It was possibly the hottest day of the year when six tandemists and one recumbent rider forgathered in Stroud for Eddie and Heather’s run to the river and back. We had tacked ourselves on to the Stroud Valleys Project sponsored bike ride but we saw no crowds of Blokes on Bikes on our route.
We sped off down the hill out of Stroud and coffee was taken somewhat late at the Black Barn on the Sharpness canal where boats floated serenely by and then, it was onwards to Purton Hulks for lunch. . The hulks are 2nd World War barges which were sunk on the embankment of the Severn Estuary to prevent erosion. We sat and burnt in the strong sunshine and identified a few birds and took in the majestic sweep of the river and tried not to think of Berkeley nuclear power station a couple of miles downstream, de-commissioned or not.
As anyone knows, what goes down must climb back up, and so it was. Our return route inevitably involved a climb or two and a tea break at Frocester was well earned. Altogether, nearly 40 miles of unvarying interest were covered and a feeling of satisfaction was engendered in the riders at the end.
It was an overcast & drizzly November morning as we prepared to lead the Three Counties Ride out from Cheltenham. A late change of plan meant we’d be skipping elevenses and riding straight to an early lunch, so with no complaints about that (cyclists are always hungry) we set on our way, the rain abating bang on cue. Snaking our way across Cheltenham via quiet roads, the park and secluded cycle paths, local hard man of the road Howard shouted “Well, I never knew you could cycle down this way”. What a compliment I thought – it’s always a challenge to find new routes, especially for locals!
Soon enough we were out into the countryside, where the challenge of Churchdown Hill (on the otherwise flat landscape) loomed. To be honest there was no good reason to make the ascent other than (a) it is there & (b) it’s a marvellous view from the top. But when an anxious voice behind me whispered “oh no, not that way surely?”, I was forced to take stock and consider my responsibilities. Common sense prevailed: in the interest of matrimonial harmony and the sniff of the early lunch, I heaved the bike to the right and away from the hill. Soon into the countryside once more, we stopped briefly at a pretty church with a nearby well. It was one of those places so close to home that we had invariably passed it by without a glance, but there we all spent a few minutes of quiet contemplation before heading on. Despite never being far from the bustle of Christmas shoppers in town, the roads remained peaceful as we headed onto our lunchtime destination, “the Gloucester Old Spot”.
After an excellent lunch (the present owner has pulled the place up by its bootstraps in recent times to become one of the best eateries around) clearing blue skies and bright sunshine blessed us as we headed north, then east and south to arrive back in Cheltenham well before sunset. Plenty of time then for the cuppa and cake we has missed out on earlier. Many thanks to Martin, Jenny G, Howard, Jenny M & Helen for their company & commiserations to those unable to attend.