LEJOG week two wrap-up
I’m now halfway through the LEJOG book tour: 13 days down, 13 to go, 490 miles down, around 500 to go. The halfway point on any tour is potentially difficult – I have as much to do as I’ve already done, and it seems an awfully long time ago that I left Land’s End. But the events are going well and the cycling so far has been terrific, so here’s hoping it continues.
I started this week with a short ride from Wells to Bath, tracing some of the old railway lines that once weaved their way through the Somerset countryside. I’d purposely planned a circuitous route that would take in the newly opened Two Tunnels Greenway, a Sustrans/Bath & NE Somerset Council joint venture that saw the reopening of two railway tunnels on the former Somerset and Dorset line. Approaching the tunnel entrance was fairly daunting (at over a mile long, the Combe Down tunnel is the longest cycling and walking tunnel in the UK) but lights throughout and a music installation partway through made it a pleasant, if eerie, experience.
My event in Bath was at Johns Bikes; I spoke to a small but attentive group, then headed off to the Bristol-Bath railway path to find a good spot to pitch my tent. A clearing by the River Avon partway along the path was perfect.
The next morning I continued along the disused railway path to arrive in Bristol, making it nearly 30 miles since I’d had to cycle amongst motor traffic. In Bristol I held two events, one at Roll for the Soul cycling cafe/workshop, and the other at Stanfords map and book shop. Both events were sold out and great fun.
There followed the most enjoyable day of cycling yet. The River Avon led me out of Bristol where I passed under Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge, then onwards to Avonmouth where I met the Severn. This is a heavily industrial area, and gives a wholly different experience to the traffic free riverside path of the earlier part of the day. I followed the banks northwards towards the older of the two Severn bridges, the ever-growing view of both the suspension bridge and the Second Severn Crossing (cable stayed bridge) a source of constant delight. Crossing the Severn by bike was utterly spectacular, if slightly terrifying!
From there the road ascended out of Chepstow, then descended towards Tintern to follow the luscious Wye Valley all the way to Monmouth; a delightful route of easy cycling and beautiful scenery.
I stopped overnight in Hereford then it was on to Shrewsbury where my event, organised by Pengwern Books, had a very small but very lovely audience, and after that it was on to Chester where I met my sister Sarah who had just caught a train up from London. I had an afternoon signing at the Waterstones then we were free to explore Chester, which was packed with people in posh frocks who’d been at the races.
Sarah and I rode to Manchester on Sunday, picking up the Transpennine trail just south of Warrington and following it along a disused railway line almost all of the way to Sale. Sarah then headed home on the train while I settled in at Jackson’s Boat pub, where I later gave a talk to a lovely group of cyclists, one of whom had arrived on a Penny Farthing!
A terrific week overall. I’m enjoying the events and the cycling has mostly been great, and there’s only been one day of rain since I started – not a bad score for 13 days on the road!