As this post comes just two weeks from Christmas, I think it is appropriate to start by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019! I wish you a happy, prosperous, healthy and very happy new year with a lot of cycling activities, be them for pleasure, commute, travel or sport.
Since about September I’ve been cycling regularly to work. September and October I’ve managed to cycle to work and back in average 3 times a week, but as this is the UK and the weather is not one of the best points here, that has gone down to mostly 1 time in the week, occasionally two.
The distance from my door step to the office is of just under 17 Km (just over 10 miles) and it usually takes me just under an hour to get there. I then, obviously, have to cycle back in the evening, so each time I do it, it adds about 33 Km to my Garmin / Strava mileage and, best of all, lets me eat about 5 equivalent Big Mac burgers that day (not that I eat that much or that I eat McDonalds at all, but it should give you an idea – about 1,600 C calories against 300 C for a Big Mac apparently).
Some friends and colleagues have asked me about the ride, so in the cold, but beautiful morning of the 4th of December I decided to mount my Sony Action Cam on my helmet and record the ride.
Hope you enjoyed the video and the music.
I am very grateful to everyone who I shared my life with this year and for all the love, care and learning experiences we were able to exchange. God bless you all!
Now the Summer’s gone And December’s here And you’re looking back At all the things you’ve done this year And it’s cold outside ‘Say it’s going to snow So be thankful that you’ve somewhere warm to go
Cause when you stop to count your blessings It’s The Little Things Oh the simple things that money just can’t buy There’s always someone who would be grateful for The Little Things Oh the things we take for granted in our lives
Free to feel the sun Warm upon your face Just to walk outside Knowing you’re still safe Food enough to eat Water clean and a bed Four walls around you And a roof overhead
Just a warm embrace and a smiling face, just a place to be with enough to eat, to be free from pain sheltered from the rain , just The little things. To be given care, with enough to share, just hear you say you’re not far away. Free to walk or run watch the rising sun, It’s The little things.
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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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