THE BROMPTON GOES MARCHING
For the first time in 2017, the Brompton went wild and took Mark Jacobson off camping in the springtime. in search of more British Cycle Quest clues.
Starting at Beckford, in the shadow of Breedon Hill, this tour began as the Fell Club AGM weekend ended.
My first quest would be at Micheldean, across the River Severn, which meant riding to Tewksbury. Even under a grey sky, being on tour is a delight. Leaving the town via the A38 southwards I came upon a wooden sculpture of a horse: this is a memorial to all who died in conflict during the Battle of Tewksbury, 4th May, 1471. Further on the quieter B4213 to Ledbury would get me to Newent quite comfortably. The Italian Kitchen there provided an excellent mid-morning comfort stop. Instead of 7 miles to Micheldean, I rode 12, having followed a road sign which had been turned around. The alternative is to stop at every junction to check the map, adding considerable time to any journey.
The Wye Valley was as delightful as one would anticipate. Not long after crossing the river on the A466 I reached Tintern Abbey for another quest clue. The A466 northwards then took me directly to Monmouth for the night's camping, at Monmouth Bridge Caravan site, right by the Gateway Bridge. Was this meant to keep an aggressor out? The river here is quiet shallow, but perhaps in medieval times the flow was stronger? Or maybe it was used as a toll booth? The town climbs up from this point, so further on the road is raised high above the water. Outside the Shire Hall are two memorials, one to Henry V, born here in 1387, the other to Charles Royce, of motor car fame.
The A466 from here on is restricted to light traffic only; just as well as it is not particularly wide and is very hilly. Near Hereford it joins the A49, cycle-able but busy. Hereford was bustling, but the quest soon found. The centre is for people and market stalls, of which there were plenty, not cars.
Finding the A4110 at the edge of town I proceeded northwards along it to reach Eardisland, that superb 'Black and White' village straddling the River Arrow. The quest being easy to find, I had time to explore the village and its variety of timber buildings, before moving on to Leominster for lunch. That left just Tenbury Wells, on the county boundary bridge straddling the river Teme, and Ludlow Castle quests to complete the day.
I intended camping near to Ludlow but, reaching there by 3 pm amidst a throng of tourists, it seemed appropriate to continue towards Bishop's Castle before camping. This proved somewhat tiring as I did not find the night's camp - the Walcot Hall site at Lydbury North, until about 5:50 pm, making for a long stint of 76 miles. Pursuing the quest should really be done at a more leisurely pace, but time was against me and it seemed appropriate to fit in these missing Welsh Marches quest sites within one visit. At least this camp site is adjacent to a pub, for an easy meal rather than cooking my own.
With a strengthening westerly breeze, the next day's ride was, initially, directly into it all the way to Montgomery. Fortunately after the climb into Bishop's Castle, a near-level valley route runs to the final climb into Montgomery. Taken at a steady pace this was a lovely route. Having found the quest in Montgomery it was very pleasing to see the cafe open nice and early; my chilled hands needed a break. Home made Dundee cake, a pot of tea, what more could one want at 09.30?
The now tail wind, along the merely undulating B4386 valley route, led me to Westbury from where a northward set of lanes brought me through Melverley. Here there is an ancient wooden church, St Peter's, rebuilt in 1406 to replace one burnt down by Owain Glyndwr, in 1401. From there I rode to Knockin, where a glimpse of a most unusual set of garden ornaments took my interest: this turns out to be a part of the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN), a linked array of radio telescopes run by Jodrell Bank Observatory.
Finding a dearth of pubs for lunch meant continuing to Ellesmere, reached after 1:30 pm. Locating the final quest of the day, I then needed lunch. Most of the pubs do not serve food, believe it or not! The Red Lion does, and was very busy. I took the only remaining table (reserved, but at 1:55 pm I assumed it to have been used) and tucked into a healthy, hearty meal.
The afternoon's ride was taken at a leisurely pace, as it would not be more than 15 miles to Montford Bridge, where I would camp at Severn House, on the river bank. There was only one other small tent in the orchard section, among the apple trees. An evening meal, a walk across the bridge to the Wingfield pub for a beer, and bed!
Leaving early next morning, I was soon in Shrewsbury, enjoying the ride through Quarry Park and alongside the River Severn. Taking the A458 southbound towards Bridgnorth took me over the A5 dual carriageway but later became too busy for enjoyment so I took to lanes, eventually reaching Cressage, after using a lane closed for pipe-laying works, the workers allowing me through. From Cressage a very quiet lane rose to Sheinton, only the sounds of nature audible, and a developing scent of wild garlic: the banks of the hollow lane teemed with it and in places the buds were opening into blossom, emitting that evocative scent; lovely.
Morning refreshments in the centre of Much Wenlock, lunch in Bridgnorth, and two more quests found. My final one would be in Kinver, from where, after being navigationally challenged once more, I would take the train home. Mistakenly reaching Stourbridge Town, I took the lovely little shuttle unit to Stourbridge Junction, the carriage rocking somewhat on its five-minute journey as being without bogies, it runs on just four wheels, seeking out all the imperfections of the track.
And so, with a short cycle ride from Moor Street station to New Street, I caught an extremely full train home. This short but satisfactory trip had allowed me to fill in all 14 missing quests from Wales, Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire.
Why is a Brompton Mark Jacobson's tourer of choice? Why does his Brompton go wild?
PUBLISHED APRIL 2017