Day and night, fast and slow! Beautiful valleys with the odd hill thrown in including Cheddar Gorge, maybe in the dark with its looming walls. Stunning views en route you can just see The Needles.
WHEN:11/01/2020 07:00 - 20:56
WHERE:Warmley Waiting Room
Warmley, BS30 5JB
Ride review summary:
Extensive route notes and a variety of files will be distributed to entrants via email a week or two before the event. In the mean time use the interactive map for an overview of what lies ahead; toggle the elevation & grade on/off by clicking the key (subject to change).
Heading out from Warmley Station along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and through the 2Tunnels under Combe Down you will make your way into Wiltshire and cruise down the amazing virtually traffic free Wylye Valley, which the still operational GWR Wessex Main Line follows to the historic town of Wilton with its Italianate Church. Hopping over to the Chalke Valley, named after a small tributary to the River Ebble emerging at Broad Chalke, you head towards Shaftesbury after a couple of climbs; the first onto Charlton Down on a section of old Roman road between Bath and Badbury Rings, here you may see on the horizon The Needles if a clear day. Descend the infamous Zig-Zag Hill to Shaftesbury. Using predominantly B roads from now you head to Wells, here the road named Strawberry Way follows what was once the old Strawberry Line named after the local produce. Level riding through Somerset to Cheddar and its mighty Gorge, most likely in the dark with its looming rock faces, you ascend The Mendips to the Chew Valley and the arrivée at The Holybush Inn, Bridgeyate.
Public toilets will be open from 06:30 located in the small free car park. This has a height barrier so be warned but it is often left open. Please do not park at The Holybush Inn; people live there and don’t want to be woken at the crack of dawn by cyclists scrabbling to unload bikes, also they’d like to reserve the car park for their regular trade. As Warmley is ideally located on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path I’d hope all those coming from Bristol and even Bath cycled to and from the event.
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Riding my limits rollercoaster
Our modern lives are often dictated by convenience and instant gratification, I am rebelling against that. I do not want an easy life. I want a good life. I had entered an event with a hard time limit and made it harder for myself by taking sleeping gear around with me. I wanted to find my breaking point. Failure was the objective. This is not my first of these types of rides and it certainly won’t be my last.
My first destination was Bath to see my Brother and watch the film he starred* in and have a lovely lunch out with the parents. Much as cycling brings me lots of joy, the change is fantastic too, it makes you appreciate both sides all the more. My parents left for home, and I left my brother with his revision as I found myself the brilliant Bath to Bristol cycle path, the ferocious wolf moon rose to my right before a glowing sunset on my left.
*it was a cloudy night so the star wasn’t vizable but we knew.
I feel so lucky to have realised cycling for transport. My world grows as my mental restrictions are slowly stripped away and my limits flex. Yes cars are four times faster, yes you do not get wet in a box, but it is soulless transport. That entire half hour journey from A to B is dead time. Your world is just A and B, mine is everywhere in between. It is not just my legs that are active, all of my senses are hard at work. I get to experience the whoosh as the road arcs round a corner, the rise then fade of horse manure, subtle changes in humidity as I cross a bridge. I believe this connection is a significant factor in why I care so much about the climate.
Before leaving Bath I had been attempting to plan how to spend my evening, then after 20 minutes of browsing lists of the best pubs in the South West I realised this was not my style so promptly left without a plan. This plan always works, sure enough I spotted a sign to Bath Ales brewery among an industrial estate, tasty beers, interesting crowd, this was a jackpot.
The brewery closed early so I rolled myself to another pub. This is where I had a revelation, I am in my mid twenties. I have been trying to avoid this for ages, but it is so positive. What triggered this was me walking to the bar and ordering a second pizza instead of a pint. I have a job. The price of a pizza is not significant to me. I can do what I want, and that is pizzas over pints.
Audaxes are simple events, here is a route, go ride. The lack of structure and competition means that everyone is in it for themselves. They are doing it to do it, because it is difficult, because they love it. These people are some of the strongest endurance athletes I have ever met, but you wouldn’t realise for talking to them. The absence of racing keeps boastful egos away.
The start was back along the cycle path and the narrow nature of it forced us into a single file, reviving the decommissioned train. Rear lights pulsed at overlapping frequencies as shifting luminous clothing and reflective accents turned us into a kaleidoscope of forward motion. Individually we were drops, but together we formed a river, chaotically flowing around obstacles, forever onwards.
Being an old railway line we passed through a tunnel, then another never ending one that I’m convinced was a portal into Victorian times. My whispers of “this is so cool!” echoed to add to the absurdity of it as it kept on going. I refuse to look up the stats of how long it actually is, because dumb numbers cannot compare to “very”. When I emerged it was full blown daytime.
Sunrise is all too often just less black, the big moment of this morning was hours into the grey. I turned a corner and all of a sudden I saw blue! In isolation this was a subpar view, but to me, in that moment, it was exquisite. My imagination created a glowing warmth on my skin as the rays caught my face. I glided along for an entire 20 minutes before the drizzle hit, and it hit hard. The cafe was forever round the corner so no point stopping to put my coat on, only there was. I arrived a saturated, shivering mess. I have a top ten lifetime cuppas and this made a new entry as I squeezed warmth out of the mug and returned to reality.
Small talk was often complaints about the headwind, but I was loving the metrological might on display. I made a mental soundscape of all the different layers of wind I could hear. It rolled around inside my hood like a third lung, rustled through the leaves on the well kept bushes, whurred through my spokes, but most of all roared past my ears in spirals of raw power. This is not something to shut out, something to battle, this is something to be in awe of.
One of the extremely inaccessible things that I just can’t get enough of is that point of tired brain function that stops the adult voice from saying no that is silly. I spent the entire ride up Cheddar Gorge imagianing pocketting a rock and keeping it for a ridiculous situation. I needed to be asked for a block of cheese, then I would whip out this rock. Hilarious. I visualised myself in a supermarket, eating beans on toast, saving the day at the picnic… quality Bentertainment.
I had planned on sleeping in another ditch that night, but upon finishing the audax with beans still left in my metaphorical can, I decided to crack right on home. This entire journey felt like I was on the zoomy bit of rainbow road because that strong wind was now behind me. Directions were simple as it was late enough that the A roads were peaceful so I navigated by road signs. On reflection I was quite low on beans, just my beans-can-do attitude would not admit it.
Tough little effort for January and my first audax. Well organised and fun – i will be back for more…
A wonderful winter ride.
A winter ride that has everything, from tiny rural lanes to wide open vista’s ride it you will not regret it.