DAY 10: Bristol – Meredith Farm
This is officially R’s birthday but we made the most of the weekend.
Mummy joins us for the next part. She doesn’t do cycling like we do but did go for a few warm up rides in the run up. This time she’ll have panniers donated by ACB El Presidente. I’ve got most of the kit. She has her clothes and a bit more food. Whilst making our way to Bristol a couple of inflateable matts arrived too so no more folding ones. I also ditched R’s rack in favour of a saddle bag. He sets off again in bikepacking mode carrying the essentials:
- Eye mask
- Wind up torch
- Emergency whistle (present from Nana)
- Bunny & Blubell
We head off through north Bristol to join the A38 briefly before bombing down Fern Hill, through Tockington, Olveston and edging Aust to get to the Old Severn Bridge; Mummy’s first time across by bike. On the way there though we stop at mine and R’s usual spot for some early snacks; not sure if we were really hungry at that point more the habit. R notices the church clock is octagonal.
Once across the bridge…
It is actually 2 different bridges one after another. Firstly the Severn Suspension which last year we got to go inside when off on another cycle camping trip. Very noisy which didn’t sit well with R, and strange to think only a few inches of steel separated us from tonnes of vehicles whizzing overhead. Secondly the Wye crossing, a cable stay. Both pass above the old ferry slip and on until reaching land again.
…we head up the Wye Valley to Tintern and begin the second stage swing appraisal with the ruins of the abbey as the backdrop. Making use of the picnic tables we all do lunch as well.
Tintern was one of the first places me and R visited when cycle camping; being towed that time using a FollowMe tandem we camped at Beeches up above the valley; we stayed there again last year and as we walked down to Tintern through the woods I couldn’t remember which way to go when the footpath split into 3, my innermap was on the blink.
R said “right Daddy!”
I asked “how do you know?”
He said “I’m using the map in my head, it has buttons to go forwards and back, it’s always updating.”
That’s my boy!
R’s innermap is again at work and he picks out the hexagons and 🔺s as we leave heading to Monmouth. Diverging from the main road we shortly join an old railway track to The Boat Inn to celebrate R’s birthday with crisps and other snacks. An elder ‘child’, having finished his pint, initiates stick races in the stream coursing down the gully edging the lane. R is entertained. Mummy enjoys the breather. I sup my pint. A few more kids join in. Every effort is made to stop the sticks making the final plunge into the drain.
Crossing back across the Wye using the old railway bridge we soon arrive at Monmouth and do a quick shop. I rush back in for marshmallows before we cross the old Monnow Bridge and head to the campsite. The original plan was to camp at Three Castles but having called over the birthday weekend to check I discover it is no kids; well that’s 2 of us ruled out! Instead we are staying at Meredith Farm on the main road from Monmouth and a popular LEJOG stop I find out when there. Rather than suffering the long slog on busier roads we used the lanes. Several very steep involving that extra gear; more walking!
Bonus being via Skenfrith so a stop at the castle was called for before arriving to set up camp and quickly cook. A lovely family on the other side of the site gave us a load of wood so as the night darkens and the stars sparkle we toasted those marshmallows. Then all squeezed into the 2 person tent. I begin Swallows & Amazons; which I mentioned in the other post but on writing this remember R was fast asleep last time before I was half way through the first chapter…..
🔺s = 22 | Total = 293
72km forwards | 1035m of up
DAY 11: Meredith Farm to North Lydbury
Main roady to start I cycled infront with R on my inside and Mummy behind. Not far from the campsite we discovered another finger post.
We continued in this formation for some time becoming more lax when off the main road, once again cross the Wye and do some swings; Mummy isn’t doing well. It’s a brief stop but then we stop again at a pub a few miles on. Mummy sits outside in the sun where it’s quiet; shoulder muscles aching and migraine! Me and R eat. Time ticks by. Mummy isn’t recovering. Me and R begin to worry. None of us knows what to do. After several hours I suggest, as Mummy thinks, that she makes her way to Hereford and gets the train on to Chester whilst we press on; R doesn’t want to give up. Lots of tears later and me and R head off. It’s late afternoon now and we still have 55km to go. Heads down we nail it. There’s just a couple of hills and one steep one to slow us down. Luckily the downs were fast and long and we rock up at the Powis Arms at 20:00. Throw the tent up and head inside for dinner. As we wait we call Mummy, she is ok albeit a little upset she couldn’t have kept going with us.
