Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cycling Europe 2017 Day 3: The Bristol-Bath Railway Path

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2017 Day 3: Bristol-Bath Railway Path
United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands & Germany : Days 3 - 30th August - Bristol to Bath
This is part of cycling tour of Western Europe,, covering Bristol to Bath:
Cycling Distance - 28.73+3.18 km.     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 10:00 am to 8:15pm.
Time Taken :  10hrs 15 mins (inclusive of stops for shopping, lunch, dinner, waiting for and view locomotive train, visiting Bath and Bristol Old City, and many, many photo opps).

This is page 2 of a 21-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go To D1-2 Bristol       |       Go to Other Days     |     Go to D3 London-Medway >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    The United Kingdom vehicles are right-hand drive so cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from! Fortunately in the United Kingdom, road markings at zebra crossings reminds pedestrian/cyclists to look left OR right when crossing. Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The United Kingdom has an elabortate called the British National Cycle Network which also includes Cycle Superhighways for cyclists to commute from the outskirts into London. The following for route planning the following sites are helpul:
    - CyclingUK.org has a feature to plan a route (journey) in the UK, click here to plan a journey route.
    - for planning cycling routes in Europe, Cycle Travel which has a very user-friendly cycle travel route planner, routes using this planner can be saved and also converted to GPX format for use in GPS devices.
    Our route today was an interesting one that took along the Bristol-Bath Railway Path from Bristol to Bath. For a map of this cycling path go to the bottom of this blog.

3. Weather
    The weather for amicably cool, averaging at 26°C during the day and 11°C at night at Bristol. There was a light drizzle during morning, with light winds of 7-12kmh.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the United Kingdom are BBC Weather and AccuWeather.

4. Bringing Bikes Onto Buses
    Short of time, we rode the National Express Coach for the return trip from Bath to Bristol, the fare was £5/-  per pax.

5. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We got pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three under the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/= from one of their outlets in Bristol (GPS: 51.45735, -2.59074). This plan lasts for 30 days and allows for 5GB Data, 3,000 minutes of call time & 3,000 text messages within the system. More importantly it has their "Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

6. Communicating with Locals
    Communicating with locals in England was not a problem, although some may have difficulty understanding our Asian accent when speaking English.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

7. Places of Interest
St. Mary le Port Church Bristol (GPS: 51.45464, -2.59177).
Staple Hill Tunnel (GPS: 51.47904, -2.50442), an old railway tunnel about 1/2km long along the path.
Warmley Railway Station (GPS: 51.46008, -2.47507), a nice small station with metal carricatures and a small garden.
- Gaius Sentius - sculpture of Centurion drinking fountain near Warmley (GPS: 51.44763, -2.46533).
Avon Valley Railway Station (GPS: 51.43146, -2.47636), an operating station where the heritage Avon Valley Railway Train starts.
- View of Smoking Locomotive, a good location to view the oncoming train with it's smoking locomotive (GPS: 51.42302, -2.4674).
- Avon riverside from Saltford (GPS: 51.40032, -2.44715) to Bath.
- Old Roman Baths at Bath (GPS: 51.38107, -2.35961).
- Bath Abbery (GPS: 51.38148, -2.35873).
At the Bristol Old City; including:
   - the narrow archway entrance under the Church of St John the Baptist (GPS: 51.45592, -2.59507) leading to Broad Street.
   - Christ Church with St Ewen (GPS: 51.45515, -2.59299).

8. Accommodations
    We stayed at the Rock & Bowl Motel (GPS: 51.45629, -2.59352in Bristol. I took a bed in a 4-bedder dorm for £25/= per night ; whilst the girls took a bedroom for two for £65/= per room-night.
    As it was unclear whether the motel allowed foldies into the premises, we initially folded and bagged our bikes before taking them in. We later found that it was allowed to roll our folded bike in without bagging.

9. Food
- Lunch was a picnic of take-away sandwiches and pastries from the Aldi  (GPS: 51.47822, -2.53371) & Lidl (GPS: 51.47916, -2.53129stores, at the Viewpoint along the path.
- Dinner was pizza & English fare at the Keepers Kitchen & Bar of the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel (GPS: 51.45529, -2.59345) in Bristol Old City.

