The ‘Coast to Coast’, across the UK at its widest point, a total of 441 miles
I have ridden many long tours in both Britain and the Europe, but I have never toured much in the Midlands and Wales, something I decided was about time I changed. So on a fine Saturday morning my girlfriend Louisa and I joined fifteen others on an eight day cycle tour organised by Bike Adventures (see link at bottom of page) from ‘Lowestoft’ in Suffolk, the most easterly part of Britain, our destination ‘St Davids Head’ in Wales, as such across the UK at its widest point, a total of 441 miles.
The flat lands through the fens can have a beauty all of their own, go on beat that Holland!
Initially we headed north along the coast before turning in land towards the Norfolk Broads and the flat lands of the fens. For many the fens are not exactly top of the list when it comes to desired places to visit, I’ve done a few tours in that area myself and it has to be said on a few occasions it had been an unforgiving place with harsh winds and that blow across the wide open flatlands, the are also areas that at best can be described as drop dead boring! However Bike Adventures take great care in their route finding and it showed here, even one of the group who lives in the area commented how surprised she was that they had managed to find such a good route and I have to agree, the early days were so much better than many had expected.
The wide open spaces of East Anglia, see look, a slight hill!
Day two ended in the village of ‘Pidley‘, where we all had our evening meal at the ‘Mad Cat Inn’, both names quintessentially ‘English countryside’ as far as I’m concerned; I half expected to see Dawn French all ‘Diblyed up’ wandering out of every church! What hadn’t been the very English was the weather, which so far had been more South of France than middle England with temperatures in the low thirties and almost constant sunshine, the evening campsite also had a continental feel to it, so much so that the next day when a fellow camper said “good morning” for a moment I thought “oh a fellow British person on our campsite….” It had been a while since I had last toured in the UK!
Day three and the flatlands and wide open spaces were starting to change
By day three the scenery was beginning to change from the wide open flatlands to rolling hills as we headed towards ‘Sibertoft’ near ‘Market Harborough’. One thing I like about place to place tours is the variety of terrain and countryside we pass through, each day often has a very different feel from the last and this tour was no exception. For me it had three elements, the open Flat lands of the East, the rolling hills and hedgerows in the middle and the tougher more rugged days that were to follow in Wales.
The further into the tour we went the hillier it became.
Day four finished at ‘Tiddington’ on the outskirts on Stratford on Avon, a superb days ride with plenty of places to stop, which many of us did a few times; one thing that many on such tours like just as much as the cycling and that’s the stopping! One such place was ‘Compton Verney’ which has a café that much of the group decided to visit. Cycle touring can be useful in as much that you do get a quick snapshot of places that you may decide you wish to revisit more thoroughly at a later date; this is an area of the country that definitely fills that category.
Day 5 and the hills were starting to become both more frequent and severe as we headed towards ‘Bircher’ near ‘Leominster’. The weather was for those who like the warm sunshine still glorious as was the scenery. One thing I do like about the more remote places in Britain is that time seems to have stood still, people seem to live at a slower place than they do where I come from in South London where we seem to have a 24/7 lifestyle all at one hundred miles an hour. For sure I do get caught out when places are frustratingly closed, yet by the same token part of me likes that they are, even if I am very hungry and I want my food; now!
Day six had us heading into Wales as we headed towards ‘Llangammarch Wells’, by now the weather was starting to cool slightly down to the seasonal norm’, towards the end of the ride we even had an occasional shower, although most managed to miss them, ok they all did apart from Louisa and I, which means I got both wet and an ear ache as it was naturally my fault that we were late and had got caught in what was a heavy down poor, always seems worse when you nearly make it but don’t and everyone else in the group is sitting in camp all dry and snuggly drinking tea under a sheltered picnic area!
Day seven and we were now well and truly in the Welsh hills, although less touristy than the route had been to date there were still places to stop for refreshments. We actually stopped in one pub which at first glance looked a bit run down, ordered from the menu which to be fair did state that their meat was from local farms and of the highest quality, but the décor was such that my expectations were not high, I was relieved to have these fears completely quashed as the best steak I have ever had was served and with chips that could have won prizes; wouldn’t be surprised if one had appeared on the front cover of ‘Miss Chip Weekly’ wearing a cheeky salt and pepper number.
The last day was overcast and showery as we rode out of the Welsh hills and over the exposed moor land, for me that’s how the moor land should be, dark skies, windswept, isolated, slightly eerie and probably where the bogey man lives! For some these open moors have a warm James Harriet and all things woolly feel about then; I confess I have always found they have a more powerful yet equally impressive ‘Hound of the Baskerville’ type of feeling about them that few other places can even get near too, a great place to pass through, never catch me living there though!
Wales ended as at had been the whole tour, hilly yet spectacular, the bay at ‘Abercastle’ was about ten miles from the finish at ‘Whitesand Bay’, both well worth a visit, the former for it’s isolated location and the second for it’s glorious beach. Another tour finished and one to remember for all the right reasons, a superb route, good food, good company and for most of it good weather; what more could you ask for!
This group tour was organised by www.bikeavdentures.co.uk ; please note that since this write up Bike Adventures has become a limited Company with new management, so the tours on offer may differ, although I have no experience with them under the new ownership I would hope they still offer quality tours; for anyone interested I have included a link to their website below: