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England
 

 
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The route takes us from Worcester in the Midlands to Bristol and then follows the Kennet and Avon Canal to the Wiltshire Downs around Devizes. From there we followed some of the ancient Roman roads to visit Avebury and Silbury Hill. We then followed the River Kennet and the River Thames into Central London via Reading, Maidenhead and Kingston. The route then heads North into Essex and up to the the Port of Harwich.

  england map  

         

 
entry & visas

 

Visas were not an issue for either of us as we are both EU citizens.

 

 
camping
 

We travelled through England in mid-April and in that season the number of campsites that are open is limited. We therefore had to make use of wild camping spots wherever we could find them.

The photo to the left was at Oliver's Castle, Devizes. It was 230m high and commanded a magnificent view back towards Bath and the Bristol Channel (it was also jolly cold at night!).

 
Olivers Castle Devices
 

 

River Kennet Ramsbury

 
The photo to the right was on the River Kennet West of Hungerford. It was a lovely spot but the temperature dropped below freezing and all our water bottles froze. Being right next to a river condensation was also a problem. The place was oozing with little flying beasties, but luckily enough they all went to bed at 18.00.
 

 
cycle shops

 

So far there has been no need for bike shops as we have all our obvious spares on board. Although we could have easily be tempted by some more spare inner tubes - we had 4 punctures on the first 3 days. Previously on all our tours we only had 1 puncture.

 

 
food & drink

 

Our seven days cycling through England involved wild camping and staying with friends. For wild camping there are a wide variety of shops and small supermarkets in the smallest towns to provide the essentials for camping food. In the cities there are always the ubiquitous Tesco in it's various forms. In London we stocked up with a selection of arabic savories and sweets for the 3 days to Harwich (we were staying with our friends Bashar and Ranya who showed us the way to the best arabic deli).

Our standard fare at the campsite was pasta with a simple homemade tomato sauce - normally with some tuna added. In the cool April weather we also buy milk each evening for tea and muesli in the morning

 

 
weather

 

April weather is summed up by the old saying "April Showers". Our weather varied from grey and insipid, through to 18 degrees C bright sunshine via heavy rain with a night time frost to add variety. The weather can be summed up at best in one word - variable. Daytime temperatures were from 9 degrees to 18 degrees C, night time temperatures were from -1 to 6 degrees C.

 

 
medical

 

As we were both working in the UK, we have access to the NHS services, so we will be able to call on these facilities if required. So far our friend Sami gave us bandages for dodgy knees and wrists, who are suffering from the heavy load we are carrying (only six days into the trip and we feel already crippled!)

 

 
flora & fauna

 

The majority of our route followed the river Thames and the Kennet and Avon canal. The wildlife revolved around birds living by the waterways - such as kingfishers, herons, moorhens, swans (including black swans) and a variety of ducks. In April midges and mosquitos were not much in evidence.

The beauty of April is the blossom on the trees and all the apple, plum, damson and cherry trees were in full bloom, hopefully the frost we encountered one night will not cause any problems with harvests.

 

 
graphs & stats

 

A few numbers for you folks now we have sailed from England:

- we have ridden 458 km and took the train twice (boooh!). The average on the 8 cycling days was 57 km at 15 km/hr with 260 m of climbing a day (the route we chose was nice and flat - good start!)
- we had four punctures
- we spent a daily average of £30.37 (including £130 fpr the ferry), £17.28 without the ferry
- we drank an average of 5 units a day (there were a few leaving dos)

 

 
The Cycling Diaries
 

 

16th April 2005 - Worcester to Bristol -56 km

After the feverish packing and organising the rental of our house the big day had arrived. Finishing work the previous day and the ex boss's birthday had left us both a little jaded - but the excitement of the day soon had us finishing off our preparations ready to meet a group of good friends next to the river Severn for a cycle out to Upton on Severn.

A good crowd gathered a the rendez-vous point and we all quickly settled down to tea, coffee and cakes before the 20km ride.

 

friends

 

 
 
suzy and pete
 

 

dan and stu

 

 
 

The route from Worcester ambled through the small back lanes and little villages to the East of the A38. There was very little traffic and plenty of time to discuss details and itineraries with friends we wouldn't be seeing for a year.

The refreshment stop at Upton was at one of the lovely riverside pubs. A relaxed lunch outside was followed by some long goodbyes and lots of photos (a bit like having paparazzi all around us) and before we knew it was just the two of us cycling together down Upton High Street - our trip was feeling more real all the time!

 
ferg and dave

 

 

 

 

 

isa and steve

 

 

We followed the West side of the River Severn as far as Bristol. At this stage we met Terry's brother Mike and sister Liz. They had ridden up from Bristol to meet us and give some moral support.

On reaching Bristol we spent an evening with good friends in Clifton - lots more drinking, chatting and catching up with the latest news. Thanks to Kev and Ann for allowing us to gate crash with them!