10. Navigation
    As Bill was familiar with Bristol-Bath Railway Path, he led us on the route.

11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE

After arriving from Kuala Lumpur two days back, we had taken a short ride around Bristol to get ourselves familiar with riding in Europe. It was a short ride to see some sights in the city and also a warm up longer rides in days to come.

THE RIDE

This interesting route the runs along the Bristol-Bath Railway Path an the old raillway that ran from Bristol to Bath. This route passes through shaded greenways, small towns, panoramic meadows, old railway stations, and even into an old railway tunnel. It also run partway along the Avon River.
Includes a short cycling route around Bristol Old City.

Wet paths along the St. Mary le Port Church.
In the early morning, Bill & Hong came down to meet us at the motel. Bill will be leading us on a ride to Bath, it will be an interesting one that runs along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, the oldest path of the British National Cycle Network.
There was a light drizzle as we kicked off, but we are not going to let that hamper our excitement.... AND off we go!
We rode a short distance within Bristol till we reached the St. Mary le Port Church, the path starts next to this church.


An archway formed in the shape of two interlocking trees denotes the start of the path. At the bottom left is a milestone that indicates distances to the various destinations ahead, starting with Caslte Park that are the large grounds of St. Peter's Church and remnants of the Bristol Castle.


It's lovely cycling here, despite the wet weather; we rode through many light woods, with trees arching over and providing shade.


Along the route one will see many artwork, like this one of a fish diving into a small pond and aptly titled "Fish On Nose" and was created by Doug Cocker. For more on artwork along the path, click here.


Our first destinations were a couple of supermarkets, to pick up some sandwiches and pastry for a picnic brunch along the way. First was Aldi; not wanting to leave our bikes unescorted outside, we just folded them up and put them into the large shopping carts - convenient yah?


Next was Lidl. This old dog was getting a bit hungry.... perhaps some appetizing dog food would help!
Woof! Was that a "Yes"  or an "Ugh"?


Not far away is the Staple Hill Tunnel, an old railway 500 metres long tunnel. It's lighted up inside but not too brightly so we turned on our bicycle lights. What I like about this path that it is paved with tarmac all the way, making it easy to ride on. This was not unlike another rail path I previously rode on, the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand. That one also ran on a former railway but was not paved, instead the large stones for the rail sleepers were just spread and levelled off making it tough for our Bromptons to ride on.
The difference here is that this tunnel is reputed to be haunted.... Woooooo!

A must stop location, the Cyclist Wall - a wall built Roman style with arch window filled with cyclists carricatures.


Although it was a Wednesday, locals are out enjoying riding here too. A kindergarten group was out on a field trip with children in a tricycle trolley. Nearby, a man and his young son on a tandem stopped often to admire the scenery .....


..... a scenery of rolling meadows with town far away in the backgroung.


Our next stop, the Warmley Railway Station. Here the raised station platform give evidence  that this is indeed a former railway route. The cute Waiting Room has been turned into a small cafe that serves quite good food and opened from 10:00am to 4:00pm. With toilets and a handy pump, it's an ideal stop for cyclists.


More artwork here, cut our metal carricatures of passengers waiting for the train. Do I see Felix the Cat etched onto one of the passenger?


Behind it, a small garden with an odd blue police booth place there... I was half expecting Dr. Who to be stepping out from it!


Ahead, a stonework Roman Centurion taking a swig of ale from an amphora.


Then we were riding next to raiway track, ones that were fenced in. This is a section that is still operating - the short route of the Heritage Avon Valley Railway Station. The station was a major station with many tracks, old locomotives and rolling stock that can still be seen. There's even an old dining car parked at one corner still serving as a cafeteeria for tourists and visitors.


Beyond this, out in a open flat meadow was a single lonely bench. This was our picnic stop, we will have brunch here and wait for the train.... but no, we would not be riding it.


