"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
N Somerset Grimpeur Audax - May, 2018
A safely taken selfie on a long, straight and totally empty sunlit Somerset road...
This 160k route starts in Long Ashton so for me that made it a 190k from home, with 7 climbs to contend with along the way.
I was up and out at 7 and cruising the familiar roads of my morning commute (well, the scenic version) before I landed at the offical start in Long Ashton at 7.37. On the way I'd enjoyed empty roads as it was the Saturday morning of a bank holiday weekend, as well as a look at the deer grazing in Ashton Court in morning sunshine.
After checking in at the cash machine to get an official start time I was immediately on climb number 1 of the day - Providence Lane. It was the winding street of Keedwell Hill first then a left onto the lane to zig zag through the trees out of Long Ashton and break out on to the high ground near Failand. It was a pretty fresh morning and I was, as you can see from the selfie, wrapped in layers under a gilet. Rolling countryside led me towards the sea, with a dramatic descent offering views across the Somerset Levels before I rolled into the first control at Clevedon. It had only been around 20k so I just got a cash machine receipt and pushed myself on over the levels through Yatton and Churchill. After climb number 2 over Shipham I took the road I knew well going south out of Cheddar and it was only when I got past Wedmore that I took a turn I didn't recognise to find myself on unknown and unbelievably beautiful roads through the ancient landscape (known for its lake villages and prehistoric tracks).
Street was nicer than I remembered it from my days living around here...a charming place in the sunshine and Burns the Bread did a fabulous veggie sausage roll and muffin plus a drink which topped up the bottle. I saw on a stone wall opposite the bakery and munched and mused while the Saturday morning bustle began on the High Street. Back on the bike it was a straightforward slog to Wells on the A39, bypassing Glastonbury, so not much to say about that. Next came the lovely ride to Cheddar, first the scenic lane down to Wookey Hole and then up past the "not suitable for charabancs" sign to the long, steep drag up past Ebbor Gorge. This took a while and the views were ample compensation for the effort. At the top came through Priddy and then down the gorge to Cheddar.
The pic shows the green at Priddy with the hurdles stacked under their thatched shelter - these are the newest incarnation of the old hurdles used for the horsefair that still happens here - I remember coming to it in the 80s.
Cheddar had a cafe called The Cafe and I didn't bother looking for an altenative as it clearly did what it said on the tin, a small veggie breakfast for fuel and a decaf coffee (which really wasn't enough to hydrate me now that it was getting hot). By this stage I was down to jersey without gilet or armwarmers and it felt strange after such a long winter to be actually getting sun on my skin. Next up came the climb of Cheddar Gorge and despite the meal in Cheddar I stlll felt a bit drained - that long fast section over the levels to Street might have been a bit optimistic?
Legs a bit emptier than I'd hoped, I hauled my way up the gorge and over the mendips to road that passes the serene Chew Valley Lake. Chew Magna Co-op was the next Control and by now it was time for twix and lemonade! Even that sugar hit didn't get me back on form though and the climb back up past the Blue Bowl and on to the roof of the Mendips again was way too much. I had hit the wall. At the top I lied down and changed my socks - the windproof ones I'd had on for the cold early morning section were overheating my feet and making them feel crushed in my shoes - foot pain as well as leg and neck pain is not a great addition to a day's riding. Fortunately the relief was instant and I had a drink and got moving again.....slowly. I was worried about the 2 climbs to come, one of them the toughest of the day, but there's often a "comeback" late in the day on these 200k-ish rides and I was hoping that would happen again.
Down in Wells I had another feed at West Cornwall Pastie Co and then deployed the secret weapon - SIS Caffeine Shot. It worked. I was slowly picking my way up the mammoth climb of Old Bristol Road when I got passed by some end to enders who said the climb was easy after their testing ascents in Cornwall. A bit complacent perhaps as I passed them round the next bend where they had stopped in their tracks - perhaps not Cornwall but it is one of the well known Mendip ascents. Next came the retracing of the Mendip roads and the third - yes third -passing of Chew Valley Lake then the ups and downs of Pagan Hill and Windord with a view of Bristol I know well opening up beyond the reservoirs.
I was speeding up with the help of pastie and caffeine and felt good enough in Long Ashton to attempt the hilly route home - a climb back over Ashton Court!
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