After cursing our alarm clocks again, we were pleased to find we’d been joined by the second of the “glory hunters”, Neil Evans (aka Evo), who had arrived late the previous night. Another round of porridge and we were underway, through Shrewsbury town centre and then on mostly quiet lanes down past Church Stretton and Much Wenlock. Church Stretton sits at the foot of the Long Mynd, and while we didn’t go up the Mynd itself (home to some great mountain biking), there was a fair bit of climbing and some lovely views before things flattened out towards Ludlow.
Ludlow was a very pretty little market town, and our support crew had found a cracking café where we enjoyed probably the best breakfast of the trip so far, during which we received an impromptu local history lesson from one of our chattier fellow customers. Leominster and Hereford both looked similarly photogenic and historic as we passed through (a couple of times for those of us who got lost in Leominster’s one way system).
Somewhere after Hereford it started to get hillier again, and with the smell of a chocolate factory hanging in our nostrils we climbed a seemingly endless procession of short, sharp hills until we reached Monmouth, having crossed the Welsh border somewhere along the way (no signpost though). Another unplanned tour of the town centre courtesy of some bad signage and we were whizzing alongside the river Wye towards Chepstow when the heavens finally opened, as they’d been threatening to do for most of the day. A long and sapping climb just after Tintern Abbey tested our resolve, until we finally freewheeled down towards the (old) Severn bridge, where Jon Springett’s aversion to heights ensured we crossed briskly back onto English soil.
The worsening rain made the last ten miles of the day feel like a thousand, and spirits were low as we traversed a series of muddy backroads until joining the city traffic on the outskirts of Bristol. We eventually found our way up past the imposing merchants’ houses of Clifton and across the magnificent suspension bridge (another one for Jon S to enjoy), before rolling into our hotel filthy and ravenous. Luckily our hotel deal included a three course dinner, which it goes without saying we took full advantage of!