on the walkers´ path to a village known as Luquin were I met asphalt again. Another 1.5 Km and I was back on the NA-1110 and decided to stick to it as I thought I had suffered enough for the day.
From that point on to Los Arcos was another 10 Km on the road which I did in 35 Minutes.
When I arrived in Los Arcos Fernando and Paula were already there for some time. Given my breakfast in the morning was poor, I was starving and the paella at the little restaurant they were seated at was simply irresistible 🙂
We spend almost an hour there… we ate, we talked, drunk lots of juice and had ice creams. A truly enjoyable moment in the company of an old and new friend (no pun intended).
Back on the road again after the wonderful pit-stop in Los Arcos our goal was Logroño, but it was a hot afternoon and the ups and downs of the road to Viana to took a bit of a toll on us.
We arrived in Viana just before 5 in the afternoon and the intention was initially just to get our pilgrim credentials stamped. The Tourist Information office was closed until 5:30pm so we decided to stay there for the night.
Viana was officially founded in 1219 with a clearly defensive objective against the Kingdom of Castile. It´s Perched up on a hill and the urban layout is that of a fortified square, with narrow streets surrounded by part of its thick medieval wall. We walked around before heading to the hostel and one of the most interesting thing was the ruins of the Church of San Pedro which collapsed in 1844 due to damaged caused by the 2 wars that happened between 1808 and 1840.
We stayed at the municipal hostel called Alberguería Andrés Muñoz, which was good and wasn´t full. We paid 8€ each for the night. There were several empty beds in the room we slept that night. We stayed in the downstairs´ room after the kitchen / dining room. The room had 4 bunk beds (8 people) and had also lockers that required a 1€ coin to operate. The room had only one or two power sockets as well. Pillows were available, but there were no sheets or blankets. You need your sleeping bag.
The bathroom / toilet was right outside the room and it was clean with a good warm shower. The bikes stayed in the laundry room. There were 2 washing machines and a dryer and we took the opportunity to wash our clothes (I think it was €4 for the machine with soap included). There was WiFi available in the hostel and it worked in our room, although signal was weak.
We had dinner in one of the many restaurants in town and paid 8€ for the Pilgrim´s menu, but were charged 3€ for a beer as we declined the wine. I was sun burned in that day which caused me sun
fever at night. The fresh breeze as we walked out of the restaurant felt more like an arctic wind for me at the time, so while
Fernando decided to walk a little after
dinner I headed straight to the hostel for some internet browsing before going to bed.
It´s essentially the way back to Buckingham Palace from the Guerkin with a stop at the Leadenhall Market (which is close to the Guerkin), for some food. The ride back was much faster as there were not as many cyclists on the streets by that point.
The only edits made to the video were parts in which we took the wrong way for a moment and when we were stationary. Everything else is as it was on the day. Video is 33 min long, so feel free to jump around if you don´t want to see everything.
Unfortunately, we didn´t get to ride the part along the Thames as we were quite late and our ride home was already waiting for us. Something for 2016…
About one hour later we were back home, in Bracknell, and then watched on TV the professional woman cyclists ride this same route (or a part of it) and that was cool.
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this is the 1st part, of 2, of the Prudential Ride London ride I did with my 2 sons on the 1st of August 2015.
What a party! 70,000 people riding bicycles on the streets of one of the busiest capitals of the world. It´s a rare opportunity to see a “calm” and safe for cyclists London. Things are definitely improving…
Before you watch the video you need to know a few things…
This is the 1st part of the ride, from Hyde Park Corner were we started to “the Guerkin” building in the city.
This is the FULL video! I only cut out the parts we were stationary, as these wouldn´t add any value anyway…
Still this video is 49 minutes long.
No need to comment it is TOO long. I know. Feel free to jump around.
I will produce a PART 2, which shows the way back to Buckingham Palace. It will not be as long as this one as the streets were more empty, but it will still be long for YouTube standards.
If I have the time I will then produce a shorter 5 to 10 min video with the best moments of the ride (this is NOT a promise though).
So, here it is… Enjoy!
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