Wednesday, April 16, 2008

75 miles, 4200 feet and 10 hours in the saddle

Friday 11th April and Marc and Justin took the day off to complete a loop around the Severn River beginning near Gloucester, traveling off road along the West bank of the Severn to Chepstow and then over the old Severn Bridge and back up the east side of the river, off road back to our start point.
We estimated the route to be 67 miles long and had thought it would take in the region of 9 hours to complete, so we set off from Marc’s house in Quedgley and traveled North along the Sharpness- Gloucester canal until we were able to cross the Severn at Over Bridge. Having made it to the West side of the river we headed down the Gloucestershire Way footpath which follows the river as it meanders through the Gloucestershire countryside.
13 miles in and the river meets the A48 and a welcome tea hut. Soaked to the bone already, we stopped off for a quick brew and a warm up. While we were having tea the sun came out and the promise of a nice day loomed large!!
A further half mile up the A48 the path breaks away and follows the river again, so we were straight back to stiles and mud as we followed the river. Spectacular scenery along the river more than made up for the howling wind that we faced all the way to Chepstow and we were even lucky enough to watch the Severn Bore trundle up stream as we approached Newnham.
Once we got to Aylburton we stopped at my (Justin’s) house for a quick brew and a bite to eat before striking out on the last leg down the West side of the river to the old Severn Bridge at Chepstow.
Once on the bridge we had the welcome sensation of the wind at our backs and looked forward to an easier run back up the river to Gloucester. As we crossed the bridge we hit the 45 mile mark and it became apparent that our estimate of 67 miles was going to be a bit off, but nevertheless we were happy with progress and came off the bridge in good spirits.
A fairly long climb up to Thornbury, almost as soon as you come off the bridge was paid back with a lovely long 15 mile stretch to Sharpness which was almost all slightly downhill or flat the whole way. From there we got back on to the canal bank for the last few miles.
By this point I had well and truly had it while Marc looked like he could have done another 20 miles…the swine!!
So for me the stretch along the canal was a long slog although it has to be said it was punctuated with very picturesque little villages and brightly painted boats all along the route so it wasn’t too bad at all.
Eventually we came off the canal and after a quick route through Quedgley that took us to 75 miles done, we found ourselves back at the start point and a very welcome drink.
With the big day less than 5 weeks away now, the more of these long days in the saddle that we can organise the better!!


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