Summer Tour of Gloucestershire 2005 - by Eddie Graves
NORTHROADER’S SUMMER TOUR IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE 2005
by Eddie Graves
(Sometimes known as the last of the summer wine group)
When Adrian proposed Slimbridge in Gloucestershire as the base for our summer touring area it certainly looked promising – we were to stay at a well equipped Youth Hostel, near a pub with plenty of quiet lanes nearby, not far from the famous wildfowl trust area on the banks of the River Severn. We did notice however how close together the contour lines became, plus those little black arrows on the OS map when you travelled Eastwards towards Stroud! Our group for this tour: Adrian Kennett, Eddie Graves, Eric Jewell, Tony Giles, David Capon, Glyn Halliday and Peter Egan. Graham Thompson and Eddie Jones had intended to come, but were unable to. (Get well soon, Graham).
DAY ONE – MONDAY, JULY 18
We decided that travelling in convoy to Slimbridge was not practical and planned to meet at the hostel around midday and go for an afternoon ride. After the usual chinwagging we set off for the Gloucester Docks area which had, I had been assured, plenty of cafés. As we were soon to appreciate, the waymarked national cycle network routes are in absolute boon to the mapreader (usually me!) and can save time as you don’t have to keep stopping. The route in this case is No 41 which would take us right into Gloucester.
We set off along towards the nearby canal towpath which had a reasonable surface with some loose gravel. Having established with Adrian that this was acceptable as it was only for a couple of miles, we set off. There were a few grumbles from the back though. The alternative was the A38 – not an attractive proposition. Upon leaving the towpath we rode through delightful villages such as Frampton on Severn, Upper Framilode and Longney to arrive at the southern Gloucester suburb of Quedgeley. The OS map shows route 41 going right into the centre of Gloucester. This is achieved by clever sharing of footpath space for about a mile of main road than diving off onto quieter roads. It is not an ideal cycling environment, but a bit safer then sharing the roads with juggernauts.
We arrived at the docks and then found a café adjacent to the waterways museum. Gloucester Docks is a lively area with new riverside development under way. After a lazy hour or so and shelter from a quick shower, we carried on with the return journey. The consensus was that we should return on the other eastern side of the A38 so a bit more map reading was required to get us out of the traffic and into the lanes again. Our return journey was through Haresfield, Stonehouse, Leonard Stanley, Frocester, Cam and Dursley Station to Slimbridge. We had remained at the foot of the hilly district around Stroud – the hills were yet to come. Thirty four miles that afternoon – just cruising!
DAY TWO – TUESDAY, JULY 19
The weather was fine and breezy for our first full days ride. Glyn had left early to drive north for his daughter’s graduation and would return later in the day.
The plan was to ride to Chepstow via the Severn Bridge. We took route 41 again in a South Westerly direction, through Berkeley to Thornbury for elevenses. The breeze was against us – we should appreciate it behind us on the way back if it doesn’t change direction during the day! Everybody commented on the beauty of the ride – using very quiet lanes for over an hour with virtually very turn signposted for you – what more could you want? Of course there were a couple of riders who shall be nameless who still couldn’t work out that they were following a way marked route and missed turnings. After elevenses we managed to find our way onto the Severn Bridge cycle path which afforded magnificent views up the estuary towards Gloucester. It was still quite breezy so concentration was required and there was also an advisory maximum speed of 10 mph. Fortunately the cycle path is slightly lower than the road which gives some protection from side winds.
As we approached Chepstow most of us were getting hungry, so Adrian asked somebody if there were any cafés nearby. “Yes, just go down there, along a bit and there’s a garden centre and café.” We set off down steep hills and after a couple of miles found nothing. Was it a cruel trick by a cyclist hater? We shall never know. We all had to grovel back up the hills, but eventually found an
adequate pub in Chepstow and had a good lunch.
After lunch we rode around a bit looking for a bike shop as David was having trouble with his cleats. I am indebted to Peter Egan, assistant map reader, for getting us out of Chepstow more efficiently than I got everybody in.
