Hinton Charterhouse to Chepstow via Bristol and the Severn Bridge. - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 2 - CycleBlaze

July 4, 2018

Hinton Charterhouse to Chepstow via Bristol and the Severn Bridge.

A day of big rivers, bigger bridges, windy paths and mountains of the mind.

July 4 Wednesday 75kms

Hinton Charterhouse to Chepstow via Bristol and the Severn Bridge.

A day of big rivers, bigger bridges, windy paths and mountains of the mind.

The day begins with the full English breakfast, plus cereals and yoghurt. The coffee is weak but the tea is strong. The bread for toast is sweeter than we’ve been used to for a while. It’s 10:00am before we hit the road. 

Sunscreen on!
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The first part of our route into Bath and then on to Bristol is on a wonderful dedicated cycle path. Using an old rail line, shared in one part with a vintage train, the path leads us easily into Bristol. We leave our overnight hostelry ‘Rose and Crown’ and head, as directed by a West Country accented local, down a fairly steep gradient, fully expecting to have to ascend an equally steep gradient, but no, there at the bottom of the hill is the Sustrans sign which leads to the trail, which leads to two tunnels, one about a mile in length and lighted, albeit faintly, thank goodness, the second shorter. An interesting feature of the long tunnel, is the surround sound Vivaldi violin music piped in.  

Commit that number to memory, just in case.
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Beginning....
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Middle.....
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End.
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Sculptures adorn various parts of the path.
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The rest of the way through Bath to Bristol is straight forward and we chat to a chap cycling who gives us directions for getting out of Bristol. While we are cycling towards Bath, the vintage railway train passes by. The Bath - Bristol path is wonderful and would be fun to explore further.

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Barges on canal.
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The old platform- once a hive of activity.
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The centre of Bristol is busy and offers  several interesting foody options. It also focuses on the river area and abounds with boating craft of all sorts. We even spot a young guy taking his dog for a trip on the river on a sailboard.

Bristol
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Cycle path sign in front of us.
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The route out towards  Avonmouth runs along the south bank of the river Avon and takes you under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s a dramatic structure that hovers in the air above massive rock cliffs and the very muddy and rather unappealing banks of the Avon. We recall a wedding reception we attended up there somewhere in 1977.

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Brunel’s Cliften Suspension Bridge.
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The other aspect of the route that is less appealing is its growing narrowness and rough surface. Along the way doubts began to assail me- is this the right(correct) bank of the river? How are we to cross over from our side of the Avon to the other? Despite having read a number of blogs describing the route, illogically, doubts gather. These are assuaged by discussion with some cyclists we meet along the way. Particularly one chap whom we meet again at Portishead. He also gives us interesting background to the old days of sailing and boatbuilding on the Bristol Channel.

Crossing Avonmouth proves easy enough as the cycleway is separated from the noisy and fiercely speeding traffic of the motorway. Coming off that bridge, our next goal is to find the Severn Bridge crossing. It has to be the old bridge because that’s the only one with a cycle path. 

Crossing Avonmouth.
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Avonmouth - from Portishead Bridge.
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The route to the bridge becomes so prolonged and convoluted that we almost despaired finding it. What keeps us going is the knowledge that on the other side is Chepstow where we hope to find the Coach and Horses, our hotel for the night. We left Bristol at around 2:00pm. It is now approaching 6:00pm. Every corner we turn, echoeS with the roar of bridge traffic. There are the tall bridge supports hovering in the distance, recognised from a crossing back in 1977, but how much further is this trail gong to twist and turn? 

We have reassurance from several people we run into but seeing is believing. Hazards include an underpass almost blocked by a burned out car, a swam with four young which attacks Ann, causing her to fall off her bike, and a sudden end to the route with an arrow indicating that we should cross a dual carriageway to continue. This we do and finally reach  Severn Beach, a muddy estuary area, and low, before us stands the bridge. The approach is steep but none of that matters- here is our passport to Chepstow heaven. The path over is a fantastic experience- no motorcar will ever provide the feeling we get from hovering high above the Severn and Wye as they race to the sea. Hundreds of feet below the muddy waters ebb and flow with little whirlpools and odd pieces of detritus whipping along. In the distant haze, it’s possible to make out the new bridge further north.

Severn Bridge- at last.
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Severn and Wye Rivers with new Prince of Wales Bridge opened in 1996.
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The cycle path over the bridge runs on both sides and is very good.
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Chepstow is directly over the other side and we come down off the bridge into suburban streets very quickly. About 30 minutes later we sit in the muggy bar of the Coach and Horses nursing a pale ale and thankful for our deliverance.

Today's ride: 75 km (47 miles)
Total: 2,093 km (1,300 miles)

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