Bridgwater to Bristol: a very long day - Southwest England in April - CycleBlaze

April 22, 2014

Bridgwater to Bristol: a very long day

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591 metres (1938 feet) up, steepest uphill 18%


Today started inauspiciously with an unfortunate breakfast featuring cold burnt toast, before we headed off out of Bridgwater about 9:00. Al plans our routes using google maps and street view, but the road through Bridgwater had changed since the maps were posted, and we ended up going the wrong way out of town towards Minehead instead of Bristol. We cycled uphill and got swept along through a horrid traffic jam due to roadwork somewhere in the distance. The idling cars were belching out smelly exhaust as Al realized our mistake, and we stopped for directions at the first petrol station. We had to turn around and retrace our route, adding about ten kilometres to today's distance. The A38 to Bristol was the correct road, but very busy for about three kilometres until we turned off onto quiet roads and lanes through the countryside.

We were now travelling through the Somerset Levels, the area that was badly flooded in February, just two months earlier. Many residents of the area had had to evacuate by boat, and there were still piles of debris and muddy tracks and ruined outbuildings left over from the floods. Besides being quite interesting, the road was perfectly flat and we breezed along for about 20 kilometres—such a novelty! The flat stretch ended with an uphill push into Cheddar.

After the flat stretches of the Somerset Levels, we encountered a few hills
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Overlooking fields as we approached Cheddar
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We stopped for lunch at a cute little sandwich place, the High-Ts, run by a lively mother / daughter team, Tina and Kelly. Along with good paninis—Somerset Stilton and beetroot for Eva, cheddar, pickle and onion for Al-- they served up entertaining stories about the area, and we had a good time chatting and laughing with them. There was a short heavy shower while we sat inside, encouraging us to linger and indulge in dessert pastries. Later in the day we were glad to have consumed the extra calories. Tina and Kelly were horrified to hear that we planned to ride up Shipham Hill out of Cheddar, and it was indeed long and steep, just one of a number of steep hills on this day's route.

Tina behind the counter a the High-Ts cafe where we stopped for lunch
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We noticed a post office/shop as we passed through the tiny village of Wrington. On Saturday when we had left Tyne Wells House in Launceston, we inadvertently took the room key along with us. Because of the Easter long weekend holiday, today was the first opportunity to post it back to Mary and Bernard. Eva went inside with the key properly packed in an envelope to find a line of five people waiting at the post office wicket. Actually there were two wickets with a clerk behind each one. The two clerks were engaged in earnest conversation presumably concerning postal matters, completely ignoring the queue waiting for service. This went on for a good five minutes, as Eva looked around the very old-fashioned shop. It was another “Heartbeat” moment, when one might expect Oscar Blaketon to turn up behind the wicket. Finally the line moved and service was quite quick. Earlier in the trip we had mailed some postcards to Canada, and had a few stamps left over. When Eva suggested that she use one of these to send the key, the clerk got quite upset and told her it would be a real waste of money since postage within England was much cheaper. With all of about 40 pence involved, the overseas stamp was duly applied, and we were on our way again.

About ten kilometres before Bristol we turned up tiny narrow Dundry Lane, which Al had noted as uphill for a short distance and then mainly level. Just as we started up, Al's front tire deflated, so we moved over to the stone wall at the roadside, and he changed the tube, first running his fingers carefully around the inside of the tire to check for wire or glass. He couldn't feel anything. While we were stuck there, at least six cars drove up or down past us with hardly any room to spare. We couldn't believe there was so much traffic on this tiny lane. The tire fixed, we pushed and pushed our way up the lane past fields and farmhouses. The hill went on and on and on. At one point a couple of boys cycled past us, but we caught up with them around the corner and they were pushing their bikes as well. Finally we reached the top, and shortly afterwards joined the busy main road which swooped steeply downhill into the southern outskirts of Bristol.

The lane just seemed to go up and up
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Just after we started down on the roughly paved shoulder, trying to avoid the heavy traffic, Al's front tire went flat again. Oh no! There was no place to stop on our side of the highway, so we waited for a break and then raced across the two lanes to a wide spot on the other side. We could see Bristol in the distance sprawling out below us. Al pointed to a far away spot and said “Our hotel is just about there.” By this time it was 5:30 and Eva wondered if we'd ever reach it. Al checked the inside of the tire again and replaced the tube with our last new one. At this point the cause of the punctures remained a mystery, unsolved until later. We raced back across the road and took off down the hill, cycling about three hundred metres before the tire started to deflate—a slower leak this time. Al pumped it up several times every few hundred metres, until we finally reached a bike path through a park leading into the centre of Bristol. Here we stopped and Al took the time to patch both tubes, just in case. Miraculously the patch held for the last few kilometres to our hotel. It was after 7:00 pm and we were exhausted.

The classy Mercure Brigstow Bristol was just what we needed. It had an elevator and a restaurant, our room overlooked the water and the large bathroom boasted a bathtub! Eva had booked our three night stay with a good internet rate, and we opted to add the buffet breakfast for each morning—an excellent decision. We cleaned up and went downstairs for dinner about 8:30. Both of us felt like having pasta, and a lovely plate of ricotta and spinach ravioli was perfect. Then it was a short trip up the elevator to our fourth floor room where we fell into bed.

Preserved antique harbour cranes near the museum loomed up as we crossed the old bridge into the centre of Bristol
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The hotel was a welcome sight when we finally arrived
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An arm of the Floating Harbour just outside the hotel
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Today's ride: 74 km (46 miles)
Total: 564 km (350 miles)

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