Back inside we play Connect 4 and R has an olive bread horse for starters. Again I’m playing to win; first game to me, second to R, third is a draw, he’s catching on and beginning to play an offensive trap stratergy as I do. After a wonderful dinner it’s back to the tent, a quick shower, 2 more chapters and sleep ready for the morning.
It has been a strange day, not only did we loose Mummy but…..
🔺s = 0! WTF? | Total = 293
89km forwards |770m of up
DAY 12: North Lydbury to Chester
So far this year R has accomplished three 100km+ rides (one being the 150km attempt on day 7). Last year R was the first ever to claim the newly formed Brevet 250 Audax UK award. This year he had his sights set on the Brevet 500; 5x 100km rides. Today would be the forth. From the pub we had a steady climb nestled in the valley between the Long Mynd and Stiperstones in the Shropshire Hills AONB. It is a grey morning with the odd shower but suprisingly warm. After the long trek up we emerge on the edge. Beneath the low clouds hanging in the air the path ahead stretched out before us; bar a few hills we’d be in for a quick journey north to Chester.
R needs a poo! We stop outside The White Horse at Pulverbatch. It’s 11:40, not open to noon. An Australian couple are there on their bikes having a break. We chat, they are touring and hopping round the country via trains, impressed with the bamboo bikes and R’s daily distance. At this point I’m not mentioning our actual aim as keeping it as off the radar as possible. R is doing a little dance, the door opens and in he rushes. It’s lunch time now so we might as well do the pub and tick off a few more I spy specimens whilst we are at it. Neither takes long and soon we are back on the road. The clouds are dissipating but the wind is up, behind us and gently pushing us on to Ellesmere where we dine again this time on pasties, cake and olives; the perfect combination?! As we plonk ourselves on a bench we notice the trees, bollards, even a bike have been yarn bombed.
A couple of 🔺s spotted and on again. For the 100km to be validated it has to be within a certain time. I’ve never mentioned this to R and don’t need to now, when he gets going he is gone! Wild/dog rose for the I spy book. Many of the items we see all the time but it enables actual identification; I’ve just got to remember what’s in the book. Horse Chestnut. After pushing our bikes over the Dee at Farndon bridge which is closed to traffic and undergoing extensive stone work repair, we turn west briefly head first into the wind; thank goodness it has been behind us!
We arrive, tonight we’d be staying with Warmshowers hosts Rob & Wendy; Mummy has also just got there. I stayed with them in 2017 whilst doing a nutty 1635km via every hill I could find. Lovely couple and they lay on a fine spread. Me and Rob chat about bikes, LEJOG with kids, theirs is grown up now, I offer our home if they ever give it ago in the future. New surroundings and people make R a little unsettled, we make use of the washing machine and shower, get a few paragraphs into the next chapter and decide to call it quits for the night.
🔺s = 94 | Total = 387
101km forwards | 805m of up
DAY 13: Chester – Mersey Ferry – Catterall
Rob and Wendy have gone to work. Mummy decides she can’t continue without holding R up. I faff with the garage door; no key seems to work so I call Rob who pops back from work. In the mean time with some jiggling and nifty handle wobbling the door opens just as Rob arrives. I apologise for dragging him away. Bikes loaded we part ways with Mummy outside in the presence of two covered octogans with inner circles.
Heading off into Chester a little later than anticipated we find the toy shop. Mummy had picked out a Lego set yesterday as R had been missing his bricks; it started off that he was missing home but I narrowed the reason down! I’d also promised he could choose one himself. There was actually a deal on so R used his birthday money from Aunty M & Uncle W, now there were 3 in total for the rest of the journey; after assembly, one done last night, they are bagged and wrapped in his blanket to be transported in his saddle bag, coming out most evenings. We pass under the old clock and between medieval timber framed buildings. The cathedral stands in dark reddy brown stone beside us. Mummy, being a tourist yesterday, had told us of a Lego model. I thought it wouldn’t be open as we passed but thanks to the garage door we were in luck. R was excited. Rather than leave the bikes outside with all the kit on we asked to leave them just inside the door. Making our way under vaulted ceilings, over intricate tiled floors and past the splendid organ and choir we arrive at a half built Lego replica of Chester Cathedral. It’ll be the largest Lego model in the world once complete; it has taken 3 years thus far with another 3 predicted to complete! We pay our donation, £1 each to add a brick, not to the main model but a module that gets added on later. We also get a sticker each which are added to our mudguards. The model is amazing, the details fantastic. We spend a large amount of time just staring at it; then some more time staring a bit closer. If any one has a kid between the age of 0 and 99 it is well worth a visit to add your piece.
