Tag Archives: NCR4

We are born with nothing but faith

Faith“… when you hear (or read) this word, what is the 1st thing that comes to mind for you? Religion?

I can’t blame you. I would argue there is no religion without faith. Thankfully, though, the scope of the word is broader. If you write “faith meaning” in Google Search, the religious meaning actually comes 2nd. We are born is this world with nothing but faith.

Unlike many other animals who are up on their feet a few hours after being born, it takes humans many years to become self-sufficient. Even without knowing, we are born with the faith that either our parents or society will care for us. There are perhaps more meanings to this word that I could possibly write about here, but I want to focus on this one particular meaning: Faith in mankind.

I confess that in the last 2 years, especially this last month (Feb/Mar 2022), I have lost some of my faith. Wars and an increasing number of corruptible and power angry human beings lead to this innevitably, I think.

Although I am not a member of any church, I consider myself a religious person. Unlike other people, for my religion to survive I feel I cannot rely on faith alone… it must involve some level of science and evidence for me. I am not the kind of person who can base my beliefs in wild profecies, Biblical or otherwise, although I do believe that “…there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I do believe there are forces in motion in the Universe that our science may take dozens of centuries, perhaps tens of thousands of years to explain, if we don’t annihilate ourselves first. Our science is just starting to produce a huge network of things in this planet and beyond, so perhaps our universe being, … well, a lot older than us, is in essence a huge network of beings, covering a wide range of planets, realities and dimensions in which living (andnon-living“) humans are just a small part. Where our individual place is in this network is impossible to say, but perhaps many of the things we call “random” or “coincidences” are in fact the works of this network. If we knew ALL the laws that govern the Universe and had a computer powerful enough, we could perhaps even predict it.

Caro (Carolina) on the left and Meli (Melissa) on the right.

Last weekend I received the visit of two Warmshowers guests (if you don’t know what Warmshowers is, visit this page). They were Meli (Melissa) and Caro (Carolina) from Costa Rica. Meli and Caro are on a 2 years journey that started when they flew from Costa Rica to Madrid 3 months ago and presently found themselves at my house last Friday. Among the many obstacles they already had to overcome was the loss of their passports in Spain (according to them a 5 seconds distraction… thieves were likely after money only, but took the passports instead) and a number of other smaller problems, all to fulfill the dream of learning a bit more of this world and explore it with as little impact to nature as possible, by the power of their legs.

Their bikes were really heavy and Caro, had a serious problem in her bike: Only the front disc brake was operational. So I took them to Trek Bicycles here in Bracknell, a new shop I didn’t even know existed as they opened their doors less than a month ago. I must say that, having a general knowledge of prices and values here in the UK, I thought it would cost Caro an harm and a leg to have the problem resolved, especially from a brand such as Trek. Indeed, Trek wanted to charge her as much as £120 for the repair, but upon learning about their story they waived ALL labour fees out, sold the parts at cost and not only fixed the rear brake by replacing the entire braking system with a brand new Shimano one (except disc), but also replaced the pads on the front brake and topped up the braking fluid. They also did an overal inspection on the bike to make sure it was as safe as it could be in the couple of hours the bike was with them.

In my opinion, when you see this kind of attitude, you must bring it to public knowledge because there is too much business and not enough kindness going on in the world these days. To me, personally, it restored a bit of my faith in mankind, that was so damaged lately. My kudos to all in Trek Bicycles Bracknell for understanding that business without kindness is very likely not the most meaningful part of this network I mentioned above. We cannot eat money nor take it to the grave with us, but who knows… perhaps the relationships we add to our individual network in our life-times is something we can indeed take to the grave and beyond (I guess, for Christians is akin to going to heaven).

After all the most urgent issues had been resolved we had a wonderful evening in which my children cooked a delicious dinner for us and the next day (Sunday) I rode together with Meli and Caro to their next Warmshowers host, in Aldermaston by the river Kennet, some 33 km away (67 km in total for me). It was my 1st long distance ride in the year (yes, I should feel ashamed) and the day was beautiful as you can see in the pictures below. Meli and Caro don’t have a fixed plan. They are now riding to meet a friend in Bristol and then they don’t know yet if they are going to Devon or Wales (most likely north). I wish them a safe and pleasant journey in the UK and then back to the continent for their 2 years adventure.

Camino Ingles to Santiago, as part of the NCR 4.

Before I close this post, one interesting thing I learned on this ride was about the signs for the Camino Ingles (English Way) to Santiago on National Cycle Route 4 (NCN 4), which in Spain typically starts in Ferrol (or A Coruna). I rode from Bracknell to Bath a few years ago and these signs weren’t there. It makes sense though… I think pilgrims (on a bike or on foot) would go from London to Bristol on NCN 4, then south to Plymouth on routes like NCN 3, 33, 2 and so on. There is a ferry from Plymouth to Santander, which is part of the “Camino del Norte” (Northern Way to Santiago). Maybe centuries ago it was possible to sail from somewhere in the south of England to Ferrol or A Coruna. The website on the link above suggests English templars used to do this route to Santiago from England to ask Saint James for protection on their way to Jerusalem. Anyway, it was very nice to see these stickers as they reminded me of my own “Camino” journeys in 2015 and 2019.

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Bracknell to Bath on the National Cycling Route 4

(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.

Sign of the National Cycle Route 4 in Reading
Sign of the National Cycle Route 4 in Reading

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.

The Bruce Arms
The Bruce Arms

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.

Small Caravan in the Bruce Arms, my home for the night.
Small Caravan in the Bruce Arms, my home for the night.

That was the Bruce Arms, about 2.5 miles before Pewsey.

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.

The Honey Street Café
The Honey Street Café

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.

Honey Street Café Garden
Honey Street Café Garden

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.

Caen Hill Locks. View from the top.
Caen Hill Locks. View from the top.

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)
YHA Bath
YHA Bath

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.

Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey

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 🙂

Pulteney Bridge in Bath
Pulteney Bridge in Bath

I´m working on the video for the Two Tunnels now and will add another post about it here shortly.

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