Team PJ was born out of lock down and the rule of pairs. Paul Cartwright and Julian Harding were putting in the miles together whilst club rides were disbanded for Covid safety. The riding was going well, international travel was still not possible and a staycation was planned. Julian proposed a route with the “fun” day being a channel-to-channel ride, English to Bristol being suggested. The plan included getting to the English Channel to start with, from Leamington via Stonehenge for some sightseeing and for further sightseeing getting home from Breen via the Clifton Suspension Bridge. A simple rule was put in place. No hotels. We would be carrying tents, sleeping bags and the bare essentials on the bike. Julian’s Boardman, a gravel bike, isn’t the lightest to start with and came in at 23kg loaded.
Day 1 was a 135km / 1000m trip from Leamington to Calne and the first camp site. The weather was pretty good, dry but not too hot for July. Skirting passed Stow and the big lump to get over at Burton / Burford. The bikes were running well and the bags seemed stable. Julian’s only test ride was the Friday night club road social a few nights before, but everything was in order. The campsite shop was pretty good, a Cadbury Magnum a fair reward for the effort put in. Day 2 shall never be forgotten by either rider. A test of bike handling, weather proofing, and determination. Julian still doesn’t know how Paul finished the day, but does remember the bang on the head later on. The day started well, the weather was good, options were available, a long day that included Stonehenge or a shorter day that didn’t, the long day it was. The camp broken down and packed away and the legs came back to the riders fairly well, the pervious day a good warm up. Day 2 shall never be forgotten by either rider. A test of bike handling, weather proofing, and determination. Julian still doesn’t know how Paul finished the day, but does remember the bang on the head later on. The day started well, the weather was good, options were available, a long day that included Stonehenge or a shorter day that didn’t, the long day it was.
The camp broken down and packed away and the legs came back to the riders fairly well, the pervious day a good warm up.
Not having anywhere local for breakfast meant loading something in to the Wahoo, it took the pair off the beaten track, off road. Julian was in his element, it was gravelly, Paul got a puncture. 60km later Stonehenge was in view, back on gravel and having fun until the cleat pulled away from Paul’s shoe. The weather turned, the predicted storm, a true Northerly as the pair were heading South, came in. Wet and very blowy, the hills were welcome for the shelter from the wind offered. Paul somehow battled on without cleat until the same happened on the other shoe. He continued to battle on. The “amazon” plates were diagnosed as “poor”, the threads stripped. Speed reduced, the rain got heavier, Paul couldn’t pedal, and Julian started moaning about not being able to see the sea (as the pair crested the top of every hill). Whilst close to the end and on a narrow road a dead tree branch was blown down hitting Julian on the head / helmet, the branch broke in to smaller pieces, Julian stayed upright, but he had had enough. That was about as low as it got the whole trip but soon the weather turned again, the sun came out. A pitstop at Halford’s in Weymouth sorted the shoes out. Yes Weymouth, the sea was seen, 155km and 2000m on the clock for the day. The fish and chips, and the beer tasted great that night, happiness was restored.
Day 3, coast to coast, Channel to Channel, Weymouth to Breen. A ride of two halves. Leaving Weymouth behind tried legs were tasked with conquering the lumpy terrain that is the Dorset Hills, the legs soon warmed up and found a steady rhythm. A good breakfast was taken at 15km in, the day should be easier than the previous. Paul remained firmly attached to his bike. The hills subsided and the pair entered the Somerset Levels. Pub lunch in the sun was followed by torrential rain just 20km from Breen. The shower was heavy but blew over quite quickly. A big steak, chips, onion rings, side salad and extra chips that night were good. 110km and 1000m for the day, easy.
Day 4 for some more sightseeing. Bristol to Gloucester would include a ride over the suspension bridge at Clifton, a ride through Ashton Court, that was a bit hilly, and a stop to look at SS Great Britain. A day for the engineer in the group and a day to wonder at some of the work by Brunel. The whole day was ridden in sunshine, the English country side making way for the Urban landscape of Bristol, both equally as beautiful as each other. The bikes were ran well and the change of scenery made for a good day. Garmin (on popularity setting) had made route plotting really easy but it did put us on a cycle path in to Bristol, planners must have been having a laugh at the time, part of it was unrideably steep (going up) and the rest, so steep going down that Julian’s disc rotors had tempered to a brown colour and smoke was coming from the calipers, the bike was overloaded for sure. A mountain biker tried it on and overtook whilst pedalling up the hill at Ashton Court, in club colours the riders weren’t having any of that, fully loaded and on tired legs they stuck with him until he blew up. Julian blagged his way in to see SS Great Britain without paying, the day just got better. Camp was made just North of Twigworth and a good pub was recommended by the owner who thought the riders were a little bit crazy, “you’ve been where, how many miles?”. Actually, 110km and 800m for the day. The ride was planned to get a bit easier towards the end of the week, the plan seemed to be working out, a short day next.
Day 5, Twigworth to Home. Cutting a long story short, a short day, “its only 80km” said the route planner (Julian). Nothing was said about the elevation; 1100m were tackled on day 5. A strong finish, Cleeve, Salter’s Lane, and Ebrington, what a day. Julian left Paul at Bishops Itchington, technically the finish, job done but then was alone to tackle Mallory Court climb before finishing in Leamington.
A fantastic staycation during difficult times and a great week away.