Saturday, 7 November 2009

Weston Super Mare to Bridgwater - 31 October 2009 - 25 Miles

I arrived at Weston Super Mare at 10:00 after a pleasant and punctual rail trip. I made straight for the Tesco store where I stocked up on sandwiches for the journey. On arrival at the seafront I was delighted to see that a start had been made on rebuilding the pier pavilion after the recent fire. This made a welcome change from its forlorn state earlier in the year. If they can do it so quickly at Weston Super Mare, why can't they at Brighton?

Traveling south, the seafront was very attractive. Work was in progress to improve the promenade whilst the appearance of a number of new buildings and the smart Atlantic Hotel all served to enhance the area. I soon reached Uphill at 10:35, a quiet, unspoiled village with the gateway to Uphill Manor guarding the way in. The village is overlooked by the remains of a stone windmill.

After Uphill, the way followed a cycle along the A370 until a right turn led into minor roads which included a stretch alongside the main railway line. The countryside here had an "uncared for" feel about it and the road meandered until I arrived in Brean at 11:20. If you love caravan sites, Brean is for you (but not me).

I visited Berrow flats, where you can still park your car on the beach and then cycled though Berrow at 11:50, reaching Burnham on Sea by 12:10. Both Berrow and Burnham are unremarkable, although Burnham is pleasant enough after seeing so many caravans. Then along the Brue (not Blue) River Way into Highbridge at 12:30 which is a run-down and depressing place. The route then followed the A38 and minor roads through Huntspill, Stretcholt(1250) and Dunball (1325).

The cycle path alongside the A38 was then followed into Bridgwater which proved to be a very attractive place. Of particular note were the Canal Basin (Marina) a curved row of terraced houses the Old Market and the Parish Church. I drank a well earned coffee at the half-timbered Carnival Inn before catching my train to Bristol. A meal at the Dragon near Temple Meads Station set me up for the journey home.

View the pictures

Sunday, 27 September 2009

West Hythe to Dover - 26 September 2009 - 15 Miles

If you are traveling to Westenhanger by rail, make sure you travel in the one of the front four carriages! I was ready to leave the train as it stopped, but the door remained resolutely closed when I pressed the button. After a short stay, the train moved of so I chased the guard down the train. He was very apologetic as, when he checked my ticket earlier, he failed to point out that I was in the fifth carriage. The journey thus far had been unremarkable, leaving Birmingham International at 6:20, taking the tube from Euston to Victoria via Embankment as the Victoria Line was closed. (It always is when I travel across London).

Two miles down the line from Westenhanger at Sandling (1009), I commenced my cycle ride to Dover, first negotiating minor roads and cycle lanes to reach the Royal Military Canal at West Hythe (1033). This second largest military installation in England (the largest is Hadrians Wall) makes for a very pleasant journey on foot or, for today, on bike.

I soon reached Hythe (1052) which is an attractive, well maintained, bustling seaside town. A particular feature is the town fountain mouted into the wall next to the main road. Unfortunately, too many people were crowding round it to allow a picture to be taken. In these days of the "Nanny State" and health and safety rules, the presence of a communal drinking fountain must be rare.

Leaving Hythe along the promenade, I cycled several miles in to Sandgate (1120) which was rather unremarkable except for a few interesting buildings and the remains of Sandgate Castle.

Folkestone (1135) has clearly seen better days as some attractive old buildings are rapidly becoming crumbling ruins. It has a lot going for it with the harbour, funicular railway and a quaint cobbled road by the quay. More could and should be done to restore this place.

From the harbour, the way rises steeply via some steps at the end of the promenade and the road onto Creteway Down above Folkestone. The route takes the traveler past Martello Towers and the site of a Roman Villa. Fine views of Folkestone and beyond caon be found at Creteway Down.

The route then descends into Dover via the Battle of Britain Monument at Capel-le Ferne (1300) and a defunct army training ground complete with defensive blockhouses. On the descent into Dover I (or rather my bicycle) suffered a puncture and a few minutes were lost while I changed the tube. Dover was the same busy port I visited back in June, so, having rested by the quayside for a few minutes, I made my way to the local Wetherspoon Pub (1421). There I had a sausage, chips and beans washed down with a pint of guest ale.

I caught an earlier train to Victoria, so I was able to take my time cycling to Euston across London via Buckingham Palace, St James's Park, Trafalgar Square and Chinatown. At Euston, I enjoyed a well earned baguette and latte before boarding the train home.

See the pictures

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Minehead to County Gate - 25/26 August 2009 - 18 Miles

This was to have been a walk as far as Lynmouth, but poor weather conditions during the second day dictated that I abandon the walk before completion.

