A good night’s sleep, coffee, some breakfast and we were out of the hotel and ready to go by 8 am. Finding your way out of a strange city at rush hour is never easy and Cheltenham was no exception. With only a couple of wrong turns we soon found ourselves on the busy A46 towards Stroud. Thus began the second of our five days of cycle touring. The previous day can be found here.
Not having fully checked the route created by Strava Route Builder I assumed that we would only be on the A46 for a mile or two at the most, and not the whole way to Stroud. Words cannot express how awful this road was; too busy and too narrow for bikes. We were both a bit frazzled by the time we dropped down into Stroud.
In hindsight I should have checked the route better, or at least have been able to re-route if we had needed to. We had pushed on hoping that my route would improve, but it didn’t.
Once we had safely made it to Stroud we had a sit down alongside the canal. I had a look on Google maps for an alternative route, just in case our route continued along the A46. I didn’t realise at the time that I could have looked at the route on Strava on my mobile app.
We set off blindly following our prescribed route, once again on the A46. Two very close passes saw Helen try to catch one car to punch him repeatedly in the face, and then have a small meltdown after the second very close pass. We pulled over to the side of the road and Helen threatened to catch a train home. Understandably she wasn’t happy, and to be honest it was my fault for not checking our route. I had another look on Google maps and noticed a disused railway line that had been converted to a cycle path running parallel to this section of the A46. Helen’s anger slowly dissipated, although a jogger not looking where she was going and a family with four dogs blocking the whole path didn’t help.
Fortunately at the town of Nailsworth our route joined a much quieter B road. From there the roads became quieter, the villages quainter and the rain more drizzly. We also cycled past a small housing estate called ‘Field View’. Not the most awe inspiring name. Ocean View or Mountain View would work, but Field View feels a little dull.
Just after midday we pulled into the incredibly posh village of Sherston, and declining the expensive looking hotel/café we grabbed a couple of sandwiches from the post office and relaxed on a bench in the mizzle.
From there we joined the Fosse Way, an old Roman road that originally ran from Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia). This meant that our route was now an almost straight line all the way into Bath. The Fosse Way is unusual as many sections are very quiet back roads, probably because it is very undulating. Most Roman roads have evolved and become busy A roads, so this section was a good road for cycling, apart from the one very steep hill which reduced Helen to walking. Being a gentleman I didn’t just wait at the top, I walked back down to meet Helen and pushed her bike up to the top. From there the last six or seven miles were mostly downhill, all the way to the centre of Bath. There were also a few cycle lanes which help us negotiate the traffic.
There was one final sting in the tail, a very big sting. Anyone who knows Bath will mention the hills, and the Youth Hostel was near the top of Bathwick Hill, a particular beast of a hill. It felt never ending at the time, but it probably explains why we saw so many e-bikes.
As with many Youth Hostels, the one on Bath was an old building, clean and tidy with very friendly and helpful staff. They were having some renovation work going on, so there wasn’t a bike store, but a safe place for our bikes was found. We had a small en-suite room with bunk beds, me on the top. After a shower we walked back down the hill into Bath for a look round and some food.
Suitably fed and watered we headed back to the hostel for a couple more beers and to see if we could watch Bake Off on the telly. It was showing but the bar was too busy to hear it, so by 8.30 we were tucked up in our bunks, all ready for a shorter days cycling the next day.