Bridges rivers stones and sandwiches

Tuesday 11 November 2014 Filed in: General

Elite endurance athlete Dom Irvine shares with us a 240 mile ride with his new tandem partner Charlie.

When the weather starts closing in, and the forecast is increasingly grim, the desire to exercise diminishes. What helps is finding those unusual or beautiful places to cycle. And so, at 5:00am Charlie and I left Alresford in Hampshire for a long day out covering just shy of 240 miles.

The early hours were quiet, with just the occasional fox barking and owl hooting. By the time we had reached Upavon, it was light, and we rolled along the top edge of Salisbury plain on a road I love, and eventually towards Bath. A snapped gear cable nearly brought the ride to a premature end, but the wonderful and helpful services of a local bike shop repaired the damage, made us a coffee and had us on our way again 30 minutes later.

Bristol rivalled Venice as flash flooding turned roads into rivers and roundabouts islands. We soldiered on to the old Severn Bridge. There is a mile long pathway for cyclists and pedestrians on the edges of the bridge that offers stunning views of both the estuary and the incredible engineering that went into the structure. It's well worth doing.

Up to Monmouth next, passing the beautiful ruins of Tintern Abbey. The road hugs the Wye valley crossing from one side ot the other and the views and sense of peace make this a special place to ride. Next through the Forest of Dean. The leaves of the trees providing a rich tapestry of colour against the damp grey sky.

Once again the country-side changes as we leave Gloucester and Cheltenham behind. We're now in the Cotswolds. Open fields and never ending roller coaster roads that take you through groups of villages with names such as 'The Slaughters' and 'The Swells'.

Context is everything. The cheese rolls and coffee served to us by friends In Stow-On-The-Wold were delicious and as far as we were concerned at that stage in the ride, it was Haute Cuisine.

Darkness returned as we passed Burford and the simply huge military base at Brize Norton. A road closure just South of Stanford in The Vale meant a detour over Blowing Stone Hill. According to legend if you can get a note out of the stone by blowing through the fissures and it can be heard on top of Uffington White Horse Hill you will be the future King of England. With just under fifty miles left, neither us us felt inclined to try.

With Guy Fawkes night just passed, the evening sky was filled with fireworks and the occasional acrid smell of bonfires. Just south of Kingsclere, some hardy souls had walked up onto the top of White Hill for their display.

The last few miles were passed in the warm satisfaction of having completed a great ride through some stunning scenery. Thoughts began to drift towards finding the next excuse for a grand day out. I'm thinking of a route that takes in all the White Horses in Hampshire and WIltshire.


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