Minehead to Silcombe Farm - 25 August - 12 Miles
Unusually, this trip started late (for me) in order to take advantage of cheap advance rail fares with Cross-Country Trains. I caught the 0942 train from Birmingham New Street, arriving punctually at Taunton by 1200. There was a short wait at the station before the First Number 28 bus took me to Minehead via a number of villages en-route. I finally arrived at Minehead at 1340 and commenced my walk.

My first impressions of Minehead were the large tent-like structure to the right along the seafront and the wooded hill of Higher Town dotted with posh houses to the left. I turned left and climbed out of Minehead along a footpath, then a minor road and finally onto the Southwest Coast Path, which was well defined - more like a track. The track rose through woodland and onto moorland carpeted with heather. The walking was easy and the 4.5 miles to Selworthy Beacon was quickly reached at 1512.

Eventually, the path dropped steeply to the left of Hurlstone Point to meet the sea. The path turned left under Hurlstone Point and followed a tranquil stream into the village of Bossington (1605). Bossington is attractive, quiet and unspoilt. It has a variety of houses of different periods and styles and, in my opinion, is a much more pleasant place than neighboring Porlock or Porlock Weir.

Onwards to Porlock (1605) which has some lovely buildings, but is spoilt by the large numbers of cars that obstruct the main road and impede photography. Porlock Weir was built as a harbour when Porlock became silted. The harbour now mainly contains pleasure boats and is in need of repair and maintenance.

A path then crosses several meadows and climbs to Worthy Toll, a charming stone building, which, for £2 allows the motorist a more scenic route to Lynmouth than the A39 which runs close by. A little further on, the walker reaches the site of Ashley Combe, an Italianate style country house built by the first Earl Lovelace in 1799. Unfortunately, the house was demolished in 1974 and all the walker can appreciate is to pass through two short tunnels built, presumably, to hide the passing rambler from the occupiers.

Further on, Culbone Church nestles in a wooded valley. This lovely building has the distinction of being the smallest parish church in England. I was also informed that Culbone is also probably the smallest parish in England as the number of parishioners living within its boundary numbers just eight. A mile further on, following a stiff climb out of the woods, I reached Silcombe Farm at 1815.The farm house is set in an attractive valley overlooking the Bristol Channel and beyond to Wales. I was warmly greeted and presented with a pot of tea on my arrival. The bedroom was rather small, but scrupulously clean and provided with a comfortable bed. This was more than compensated for by having the run of the comforable guest lounge which was more than adequately supplied with TV, Hi-Fi and books.

Silcombe Farm to County Gate - 26 August - 6 miles
I slept well, woken only occasional by the wild wind and beating rain outside. By morning, the weather had abated somewhat although it was still raining. Breakfast in the elegant dining room was of (very) full English English variety which really set me up for walking, which I commenced at 0845.

At first the weather was reasonably kind and I reached Broomstreet Farm by 0910. Although it was still raining, I had good waterproofs and was sheltered from the wind by the High Hedges. On reaching "The Combe", it was getting ever darker and both wind and rain were intensifying. I decided to head for safety rather than the uncertainties of Countisbury Head, arriving at County Gate by 1035. Within 5 minutes, I was on the Number 300 bus heading for Lynmouth.

I spent a couple of hours looking around a lovely but wet Lynmouth before catching the 300 bus back to Minehead. I was disappointed with Minehead as there was a lot of cheap and nasty development amongst the older, more substantial buildings built using local stone. Thence on to Taunton, a much nicer town which I wondered around before catching the 1853 train back to Birmingham.

Photographs of the trip

Friday, 21 August 2009

Rochester to Herne Bay - 30 May 2009 - 39 Miles

This was the first serious attempt to complete one off my trips by Bike (see following post for details). I took the 0600 train from Birmingham International and arrived at Rochester still quire early in the morning.

From Rochester, a good track ran alongside the Thames for a few miles, past hulks of barges, reminders of London's great days as a major port. Minor road through the pretty villages of, Upchurchand Lower Halstow, took me to Sittingbourne, one of the least interesting towns I have visited.

Onwards, via lovely Conyer, Teynam Street and Davington to Faversham. Now, a town with a brewery at its heart cannot be bad. On arrival, I was beckoned in by the Shepherd Neame Brewery. Progressing further, O came across the delightful, well preserved Market Square.

This was followed by a stiff ride against the wind through Graveney to the sea at Graveney Marshes, then onwards to Whitstable. I have seen many photographs of Whitstable and was not disappointed with what I found there. There was a generally relaxed air among the holidaymakers and this is definitely on the list of places to revisit at leisure.

The wind was freshening from the east, so I cycled my way slowly through the lines of beach huts, listened to the band in the pier pavillion and ate a meal at the wetherspoon pub before progressing to the station and home.