We flew back across the bridge with the wind behind us and were soon back in the lanes. We stuck to route 41, bypassing Thornbury and made an easy run to Berkeley for tea with the wind on our backs. The café we had noticed earlier had just closed and our next enquiry about others found that it was the only café. “You might get a cup of coffee at the Hotel down there” a man said. I went to have a look and saw a sign “cream teas £3.50” this was accepted unanimously so we all piled in and had scones, jam, cream and several cups of tea. It was only about six miles to Slimbridge now so, full of cream teas, we cruised home. A very enjoyable day, 56 miles or thereabouts. My son, Dan, who lives in Gloucester rode down in the evening and we all met at the pub.
DAY THREE, WEDNESDAY, JULY 20
The day had arrived when we could not avoid the hills anymore. Peter had requested that we visit places called Stad and Painswick just to the North of Stroud so this gave us a destination for the days ride. We had to cross the A38 and the map showed some quiet lanes round the back of Slimbridge where we could cross over after a very short stretch of the A38. All very well until we found that they had
just resurfaced the lane – more loose gravel – more grumbling from the back. How was I supposed to know? We went via Kings Stanley and Selsey and began to sample the hills around Stroud. After a steep descent we arrived at a roundabout. There was a cycle route indicated on
the map, but I couldn’t find the starting point. After a bit of confusion, Sainsbury’s restaurant came to the rescue for elevenses.
After refreshments we had to battle our way around Stroud before joining a quieter B road which gently climbed to the hamlet of Stad. (We were at this point about three miles from where Terry and Amy Cleary live – we were to meet them later in the week). I apologise to Peter for not remembering the story attached to Stad – I think it involves a stone cross. A bit further along we turned west towards Painswick and a lunch stop. After a steep descent we thought we had chosen the easier route in, but no – a “wall” appeared in front of us and some of us got off and walked. No names, but I was one. We arrived in Painswick, a delightful town and soon found a nice café. After a leisurely lunch we assembled for a group photograph. We decided that the best way back would be to single file down the main road for the three or so miles back to Stroud. It was slightly down hill and the traffic wasn’t too bad. We eventually negotiated our way back towards Stonehouse and turned thankfully into the quieter lanes around Kings Stanley, retracing via Frocester and Cam and Dursley station, as our route on Monday afternoon. A shorter if hillier ride today, only 34 miles. Lazing around by the canal café at Slimbridge finished an enjoyable day.
DAY FOUR, THURSDAY, JULY 21
The attractive route 41 to Thornbury beckoned again. David had offered to help with the mapreading and suggested going via Yate after Thornbury. We went via Sharpness for a change where there is still a Docks complex on the Severn. A railway bridge used to cross the river at Sharpness, but this was damaged when a ship collided with the bridge piers in 1960, and the line closed completely. We continued on to Thornbury for elevenses.
Yate turned out to be a bit busy, but we found a pub for a decent lunch in the garden. With a little arm twisting, Peter offered to help with the map on the way back, and we were soon on our way back and we were soon in the lanes again heading Northwest to cross the A38 near Stone and make our way to Berkeley for another cream tea. Another enjoyable day, 53 miles or thereabouts. In the evening, after dinner, we all met Northroaders Terry and Amy Cleary at the local pub for a good old chinwag. A nice end to the day.
DAY FIVE, FRIDAY, JULY 22
I had to leave in the afternoon, so I only was able to ride during the morning. David’s son Christian, who lives in South Wales was due to join us, so we agreed to meet at the café in Berkelely for elevenses. The weather had been fine for most of the week, but had closed in somewhat today. After elevenses we parted company and I rode back to Slimbridge. I hear more hills were met in the Dursley area later on that day. Perhaps someone will report on the rest of the ride. The others were due to stay until Saturday morning.
It just remains for me to thank Adrian, as always for organising everything, his generosity, bicycle maintenance, looking after the elderly, etc., David and Peter for their help and everybody for their good company