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Day 3 – Taunton to Gloucester

In Cycling most of Land's End to John O'Groats | 28 Apr 2023 | cycling

Today’s tale has thrills (maybe) and spills (one), country and urban, but very few ups and downs. Let’s start at the beginning: coffee and muesli before my B&B awoke, off around 7am.

Wound my way through Taunton, with several wrong turns. I was greeted by a swan flying down a river toward me at one point – they are enormous and graceful birds in flight. Soon started on a bike route along the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal which had lovely scenery.

Canal lock with narrowboats in the background

Lock on the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal

A notable feature of this canal path that I’m not used to is that it took a dive to the very edge of the channel under rather small bridges. I had to duck while cycling.

Low bridge along canal

Low bridges and perilous cycle paths ducking under

At one point the bike path became just two thin muddy tracks. I thought about slowing down a bit but before I’d come to action, I managed to scrape the side of the rut, fail to find a graceful way to control it, and then was on my side in the brambles. No great harm done. I straightened my handlebars and brushed myself off. A little scrape on my elbow and a ding on the right side of my torso. Note to self: be careful.

Rut along canal path

Narrow rut that threw me

I took the next few miles gently. My 25mm wide slick road tires aren’t really ideal for mud. At the end of this canal section I attempted to follow my bike computer”s instructions and ended up getting lost in a shady looking area. My route included going under this bridge — it really is 5-6′ high in the middle and I saw a car just fit through.

Small and low road bridge

Smaller than the average bridge

I ended up asking a woman who was out walking her two large and ferocious sounding off-leash dogs which way to a road. “Which road?” “Any real road!” She directed me down a track that went around a few corners, over a railway crossing (had to wait for train), and to a pub that I’d seen from the canal path. I’d managed a mile or so loop!

Second try, I found the right route and was pleased to be heading into the countryside away from Bridgewater. I crested a little hill by a farm and started bombing down a gentle slope only to come up short behind a herd of cows ambling out to pasture. Nothing to do but follow them until they turned. “Bad timing, I’d say” offered the farmer. “Aye, good morning!”

Cows on the road

Cows are gentle creatures but one still can’t really squeeze past them

This road and others we extremely muddy (mixed with dung) so I and my bike got a fair bit of it. At one point I had to stop to try to poke out the mud from by brakes and forks.

Muddy bike brakes

My pretty road bike bunged up with mud

In the less muddy areas the flat and level roads were wonderfully fast compared with either the hills of previous days or the gravel and mud canal path. I started making excellent progress only to have a 3 miles detour because of a road closed for work on new 440kV power lines (cool new pylon design that I failed to take a photo of). After 42 miles I finally stopped for breakfast at a funny little cafe.

Fried breakfast

Fry-up again!

More good roads and I was often able to keep up about 16-18 mph. At about 58 miles I suddenly popped out on the Bristol Channel just south of Clevedon.

Boats high and dry

Boats high and dry at low tide by the Bristol Channel

I thought I’d decided to take the short cut and not visit Clevedon but obviously not. It is a rather pretty little seaside town with and impressive pier. The sun came out too, which helped.

Clevedon pier

Clevedon pier, built 1869

A few hills around Clevedon and then more speedy cycling, again muddy at times. There were lots of other cyclists about all day (bank holiday Monday) which was fun. On sections of dedicated cycling and walking trail I was amazed how many families with kids were out. Great fun. I also met a guy who noticed my titanium bike and then proceeded to tell me how much better his titanium bike is. Oh well, I like my bike.

I saw an enormous scaffolding to hold a net over the M5, I assume more of the 440kV line installation.

Scaffolding by the M5 highway

Scaffolding by the M5

I continued north to Avonmouth, Bristol a few miles east. A bike trail shares the M5 bridge and then my route wound through less than salubrious run-down developments and industrial facilities.

River Avon

Looking up the river Avon from the M5 bridge

Although I should have expected it, I was surprised to see the Severn Bridge.

Severn Bridge

The Severn Bridge

More good fast and easy riding once I got out into the country again. Shortly after the 80 mile mark I stopped at a pub with a nice beer garden. “Two pints of lemonade and a pack of chili crisps please.” What has become of me? It was the right choice.

Two glasses of lemonade

At least the lemonade was in Young’s glasses

From there it was a gloriously sunny ride along country rides and the occasional bit of canal path into Gloucester.

Boats along the canal

Boats along the canal

I did have a funny moment when my computer said to turn right across the bridge yet I couldn’t see a bridge. Turns out it was a little swing bridge that closed after this boat passed.

Open swing bridge with boat passing in canal

Waiting for the boat to pass so my bridge came into existence

My first century of the year: 116 miles, 3000 feet of elevation gain and almost 8 hours in the saddle (2 hours 30 in stops). Surprisingly, I’m not feeling too saddle sore and I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying this! Tomorrow is longer and hillier.

Day 3 map