Day 1 across the Moors and Levels

I left home at a few minutes after 9, seen off by Annie and Jim. About 100 yards up the road I met Rob so stopped and chatted. I think they’re all glad to see the back of the old man for a couple of weeks but praying I don’t bring back Covid. Given that the Welsh hotspots are Caerphilly and the Valleys, which I shall avoid, I certainly hope I won’t be affected.

Today’s journey covered roads and tracks with which I am, mostly, familiar. Certainly the early route to Glastonbury is a road often travelled and on a lovely sunny day was most enjoyable. Silage making was happening on Kennard Moor, south of Glastonbury. It seemed a trifle extravagant in that they were wrapping small bales which must involve an excessive amount of plastic wrap but I suppose they were considering the waste that might happen if feeding small amounts to stock over the winter. I arrived at about 11am just as the hippies who occupy caravans and motor homes in various stages of dilapidation, all the way along the drove, were waking up and taking the air.  I’m a bit surprised that they weren’t made to move on with the Covid situation but they’ve been there for several decades now and I don’t suppose they’ll move anytime soon.

I cycled through the middle of town and out on the road to Godney which has a most eccentric pub/restaurant, the Sheppey Inn that has been described as a bit bonkers and sits alongside the river after which it is named, in the middle of nowhere.  It has a reputation for craft beer, cider and jazz and folk music and produces some very good food.  The day we were there we ate delicious roasted goat.  In August it was up for sale for just shy of £1 million but whether or not is has sold I can’t say.  Anyway I hope that new owners don’t try to change it too much.

Onwards across the well-named moors and levels, looking dry and parched in places, with no sign of the floods that cut off villages and hamlets during the winter. I hit the road from Wells to Cheddar at Pantborough and on through the pretty village of Wedmore with its extraordinary pharmacy built originally as a private residence in the Italianate style.  The road goes up and down and, with the warm weather, I was puffing a bit at the top of the small hills but soon reached the outskirts of Cheddar which I by-passed as I hit the Strawberry Lines cycle track which follows the route of the now defunct Cheddar Valley and Yatton railway.  It was known as the Strawberry Line because of the volume of locally grown strawberries that it carried and the name has now stuck with a route that allows for mainly off road cycling from the north Somerset coast to the Dorset coast in the south.  There were a lot of cyclists enjoying the sunshine and light winds on my way through the Shute Shelve tunnel which avoids a significant climb over the hills just short of Winscombe.  It is extraordinary how cold such tunnels are, even on a day when the temperature hit 26 degrees but I was soon through it and at Yatton which marks the end of the cycle route. 

At one point a massive factory had been built by Thatcher’s cider and the cycleway was diverted, ending up for a short stretch on a road

I had intended to have lunch in Yatton but the Strawberry Lines Café was most unwelcoming and the Railway Inn difficult to leave my bike so, as I wasn’t especially hungry, I carried on to Clevedon where I stopped at the M & S garage for a meal deal of a wrap, Tango and a Snickers which at £4.95, didn’t seem much of a deal, but filled a hole.  There were several other cyclists with the same idea.

When you motor along the M5 past Clevedon there is a steepish climb but I was able to avoid this by sticking to some back roads that make their way along the vale behind Conygar quarry.  This took me all the way to Easton in Gordano where, after a few wrong turns, I joined up with the cycleway across the Avonmouth Bridge. It’s quite a steep climb up onto the bridge but the track is wide and well surfaced and I stopped in the middle of the bridge to take a picture looking up river towards Bristol.

I now had about 6 miles of well surfaced National Cycle Rout 41 which ducked and dived through Lawrence Weston at one point taking me to a track closure which I was, fortunately able to avoid by taking to the road

just as St Bede’s College was turning out for the day which caused me some delay avoiding buses and children.  The track now headed back towards the Severn Estuary past some vast sheds housing, amongst others, Amazon, before joining up with main roads at Chittening. However there was a good cycleway alongside the road, keeping me away from traffic until I passed

over the M4 on its way to the new Severn Bridge.  I needed to keep going north to the old Severn crossing, a much prettier structure, although I was unable to get a picture today, which has a good cycleway unlike its new sister.  Unfortunately this involved cycling along a busy section of road, which I was pleased to leave just past Aust, and take to a permissive path that leads to the bridge.  Now 70 or so miles into the journey on a warm day I was beginning to feel a bit tired and stopped several times, including in the middle of the bridge to try to take a picture of the new crossing: however at 4.30 the sun was directly in my face and the result, though arguably artistic, doesn’t do it justice!

The last three miles were uncomfortable.  I managed to get myself off a perfectly good cycleway and onto a busy road so I was pleased to arrive at The Two Rivers Hotel which is run by Marstons and afforded me cheap accommodation and pub grub. 

Tomorrow I take to the south Welsh coast.

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