Mercian Way Tour Part 2 Posted on 21 Jun 09:57 , 0 comments

Day 2 dawned dry, but the forecast was for "rain later" so we decided to make an early (for us!) start and were away at 8.45am straight after a full English breakfast at the Bull's Head. We were headed for Worcester for our 2nd overnight stop.

A word about navigation. We had bought the cheap, useful but not very durable Sustrans maps and Will had invested in the Ordnance Survey Maps for the areas of the tour, but the turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps (other navigation apps are available) on his iPhone were generally spot-on. I did keep checking the paper maps, as I was a bit doubtful, but Google would have got us there no problem. We have done quite a few Sustrans routes now and there is a tendency for them to take you on wide loops up huge hills to take advantage of a "traffic-free route", or to avoid 1/2 mile of "main road", probably no busier than the road outside your house! So having some old fashioned paper maps helped me to  avoid these nonsense detours. On occasion the Google Maps route would take a totally illogical route - for example 9 miles along the A38 rather than a much more direct route along quiet lanes and through pretty villages, but we found that ignoring  the directions and taking our preferred route soon caused it to re-route and choose the route we were taking anyway!

After cruising down the hill from our hotel, such a traffic free route was suggested, mainly along the path of the old railway, now occupied by the preserved Severn Valley Steam Railway.

It was a bit "off roady" in places but my 42mm Grand Bois Hetres coped very well and gave me a comfy ride. Will never complained about the 32mm Grand Bois on his bike either, so I guess he found it OK too. Pretty countryside and the Severn Valley Railway chugging back and forth. Shame it was diesel not a steamer.

It was misty and drizzly under the trees, but we didn't really get wet. Anyway it soon cleared into a nice spring day once we back on the tarmac again. We stopped to look at this castle and to take off our waterproof tops. In fact Google played one of its little tricks and we passed the castle twice. Out with the "proper maps" and we were soon stopped in Bewdley for a break at the bakery.

This leg from Bridgnorth to Stourport on Severn was the prettiest part of the trip following close to the river most of the way, then skirting around Kidderminster to Hartlebury -where we ground to a halt. Despite my taking Will's new bike on a shake-down trip earlier in the week, his headset had rattled loose on the bumpy off road section at the beginning of the day. Also the Velo Orange Copenhagen kick stand had come loose. It has to be said that the stand had proved really useful on the tour but now it was loose and catching on the cranks. Neither of us had an 8mm Allen key or a 32mm headset spanner so we couldn't fix it on the road. It was Saturday afternoon and there was no bike shop in Hartlebury. Worcester was the nearest and I was particularly looking forward to the last section of the run into Worcester from Droitwich along the Worcester and Birmingham canal towpath. I have done this trip by boat a few times.  Will thought he could nurse the bike the last 10 miles or so with maybe a cable tie or two, but we were worried that by the time we got to Worcester the bike shops would be closed. We were just checking whether there was a Halfords, when the predicted heavy rain started. We were on Station Road in Hartlebury, so the 10 minute train ride into Worcester was a no-brainer and we were soon benefitting from the free loan of tools from the fantastic Worcester Cycle Centre.  I  have to say Worcester is the most cycle unfriendly city I have ever cycled in. The drivers specialised in close passes and the pedestrians were abusive. I was cycling along a bus lane (it's allowed isn't it?) and an old man shook his walking stick at me and said "you'm not allowed to ride along here!" just five minutes later an old woman shouted from the pavement "you want to watch where you're going!" I am sure that I was. The guy at Worcester Cycle Centre said "all the other bike shops have gone out of business". Can't say I'm surprised. The hotel was a short walk from the city centre and was far from welcoming. Despite emailing ahead and checking there was somewhere to leave our bikes, we were told we could leave them in the garden. This "garden" was full of scrap and broken glass and the only security was a fence that fell down when a bike was leaned against it. There was a very nice brick built garage with a shiny motorbike and a car.  I asked could we leave the bikes in the garage and was told "we don't have a garage". The only door to the garage opened into the "garden"... The manager adopted a "selective understanding" communications sometimes used to advantage by non-native English speakers. Will is a very patient and persuasive negotiator and soon our bikes were snug under the stairs. We found a nice restaurant a short walk into the city. The hotel was nicely refurbished inside but the outside looked totally derelict. The breakfast was good too.

The forecast for Day 3 was good so we set off on  Route 45 towards Gloucester. The Worcestershire roads were glorious for cycling - flat and quiet and being Sunday morning there were loads of cyclists out enjoying a morning on their bikes. It was a fast ride and soon we found ourselves in Tewksbury, screaming down a steep hill into the town, whereupon the heavens opened. Fortunately we were a few yards from Costa Coffee, so after short coffee break the sun was shining and we were off again on our way to Gloucester. (to be continued).