I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire:
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles, and makes them wearisomeRichard II (2.3.3-5)
We cycled from Warwick to Gloucester and back over the weekend; 115 miles in total. Apart from perhaps a brief 'boarder crossing' when cycling near Ilmington, I don't think I'd ever been to Gloucestershire before. And, except a trip to Broadway village a long time ago, I hadn't seen much of Worcestershire either.
We took the usual route to Long Marston via the Fulbrook Lane and the Stratford Greenway. After leaving Warwickshire behind, the road to Evesham took us through the villages of Pebworth, Honeybourne, Bretforton and Badsey. Pebworth has some impeccably thatched Tudor cottages. Fearful sheep bleat at you while you speed past them. The lie of the land here is much the same as around home. It's endless fields; not flat, but with no large hills either. It seems a little less wooded. Bretforton was the first place that felt like we'd gone beyond our back yard, mainly because it has houses built of Cotswold stone. There's a NT-owned pub here called the Fleece Inn. Badsey is a rather run-down place that has a Spar, and a church dedicated to St. James. A wedding blocked the High Street.
To get to Evesham, you have to cross the A46. There are two ways to do this for non-motorists, and neither is particularly safe. The town itself sits on a bend of the Avon. It once had an abbey, of which only the bell tower remains. It now has a Lidl, around which there seems to live a lot of Polish people. A 'hot air balloon festival' was underway in the park, but there were no balloons on account of the wind. This is what caused our pace to slacken a bit, as we made our way south out of the Wychavon district.
On entering Gloucestershire, the terrain becomes more hilly. By the time you get to Winchcombe, there can be no doubt that you have arrived in the Cotswolds. Next, we had to ascend the northern face of Cleeve Hill. Doing this by pedal is punishing on the thighs but rewarding for the heart, literally and metaphorically. There are ancient structures in the area that we didn't have time to see. By the time we got to Gloucester, we were exhausted.
The city itself is a strange place. The gulls give it a coastal town feel. For a Saturday night, the town centre was rather quiet. There were a lot of stoned folk wandering around. We ate at a pub near the docks called The Tall Ship
. After taking a look at the cathedral we a had a pint of ale each at New Inn
, a very old pub/hotel with a nice courtyard. It was karaoke night, so we drank outside. Then we stopped for cider at Imperial Inn
, because it's façade was delightfully Victorian. It was populated by a handful of very drunk and scary locals.
We stayed at the Edward Hotel
. The landlady kindly gave us a safe spot to put our bikes. At breakfast, a couple made me laugh because they fulfilled the sterotype of American tourists so well. The bloke was hilariously rude, "hey lady! any sign of my tea?" Then his wife said, "we should go to Care-filly Khassel, it's the second largest khassel in England," and I struggled to hide my amusement.
Cycling back home was less difficult than I thought it'd be. The wind had died down but we did catch about half an hour of rain. We took a less challenging route to that went through the village of Elmstone Hardwicke. We pressed on to a series of boring cycle paths around the outskirts of Tewkesbury, returning to Evesham and then going home along the route we took before.
Overall, I was quite comfortable with the mileage and terrain, and it's made think that I might be able to attempt longer distances. Perhaps I might even be able to tackle LEJOG.