Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jamie: Devizes, a ride from Bath and back Sustrans 4

September 13: I was back down in Bath for meetings on Monday evening and Tuesday so I thought I would ride from Bath to devizes and back on the Kennet and Avon cycle path - Sustrans 4. I was going to take my Marin Hybrid as its upright riding position is probably more suited to cycling along a sometimes narrow and unforgiving tow path. However the slightly flattish tyre on Sunday that made me switch to my Longstaff to go to the opening of Lodes Way was definitely some form of leak. As I had stuff to get done before heading off to Bath I took the easy (and lazy) option and took my Longstaff. (I nearly came to regret that decision.)

There other photographs from the opening here - in fact I appear on the picture in the link - to the right at the back in dark glasses and a blue top. I also forgot to mention that the Architects of the bridge - Royal Haskoning were represented by a project team who cycled down from Peterborough.

Anyway back to my Monday ride. having had problems on the M25 the last time I went to Bath I took a route past Bedford, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Swindon. It was not as fast perhaps on a good day, but more reliable in terms of timing. My optimism about the weather changed as I got closer to Bath though - it was windy and there was drizzly rain. Once again I stayed at the Bath Spa hotel, which is quite close to the Sustrans 4 route and this time the check-in was much quicker and I was out on my bike at around 3pm. My plan was to get back to the Hotel at 6pm so I could have a shower and be ready for 6.30pm when we were heading off for dinner.

Here is the route (and BRT link) - pretty straightforward in terms of navigation - stick to the Sustrans 4 route on the Kennet and Avon canal until you get to Devizes and then turn around and go back. The distance was 68Km (around 40miles) with ascent/descent of 268m which was a little surprising - although it became clear to me when I got close to Devizes. Near Devizes the canal has to go uphill by means of 29 locks up 72m in 3.2Km. It is an impressive sight.

Producing the Bike route Toaster (BRT) map was trickier than usual, my Internet line went down a couple of times which caused BRT problems as it is a web app and I had to re-start it. I also found it tricky re-tracing my route - I suppose I could have doubled the distances - but I had a few glitches. I got there in the end after 8 attempts.

Bath 2 Devizes rtn.JPG

When I got back I downloaded the GPS trace from my Garmin 605 - this is the trace for the height - as you can see it starts at 60m as the hotel was a small way up Bathwick Hill and then is fairly flat until Devizes where it climbed up to 140m and then chart was repeated in reverse.

Bath to Devizes rtn elevation.JPG

BRT also produced an elevation chart - which was not too dissimilar. The Garmin Edge 605 (which is what I have) tracks altitude using the GPS which does not produce a very accurate reading. (More expensive GPS systems use barometric pressure to improve their accuracy e.g. Garmin Edge 705)

Bath 2 Devizes rtn elevation.JPG

It was raining when I set off, so I wore a rain-jacket, put the waterproof cover on my camera and wrapped up my phone and some emergency cash in a plastic bag before putting them in my rack pack. I also resorted to long-fingered gloves as it was also colder in Bath than in Cambridge. Since it was only last month that I cycled along the first part of the route I was not planning to take my pictures, especially as it was raining.

The tow path is not that wide and you have to keep your wits about you - especially where there are bridges over the canal. These bridges are pinch points - I guess that a smaller bridge was safer and cheaper and so the width of the canal is reduced along with the tow path. Quite often the bit of the tow path under the bridge gets damaged more quickly and several have been repaired with a concrete layer. Unfortunately some plonker could not be bothered to cycle around this bridge (which is only a minor detour). So they cut tyre tracks in wet concrete. When I went under the bridge my wheels caught in the tracks and I thought I was first going to clout the bridge and then fall in the canal. I managed to swerve the bike onto the grass and not fall in. So having stopped I had to take a picture - but the adrenalin caused by the near miss swim meant I did not really hold the camera still - which is why the bridge looks so blurred. Perhaps I should have taken the detour around the bridge as well.


Having stopped to take a picture of the rutted path under the bridge I also took a picture of the countryside nearby.


