Great cycling days out in Herefordshire
16:17 11 August 2010
Get on your bike
...and pedal your way around the regions loveliest cycle routes, says Richard Shrubb
Since moving to Lydbrook, about six miles down the Wye Valley from Ross-on-Wye, I have been into walking and cycling. If you live in a city bicycles are the best forms of transport but out in the countryside cycling is for fun rather than business.
About two miles up the road from my home is a network of cycling routes through the centre of the Forest of Dean. If you want a safe ride, I recommend the Family Trail. Starting at Pedalabikeaway Cycle Centre near Cannop, it follows former railways that were taken out after the death of commercial mining in the area.
As such there is only one hill that would be considered challenging to the unfit, heading east from Cannop Wharf to Burnt Log.
You dont have to pay to park, there are lay-bys where you can leave the car off-road. I chose the one beside the B2434 next to the Cannop Ponds. I would suggest you take the route anti-clockwise. From here, crossing a fairly quiet road, you are about 100 metres from the Family Trail. Cross a pedestrian bridge over a stream and turn right and follow the signs. Doing this the 12 mile route has the big hill less than a mile from the beginning and the rest of the ride is a doddle. For speed freaks like me, the last real downhill section is top gear spinning for a good two miles. Indeed, this stretch is the reason to do the route anti-clockwise cycling up it is frustrating, just enough of a gradient to prevent a free-wheel, and a straight section that seems endless with a continual grind on the legs. I did the trail in an hour; with youngsters expect two to three hours but a quiet evening for the parents afterwards.
What about cycling in Herefordshire? Youre not going to get a good ride without doing most, or all of it on road. There are six routes on the Herefordshire Council website that were created by the Ledbury Area Cycle Forum (LACF).
Bella Johnson developed them. Herefordshire Councils Sustainable Transport Department asked me to design their Herefordshire Leisure Cycle Guide, a leaflet with six cycle routes of various lengths. I was keen to include routes across the whole county, she says.
Another cycling club, Cycle Hereford, meets one Sunday a month for a social ride. Paige Mitchell is one of the committee. Nationally, two per cent of work commutes are done by bike. In Herefordshire it is nine per cent, which is less than a quarter of some countries in Europe where this can be 40 per cent, she says. Every summer Cycle Hereford runs Bike Week events in Hereford.
Mark Edwards, Integrated Transport Assistant for Herefordshire Council, points out just how unnecessary car journeys can be: Two-thirds of car journeys are less than three miles so there's plenty of scope for traffic reduction. A three mile journey will typically only take an average cyclist around 15-20 minutes Not only does cycling burn somewhere in the region of 300 calories an hour but it can also have positive effects on how we feel.
Bella Johnson also developed the famous Ledbury Cider Cycling Route. It is 20 miles long but wont over-awe the moderately fit, starting and
ending at Ledburys railway station. Theres very little hilly stuff, with one hill you may have to walk up, but it is on quiet country lanes most
of the way. Theres the added advantage of cider pubs and breweries, she says.
One of the routes Bella Johnson developed is the Wye Valley Ride which takes in the river at its best. Leave the car just before the road bridge over the A40 on Brampton Street in Ross, a residential road that doesnt have parking restrictions. This is about half a mile along the route from the centre of the town and youre in the countryside in minutes.
Bella says that the shorter route is manageable for most people. Including stops for photography and water it took me two hours. There are a number of pubs and sights well worth pausing at. I started the ride at just after 7.30am. In summer youll have completed it before the heat of the day becomes too wearing, though not many pubs serve breakfast these days.
The second leg of the route is a bit of a slog, about a quarter of the ride. After three to four miles youre wondering if youve passed the first way-mark. I dont envy long distance riders for whom there can be 30 miles between way-marks as it starts messing with your mind. How far since I missed the turn? and should I go back to look for it? you ask yourself. This happened for me just before a big descent and this was the point of no return with the thought: I aint going back up that, on foot or by bike.
The descent leads you to Hole in the Wall, a hamlet just short of How Caple. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the ride, a couple of miles along the Wye with a glade of trees to the right and, for the legs, a flat section. As Bella says, the route isnt a killer for the moderately fit.
About two-thirds of the way around the route is the bridge over the Wye at Hoarwithy. Your brain and legs will have been arguing by this stage and the road sign agrees with your legs five miles to go. Coming to the end of the ride you go about 200 metres down the A49 (Ross to Hereford road) which can be extremely busy. Indeed the next intersection rules this ride out for those with youngsters the A40/A49 roundabout which is used by cars and lorries alike at speed, and only road-savvy and quick cyclists should attempt this at all.
For such a beautiful and easy ride, this is unfortunate as it deprives those who could most enjoy it the moderately fit and families
from tackling it.