two became three

After a disgusting 11hr work day on Friday mixing it with the Bank Holiday traffic sewer on the M5 and then a quick blast on the rack when I got home meant my legs were finally fully refreshed from last Sunday’s sportive and ready for some action.

The weather couldn’t have been better for a spin. Wall to wall sunshine. I was undecided what bike to use though. Mix it up on the gravel bike or get some miles in on the nice one. I decided to mix it up, my excuse being to try and find some new offroad routes. So the Ribble CGR it was.

Sally was trying to sleep off nights so I sauntered out quietly to give a her a couple of hrs of peace and quiet. The soft, fat tyres on the gravel bike felt weird at first, a world away from the uber-fast Conti GP5000’s. Comfy though and I wasn’t bothered about speed.

As I got into the lanes with no real plan, I decided to head out towards Stourport-on-Severn and meander through the quietest lanes I know. An OS map bridleway find sprung to mind in Dodford. It’s a shortcut and I’d never tried it before so I headed there for my first bit of exploring. After a climb through Bournheath I descended to Dodford and a quick left and right into a dead end past The Dodford Inn and its suntrap, decked terrace. So tempting. The end of the tarmac gave way to a gap in a bush and I was straight onto a rocky singletrack descent which I didn’t expect and focussed the mind. In the shade it was still damp from the recent rain too. It wasn’t too long before it opened up onto a gravel drive way and as quick as you could blink it was done. Verdict? Only do it up, not down.

I crossed the main Kidderminster Road and disappeared into the lanes again. No cars in sight, just beautiful open fields after fields. The legs were awake now and feeling great and I was forward planning my route now in my head to get to a disused railway line between Hartlebury and Stourport I’d been meaning to do for probably years.

From the top of Rushock Hill

Into Hartlebury and I climbed under the A449 bridge before descending out of the village and picked it up briefly before coming to a dead stop at a disused railway bridge to climb onto the old track bed. As I jumped up the kerb I was met by some random guy filming something. I think I gatecrashed his mini-movie. I remounted and immediately slipped my foot off the pedal to which I got a sarcastic ‘ .. oh no don’t crash..’ I hastily got going and I was onto some new offroad and what a joy.

all disused railway lines should be repurposed for this

It was quiet too apart from a few walkers but I did meet a big group of ramblers sprawled all over the track but my trusty bell warned them in time and they parted like Moses separating the Red Sea. I keep telling you, the power of a good bell is underestimated.

The dirt gave way to gravel and beautiful gorge cut through sand stone with a road bridge perched high up. I’m sure drivers have no idea how high they are when they cross it in a second or two. We take them for granted but a marvellous piece of engineering.

The perfect track. Sun, dry, gravel, quiet

Despite being quite short this new offroad route was excellent and it won’t be long before I ride it again. At the end I popped out into a modern housing estate before mixing it with the inevitable bank holiday weekend queues of cars trying to get into the town and down by the river. It was rammed. Don’t know why I bothered to be honest. A reminder why I hate so many human beings on this planet.

my worst nightmare
a nice brown River Severn.

I took a couple of photos. Realised I was never going to get around the crowds of people so I made a hasty retreat straight onto the canal and out of there ASAP.

Now I expected the canal to be rammed with walkers and a right pain stopping and starting but although there were a few walkers and cyclists it was fine. I was able to put together quite a few long stretches without using the bell but when I did, most moved over and were grateful. A couple of exceptions. One bloke looked and just carried on so I had to squeeze past and another family were sat in chairs halfway across the towpath with their dog sat creating a very small gap to get through. Absolutely no problem with that so I slowed right down to walking pace so I didn’t startle the dog but as I pass it they call him out of my way right in front of me and then one of them asked where my bell was? Now, normally thats a red rag to a bull for me and I would have stopped and challenged him if he says that to all the walkers as I was going no faster but common sense saw the better of me and I just muttered ‘twat’ under my breath and carried on as I was enjoying myself so much.

The Severn Valley Railway viaduct crossing the canal

As I approached Stourbridge I saw a few riders on the new West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes putting them through their paces. Fair play. All the pubs and beer gardens were rammed and the smell of the odd BBQ was torture. I so wanted to stop and have a pint but I knew one would be two then a gassy ride home so I decided to just keep pedalling.

In Stourbridge it was a choice. Take the branch canal into town or go see my boy who has had to isolate for 10 days because a kid with COVID sat next to him this week. I decided to see him but keep my distance on the drive. We were supposed to go upto North Wales this weekend together to see my parents but that got scuppered. He was in good spirits despite not been able to go anywhere. A bit bored and faces half-term indoors, poor kid. Seeing him lifted my spirits as I’ve missed him. I was over 2hrs in now and should’ve been home according to my original plan.

I played with some traffic and took the underpass to avoid the ring road and rode through Mary Stevens Park. I decided to head to Hagley as it was easier to pick up quieter lanes home from there. I considered Clent and Romsley but that would have been biting off a bit too much climbing for today, plus Clent would be chocka, so I just headed home.

After Belbroughton I climbed back into Dodford and back home via Catshill for nearly three and a quarter hours in the saddle. Not cooked but the tan lines were back and I was ready to demolish beans on toast as my lunchtime treat at 4pm. Loved it.

A (too) rare but great ride outdoors.

2 thoughts on “two became three

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