 
  17th April 2005 - Bristol to Swineford - 19 km

Day 2 of trip was always going to be one of the easier ones. We left from Clifton in Bristol and cycled along the River Avon to Swineford, a small village outside of Bath to spend a couple of days sorting out final details before heading East.

Monday morning brought an unexpected surprise - the rental company for the house called to say that we had not returned the Contract for the rental - and the new tenants were due to move in on the following day. There was only one solution - jump in the car and return to Worcester to finalise the paperwork. We skulked into Worcester trying to make sure we weren't spotted. So far I think we got away with it!

After sorting out currency and travellers cheques we set off from Swineford to join the Bristol Bath railway path towards Bath.

 

Mike on the railway path between Bristol and Bath

 

 
 

20th April 2005 - Swineford to Oliver's castle by Devizes - 59 km

The railway track is a traffic free route from Bristol to Bath that was the forerunner of today's national cycle network. It has now extended such that the keen cyclist can travel from Avonmouth to Devizes on an entirely traffic free route.

We travelled through Bath and then onto the canal towpath from Bath to Bradford on Avon, and then onwards to Devizes (with a quick pit stop to refuel on tea and cakes in the lovely little riverside town of Bradford on Avon.

 

 

Isa on the Kennet and Avon Canal

 

 
 

The route followed the towpath all the way with hardly anyone else on the path midweek it made for quiet, relaxed riding with no cars or big hills to worry about.

At Caen Hill the canal then climbs 70 m meters in a relentless series of locks to enable the canal to pass over the watershed between the Avon and Thames catchment areas. This is an impressive piece of early Victorian engineering that has recently been returned to full operational condition, making the waterway fully navigable between Bath and Reading (all be it with the 12 hour passage of Caen Hill locks to contend with!).

 

 
Caen Hill flight of locks
 
 
Part of the Wessex Ridgeway
 

We made our first night's camp on top of Oliver's Castle. A stupendous viewpoint looking back Westwards towards Bath. As we made camp the mist started to come in and the whole area was filled with a slightly spooky ambience. Luckily the rain stayed away and we fended off the ghosts of fallen medieval warriors to tuck into our pasta and tomato surprise.

 
 

21st April 2005 - Oliver's castle to next to Ramsbury - 49 km

We awoke to find our carefully planned viewpoint engulfed in a thick, damp hill mist. Apart from a reduced view this made the tent absolutely soaking wet on all exposed surfaces. We wrapped up warm and tucked into our muesli and camping tea. I call it tea but it doesn't taste the same as tea served at a proper teashop with bone china and saucers - it normally has a gentle essence of plastic and petrol - definitely room for improvement here.

Oliver's Castle is pedestrian access only so we had to start the day cycling and then unloading the bikes to get over gates and stiles - not the nicest way to start.

 

Isa with Silbury Hill in the Background

 

 
 
Avebury Stone Circle
 

The plan had been to follow the ridgeway through Wiltshire and Oxforshire to Goring. That morning we cycled along several stretches of off road only to be thwarted by 2 enemies:

1) To be expected - punctures. Despite the tough touring tires, several punctures of Hawthorn variety promoted some bouts of swearing (especially when you consider that the loaded touring bike needs to be unloaded to mend the puncture)

2) The famous rutted ridgeway proved to be impassable with front lowrider panniers because they kept catching on the ruts and were in danger of being ripped off.

 

 
 

After the off road struggle we arrived at the small village of Avebury. This area is full of fascinating ancient history. There are three highlights not to be missed; Silbury Hill, Avebury Stone Circle and West Kennett Long Barrow.

Silbury hill looks like a miniature volcano rising 40m out of the Wiltshire downland. It is 3500 years old and no-one knows what it was for.

Avebury village sits in the middle of a ancient stone circle. Many of the stones are now missing but it still makes an impressive site.

 

 
Avebury Stone Circle
 
 

River Kennet near Ramsbury

 

 

West Kennett Long Barrow is a 5000 year old burial chamber that you can walk inside of. It's a dark, dank place but well worth the 400m walk from the main A4.

The hillsides around the whole area are dotted with tumuli, roman roads and the odd single stone - set against the Wiltshire downs it makes for a very Lord of the Rings feel.

 
 

In the evening, we travelled onto Aldbourne (the first episodes of Dr Who were filmed in the village green we were told). A good pint and a pause to decide on where to go next were required. We decided not to follow the ridgeway anymore for the reasons Terry has exposed. Instead we decided to follow the canal path along the river Kennet to Newbury and then the river Thames onto Maidenhead to meet Sami and Joolz.

And big thanks to the chap who lent us his map so we didn't get too lost away from the ridgeway - we hope you got your map back.

That night, we camped in a lovely spot by the river.

 

22nd April - River Kennet near Ramsbury to Maidenhead - 85 km

We got up early and put away our damp tent. We were in Newbury for 11.00 and enjoyed a nice cuppa watching the world go by. Gosh, I don't miss work a bit! The canal path was lovely and quiet, we met a few people and managed to stay away from cars all morning. It is still impossible to convince people that we are cycling all the way to New Zealand.