Photographs of the trip

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Herne Bay to Dover - 27 June 2009 - 44 Miles

I have been traveling around the coast of England for many years and, having completed over 50% of the distance, I decided that the assistance of a bike would be required if the project is to be completed. In the Spring, I purchased a Dahon "Speed" ("Sturdy" or "reliable" would be a more realistic name). The bike does have the advantage of folding to a fairly small size so that it can be carried on all trains and the majority of buses. It has seven gears which make it adaptable to most terrains.

This was the second serious day out with the bike.

I arrived at Birmingham International Station before 0600, to take the first train to London. The ticket was cheap, but offset by the £6 parking charge. The train delivered me to Euston Station on time, followed by something of a hassle to negotiate the Underground with a folded bike. I eventually reached Victoria Station and caught a train to Herne Bay, arriving at 0927.

The outskirts of Herne Bay were unexciting, but soon found myself at Reculver with its attractive ruined church by the sea.

An even ride along the seafront brought me to Margate (1055) a well known resort. I did not feel inclined to linger here, but carried on to Broadstairs (1130) which was much more attractive and would deserve a second visit. I particularly liked the old world harbour area and the impressive architecture of many of its buildings. Broadstairs also has the feeling of a town which is loved and cared for by its inhabitants.

Ramsgate (1150) is a more workmanlike port, but none the less attractive for it. I sat and devoured a hot bacon butty from a local stall while I sat and watched the movements of the ferries in the harbour.

The ride to Sandwich was uninteresting, on a segregated path alongside the main road, but the arrival at 1240 was well worth the effort. Sandwich was one of the original Cinque Ports, has a lovely riverside setting and retains many of its old buildings.

Onwards to Deal, a seemingly unending seaside sprawl at 1330 after a ride against the wind past two golf courses. The way ahead now became a steady incline and moved away from the coast to reach St Margaret at Cliffe. After that effort, the descent into Dover at 1530 seemed much more straight forward.

Due to engineering works on the railway, a bus had to be taken to Folkestone, followed by a return journey to Birmingham International. On the way back, a minor mishap on the escalator resulted in a broken pedal - must be more careful in future! Since the cycling was now complete, this did not spoil things.

Photographs of the trip

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Whitehaven to Gretna - 28/29 July 2009 - 77 Miles

Carlisle to Gretna - 12 Miles
I took the early train from Birmingham to Carlisle. The journey was disrupted because someone had stolen signal cabling from the side of the track overnight. In the event, I was only 15 minutes late into Carlisle. There was some rain as the train passed by the Lake District, but it remained fine, but fairly cloudy for almost the rest of the day. The temperature was not too hot - ideal for cycling.

Leaving Carlisle at 1015, I cycled 12 miles to Gretna via Rockcliffe, which is a small village with an attractive church. Leaving Rockcliffe there is a nice view of Castletown House. Apart from this, the road is fairly featureless with an approach to Gretna along a new road which runs parallel to the recently extended M6. Gretna, where I arrived at 1145, turned out to be something of a disappointment, although in fairness, I didn't visit the main tourist attractions.

I then travelled by bus to Whitehaven via Carlisle. My folding bike fitted in really well.

Whitehaven to Maryport - 15 Miles
Whitehaven is a bustling town with an attractive port, largely given over to pleasure craft. Leaving at 1500, I cycled via Lowca, an former coal mining town and through Workington where I arrived at 1615. I saw little of this town as the route passes through miles of parkland until the River Derwent is crossed over an old railway bridge.

The route onwards followed the line of the main road until a cycle track dipped into
breezy and wet Maryport at 1700. I stayed the night at the Waverley Hotel which had the advantage of being cheap, but had seen better days.

Maryport to Carlisle - 50 Miles
I made a start at 0700 the following day and rode along the sea front through Allonby (0800) (Famous for ice cream), and Silloth (photo) (0900)which has a busy port. The route then took me through Abbeytown (0930) (little of the Abbey left, but the stones much in evidence in local houses), Newton Arlosh (1000), Anthorn (1100), Cardurnock (1130) to Bowness on Solway (1200). From here the route follows the lone of Hadrian's Wall with views of Scotland across the Solway Firth. All that remains of Hadrian's Wall is an earth bank which runs all the way to Carlisle.

At 1300. I stopped at the pub (next to the statue of Edward I) in Burgh by Sands where I had a superb filled potato. The onwards via a very muddy cycle track by the River Eden and back into Carlisle (1500). I had time to look around Carlisle and found it to be a very interesting city. Great effort had been made to preserve as much as possible of the old parts of the city (including an impressive cathedral).

Then back to Carlisle Station and another delayed and diverted journey home.

Photographs of the trip