While waiting, might as well enjoy the picturisque place. It's so green here, and flowers and reed grass peppered the scenery. Far away, at the edge of a forest was the St. Marys  chruch in Bitton.


There are bushes here too, some with wild berries growing. The girls were just to tempted and had to try out those red mulberries. An advice here: best not to eat anything below five feet... often dogs (and men too!) relieve themselves at these bushes ..... Whoopsie!


AND HERE COMES THE TRAIN! This is just the perfect spot, white smoke could be seen against the green trees as locomotive chugged along.
Choo.... chooo.... kind of reminds one of Harry Porter.


1:45pm- We arrive at Saltford, this is where the path gets next to the Avon River, skirting it's riverbanks until it reaches Bath.
There are many inns and homestays here, being on the outskirts they are cheaper. A little boy looks on us surly as we pass by, I wonder what was on his mind. He did looked a bit lonely, perhaps he was missing his playmates.


The river here is narrow, not it's mighty self further downstream like at Stratford-on-Avon, the William-the-bard's hometown. Though not so busy, home-barges can be seen berthed on its banks.


Another photo stop, at the junction where the bike path leads to Bath.


Into Bath town, one can be forgiven for thinking that one is in Rome or some other Italian city. The houses here have strong Roman influence in their architecture.


An archway just before the Bath Abbey definitely looked Roman. Whilst the Abbey's design itself is a mixed of some Roman features, at touch of Gothic with mainly English influences.


Whatever the design is, the building looked very stately and impressive; and the girls could not help but to a Happy jump!
The girls did it beautifully and in later days they were to repeat this at other recognisable spots in Europe.



The front of the Abbey.


Me and a happy chap who was so happy cycling that he "died laughing".


It would have been lovely to cycle back along the path, but we were short on time as the girls had to go back to Evans Cycle in Bristol to collect their leather saddles before the shop closed for the day. So it was up onto a bus at the Bath Station for a ride to Bristol. The fare for the one-hour bus journey was £5/=.
AT Evans, left one of my "footprints" there, it's a sticker that says "AhPek Biker was here!".


Bill and Hong had to return to their homestay an hour away, so we said our goodbyes. The girls and me went exploring Bristol some more and were attractied to an small archway with graffiti art. This archway lies below the Church of St John the Baptist .....


..... and it led to Broad Street, on of the many streets with older buildings that fromed part of Bristol Old City. This was a unexpected bonus find for us, and all from curiosity of a narrow graffiti archway. See, curiosity did not kill the cat or this Old Dog 😏.


Here too, we did find a lovely place for dinner - Keepers Kitchen & Bar at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel.
The hotel did not allow us to bring our bikes in, so we folded and locked them at the bay windows outside the restaurant within view of our table.
We wanted to try some British Pub Grub, but their pizzas were too enticing and we had to order on large one to share.


We also had a Caesars Salad which came with HUGE chunks of ham.
But what grab my attention in the menu were these glazed Pig's Cheek.... Hey! Them cheeks can be eaten!
Slow roasted with cider and caramelsed apple juice, it's a delicacy that I would try again anytime.



And of course not to be missed, good ale.,
CHEERS OLD CHAP!
IT HAD BEEN A WONDERFUL DAY!


P.S.: Heres the map of the Bristol-Bath Railway Path, with the names of the various town along the way. Click on the photo for an enlarged view. This path was the first route to be opened on the British National Cycle Network, and is now Route #4 of the network. Other route that connects to it are (do note that some of these are walking paths, do double check whether cycling is suitable or allowed) :
Frome Valley Walkway
The Dramway
Monarch's Way
River Avon Trail
Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath
Two Tunnels Greenway


(For more photos of the Day 3, Click Here)
This is page 2 of a 21-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go To D1-2 Bristol       |       Go to Other Days     |     Go to D3 London-Medway >
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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Europe-Cycling England / Cycling Europe 2017 / Day 3     |     Go To D1&2/D4/D5/D6/D7/D8/D9/D10/D11/D12/D13/D14/D15/D16/D17/D18/D19/D20/D21/D22
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