Finally we drag ourselves away and collect our bikes from the entrance. There is quite a bit of interest in our bikes and I chat to the Dean about our exploits; the gathered throng thought the bamboo was some type of protective wrapping until I set them straight.
Leaving the city we head out on the Shropshire Union Canal to avoid the hustle and bustle before heading up The Wirral avoiding the main drag as much as possible; an old railway path here, high street there and Port Sunlight to get to Birkenhead ready for the ferry.
Dazzled it was in vibrant colours; a modern take on the monochrome dazzle paint jobs the old ships of wartime were given for camoflage. After a short wait we board and enjoy that timeless Gerry & The Pacemakers classic; I don’t envy the staff, must be the worst earworm ever….
Liverpool – the splendour of the Victorian dock front buildings soon give way to latter industrial blandness as we exit north through Bootle. No other way than the main road, we seem to hit every light at red. As soon as we can we leave this melee and follow the coastal route. It’s bright with big billowy clouds. The wind whisks the World’s largest offshore wind turbine farm in a fanned frenzy. Lunch on the sea wall watching waves crest over heads, midriffs and feet of Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ (see header picture as well). Through dunes, across golf courses (whoops, we didn’t get off to walk) and a wooded forest track to Southport and its sea wall. We sail along, literally; feet off the pedals catching as much wind as possible we cruise along the coast’s edge in freewheeling bliss. Stopping once more for fuel sheltered behind the wall, then past countless greenhouses and fields of neatly rowed lettuce and other salads in rich soils. Approaching Preston we follow the old main road through Longton where all of a sudden I spotted a 🔺 on the pavement; there was another round the corner.
No ordinary, teeny or special, but a super special! I have only seen two of these in the past not far away in Standish; total now 4.
The initial plan was to wild camp here in the nature reserve. Having found out the Windermere ferry wasn’t operating and the campsites around the lake were full I’d made other arrangements. So to keep the distance down tomorrow, as it involved a few more hills, I’d chosen Catterall village playing fields; this also meant R could get his final 100km+ ride in for the Brevet 500 making use of the flat terrain.
Before we get there though we dine once more à la Pub. Connect 4 again to start; Daddy 2-2 Red, he’s getting better at this!
🔺s = 94 again! | Total = 481
115km forwards | 650m of up
DAY 14: Catterall to Grizedale
We’re woken by the sound of the groundsman at 06:30 mowing the lawn on a Friday morn? Yawn! Luckily we’d pitched on the river defence of the Calder so were out of reach. R heads off to the corner to test the swings; they function well. I prep breakfast and pack our kit then test them out too, enjoying the large ‘basket swing’ together. Not long after setting off and the grey has returned, staying for the day cycling through various shades, becoming ever more ominous and heavy.
The wind is still there pushing us along. We stop at the lovely Cafe d’Lune for cake and to avoid a bit of moisture falling from above before heading into Lancaster on the old railway line next to the Lune Estuary. Another snack stop on the city edge. R entices the seaguls off the mudbanks on the otherside with a few morsels before they return to whence they came; repeat. I had to call it quits after one roll had been consigned to the dustbins of the sea/air. All very amusing for R!
Through the city we go and join the Lancaster Canal as it snakes along the coast. Darn! We’ve left a water bottle back at the bench, luckily we haven’t gone far so we get to ‘appreciate’ the route a little bit more, and we spot an extra 🔺, well worth it! The canal path quickly deteriorates but it is quiet, has a swing stop and a pub which we dive into to escape more rain, the clouds are getting ever more ominous.
