Channel to Channel Bike Ride, April 2015

With 2 months to go to my epic 400km ride on June 5th, I decided to start clocking up some 100 milers to get ready. The route that caught my eye was a coast to coast route from Portishead to Weymouth of around 90 miles. I started out from home and changed the route to include all road sections rather than the off-road and railway path sections that are there on the published map of NCR26, so in the end I reckon I clocked up 105 or maybe 110.

Heading off at 7am on a cold, grey, Spring morning I was glad the strong winds of the previous few days had subsided and I was able to tackle the Avonmouth Bridge without any hassle. First stop was Portishead Esplanade where I was able to contemplate the waters of the Bristol Channel for a few moments, grab a couple of pics and then start the route proper towards Clevedon.

To begin with I was following the route of our very own Self-Transcendence Triathlon that takes place here every Summer, so I was able to suffer the same climb up Nore Road that I see the competitors go through. Yes, it does kick up a bit at the end! Anyway the reward for that little slope is the ridge route of Down Road towards Clevedon, with epic views over the Bristol Channel and across to Wales.From Clevedon I took a familliar route through Kenn Moor to Yatton, glad that the light breeze was behind me for once, and then on to Congresbury. Around Churchill there was a brief stint on A road then back on to lanes up to Shipham. Now that's a proper climb, so I rewarded myself with a quick stop at the Lilypool Cafe for a hot chocolate before shivering on the descent to Cheddar. Next up it was over the levels to Wedmore and then the impressive approach to Glastonbury, which stands out like the island it used to be in a sea of peat moors and pastures.

I didn't hand around despite the profusion of cafes with great veggie foods, as I was subsisting on Go Bars and crackers and electrolyte drink and didn't feel it was early enough to eat. This is the mistake I always make - next time I take on this kind of distance, or something longer, I need to get the meals in earlier. I saw that the remaining two thirds of the route had it's half way mark roughly at Sherborne so I decided to hang on until then for a proper sit down break and some hot food. Soon after Glastonbury I found myself on Cinnamon Lane, where I had ridden a few months before to measure the 10k race route, then a turn on to a single track lane wound across the levels to Baltonsborough. You don't see many traveller vehicles around these days - as an ex traveller I tend to notice them more than most - but here in Glastonbury there were several, especially on the quiet roads of the levels where trucks were pulled in at laybys and the ends of droves.

Heading cross country on tiny lanes towards Bruton I passed this lovely old mill, the waters cascading through the building but no longer turning any mill wheel. My legs were turning over well, but I was starting to run short of calories and I realised I'd have to ration what food I had left to get to Sherborne without an energy dip.Quiet English villages and virtually car-free roads unwound before me in succession as my legs began to tire and my speed began to flag (or at least it seemed to - I wasn't recording mileage or speed in any way, as this was all about time spent in the saddle).

Crossing the A303 at Sparkford I lost touch with NCR26 (which I'd been following since Glastonbury) but I had a rough routesheet to follow stuck to my handlebars and knew that I had to head for Corton Denham. The lane threaded it's way through a hidden valley and over a small pass in smooth, green hills. Down the other side came the tiny villages of Corton Denham and Sandford Orcas, then signposts led me down a dry valley to the bottom of a ridge on which was built the ancient town of Sherborne. Up and over the ridge I descended into the town and discovered an artisan bakery with what looked like at least one veggie option in the window.

As it turned out the whole menu was veggie and I treated myself to a sit-in meal of sweet potato and spinach pastry with a mug of quality tea. Delicious but I was too keen to get moving again and should have had a cake or two as well to really replace the carbs I was depleating as I clocked up the miles. A friendly copper helped me find the right road out towards Bradford Abbas, again this was part of the National Cycle Route and I passed a few riders coming the other way.

After Sherborne the road took me to more tiny villages - Clifton Maybank seemed to be just a manor house and not much else - so when I got to Maiden Newtonit was high time to get more calories - a twix and coffee in the petrol station. For some reason a twix always seems to hit the spot. I have a theory that the twix resembles a pair of legs to it puts energy into your legs in a way that a mars bar couldn't. Clearly nonsensical but the twix works for me :)

Legs refuelled and feeling punchy after having felt rather fatigued for the previous few miles, I steamed out of Maiden Newton following NCR26 signs only to find they led to a section of drove that was not suitable for a road bike. Much like the chalky, stony farm tracks around the village where I grew up, this was a lovely route for a trail run but no place to take my Specialized Allez! So I retraced my route to the middle of Maiden Newton, back past the garage and out on the A road towards Dorch. A road? Well, officially yes but pretty quiet and following a pleasant valley. There were only a few miles of genuinely busy road and then I was able to turn through Charminster and into Dorch proper past a field of Llamas.

From here the route was going to be all A road, and a genuinely busy one too, so I was relieved to see a fantastic cycleway - smooth, straight and uninterrupted all the way along it's route. The sun broke through and with only five miles to go I crossed the road at a high point on a cycleway-and-farm-vehicle-bridge, catching my first glimpse of the English Channel.

The cycleway continued right into Weymouth and with 8.5 hours on the clock I rolled up to the promenade for a finishing selfie and a short meditation on the waters of the channel, glinting in the afternoon sun. Memories of the two triathlons I've completed in this bay came flooding back and I started to wonder if my running would be back on track for another tri some time this summer? Here's hoping. More long bike rides first though, as judging by the way my legs felt on this one I need more training before I tackle the Avalon Sunrise, more than twice the distance!


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