By Richard Attwood.
Day 1: Langport to Bristol via Bath and the Two Tunnels Greenway. Approx 60 miles, terrain undulating, hillier from Bruton to Radstock. (Sustrans pocket map 4.)
– Short run on quiet roads (QR) to Pitney to pick up NCN 30 to Castle Cary via Somerton.
– QR north via Bruton, Batcombe, Witham Friary, Nunney and Mells to join NCN 24 West to Radstock, veering east on NCN 24, then onto NCN 244 up to Bath, taking in the amazing 2 Tunnels Greenway, being the old Somerset and Dorset Railway ‘Coombe Down Tunnel’ – and hoping to avoid the fate of the enginemen who once suffocated in their own fumes in this tunnel!
– Continuing on NCN 4 north west to Bristol. (In fact NCN 4 does a big north easterly loop prior to gaining Bristol centre, so I hopped off on to the A4 just north of Bath to go in.)
Day 2: Bristol to Gloucester. Approx 50 miles, without all my delightful deviations to look at ‘coastal’ areas along the Severn, Sharpness Docks etc… (Sustrans ‘Severn and Thames’ Pocket map.)
– North east out of the centre of Bristol on NCN 4 (the loop mentioned in day 1 – a good ride on old railtrack), picking up NCN 410 to Yate upon leaving Mangotsfield. I took a v quiet minor road north of Yate to cut out a chunk of 410, regaining it to head west to Thornbury, whereafter it was on to NCN 41 to head north parallel to the River Severn, including a run along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal towpath. (Angler Hell – best avoided if poss) to Gloucester. NCN 41 delivers you right to the fabulous Historic Docks in Gloucester, and the nearby cycle friendly Spalite hotel – recommended.
Day 3: Gloucester to Redditch* via Tewkesbury and Evesham. Approx 50 miles.(Sustrans Pocket Pocket map 15.)
– NCN 45 from Gloucester to Tewkesbury (gorgeous stretch) using the little ferryboat option at the Lower Lode Inn to cross the Severn to (lovely)Tewksbury, becoming NCN 41 upon leaving Tewksbury, and crossing a couple of big fields en route to Evesham (Also worth a visit)
– From Evesham it was the B4510, then B4085 north to gain NCN 5 just east of Alcester, NCN 5 then into Redditch.
* Why Redditch? – well I fancied cycling plumb through Brum on this run, using NCN 5, some of which I’d done before and enjoyed the urban/industrialised landscape, not least the Canals, and Redditch was a good stopping point prior to plunging across Brum for a days ride.
Day 4: Redditch to Lichfield via Brum, Walsall and Brownhills. Approx 50 (fiddly) miles. (Sustrans Pocket map 22.)
– Generally a well posted and interesting route, given the inevitable chopping and changing involved in getting cyclists safely and mostly pleasantly through a sprawling car centric conurbation. NCN 5 eventually becomes NCN 54 at Burntwood prior to gaining Lichfield and the v good Premier Inn. Lichfield is a grand place with a stunning Cathedral.
Day 5: Lichfield to Sheffield via Burton Upon Trent, Ashbourne and the Tissington Trail. Approx 75 miles, many of them in ‘steady climb’ mode…(I’d intended to make an overnight stop at Ilam YHA, but was in Ashbourne by 1pm so decided to carry on through!)
NCN 54 from Lichfield shadowing the A38 north east to Etwall, then north west on NCN 68 to Ashbourne. On to the Tissington Trail north at Ashbourne, then off at Parsley Hay and in to Bakewell, then Sheffield via Calver Xrds and a pint at the Grouse (doesn’t open till 6!)
Next year I will stop at Bath for the night, rather than continuing to Bristol, a sprawling place perhaps offering more to a longer visit than the passing cyclist, and go via Bridgenorth/Stafford or Stoke on NCN 45/55 rather than Brum for a change.
Richard Attwood. August 2015.