x-England Part 8

The Barge Inn

Completed, finally, my coast-to-coast bike ride across England, in eight stages. Coincidently I finished the last leg exactly a year after I started the first. The final stretch was the uphill one, from Bath to Bedwyn. After wandering around Bath, visiting the Royal Crescent, Victoria Circus and Pulteney Bridge, I headed along the canal, crossing the river by a couple of aquaducts, and passing through Avoncliffe (a real honey-pot), Bradford-upon-Avon, and Trowbridge. Then continuing along the canal, a more mundane section eventually led to the Caen Hill locks. An impressive sight, the 15 locks raise canal-boats by 72m. The cycle path continues right along the hill, before heading into Devizes at the top.

By now I was half-way along the day’s stage and quite tired, but had to pick up speed to make a train leaving Bedwyn in only a few hours. So I generally kept to faster roads rather than following National Cycle Route 4, which meanders all over the place, determined to keep cyclists to the most minor of roads, even going three sides of a square. Later I dropped back down onto the canal, visiting Crofton Pumping House in the gathering gloom at the very top of the canal (200m above sea-level) before dropping gratefully back into Bedwyn – it was very definitely dark now. There was just enough time to grab a much-needed pint in the village pub, and watch the local youth play chicken with 200km/h trains, before catching my own one back to London. Bedwyn is a nice, quiet village, and a fitting place to finish my ride.

The last section was particularly painful – 75km is a fair way, but I’ve definitely lost some fitness compared with earlier in the year. It was nice to test out my new mountain bike on a proper day-ride though, rather than just on the commute to work.

My favourite part of my whole route from Weston-super-Mare to Whitstable was the section across Windsor Great Park. The most unpleasant section was definitely Sittingborne in Kent.

The complete photo gallery, in geographic order, is here.

My next bike ride will be through the Downs and Weald from Crawley to Eastbourne, via Eridge, along National Route 21. Any one up for joining me? It’s around 45 miles long and is 80% on paths, so should be really enjoyable.

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