Having set off again and resolving not to stop for any picture taking until getting past Bradford on Avon I saw a Heron. Normally they fly off if I get anywhere close in Cambridgeshire. This one stayed still even as I cycled past within feet (1m ) of it. So I just had to stop and take a few pictures. It must have been hungry and was not prepared to be put off from trying to catch a fish. I saw several more on the way - or perhaps I saw the same one and it followed me down the canal?


I stuck to the tow path when cycling through Bradford on Avon (rather than detouring into the town) and at some stage passed this - some people park their cars in the garage others (moor) park their longboats outside the house.


When cycling along the tow path I saw a mix of people who live on boats and those having a holiday on hire boats. The hire boats always seem a little less well controlled - which is why I took this picture - they did not seem in total control.


There are a whole variety of bridges over the canal from stone through to brick and modern concrete. The older bridges tended to have least space. I had to duck whilst cycling under this brick bridge.


A close up of the bridge - don't forget to take your litter home with you. One thing I forgot to mention, the last time I cycled along the route there were loads of puddles, there had just been some torrential rain. This time around despite, the drizzle, the paths were fairly dry and there were practically no puddles.


The drizzle stopped after a while which was good and as I neared Devizes I started coming across more and more locks until this lot came into view. There were various boats in the process of moving up and down the locks - in total there are 29 so this looks like a days work to get through. I think there were some getting their boats up or down the locks who thought I had the easier task of cycling up the hill.


At the top this looked like an interesting pub to stop after ascending the locks (or the hill) - it looks as if the fire started upstairs or in the roof. Using the power of the Internet - (and Google - other search engines are available) it happened on the 22 August 2010 - and was believed to be an electrical fault that started it. They also used water from the canal to help put the fire out.


After getting to Devizes I had to turn around and make my way back and time was ticking. Although the path was not too bad I had not been that fast and to make matters worse the wind was against me on the way back. I had to stop to take a picture looking back down the hill though.


The flight of locks is so steep they could not put in water pounds between the locks and had to build them to the side. There are 16 of the 29 locks in this short stretch. I had though that the "pounds" were for tired long-boaters to rest in if they could not manage all the locks in daylight. Apparently it takes around 5-6 hours and there is a pump at the bottom to pump water back to the top. The pump is cable of moving a lock-full of water back to the top every 11 minutes.

Devizes Locks panorama.jpg

As I hadn't taken many pictures on the way out to Devizes I did stop a few times - despite time pressure. In places the canal widened -- this picture was taken from a bridge across the canal. The water looks quite muddy compared to other times I have seen it.


Same bridge - looking the other way. here the canal is quite wide.


On my way to Devizes I had admired this dangling into the river - so on the way back I took a picture. (It is quite close to Bath.)


In the end I passed over 530 boats moored on the canal and a couple of Marinas with more boats in them . I also passed 38 cyclists going, including two people on motor assisted bikes. On the way back I passed 56 cyclists, I assume that the majority of the early cyclists were tourists and those at the end of the afternoon were probably commuters. I did have a light with me but did not use it - although one or two of the commuters had put their lights on. I found myself overtaking a few cyclists on the way back - not so easy as the path is not very wide.

I got back to the hotel at 6.25pm and managed to get showered and downstairs by 6.35pm so in the end I was only 5 minutes late and I was not the last to turn up.


  1. More Reach Lode bridge pictures -- or Does my bum look big in this?

    That's me closest to camera, on the 1939 Sunbeam. Ahead is George Coulouris on his Holdsworth (1960's?). We're on the path now superseded by the lovely new track across the Hundred Acres (incorrectly called Burwell Fen by the National Trust) between the new bridge and Burwell Lode.

    Full frontal of George and I can be found at
    on Headlake Drove leading up to the new bridge. Not a bad photo considering Simon was turning round on his bike to take it.

    Not sure which blog this should attach to, but I hadn't seen these pics until Jamie mentioned cyclestreets in this one.

  2. I have not really mentioned Cyclestreets in my Blog ( much, it is a UK wide cycle Journey planner with added facilities such as a Photomap - which is where the pictures referred to are. It is in Beta and in need of funds - so they need votes.