Saturday, June 25, 2011

Into Wales for a day then back to England

We had a nice afternoon wandering around Bath on Monday, visting the Roman Baths as well as the Royal Crescent and the Jane Austen museum. 

Our ride from Bristol to Chepstow in Wales on Tuesday was notable for the major bridges we crossed or passed near. From Bristol we followed bike paths and tracks alongside the River Avon, out to Avonmouth.

Soon after leaving the city we passed under the historic (& very striking) Clifton Suspension Bridge (1864) spanning the Avon Gorge, which was designed by the famous British engineer I K Brunel.

Then we crossed the river on a cycleway separate from the carriageway on the large bridge on the M5 Motorway. Riding north along linked cyclepaths we saw the 1.6km-long new bridge (1996) across the River Severn estuary, near the top of the Bristol Channel.

Then, buffetted by a strong crosswind funnelling up the estuary, we went over to Chepstow on the old Severn Bridge (1966), again on a separate cycleway. This bridge is also 1.6km long; on the Welsh side it also crosses the River Wye near its mouth to the estuary. The Wye forms the first part of the border with England. [Tuesday 21/6: distance 43 km; climbing 284 m]

Late in the day, after arranging a B&B at Chepstow, we walked back to England over rhe border on an elegant cast iron bridge built in 1816 across the Wye, which was at low tide and showed evidence (eg, boats marooned on the mud, and the high tide mark on the opposite bank) of up to 14m difference in tides that occurs daily in this part of the river. This is the 2nd largest tidal difference experienced anywhere in the world. The bridge also gives wonderful views of the Chepstow castle, which dates from 1068.

The owners of our B&B at Chepstow were also keen cyclists, with a room full of bikes in the basement (just like us!). We had a nice chat with them at breakfast about cycling experiences. The breakfast room had a wonderful view out to the castle, which is at the very back of the row of Georgian houses.

On Wednesday we rode alongside the meandering River Wye through various towns on our way to Hereford (which gave its name to the white-faced breed of cattle, and has an impressive cathedral) . As well as experiencing beautiful views in the valley, we visited the spectacular ruined abbey at Tintern (just north of Chepstow). [Wednesday 22/6: distance 80 km; climbing 977 m]

The theme of Thursday's ride from Hereford to Ironbridge was "historic market towns": this is the description given to the key towns that we passed through (Leominster, Ludlow & Much Wenlock) that have compact medieval centres with narrow winding streets, lined in part with black & white timber-framed buildings and other buildings also dating from the 15th & 16th centuries. We also passed old buildings like these in villages on our ride on backroads through the pretty countryside.

At the end of the day we rode down a 25% gradient into the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge, through which runs the Severn River. [Thursday 23/6: distance 90 km; climbing 904 m]

We spent Friday looking around Ironbridge & Coalbrookdale and took in a few museums (there are 10 in total in the area) that show why this valley is variously described as "the birthplace of industry" and "the cradle of the Industrial Revolution". It was here in 1709 that coke (rather than charcoal) was first used by Abraham Darby to smelt iron ore, paving the way for cheaper, mass-produced iron products.

It is also the location of the first bridge in the world built with cast iron, completed in 1779. (Many thanks to our friend Alan, in Essex, for alerting us about the great museums here and suggesting that we take some time to look around the area.)

We continue to have good luck with the weather. While it has looked threatening at times during recent days, with long overcast periods, we have not had any further rain whilst riding.


  1. I spotted a link to your blog on the CTC forum. I'm really enjoying reading about your adventures - thanks for sharing them, and the beautiful pictures too! I hope the good weather holds out for you :)

  2. Baths, bridges and beautiful houses. ahhh the joys of travel.
    Looks like you are both having a lovely time - lots of smiles in the photos.
    in just over a week we'll be wallowing in a bath in Budapest i hope...
    best wishes.