Here are some reports of a 500 mile bike ride down the Mississippi River from its source to Dubuque, Iowa. It’s nice folksy tale which you should pass on to anyone who thinks that undertaking something of this magnitude is just for the tougher types among us.
If every reader of this blog were to persuade a cycling, but non-touring friend to do a ride along a river, from source to mouth, we might get a lot more people cycletouring. River suggestions: River Test (Whitchurch – Southampton), River Severn (Newtown to Chepstow) , River Trent (Biddulph to Humber Estuary), the River Thames etc – the choices are endless.
Everything in the UK is small in comparison to those vast countries where epic journeys are made. Nevertheless, the old adage that the best things come in small packages applies very much to the UK, particularly when it comes to its landscape. A crowded little island we might be, but there’s still much that is unspoiled and utterly beautiful.
The recent – current even – patch of unbelievably clement autumn weather coincided with a Pennine Cycleway tour reunion which was held in the Cotswold Hills, these being close to where our volunteer reunion co-ordinator lives. The Cotswolds, for the geographically uncertain, is a small area of high country situated between Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester, to name three towns that many will be familiar with. Whilst disappointing as hills – it’s more of a plateau, hence my term ‘high country’ – there are, nevertheless, hills to be reckoned with in a cycling sense, so the area is not without its challenges. The climbs come about from having to ascend to the Cotswold plateau from the surrounding countryside and are also created because of the deep river valleys which dissect the region. These valleys are attractively wooded, but what makes the Cotswolds so special are the villages, built almost exclusively from the local stone. As a well-known picturesque area, it does heave with visitors at weekends, the worst place perhaps being Bourton-on-the-Water, but as cyclists we can simply stop briefly to enjoy tea and cake and be on our way before the average tourist has found somewhere to park!
Information for visitors to the Cotswolds is abundant – just Google for it. If you would like to tour it on a bike, here is the ‘ultimate Cotswold Tour’. Starting and finishing in Winchcombe the route makes for Charlbury in a clockwise direction, via the Slaughters, Bourton, Stow, Enstone and Dean. After spending the night there, it returns to Winchcombe by a more southerly route via Burford, Northleach and Andoversford. Approx 140kms and surprisingly few big hills. An added bonus is that you can pick up several British Cycle Quest checkpoints on your way round. CTC members can view the route and download the information from http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/. A map of the route can be seen below, together with links to the very satisfactory accommodation we used. Finally, to view some photographs from the weekend, follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markw48/sets/72157627746086051/show/ (With the usual thanks to my two best models, Carol and Karen!)
Yours truly is heading off to Derby tomorrow morning to ride this fabulous route for the third time. It’s that good that it needs to be done on an annual basis simply as a reminder as to how beautiful and varied our landscape is. Enjoy the photos from past trips here http://www.flickr.com/photos/markw48/sets/72157626874750330/show/
IT’S ALL DONE, DUSTED AND BEEN THOROUGHLY ENJOYED BY ALL WHO DID THE TRIP. LOOK OUT FOR AN ARTICLE IN ‘CYCLE’ MAGAZINE ON THE TRIP IN THE OCTOBER / NOVEMBER ISSUE. YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE PHOTOS FROM THIS TRIP HERE.
In searching for links to information on the route, I’m over the moon to discover that no less a mortal than John Grimshaw feels the same way as I do. Here’s what it says on the Pennine Cycleway website:
The Pennine Cycleway (National Cycle Network no. 68) takes in some of the most spectacular yet remote countryside in the country and is a challenging but stunning ride along the length of the ‘Spine of England’, it is also England’s longest leisure cycle-route with 80% on quiet lanes and minor roads and 20% on traffic free trails.
“Can there be a better route than the C2C across the Pennines? The answer is, yes and that route is the Pennine Cycle Way. I think that this has more splendour, more variety, more memorable features, more open spaces and more magic, especially as it threads its way high above industrial England either side of the Pennines, than any other part of the National Cycle Network”
John Grimshaw – director and founder of Sustrans
Surprisingly there are no particularly interesting websites about the ride, but if you know of any… Probably better to just get out there and ride it!
http://www.bikeit.eclipse.co.uk/links.htm describes tours in Italy and rides in the Lake District and other parts of northern England. There are ways and ways to describe tours and they don’t get much better than this. And don’t forget to have a gander at the ‘Cycling Before Lycra pages. They bred ’em tough in those days! The links page is sound too. Allan Nelson deserves a medal for this site. (With apologies to Cycle Clips for using their material, but this belongs here too!)
‘Cycle West’ is a EUR 8.6 million project to improve and market almost 2,000 km of cycle routes, and generate a huge boost in tourism in the process.
The press launch is next week in London and if you’re interested in finding out more, then this link should help provide some background information. I like the bit about filling in the gaps in cycle routes – if it takes an initiative such as this to achieve such an outcome, then so be it (I suppose).
In the past there were issues with Brittany Ferries favouring motorists over humble cyclists but, to their credit, they sorted the matter out when it was pointed out to them that their existing pricing structure was grossly unfair. The trouble is, if you want to get to western France from the West Country, there is no choice – you have to use Brittany Ferries. The issues above came to a head in 2006 and it’s been very quiet on that front since then, so one must assume that all is still well. I have no doubt someone will say if it isn’t.