Cycling on the left – the American cycle tourist in England

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.

pembridge - New Inn

The New Inn on the Black & White Villages cycle tour – its only 600 years old

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.

Mortimer's Cross Battle sign on Cycling holiday

Mortimer’s Cross Battle sign on Cycling holiday

Cycle Trails

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.

Wye Valley near Rhayader - cycling holiday with Wheely Wonderful Cycling

Mid Wales Cycling Challenge – 4 day cycling holiday

Country Lanes

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 …

Cycling signpost above Lingen

Making sure that the route descriptions are clear

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.

Family Farmhouse Shropshire

Family Farmhouse cycling holiday in Shropshire

The food

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.

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Cyclists welcome at our great restaurants

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.

Juliet Williams, Lowe Farm B&B, Herefordshire

Juliet Williams, Lowe Farm B&B, Herefordshire

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.

Radnor ring Cycle Challenge

Radnor ring Cycle Challenge

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

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Lon Las Cymru – Photo blog

Photos and Trip Advisor comments supplied by the Jean L (many thanks)

Lon Las Cymru review

Lon Las Cymru review

#Lonlascymru #visitwales #cycling

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300th Anniversary of the Three Choirs Festival – Follow Elgar’s cycle rides

This year is the 300th Anniversary of the Three Choirs Festival – and its being held in Herefordshire – so lots to see & do there from 26 July to 1 August.  One of the most famous supporter of the Festival was Elgar – who lived (and cycled in Hereford & Malvern) and just outside Hereford Cathedral is this statue of Elgar.

Elgar at Hereford Cathedral

Elgar at Hereford Cathedral

The statue

The sculptor Jemma Pearson says”the portrait depicts Elgar as the composer finding inspiration from the countryside of Herefordshire and Worcestershire and the Malvern hills, …. These journeys were a great creative release for him, colouring his music and giving it that special Englishness for which he is so renowned and loved. The sculpture’s compositon was designed to be as if he is resting during one of these many rides and in his hand is a small notebook on which he has jotted the merest beginnings of a musical idea”

(Jemma also used one of our Clun B&B landlords as the body model for this sculpture)

Cycling maps

In his cycling decade Elgar cycled thousands of miles touring the countryside round his homes in Hereford & Malvern. His cycling maps are criss-crossed with dense red lines plotting the routes he took. His visionary masterpiece Dream of Gerontius was evidently composed on the saddle

Elgar's cycling maps - marked in red & green crayon

Elgar’s cycling maps – marked in red & green crayon

The bike

a Royal Sunbeam bicycle called “Mr Phoebus”

Elgar the cyclist - inspiration for the composer in Herefordshire's quiet country lanes

Elgar the cyclist – inspiration for the composer in Herefordshire’s quiet country lanes

The Cycling holiday

Try our Black & White Villages Cycle Tour – and see for yourself where Elgar cycled….

#cyclingholidays #Herefordshire #Threechoirs

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Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for Wheely Wonderful Cycling holidays

Thanks to all our happy customers for sharing their reviews with Trip advisor & the world.  Have a look at our reviews

Thanks to our customers for sharing their cycling holiday reviews

Thanks to our customers for sharing their cycling holiday reviews

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Vintage Children’s Books – Lone Pine Stories from Shropshire by Malcolm Saville

These stories were popular amongst young teenagers in the 60s/early 70s & were the way I first heard about Shropshire. They were teenage adventure stories based around the Long Mynd & Shropshire.  They seem a bit dated now – but have a cult following (try the Malcolm Saville Society) and are still enjoyed by younger teenagers – especially if they can visit the area. Our family has had lots of fun trying to find the Lone Pine & Witchend on the Long Mynd. You can trace the route of all the stories by bike (its how the characters in these books got around) on our Shropshire Castles Tour.   This  cycle tour gives you an extra day at Church Stretton (Onnybrook) to explore the Long Mynd by foot too.  Try “Mystery at Witchend” as your first Lone Pine club story. Or you can follow the story of the “Secret of the Gorge” on our Ludlow Country Estates Cycle Tour.

