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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Route 55 and Route 5 to Stratford-upon-Avon

The objective of this ride was to get to Stratford-upon-Avon. With the iPhone mounted on the handle bars meant easier access but the screen didn't respond to gloved hands. Finding the right position to mount the iPhone had been a problem and the angle that I mounted it made it unreadable. Even stepping off the bike, it was difficult to read the screen because of the reflections. The other frustration was that I couldn't hear the phone ring and the mounting case seemed to muffle the speakers. I am not sure that I want to be tethered to my handlebars by ear plugs.

The first part down route 55 was the homeward leg from my previous ride although I took a quicker path to get to it rather than cycle the full length of route 55. Being primarily downhill and slightly warmer conditions than my last ride, I made good time to Ridditch. Although this photo shows the worst climb on this leg, the down hills were longer and reasonably fast. In a couple of places there was icy slush across the road.

The first part of route 5 heading south from Redditch through the Arrow Valley Park. The way marker in the park was colourful. It does show the direction and distances. There were a lot of people out enjoying a morning's walk on a cool and cloudy morning.


Exploring the English countryside always takes you past interesting places. Coughton Court near Alcester. Just down the road, is a ford. Thankfully there is a pedestrian bridge. Being a national cycle route doesn't mean that there aren't obstacles to negotiate along the way.


Another historic place along the ride is Mary Arden's House at Wilmcote, just three miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon. This a large Tudor farmhouse. Some of the out buildings looked worthy of exploration but it wasn't open and cycling gear isn't really the best to wear when exploring historic places.

Heading into Stratford-upon-Avon, route 5 turns along the canal path. Getting onto the canal path involved negotiating a rather interesting gate. I had to swing the gate away from and then back the bike in between two fences that narrowed to be little more than the width of the rear wheel. Swinging the gate back the other way allowed me to get onto the canal path. Nothing but conventional bikes on this canal path. I should have taken a photo but was thinking about the end of the journey.


I didn't count the actual locks down this stretch of the canal but there were at least six and I wouldn't be surprised if there were ten. Most were full of ice as one was under repair so apart from the overflow path, there was little actual flow in the canal.


This was near where Marilyn actually picked me up but I continued along route 5 thinking it would be heading into the town centre. I stopped when I came to some train carriages from which a bike hire operation was operating (maybe during summer). It looked fairly closed. Forgot to take a photo as I discovered Marilyn was trying to call me. Back tracking, I realised that I should have taken route 41 to head into the town centre.

The journey distance was 45.57 km taking 2 hours 20 mins 15 seconds according to the bike computer. I again used MotionX-GPS to track the journey and travelled on my old Avanti Montari. A lot of this ride was on fairly good country roads but there were enough rough roads to mean that I wouldn't want to use a good road bike for these journeys.

Monday, January 3, 2011

3 January 2011: Route 5 and route 55

This was a trial ride for my objective of riding as much of the National Cycle Network. I discovered that Route 5 looped out from Kings Norton through Northfield and Bromsgrove to Redditch. Route 55 heads straight back from Redditch to Kings Norton. The map shows the route taken.
Map of the journey

The journey through to Northfield was on pathways shared with pedestrians beside the Rea River. Because of the fallen leaves, the path was quite slippery in places and with pedestrians at regular interval care had to be taken.

Not seeing the signposts or sign posts having been adjusted saw me take a side trip just before Rubery. However, the ride became much easier from there with a lot of the route being on fairly smooth roads. This part of the ride included a section around the Lickey Hills. Some nice vistas across fields and valleys made the ride appealing.

Coming in to Bromsgrove also had a nice vista across the city. However, negotiating the central city proved tricky and the signage was difficult to locate. A couple of side trips and one detour added to the length of the ride. The Bike Hub Cycle Journey Planner application for the iPhone had the National Cycle Routes marked on it and was helpful for checking whether I was on route or needed to retrace my steps.

The ride from Bromsgrove to Redditch was primarily along country roads with a couple of interesting country hazards. This country ford after a very muddy downhill looked challenging until I saw the pedestrian bridge to one side. If the sign is correct then this was probably two feet deep in the middle. No, I didn't test it to confirm whether the report was accurate.

The temperature was dropping as I rode but there were still signs to the pre-Christmas snow. The canals were beginning to flow but some were still iced over. At least out here, idiots haven't cluttered the ice with junk. These locks weren't going to be used as ice filled the locks.


The bottom end of the journey but only a little over 10km from home was Redditch. I took a short brake by the town centre before heading off to find the junction with route 55.

Yes, the bicycle in the photo is my old Avanti Montari equipped for my daily commute including British mudguards. The bike is beginning to show its age (19 years) but it is still the most reliable and efficient for this type of journey. I had decided not to take a road bike on the journey simply because I knew the roads and trails wouldn't be suitable for the race rims on my good road bike. The road to the ford being a classic example.



The junction of route 5 with route 55 was marked by clear signage which declared that it was only 7 miles back to Kings Norton. Seven miles didn't sound far after 43 kilometres but what I hadn't allowed for was my lack of preparation for any reasonable distance or the hills along this part of the route.

What should have been a little over a 30 minute journey turned into almost an hour. There were a couple of stops for photos and a couple of hill climbs that I got off an walked. The calf muscles were beginning to scream and locked up on one of the climbs. The additional hazard was negotiating past on coming cars on country lanes that were really only one car wide. At least most of the drivers were treating the roads with caution and most stopped to allow me to pass.

A 54.35km ride should have been accomplished in about two and a half hours when fit even on the Montari. A little over 3 hours ride time according to the bike computer 3 hours 34 minutes elapsed according to MotionX-GPS which produced the map track above. Even with the slow crawl over the last 7miles (10 km), the average speed was 17.8 km / hr. These journeys are not about speed. The ultimate goal is to explore the different communities that the cycle network passes through or by.