We cycle on the left….is this the only difference between cycling in America and England?
For a tiny island, there is a lot packed in – history, countryside, literature & geology. Cycle round a bend in a country lane and the vista and the story can change dramatically. Each county has a different feel – from the honey coloured limestone cottages of the Cotswolds to the half timbered black & white villages of Herefordshire & stone cottages of Shropshire.
History & Literature everywhere…
From Shakespeare, to great battles. Romans to Wordsworth. Great Castles and stately homes – the access to these historic places is easy. Two great English organisations; The National Trust and English Heritage look after many of these places and make it very easy for visitors. Everywhere else local communities look after their villages and churches & are keen to share – especially in remote areas, where tiny communities have to fundraise to keep their Norman churches in full working order. Look out for local history, village churches are a great source of local history and local stories. And join in local fairs & events.
The national charity Sustrans (short for sustainable transport) has revolutionised the introduction of way marked cycle routes throughout the UK. There are thousands of miles of cycle routes chosen as quiet, lightly trafficked lanes or off road tracks. Actual off road trails aren’t very long (max 30 miles – & more commonly about 5 miles), and make up only a small proportion of the total network. Iconic trails to look out for are the Sea to Sea route – following roughly the route of Hadrian’s wall in the north East of England and the fantastic Lon Las Cymru, which travels through the whole of Wales – ticking off loads of Welsh icons from spectacular castles, welsh speaking towns, fantastic scenery and even the welsh mining industry! Look at the Sustrans website for inspiration.
Country lanes are one of those unsung heroes of the English landscape. One track lanes linking historic communities, their present day structure can be founded on anything from a Bronze age trading route, roman marching route between forts, a drovers lane for moving cattle to English markets from the Welsh uplands, or just farming tracks skirting field edges. Apart from the roman roads,they don’t go in a straight line. There will be traffic on these routes – but a skilled cycle holiday company will send you on the ones with the least traffic..mostly tractors & sheep. You know when they have got it right when the tarmac in the middle has been taken over by grass. The lanes are edged with hedgerows, with fantastic wildflowers, trees & birds. If you count the different trees in a 100 yard stretch, you can tell how old the hedge is… one species for each 100 years – its not uncommon to come across hedges that are five or six hundred years old …
Green & pleasant land – the weather
William Blake was right when he talked about this Green & Pleasant land. Our weather is changeable – which is why we spend so much time talking about it. The best months are May to September – lots of sunshine & warmth, but rarely over 75 fahrenheit. And there is the rain … this is what makes our gardens so great. Weather systems come over in 4 hour bands from the Atlantic – which is why one English weather lore sayings “Rain before seven, fine before eleven (am). Showers last for about 20 minutes, so you should never be put off – just pop into a tearoom or pub for a drink.
Another revolution. Pubs , Tearooms & great restaurants and locally produced food are all booming in the UK. Which is of course great news for hungry cyclists. In our area, the heroes are Herefordshire beef, Welsh Lamb, hundreds of new cheese varieties, cider & perry from ancient orchards and traditional beer from hop farms in the Teme Valley. Not to mention English strawberries and asparagus.
Ain’t no mountain high enough
None of our hills are high! Our highest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland 4400ft, Snowdon in Wales 3550ft & Scafell in England 3208ft. None have roads to cycle over… so you will never be faced with a huge climb. However, mountain roads are frequent & offer spectacular views – try the Portway on the Long Mynd – at 1600ft – there is an easy way up – via the Bridges pub or a killer route for cyclists on the Burway. For cycling enthusiasts who want to tick off extreme gradients there is a list of challenging British hills. For the rest of us – enjoy the views in the knowledge that hills are short & if you do come across an exceptionally steep gradient – it will be short lived
Yes, we do have travel lodges or motels…but most of these aren’t on cycle routes- instead look for guesthouses, farms & country houses where you stay in English family homes which have two or three letting rooms. Or friendly country hotels & inns. You can be guaranteed a place to stay with lots of history and a local expert to tell you what to see & do locally.
Cycling Challenges – a whole country in one week or a day ride with other enthusiasts
Can be packed into shorter holidays – it is possible to cycle through the whole country in 5 to 10 days – whether its Lands End to John O’groats through England & Scotland or the Lon Las Cymru through Wales. The Uk cycling team’s success in the Olympics and Tour de France has lead to a rapid growth in the number of people cycling and taking part in sportives – and there are plenty of these events to join in , all through the year.
And lastly there are no Bears on our Tours, the most ferocious wildlife you will find in the UK is the Scottish midge… another good reason to come to Shropshire and the Welsh Borders for a great cycle tour.
Oh – one last thing – the brakes are the wrong way round too….
#cycling holidays #vacations #UK