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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Cycling in West London and the West of England 23-24 November 2008 Part 2

After a sumptuous breakfast at the hostel, I drove to Bathampton, a pretty village which, notwithstanding a toll road, has a constant stream of traffic flowing through it – poor residents! I rode east along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, which forms part of Route 4, via the Dundas and Avoncliff Aqueducts, to Bradford on Avon, where I had left off riding NCR4 a couple of years ago. See pic of strange-looking new age canal boat! Then back to Bathampton by the same route, taking in a well-needed cup of tea at Avoncliff.

Next I headed east on the canal towpath, to Bath city center, and from there onto the holy of holies, the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, that icon of Sustrans routes; the first route of the NCN. To begin with, this was through beautiful countryside, following the River Avon, which it crosses a few times. Then I came across the Avon Valley Railway, a heritage railway which runs parallel to the trail for a few miles, and which I didn’t even know existed. Alas, nothing in steam today! There were a lot of slogans painted on the path, which I thought had formed part of the recent campaign to stop the BBRP becoming a busway or route for any other form of public transport. But, in fact, it soon became apparent that they were the work of some Victor Meldrew-type character who seems to be campaigning against the railway (example: “Nicer here, no fences, no rails, no smelly train, just kids. 3 out of 4 ain’t bad”). The first time I have seen such outbursts against a heritage railway! Gradually the path climbs to Mangotsfield station and the well-lit Staple Hill Tunnel, then descends more rapidly into Bristol. I couldn’t stay long: stopping to look at the many wonderful pieces of cycleway scupture (see pics) had cost me a lot of time. Thus, my pilgrimage complete, having seen the outsides of both the cathedral and the Sustrans HQ, I headed straight back. It was very dark when I arrived in Bath and I made my way gingerly along the towpath to Bathampton. The weather had stayed fine all day, although both my bike and I were filthy from Erewash Canal-style puddles. 90 km.

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