Friday, 2 September 2011

Clavelshay- Burnham on Sea- Weston Super Mare- Newport

Our final day of this year's tour was our longest day yet, albeit on relatively flat ground. After an amazing night's sleep courtesy of Couchsurfer friends Nick and Rachel, we were treated to a brief breakfast and were on our bikes at the bright and early time of 8:15am. This was all so our hosts to get to work on time! What a fantastic couple.

Despite there not being a cloud in the sky, the cold, damp air rose from the trees and fields of the countryside giving us a quick wake-up as we descended into Bridgwater which was 8km north-east. A quick stop for a croissant and we were making quick progress towards our first station of the day- Burnham-on-Sea.

Nick outside Burnham-on-Sea RNLI station. I like to think of this as his 'first day of school' pose.

It was, like many of the seaside towns we have visited on this trip, a town filled with Victorian architecture that had rather sadly suffered from the neglect brought on by the explosion of foreign holidays in the last 100 years. The residents we met were friendly and willingly directed us towards the RNLI station which was rather oddly located around the back of a Morrisson's supermarket. It was winning no awards with us- you could not even go up to the building because the whole area was gated off. We got our photo with help from an old man who commented on the fact I hadn't shaved in a few days... he somehow managed to make me feel rather ashamed of my appearance despte the fact I had, until that point, been operating under the impression that some stubble made me look a bit more like I cycled around the country full-time. Oh well.

Good quality, flat roads delivered us to Weston Super Mare more quickly than we had expected. It may sound boring to most but road condition and gradient become important topics of conversation that never seem to grow old. We could probably tell you the exact point at which we crossed from Cornwall into Devon without the aid of signs, based purely on the type of tarmac used and investment made in the infrastructure for road users. If you're interested, Cornwall roads were better than Devon's... but I suspect you're not.

Weston Super Mare was our last station of this trip- we cycled into the town with a great sense of expectation, gasping for a celebratory cup of tea. Having cycled all the way along the promenade, towards the orange and blue boat we could see in the distance our excitement grew. It was therefore a great dissappointment to find out that it was impossible to actually get to the station as a regular member of the public. This was because the boat was at the end of the old pier which was in a pretty sorry state and clearly posed a health and safety risk. Only crew were allowed onto the pier to get the the station and the boat. We therefore had to have our final photo taken 500m infront of the station!

Weston Super Mare RNLI Station (at the end of the derelict pier)

On our way into Weston Super Mare

We milled around the end of the pier for longer than we had planned, motivation was running thin. I pointed out several times that there was indeed a passenger ferry from Weston Super Mare to Penarth (the next station along in Wales) which cut out 80km of cycling and didn't contraviene any of our 'rules' about river and estuary crossings. I tried my best to convince Nick that we should take this, but he insisted that we cross the Severn Bridge as he wanted to cross all the major bridges of Britain as part of the trip. Up to this point I was completely unaware that Nick had a secret love of bridges but it turns out that even after 15 years of friendship there are some skeletons in the closet.

He managed to convince me that it would be worth it and we made our way (via rather uninspiring but fast A-roads) to Bristol- under the Clifton Suspension Bridge at which point I couldn't help but notice that Nick's was gazing at the bridge with an expression I've only ever seen him reserve for his beautiful wife. Was his love of bridges getting too much? I was worried.

Rad in front of the Clifton Suspension Bridge

When we got to the Severn bridge, I tried my best to be cool and remain nonchalant. I'd even rehearesd what I was going to say: "yeah- I mean it's OK but really wasn't worth cycling 80km out the way on A-roads to come and see was it?" ...but as soon as my wheels started rolling along the cycle path on one side, I realised I had failed miserably to remain cool. My eyes were wide taking in the views. This was cool. Very cool. Geeky engineering cool. I was glad that Nick persuaded us to go this way. Bugger, I thought, he's given me the wretched bridge loving disease.

Rad on the Severn Bridge

Our welcome into Wales wasn't quite as I had expected. The slip road off the bridge was scattered with broken glass, burnt out tyres and empty beer cans. After carrying our bikes over the worst of it we got onto the trunk road that winded it's way to Newport- where our return train to London was departing from.

We boarded the train and as we sunk into our seats the satisfaction of a week of hard cycling, good views and great people finally sunk in. We bought a couple of beers from the buffet car and let our legs have a well earned rest.

Waiting for the train

It's been a fantastic week and we are so greatful for all the support, both via financial donations to our fundraising page and via the numerous good deeds people have done along the way. I'm sure there'll be a couple of post before next year's trip which will hopefully take us around the whole of Wales but on the whole expect this blog to be a lot quieter than the past week.

All the best, Rad

1 comment:

  1. Very good to meet you at the Budgens in Bridgwater while you were having breakfast. Glad you had a successful day's cycle (despite Burnham & Weston) and you enjoyed the journey under the Clifton Suspension Bridge as suggested.
    I've very much enjoyed reading some of your other accounts and greatly admire your enterprise.

    Best wishes for next year round Wales.

    David Allen

    PS It's spelt Bridgwater (no middle "e") - folks are funny about that round these parts.