Two Wheels Good, Two Legs Better?

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Regular readers will know that this blog covers cycle touring. However you may have noted the couple of months this spring when I wrote about my 950 mile walk across Spain on the Camino to Santiago.

I got the bug for big walks exactly a year ago when Sylv and I arrived in Chamonix, home of our son Joel, at the end of our 3 month cycle tour in September 2017.

As I had a few days spare Joel kitted me out with walking gear and a lightweight tent and sent me off on the 100 miles of the Tour of Mont Blanc. A tough hike to start on, especially in poorly fitting boots, but I loved the challenge.

In November Sylv and I visited Nepal and we completed the Annapurna Sanctuary hike,

So that was two pretty impressive ticks in my hiking book already, but both of them of only a few days.

My Camino experience, of seven weeks of walking, was a different challenge, and following that a number of long distance hikes made their way onto my ever expanding bucket list.

But it then it was back on the bike for a few months. 2000 km from South Spain to Chamonix, 3200km around Iceland and then 1000 km in Scotland and finally back to my Mum’s home in Wales.

From there I needed to get to the Isle of Wight to meet up with Sylv at her Parents.

How to get there? I had a couple of weeks to fill. The bike could have taken me all around the South West of the UK, maybe 6 or 700 miles of interesting touring.

Or I could walk.

The UK has an extensive network of well known national trails and also a myriad of other trails, bridleways and footpaths.

I spent a few days studying the network between Mid Wales and the Isle of Wight and put together a good hike to cover the couple of weeks that I had available.

The first bit was obvious. I grew up, and my mum still lives in Knighton, Tref y Clawdd, “the town on the dyke”. The dyke in question being Offa’s Dyke, an 8th century earthwork running the length of the England Wales border,  and now one f the 15 national trails in England and Wales. Knighton,  sitting at the central point of the Dyke, hosts the Offa’s Dyke Centre.

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Some of the clearest remains of Offa’s Dyke near Knighton

This first 80 miles and 4 days zigzagged between England and Wales through our wonderful borders landscape, finishing in Chepstow.

 

 

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A walk over the old Severn Bridge got me onto a minor route, the Jubilee way, for 20 miles until I reached another national trail, the Cotswold Way. I followed this to its southern end at Bath. From here it was the kennet and Avon Canal till I reached Devizes with the impressive engineering work of the Caen Hill Locks.

Then a third national trail, heading north east, The Ridgeway, “Britain’s oldest road”. This took me to one of the oldest structures in the country, The Avebury Stone Circle, and Silbury Hill, the largest neolithic structure in Europe. Then south, on a mix of footpaths, a detour was needed as my planned route over Salisbury Plain was diverted due to military manoeuvres. Then Stonehenge, a Great British icon that I had never visited before.

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Salisbury was soon reached an a trail following the River Avon took me all the way to the South Coast at Christchurch.

A coast path took me east to Lymington, and the ferry to the Isle of Wight.

Only 13 miles to Sylvia’s parents now, except I turned right off the ferry and decided to follow the isle of Wight Coast path for 50 miles until I reached the end of my trek.

So, a walk of about 290 miles over 16 days. Taking in 3 national trails, many iconic landmarks in the UK, and a range of landscapes of the Welsh borders and Southern England.

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Not a bad bit of sight seeing for a couple of weeks.

So in future is it to be two wheels or two legs? Both have separate appeal.

So, what’s good about long distance walking.

  • A slower pace (and cycling is pretty steady) More time to look at details.
  • More interaction with others. On the bike you only have a chat if you stop. Walking I often spent time walking and talking with other hikers and locals.
  • Walking in the UK, using our excellent OS maps (not cheap though).
  • Getting deep into the country away from roads.
  • The above also helped with wild camping, which I did most nights. Easy to find a nice spot deep in the woods.

But there are still a lot of cycling trips on my to do list, many of them would not be suitable for walking. The British countryside is a good walk, The Argentinian desert would be a bit too challenging (and boring) on foot.

So, what’s next? Probably a bit of walking in southern Spain over the winter months. Looking forward to using a comfortable new rucksack I have just received from my main hiking equipment supplier, my son Joel.

And in the future? Some more caminos in Spain, more national trails in the UK, maybe LEJOG on trails (Land’s End to John O Groats) and maybe someday a biggie in the States, PCT or Appalachian trail.

But there will be lots of cycling trips in between.

It’s a big list, and every time I tick something off the top I add two to the bottom.

 

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