Clifton to Clevedon in Somerset
“To the sharp-edged air,
Where the ocean breaks
On the purple strand,…”
– Thomas Hardy
Outbound over Clifton Suspension Bridge
A brilliant sun rose before us one winters day; so my father and I decided to make the most of the day by setting out on our bikes. Choosing a new route from the brilliant book: ‘Lost Lanes West‘ by Jack Thurston; we settled on a route from Clifton in Bristol down to the sea at Clevedon.
Parking the car on Clifton Downs for free; we pulled on a few extra layers in the stiff easterly breeze and set out towards Clifton Suspension Bridge. This area is one of the most affluent areas of Bristol; where the tobacco and slave merchants once lived many moons ago. With their ill-gotten gains, they lined every street; with grand Georgian townhouses. Nowadays, the wealth is still there; with maybe money being the new tobacco and the well dressed residents being slaves of their own making!
After coming out of the park; we rode a short distance on busy but wide streets before coming to the suspension bridge over the deep river gorge below. Designed by the ingenious Isambard Kingdom Brunel; it was built here at this high point to cross the river but allow for tall sailing ships to pass underneath back in 1864.
An amazing feat of engineering even by the standards of today; it has been an integral part of Bristol history ever since. One such notable incident was the attempted suicide by a Sally Ann Henley in 1885. After a lovers tiff, she jumped off the parapet; however, her billowing dress and petticoats acted like a parachute and slowed her fall to the deep muddy river bank 100 metres below. She survived and lived well into old age. More information can be found here: https://www.cliftonbridge.org.uk/visit
Wearing just lycra; we decided to continue in a horizontal plane, westwards and seaward!
Rolling down to the sea
Leaving the bridge and the city behind us; we picked our way through side streets and roadside paths out into the countryside. Reading route directions, I kept to hand in my front pocket; we were soon on quiet lanes, full of light and fresh air.
The quiet lane we were riding on ran alongside the M5 motorway for a short distance. In one place this six lane highway took to the sky to avoid the constantly changing gradients in these low but rugged hills. The poor farmer living here; must be in constant fear of an accident occurring above his head.
Clevedon seafront and back
We arrived at the seafront in Clevedon and stopped to take a few pictures of the Victorian pier. Opposite, there is a couple of places to stop for a coffee and lunch if needed; yet we were riding in mid winter and so conscious of the few hours of remaining daylight.
Riding out of the Clevedon, the route directions became confusing with so many turns at unidentifiable junctions. This is where a electronic GPS device would have come in handy. For example: after riding along a gravel service path for over a mile; we came back to a tarmac road. The directions said to turn left, which we did; yet realising we had made a wrong turn, I checked with Google maps. Seeing we were heading back on ourselves; we doubled back and found the right route out of town.
After a few miles of muddy country lanes through old villages; we turned off onto a bridleway and back over the motorway.
After a few more miles of quiet lanes; we had to ride along a busy main road for a short distance. Fortunately, this part of the main road was wide and then ran through a town; as well most car drivers being respectful and giving us space to wobble.
When we reached: The George Inn, in the town of Backwell; we could turn off and onto the brilliant Festival Way cycle path. This is numbered as Route 33 in the national cycle network; and runs from Nailsea into Bristol city centre. An excellent idea for Bristol commuters; wishing to save money and time if they hail from these parts. So now we were able to stay off main roads all the way back to Clifton. After coming into Bristol; we took the Clifton Link up through the wide open grounds of Ashton Court. It was a beautiful evening climbing back up to Clifton; whilst looking out over the twinkling lights of the city.
Retracing our steps over Clifton Suspension Bridge; we wheeled our bikes for the last mile because night had now fallen. A brilliant ride; possible anytime of year. Try, ride, relax; cheers.
4 hrs 34 minutes
Relaxed as a suspension bridge.