 

 
Kennet & Avon Canal
 
 

Reading Abbey

 

 
Terry had a plan for lunch. Lunch would be at a secret spot in Reading. I started complaining at 14.30 when we still have not reached that spot and that we seemed somehow lost in the middle of a construction site in the centre of Reading. However, we finally found it: Terry had chosen Reading Abbey (in an advanced stage of deriliction as you can see) and we had a nice sunny lunch (I was genuinely starving).
 
 

We left Reading following the river Thames under the bright sunshine. Our next aim was Maidenhead. As we were running a bit late, we chose to follow the national cycling route 4. Not such a good idea as we spent 30 mins lost on the outskirts of Maidenhead in an housing estates going round in circles. No doubt some of the signs have been turned over... The cycling routes are generaly good, but somehow not quite designed for the long distance touring: we found that we can end up doing a one mile detour just to avoid 200 yards of main road. A bit frustating when you start feeling a bit grotty after a full day sweating away...

FIRST INJURY - Isa developed a painful tendon in the right knee - time to spin the pedals quickly and not push too hard - easier said than done with 45 kgs of bike and equipment to propel.

Anyway, enough wingging! We reached the house of Sami and Joolz and were treated to salad (cyclists' delight) and pizza. Miam, miam, miam!

 

 
wndsor castle isa et terry
 
 
the long walk windsor
 

23rd April 2005 - Maidenhead to St Johns Wood in London - 70 km

This was our slowlest beginning with a late start (following a late night and the deadly mix of red wine and cider) and two punctures in a row! We made it to Windsor (you can just about guessed it in between our two heads) under a constant nagging little drizzle, uuuh, so british!

We cycled through Windsor park (left with a shadow of the castle at the back) and from there to Hampton park, Bushy Park and Richmond Park. I never suspected London could be so green.

 

 
 

But I was quickly corrected: after Hampton park, we hit the London traffic. Noise, fumes, a bit of honking abuse. Not the best place for slow cyclo-tourists. On our way to see Bashar, Ranya and Layal, we pass a famous sight of London, that Beatles fans should recongnise. Don't we look cool on our bikes? - okay, maybe not...and there's 2 cyclists missing

We were welcome like King and Queen by Bash and Ranya and it was nice to have a proper day break on the Sunday...

 

richmond park terry and isa


 
 
abbey road
 

 

terry isa ranya and layal


 
 

25th April - St Johns Wood to Tolleshunt d'Arcy (Essex) - 68 km

Well, well, well, the day began under pissing rain (excuse my French) and with a bit of a cheat. We just could not be arsed to cross London again, so we did a little detour by Liverpool station, and hop, before we knew it we were in Chelmsford in 40 mins. Cycling around the world? Hum... we should give it a try someday...

The outskirts of Chelmsford were really awkward, but we soon found another quiet cycling route (we think it is the route 51) that took us to Maldon. Maldon has not too much to offer, apart from a lovely ride along the river mouth and the salt lakes. And lets face it, we were happy to reach the East coast of England and to see the sea for the first time. We cycled on to the little village of Tolleshunt d'Arcy for a nice pint and found a lovely quiet spot for a bit of wild camping.

 
colchester castle
 
 
isa with Bashars little cucumbers
 

26th April 2005 - Tolleshunt d'Arcy to Harwich - 68 km

Starting in the sunshine, we reached Colchester in good time for a proper cuppa and a bit of shopping in Colchester (Terry's beard was starting to show too much and the "I have no razor" excuse was not going to work!). I genuinely thought the whole town was going to be roman. Don't be fooled. The only roman things left are one wall and some bricks that have been used to build Colchester norman castle. Maybe the museum inside the castle would have satisfied my quest for roman signs, but we did not go and I felt like we just visited a normal English town. Sorry Colchester, I am not doing a good sales job here...

(On the left are a couple of magic cucumbers given to us by Bashar, nothing to do with me being rude).

 
 

After Colchester, we followed a nice cycle path all the way to Harwich (no 51 still). It was truly nice and quiet as we followed the river out of Colchester and then some little lanes. Maybe the quietness had something to do with the typically English weather - April showers again... By the time we reached Harwich we dried up again and we found out that we could take the Ferry that night rather than the morning after (it was not what Stena line told us on the phone) so we had a few hours to spend visiting Harwich. The old town is really pleasant, the waiting room at the Ferry port not so much.

 

 

harwich beach

 

 
 
in line for the ferry at Harwich
 

While waiting , we met a german cycling lady who had just completed the North Sea route on her own. Truly inspirational!

At 21.30 we finally embarked on the ferry. The prospect of a free buffet clearly cheered Terry up (as well as the bottle of red consumed in the terminal - clearly evident in the difference in expressions on the photo opposite). I think I was just happy to find somewhere to lie down.

And off we went sailing off towards the continent!

 

 

     

 
For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com