Map from original

Map from original “Secrets of the gorge” pub 1972 by Malcolm Saville

The Books are available on Amazon etc.  Introduce them to your kids this christmas – then come on a cycling holiday in summer to solve the mysteries yourself! The Daily Telegraph had a good review of the appeal of Malcolm Saville’s books & their appeal…Here’s the extract – but you can read the whole article here Shropshire: Adventures over the hills Sally Varlow visits the hidden corner of Shropshire that inspired the prolific author Malcolm Saville ‘MARY gulped back a sob. `We can’t go back that way now. The water is still rushing out of those rocks. It’s as if the Mynd has burst. Dickie! What shall we do?’ Dickie had no answer.” With the 12-year-old twins scrambling for their lives up the side of the Long Mynd, Malcolm Saville brought his final ripping yarn to a classic climax – and the intrepid Lone Pine Club back to the Shropshire hills where they first set up camp in the shade of a solitary tree. Nineteen volumes and 35 years had passed since Mary, Dickie and big brother David arrived at “Witchend” farm as wartime evacuees, formed a secret club with Petronella, aka Peter, and solved their first mystery. Biking, riding, gathering chums and adventures like moss as they roamed the country during the school hols, the Lone Piners had uncovered The Secret of Grey Walls on Offa’s Dyke near Clun. They had foiled Christmas tree thieves in the Mynd forests, recovered long-lost diamonds from Downton Gorge, scotched a jewellery scam in Ludlow, and survived certain death with feline frequency in the old lead mines beneath the Stiperstones…….. Much as Saville loved his native Sussex, where a plaque was placed on his Winchelsea home last year, it was the Mynd, the Stiperstones and the Clees that “have drawn me, and my family, back to them again and again”. They were “a solace and an inspiration” and the cause of “any modest success I have achieved as a writer”, he explained in an unfinished guide to The Silent Hills of Shropshire (since completed by Mark O’Hanlon, co-founder of the Malcolm Saville Society). The modesty was entirely Saville’s. When he died in 1982 his book sales were nearing three million. Countless youngsters had grown to love the Lone Piners on radio’s Children’s Hour. His mail reached 2,000 letters a year, all personally answered, and today the society spans three generations. The ancient trackways along the top of the Mynd are the key to the Saville world and if, as Saville prefaced each story, “you explore it for yourself” and are “lucky enough to climb these hills”, you may still hear the cry of the curlew: though not a peewit unless it’s a Lone Piner in trouble again, using the club’s secret call…….. Closest is Carding Mill Valley and the reservoir that served as “Hatchholt”, home to Peter and her fuss-pot father. He will insist on feeding her hot milk and bread at times of stress, though he’s not a real baddie (they’re the ones with lank hair, “unsuitable clothes”, and a horrid habit of kicking the twins’ dog when no one’s looking). At Carding Mill, the National Trust runs a tea shop, information centre and weekend minibus that circles Church Stretton station, the valley and the Portway along the top of the hill. Drop down the west side of the Mynd and your reward is the Inn at Bridges, cast as the “Hope Anchor” in The Neglected Mountain…… When the Lone Piners came this way, they biked it. If you fancy a ride on gentler ground, go to the Teme and Clun valleys where Saville set two of the most thrilling adventures. Wheely Wonderful cycle hire company, at a former farm west of Ludlow, does day and longer tours on quiet lanes and hybrid trail bikes (that means comfy saddles). The latest route is a pleasant jaunt around The Secret of the Gorge and “Bringewood Chase”, in real life Downton Gorge and Leintwardine. Reality seems to get left behind as you carry on along the Clun Valley. In Saville’s words: “There is no other place in England quite like hidden, mysterious Clun.” Certainly not when the Lone Piners pitch up one Christmas and Clun’s ruined castle becomes HQ while they solve The Secret of Grey Walls.

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History all around us (3)

More reasons to explore the fascinating history of the English Civil Way by bike….

1642 – The Three Tuns Inn and Brewery were established in 1642, with the brewery being possibly the oldest in the country, with records showing that King Charles 1st issued the first brewing licences in that year to raise funds to pay for his army fighting the civil war. You can still drink at the Three Tuns pub & visit the brewery.  On our Kerry Ridgeway Cycle Tour .

One of the oldest Breweries in the country. The Three Tuns Brewery can be visited on our Kerry Ridgeway Cycling Holiday

One of the oldest Breweries in the country. The Three Tuns Brewery can be visited on our Kerry Ridgeway Cycling Holiday

1644  – siege of Brampton Bryan and Hopton Castle – The Civil War battles around this area were bloody and notorious – you can visit Hopton Castle at any time  on our Quietest Cycle Tour under the Sun – there is excellent interpretation there – so you can find out all about the gruesome massacre.   Brampton Bryan Castle was the site of a siege by the Royalists against Lady Brilliana Harley, who was defending the castle on behalf of her Parliamentarian husband.  The best and only time each year to visit this castle is the first weekend in August – Brampton Bryan’s village “Scarecrow” fete – when the current  owner of the castle – a Harley of course, gives guided tours around the castle.  The talks are absolutely fascinating – as you get a really personal insight into the siege – from the letters of Lady Brilliana, to the stories of the servants (handed down through the family) and why the Hopton Castle massacre scared the occupants of Brampton Bryan Castle so much.

1645  – King Charles hides after the battle of Naseby at Beggars Bush.  This is what happened  this autumn in Beggars Bush, near Knighton – a key stage of the Tour of Britain.  Visit on our Welsh Borders Cycle Tour.

Beggars Bush time stage, Tour of Britain 2014

Beggars Bush time stage, Tour of Britain 2014

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History is all around us (2) Shakespeare’s 450 birthday

2014 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and as a universal poet – its not surprising that events in the Welsh borderlands inspired his work…so here are  some more historical events to think about as you cycle and walk through the borderlands of England and & Wales.

1402 – Owain Glyndwr sacks Knighton and defeats the English at Pilleth,near Whitton.  Cycle through this landscape on the Welsh Border Tour, and visualise the big battle at Pilleth.  The big Wellingtonia trees on the hillside are planted over a mass burial pit.  It was a a significant battle – Shakespeare  wote about it in Henry IV Part 1

“ the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight,
Against the wild and irregular Glendower,
Was by the rude hand of that Welshman taken,
A thousand of his people butchered”

Welsh Border Cycling

Welsh Border Cycling

1461 – The Battle of Mortimers Cross -won by Edward duke of York (from Mortimer Castle, was very nearly scuppered at the outset,when troops saw a Sundog (The Parhelion), rise in the morning of the battle  – it looked like 3  suns were rising – a bad omen.  But Edward of York convinced them it was the sign of the Trinity, and they went on to win the battle  and the throne for Edward.   You can look out for this & other astrological signs in our clear starry skies, on the Easy Cycle Tour to Wales.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.


1527 – Birth of John Dee, astrologer, magician, spy at Whitton.  Shakespeare again  – John Dee was the model for Prospero in The Tempest.  He probably visited another Elizabethan courtier who lived at the Radnorshire arms, where you stay on The Easy Tour to Wales.  He is also reputed to have drafted the Abracadabra Charm at Cascob church (which you can also visit on this tour) .


Cascob church

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