Bath Abbey Christmas ride (35 miles)

The Christmas ride again- we’re going to Bath, once there we will see the ‘Advent service’ in Bath Abbey and wander around the Christmas market.

Severn bridge It was a thoroughly miserable day coating us in misty rain, but it was kinda warm. The service was late afternoon so we set off fairly early at 10.00, the run to the Severn bridge was uneventful. No matter what season, riding in the rain is as much part of the bike as the wheels, but cycling across the Severn bridge is a treat in itself especially in the rain and fog. The winds can be horrendous, but today there was none, the only sound was the cars emerging the murk and the eerie sound of the fog horns blasting every fifteen seconds. As the temperature was quite tepid (for this time of year), we didn’t stop for tea on the other side, but had to get a photo of the bridge before we continued to Bristol. Once we passed Parkway railway station we turned onto the cycle path that once formed part of the old Mangotsfield to Bath railway line, it runs alongside the ring road which isn’t pleasant to ride until it splits from the road. Almost as soon as it was car free, we hit Warmley station, now converted into a cafe. Thankfully, it was open and we sat outside in the rain with a good coffee and piece of cake, and thanked the Ladies for staying open.

It was a different story when we reached Bitton steam heritage railway. As an anorak of steam trains, it’s a place I like, but as a cyclist we got treated like crap. It was Bitton railway’s Christmas weekend and we hadn’t even left the cycle path to cross the car park before we were accosted by two orange bibbed car park attendants and told to walk our bikes, a statement which I find offensive as a bikey (they dont tell car drivers to get out and push do they?). Still we decided to have another coffee, a big mistake. Now walking with the bikes, again we were directed where to put them, we followed instructions and turned the corner where the bike racks were. The station had donkeys dressed in festive outfits, enough to keep the attention of some of the youngsters and parents, maybe too much as some of the other kids were unobserved. Two five year olds were literally using parked bikes as a climbing frame, next to these was another infant bouncing up and down on a static track pump. No thanks, we wheeled our bikes onto the platform, and were eye balled by more orange bibbed officials who made there way towards us. “You have to put the bikes in the rack” and pointed to the sign- ‘no cycles on the platform’. Just then a double buggy pram pushed past us and nothing was said to them. “Mum I’m sorry, you’ll have to leave the pram over there and carry your kids” is a statement never said. Obviously cyclists are second class citizens here and the only way to deal with them is apartheid (or so a lot of establishments think).

We left Bitton and continued to Bath on the cycle path, away from the car parks near to the path, the track now becomes more secluded and the rain subsided. We reached Bath and passed the old Green Park railway station which used to be the Midland railway company Bath station and is now Sainsbury’s supermarket and under the ‘Midland road bridge’ originally built in 1870 also by the Midland Railway Company. Continuing along the river Avon the Victorian trading became apparent with some huge warehouses on the south side of the river, on our side of the river the area was fenced off as the north Quays were being redeveloped. We crossed the Avon on a small footbridge and continued on the south side of the river and turned right onto the ‘Kennet and Avon canal’ and continued along the canal until ‘Bathwick hill’. Drenched and after thirty miles we were knackered and changed into our trainers to walk up the hill to the Youth hostel. The building was built in 1848 by Henry Goodridge for John Willoughby, but he ended up living in it himself upon completion until his death in 1864. We were staying at the top of the building, clearly in the old servants bedrooms as our access was by the narrowest spiral staircase I’d ever been up.

A rapid shower ensued and it was out to Bath Abbey for the ‘Advent’ service followed by a walk around the Christmas market and of course a few beers. I’ve been reading the book called ‘The Last Tommy’ about a chap called ‘Harry Patch’ who fought in WW1, his regiment was the ‘Somerset & Cornwall light Infantry’ (later named the 'Duke of Cornwall light Infantry). Inside Bath Abbey is loads of regimental flags and a tribute plaque to the ‘8th Somerset & Cornwall light Infantry’. The trip back in the taxi was hair-raising to say the least, as the eastern European taxi driver (other nationality bad drivers are available) seemed intent on hooking his left bumper onto the backend of a bus, when the bus turned off, he had another go with a car only on the other side. When there wasn’t any vehicles to tangle with, the road was his race track- somehow seatbelts and air bags didn’t alleviate the feeling at the back of my pants. Needless to say we were glad to alight the ride. Breakfast was excellent and after, as it was ‘persisting’ down we decided to catch the train home. Overall, it was a good ride, only marginally tainted by Bitton steam railway centre and the banger racing taxi driver.

  • Gallery

    gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • Eerie, but reassuring

    For more than 150 years, foghorns have warned ships away from dangerous rocks or structures, but now there are fewer than thirty in the UK, as boats increasingly rely on satellite navigation systems. The Severn bridge still has fog warning horns and they are loud, but kinda reassuring.

  • Officious stunts

    I’m sick of being oppressed by officious representatives of organisations forcing me off my bike and telling me where to leave it. I recently spoke to a person who boasted; ‘no matter what lock was on the bike’, he could easily disable it. It’s a sad fact that the safest alternative is a direct eyeball on your bike, people would be stupid to leave £500 cash chained to a metal hoop, but they expect us to. And we weren't exactly pulling wheelies or doing dangerous stunts on the platform, but still we’re perceived as a danger to the public even wheeling them.

  • Milk Street Baths

    Milk Street Baths The North quays were one of the poorest parts of Bath, it regularly flooded and was a haven for Bath's unfortunates. Concern over infectious diseases, particularly after the outbreak of cholera in 1832 prompted improvements in sanitation, epitomised by the construction of a public wash house and laundry, it opened in 1847 and was known as the ‘Milk Street Baths’. Excavations have shown that the baths were supplied with water pumped from the river, which was heated using coal-fired steam boilers.

  • Bath Abbey's little secrets

    There was originally a wooden Saxon church on the site of Bath Abbey, this was replaced by a Norman stone structure in 1080, and this in turn was replaced by the Abbey in the late 15th century. But there’s a little known secret beneath Bath Abbey; the Heritage Vaults, only opened to the public in 1994. In 2014 it was discovered the floor was sinking due to the thousands of people buried beneath it. There are about 8,500 people buried under the floor which has caused the floor to slowly collapse.

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