Starting in the beautiful city of Bath, we cycled a total of 95 miles in two days taking in idyllic villages and vast countryside in the beautiful counties of Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorsect before ending the ride with a celebratory glass of champagne on Bournemouth beach! A third of the route is traffic free and follows a mixture of quiet roads, off road tracks and disused railway paths.
I joined Sustrans in1993 and have done two previous rides with them, Belfast to Plymouth in 1996 and The Channel Challenge (Bristol Channel, included a boat trip to Lundy Island) in 2007. I become a Ranger a few years later. The two previous rides were “Trail Blazing” rides with T-shirts, flags, receptions with local authorities, prospective funders, and lots of publicity. With 14,500 miles of NCN available events such as this are now sponsored rides.
I cycled to Tring station for train to Euston then on to Paddington and a train for Bath . My overnight stay was at the very comfortable YHA in Bath. The hostel is up a steep hill, I was pleased I managed to cycle it with panniers. Hostel very friendly, booked in and met fellow hostellers. Bath was very busy as it was the Bath International Music Festival. That evening I managed to get into the Bath Abbey to listen to a choral concert. After a good breakfast the following morning I cycled down to the station for registration and briefing with fellow cyclists, Felix and Ruth. About 20 cyclists registered for the ride and we departed Bath promptly at 9 a.m. along the riverside. We soon came to the famous Two Tunnels Greenway, an amazing walking and cycling route from Bath through the Devonshire Tunnel, then the mile-long Combe Down Tunnel into the countryside at Midford. The path connects Bath to the Midford Valley, following the track-bed of the former Somerset and Dorset Railway.Past Tucking Mill Viaduct for coffee and cake stop at Wellow. Later we picked up the traffic free Colliers Way, a picturesque meander along disused railway lines and quiet country lanes, through the heart of the county's industrial heritage, which includes the former mining communities of Radstock and Kilmersdon. The route features works created by artists working with local schools based on Somerset's disappearing orchards, industrial heritage and physical geography. A glorious day we cycled on to Longleat for our picnic lunch stop. In the afternoon we rode through Stourhead National Trust property where we stopped for tea and I took the opportunity of sampling the delicious Purbeck ice cream.
It had been a fairly hilly day, the worst hill was on entering Shaftesbury for our overnight stop at the Royal Chase Hotel where we had the chance of a swim. I gave this hill my best effort but did not quite make it!
After a delicious dinner and a fun quiz we all slept well. One of the Sustran’s marshals is a personal trainer and after having gone through some “warm down “exercises on arrival at the hotel she had us doing some “warm up” stretches before departing for the final day’s cycling A coffee stop at the Shillingtone Railway cafe, then a quiet traffic free route to Blandford Forum. Being a lovely Sunday many families were out enjoying the day. Our lunch stop was in the pretty village of Shapwick, a small village in the Stour valley, approximately mid-way between Wimborne and Blandford Forum. Onwards to the Castleman Trail down to Poole for a tea stop overlooking the sea, with views of Brownsea Island and the I.o.W. The final stretch of ride took us along the sea front into Bournemouth for a celebratory glass of champagne marking our achievement.
The ride was fabulous and in great company.
For more information on the National Cycle Network visit: www.sustrans.org.uk
May 2015 Angela Feaviour