With views of The Lakes, well the hills surrounding them, shrouded by clouds in the distance there is no escaping the rain now. Not heavy but an all present never ceasing light deluge; the stuff that gets into everything. R doesn’t mind the rain, it makes things quieter; my phone on the otherhand gets grumpy so no more pictures for the day. Entering The Lake District the A590 is at a standstill next to us. We weave our way adjacent to it on the old road, restricted to one lane in places to stop it being used as a rat run. That hasn’t worked today though as we were continually affronted by a steady stream of vehicles coming the other way to beat the traffic. To avoiding a massive loop we had to tackle what was probably the toughest hill of the adventure; a narrow lane with gnarly bends at a persistent 20%. We walked all 800m of it, going up 120m. Even a 4×4 was skidding on a bend! Going down we tracked the main road again, crossing it several times to follow the old road to Newby Bridge before quiet lanes to the campsite passing Force Falls; mountain waterfall, another tick in the I spy book. Just after 20:00 we arrive and set up, in the rain, on a level area amoungst the pods in the woods and go about dinner, fire and marshmallows, Lego set building, it was all very damp!
🔺s = 22 inc another super special! | Total = 503
87km forwards | 910m of up
DAY 15: Day off – to Windermere
It’s still raining on and off. We head down to the camp cafe in a teepee for breakfast. Welcome baps and hot drinks without the hassle of cooking in the wet. We arrived late last night so hadn’t really checked in properly. The proprieter tells us there is a storm on the way tonight, lots of people had left and there was a spare pod at a discount rate if we wanted. I jumped on the chance. At least I could dry the tent out and other items during the day. After breakfast me and R go about packing up and moving to the pod, even higher up in the woods. It takes a while but once we’re done we hop in the shower ready for our day off; which would still involve a bit of riding as we were on the otherside of a hill and the lake to Windermere.
I’m thinking of dinner later so book a table at The Eagle’s Head in Satterthwaite as we pass before climbing up through Grizedale Forest and whizzing down to Hawkshead. We follow the NCN to Wray Castle to catch the bike ferry, but not for long; unless you are on an MTB and perpared to stop every 200m to open a gate don’t bother! At the castle I pop into reception to ask where the bike boat leaves from as there are no signs about, we get instructed down to the Boat House jetty where we wait and queue with others. Luckily not for too long as once it arrives and we’re about to board the crew member says “no bikes”. Huh? The bike boat is further down the lake, I ask the best way to get there and we’re directed to follow the path on the left. That didn’t end well, R is thrown from his bike and tears ensue and anger mounts; it was actually a footpath, up and down with rocks and roots. He isn’t hurt but can become frustrated with himself which is transfered to others, mainly me. I give him a big cuddle and hold him tight as he squirms for a few minutes. We push the bikes till back on the proper path to the Bark Barn landing for the bike boat; thanks Wray Castle staff and ferry crew for the practical advice, not!
After that fiasco we arrive on the other side of the lake nearing 15:00, much later than expected so we race to Windermere. R is excited as we’re meeting Grandpa Pom off the train, he’ll be joining us for the next few days. Quick break in the town and we head back for the last ferry.
The two young chaps that crew this boat are great. On the way over they hooted the horn and told us how deep the lake was; 67m at its max – I just asked R if he remembered as I wrote this, he got it bang on before I wikied to check. On the way back I notice one of them was zeroing the day’s count by clicking all the way though the numbers rather than press the zero button. As we disembark he spots our Lego stickers and we chat about Chester Cathedral. He likes designing vehicles in Lego Digital Designer then building them; R builds cities. As he talked he would close his eyes. R asks why. I suggest he is clearing his mind the way R uses his ear defenders sometimes when it is too noisy, the chap smiles at me and says “exactly!”
Back we go. An easier route to the road than the way we came but still up and over the hill in Grizedale Forest; Grandpa Pom is off walking, R joins him to show solidarity. We arrive at The Eagle’s Head 45mins after our booked table. There is no space and are told there is now an hours wait for another. We opt to sit outside in the cool evening air as we will be served straight away and order their ‘pie special’. What an utter rip off! £13 each for a frozen shop pie with frozen peas, shop oven chips and gravy with as much substance as powder mixed in hot water…
***It looks like they’re under new management now so hopefully will have upped their game.
We waste no more money here and head back to the campsite. Loose Grandpa Pom for a bit as he hunts for wood, then R as he goes looking for him! Get a fire going and toast marshmallows before bed.
It rained that night, a lot!
🔺s = 0, well a few but they’d be on tomorrows route | Total = 481
41km forwards and back | 750m of up
Stage: 505km | 4920m
Adventure: 914km | 9400m