Newbury to Bathhampton

Thirteen of us met on Sunday At a nice pub and BB called the Furze Bush Inn, near Newbury for the start of 2019 Crest summer tour, the culprits being Alan and Julie, Dawn and Dean, Jenny and Tony, Mick and his mate from the Redbridge CC Alan, Ryan, Pete S, Pete W, Paul Buckley and Geoff (Chatty), with Graham (Spyder) joining us early Monday morning.

The first day started with Pete W announcing he may need to replace the bottom bracket in his bike as it is really creaking. There was much pannier faffing in the morning, but the award for most faffing went to Tony. We managed to get on the road nearly on time for a pleasant ride through the lanes to Devises were lunch was taken at a pleasant café at the top of Carne Hill Locks.

After a long descent beside the locks and a stop at the bottom for the usual picture stop we had a 17 mile ride along the tow path, with a short detour to the Somerset Arms at Semington for a swift one. We then rode onto the hotel at Bathhampton with Dawn getting the first (of many) front wheel punctures! Disaster stuck Spyder with a mile to go when his battery ran out, he suddenly realised he may have packed to much!

Bathhampton to Webbington

Day two started well, on the road by 9.15 for a short 35 mile to the Webbington Spa Hotel near Cheddar where Jenny and Dawn had booked treatments each. We decided to put in a small loop to the Two Tunnels cycleway. We were going to meet some of Dawn’s friends for lunch at Chew Valley Lake. Then the rain started, so an extended lunch stop was had. Dawn was panicking slightly as she was not allowed to charge her bike up for the final climb over to Cheddar Gorge.

The rain finally eased off and a bit of a main road ride to East Harptree where we picked up a duel cabbage way lane (grass growing in the middle). With a fair share of 25% climbing, up and over to Cheddar, it started raining again! On one of the steep sections I passed Pete standing at the side of the road muttering something about his flipping chain (exact words changed for younger readers). In true Crest fashion I didn’t stop, well it was raining and on a steep section! A regroup was called and we waited for Pete who arrived 10 mins or so later to inform us he had lost two of four chain ring bolts; this solved the creaking bottom bracket mystery; Pete was now known as Usain 2 bolts. It was at this stop that Pee Gate happened, just to say full bladders and CCTV were involved.

We then had a short gentle-ish climb to catch up with others who had toddled on. The rain finally stopped and the sun came out, making for a dry descent through Cheddar Gorge where a stop was called for cream teas and for others a beer or three! Dawn was now running a little late for her Spa treatment, so set the Ribble to hyperdrive to make the hotel on time.

Webbington to Minehead

After a very nice stay at the Webbington Spa Hotel, there were some very sore heads and for Dawn some very sore legs after a sports massage. We set off towards Bridgewater across the Somerset levels, not a hill in sight for 20 miles with a stop of at SJS cycles to get Pete some chainring bolts and a rack to support Dawns self-supporting saddle bag and a quick bite to eat. We left Bridgewater for the ride over the Quantock Hills to Bishops Lydeard to catch the steam train to Minehead.

We arrived some two hours early for our train and guess what? We found an artisan brewery and Deli next to the station, so its rude no to try what’s on offer! At this point the club was renamed by the Somerset Railway as Creast Cycling Club (could be the local accent). We loaded the bikes onto the train and it was at this point we found out why Spyder needed an electric bike, it took three of us to lift it! A pleasant train ride to Minehead was had with some of us taking the opportunity to check out the inside of our eyelids.

Minehead to Bickliegh

After a warm stay at the Spoons in Minehead, the day started with the lowest point of the tour, sea level, all uphill from here! The sun came out so a parade along the prom was called, that worked. A longish climb over Exmoor towards lunch at Dulverton was completed with no events. On route we meet an 88-year-old out on a Longstaff trike for a ride, credit to the man, it’s hard enough to ride a trike on the flat, but around Exmoor! While chatting to him Tony noticed his tyres were a bit on the flat side, so sprang into action and pumped up his tyres, so if you hear us talking about Tony the pump you’ll know why.

On stopping for lunch at the Bridge Inn in Dulverton, two electric bikes and a few phones needed charging, with only one socket available this was going to be a problem. At this point Paul B produced from his panniers a 4-way 5 metre extension lead, a first for me on tour!

After a short but hilly ride over to Tiverton more tea and cake was consumed only to meet another old cyclist at the café who then went home and returned with his pride and joy, a restored Bianchi bike. A short but fast ride to Bickliegh followed with Ryan on the front of a group of five chasing down the rest of the group who were actually behind us, oops!

Bickliegh to Ilchester

After a pleasant stay in The Fisherman’s Cott, (rumour has it Art Garfunkel wrote A Bridge Over Troubled Waters here) and a 3am thunderstorm, this was the turning point of the tour. We all awoke to the weather news from Carol that it was going to be bad, heavy rain and high winds, she wasn’t wrong, the only good thing, we had a screaming tailwind. A few steep climbs, very nice but very wet lanes were taken in, steady progress was being made, then things started to go wrong. Dawn punctured, water got into Spyder’s electrics and fused his bike, Dawns bike also succumbed to the rain for a while. Dawn punctured again, 50 meters from The Bell pub at Broadway, so guess what, in we all went. Many Pizza’s and hot and cold drinks where consumed, kit dried, and a small mystery, as Dawn and Spyder unplugged their bikes the village along with the whole of the south of England lost their power. I wonder.

A wet but mostly downhill ride followed, one more puncture from Dawn and a wet day was over as we arrived at the Ilchester Arms Hotel.

Ilchester to Salisbury

A good night was spent at the Ilchester Arms, Mick somehow injuring his hand bowling at the pub across the road. We left after a good breakfast for the 50-mile ride to Salisbury. Due to the high winds most events in the country were cancelled, not ours. We started the steady wind assisted ride which looking at the ride profile was up for the next 20 miles ending in a vicious climb up to king Alfred’s monument, most of us walking the last 30% section. A quick photo stop was had at the top before the 30-mile descent to Salisbury began.

The first puncture of the day was from Dawn, 100 metres from the pub so lunch was called. A pleasant downhill ride to Salisbury followed with Dawn puncturing again. Salisbury was reached.

Salisbury to Newbury

After an interesting stay at Salisbury where several members were visited by a strange woman and a Police investigation the following day, we set off for the final stage back to Newbury. The sun was out and the tail wind God’s still were with us. A good mix of lanes with steady climbs and long descents we found ourselves at Vernham’s Dean and found a very nice pub, the George Inn.

The final 10 miles again over undulating roads with one last climb over the ridge at Combe Hill, a fast decent and a steady ride back to the Furze Bush Inn.

Alan Norris

Crest 2019 summer tour to Somerset

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