Time for a change of scenery.
We (it was me really to be honest!) had decided that a club ride trawling around the roads of mid-Devon had become a bit boring. Even to the point where we stopped pointing out potholes and drain covers to each other! For example, one Strava segment near my home I have ridden 162 times in 2 years! I thought it would be nice to feature a club ride somewhere different. You can get to a lot of places in Devon & Somerset within 30 minutes of where we live! I’d been reading a couple of cycle magazines and opted to go for Cheddar Gorge. Apparently it is the Number one in the 100 UK climbs you “must” complete.
A few hours scouting the Strava routes of people who had already done it led me to a nice, very flat route of 47 miles. This started and ended in Highbridge (where I work – so parking was not an issue). On the day, there were seven of us. Not a bad turn out given the number of non-cyclists we seem to have in our Cycling Club!!
The club ride road trip begins – early!
I picked up Steve the Postie at 7.15 – he needs a grown-up to help him get his bike on the car! We drove to meet up with Dan, (Mr Nice), Frananaman, Joe and his wife Sue, and Copper Rob. After waiting ages for Joe to stop faffing around with knee-warming cream, necklace balm and ass butter we finally set off just after 8am. I had pre-loaded the route on my trusty Garmin so, on leaving the car park we immediately took a wrong turn! The road we took was probably better so we stuck with it. Up through Burnham-on Mud, Berrow and Brean whereupon we turned inland.
After a mile or so we got off the busy A38 and Joe decided it was time for a comfort break. At this point he and Frananaman stopped and we waited further up the road. There were some amazing views across Somerset from our vantage point as we dropped down to Cross to join the Cheddar road. We stopped at the foot of the Gorge to steel ourselves for the climb ahead. And also for Sue to have a comfort break – again accompanied by Frananaman?! Steve and I ascertained he was a ‘toilet buddy’, there to assist in any way during ablutions!
There were a LOT of cyclists coming DOWN from the Gorge, which gave me some cause for concern. Also, they all looked like “Skeletor” and were riding Time Trial bikes! Sue set off first, as she was cruelly designated the slowest rider. I thought I’d give her some competition for that title and went off next, followed by the rest. 200 metres in I passed a fat lad on a reinforced Cannondale who refused to return my cheery, “all right mate?” Feeling good about myself at this point I then sneaked past Sue, and started to pour the power on. After 50 feet or so of hard riding I decided that was a mistake and started noodling along in my granny gear! Marvelling at the rock formations to either side, I started to enjoy myself. That was until I hit a steep narrow bit populated by some large disinterested sheep. At this point my Garmin auto-paused because I was going so slowly dodging our woolly friends and fighting the incline!
Still quite a few hardy souls were flying down the opposite side – which seems brave to me given the propensity of the sheep to stand in your line. Plus the amount of loose stone chipping/boulders on the tarmac. Once I got up the short, sharp climb, I found I could change down the gears – to the point where I was doing 16mph uphill and generally feeling very satisfied with myself. Two Time Triallers came flying past me at almost double my speed so my bubble was well and truly deflated. I’d already been overtaken by Frananaman, Steve the Postie and Joe, thereby cementing my position as a mid-table cyclist. Upon arriving at the top, I confess to feeling a little disappointed with the Cheddar Gorge experience. Apart from a 150M stretch, it was a relatively easy climb. Although the rock faces are spectacular, there is only about half a mile of that during a near four-mile ascent. That said I am glad I did it, and I’m hoping to make it a regular club ride, so others can tick it off as well.
Coffee and Cake – isn’t that what cycling is all about?
At this point it was definitely coffee and cake time. So, we sped down into Wells, England’s smallest cathedral City (I may be wrong about that!). We ended up in Godney at a lovely cafe just as the rains arrived. Unfortunately, at least 35% of Somerset’s cycling population had the same idea and destination! No spare tables and a massive queue to order left Steve the Post muttering about “Trip Advisor,” & “stars being knocked off”. Even me standing in the queue shouting, “someone’s just stolen a Specialized!” didn’t have them bolting their cheesecake and latte and rushing out the door.
Eventually we sat down and food started arriving. Mr Nice, who you may remember from previous cafe stops likes to order poncey stuff from the menu. See: vine roasted balsamic tomatoes on sourdough, or baked quail eggs in a hollandaise mousse – JUST HAVE A BACON SANDWICH MAN!). Anyway, I digress. Dan ordered a Macchiato, (see photo), basically a small floating foam island in an espresso pond. Steve the Postie was snorting about being a real man, having a word, and stop being a woofter as he licked the foam off his 8-inch latte spoon, (see photo). The lost stars were regained on Trip Advisor as both the excellent food and very friendly service pulled them back from the brink.
Back out into the rain and another 12 uneventful miles back to the cars. All in all, everybody enjoyed this club ride, and all said they would happily do it again. My take on Cheddar Gorge is that it isn’t maybe the challenge you might anticipate. Take some time to enjoy the scenery, which is truly spectacular. Oh and none of your double-foamy-decaff-soya milk-caramelised-Biscoff-lattes. It upsets Steve the Postie.