…you can see by the cracks beneath your feet that alls not well, sang Four Letter Word. Well it was certainly ‘brass monkeys’ yesterday I’ll give you that and the cold winter has made the roads particular cracked and pothole ridden. But to call Worcestershire ‘hell’ is probably pushing it a bit far, for a start there are far too many churches for this to be the Devil’s realm, lots of pubs mind which I guess might affect the balance of religious power in the county.
I’d like to tell you how cold it was yesterday but I still can’t find the spare batteries for my cycle computer and because I know I have got some spare batteries somewhere I’m loathed to buy some new ones. This also means I can’t tell you what my average speed was although I’d go for in the region of ‘slow’, on the temperature front it was cold enough to make you shift up a gear and push harder in order to keep warm, however as the day went on in the long run this was probably a bad idea. My aim yesterday was for a short 2 hours or so to just explore and maybe get a bit further away from home than the other week, 4 hours and 40.5 miles later I was decidedly tired but had definitely ticked the ‘explore’ and ‘further from home’ boxes!
I started off heading north from home on the road up through Blackpole to where the Worcester Warriors stadium is, this avoided the section of Canal that is being resurfaced and then meant I could join Cycle route 45 along the back roads up to Droitwich, the back roads were pleasant enough although covered in water from the melting snow which still littered the fields and verges and a fair bit of mud which soon was speckled across my legs, face and back. Although Worcestershire is relatively flat there is a ‘rolling’ feel to the terrain which means you’re always pushing up a rise or down a slope.
Soon I arrived in Droitwich where I though I would try to get back on the canal and head north, however after losing route 45 and experiencing some ‘cobbles-lite’ thanks to some brick paved roads which were suffering badly from the cold weather I realised I’d taken a wrong turn. Doubling back I managed to find the canal opposite Waitrose and the paved section I had seen from the train on my commute up to Birmingham the other week, perfect I thought. Two things happened though, one I managed to end up on the wrong side of the canal and didn’t really feel like testing my skills to jump it and two once back on the ‘right’ side I realised that the paved surface only ran the length of the park in the centre of Droitwich and once under the A38 the canal became a very hummocky dirt singletrack. I knew I could probably have handled the surface but with a tunnel ahead looking dark an uninviting and not wanting a dip in the freezing water to the paths left I decided to rejoin the road.
So I set off up the A38 and despite this being a pretty busy road it’s actually not bad to cycle along, it’s wide enough that cars can give you room without crossing the centre lines and so tend to do so. I passed Chateau Impney shortly after leaving Droitwich and then after passing under the M5 shifted into the big ring to power past Webbs and up the slight rise to Bromsgove. I think reading ‘The Hour’ (more about that in a future post) by Michael Hutchinson definitely had an influence on me here as head down I was pretending I was in a time trail and so put a lot of effort in before completing what is a relatively lengthy climb into Bromsgrove, I mean it doesn’t go ‘up’ much compared to Yorkshire but it’s a bit of a ‘slow burner’ and testing in a high gear.
So I cruised through Bromsgrove and here it all started to wrong, or maybe right if a ‘decent’ distance ride was my goal. I hatched the cunning plan to explore the lanes to the west of Bromsgrove/Droitwich to create a decent loop and then cruise back into Worcester. So I headed out towards Cathill and then took a left towards Bourneheath I had to cross the M5 again which naturally gave the opportunity for a photo and a bit of a rest as there is actually a decent incline on the road before you get to the motorway bridge.
Once through Bourneheath I continued round towards Woodcote Green, I also saw Alpacas which was random to say the least.
Upon getting to Woodcote Green down a small slope, I didn’t actually know I had so I turned more or less back on myself up ‘Woodcote Green Lane’ thinking this was clearly the way I needed to go. The result was that I ended up cycling back up hill and away from the direction I really wanted to be traveling in. However choice made I looped round and crossed the A448 at Chaddesley Corbett, it was at this point I also started using Google maps on my phone so I didn’t get horrendously lost. However as I was only taking it out to check on occasion I just got slightly lost on the next leg of my journey.
I bridged the gap across to the A442 north of Rushock and then headed south towards Elmley Lovett, again for some unknown reason although headed in the right direction I elected to turn right towards Hartlebury, this did however give me the pleasure of seeing a giant inflatable Polar bear sat in a hot tub outside the ‘Artic Spas’ warehouse which is a sight to behold! For some reason though I’d stopped taking pictures I think I was starting to get tired.
I quickly realised that I wasn’t where I really wanted to be when I hit the A449 and in the interests of getting home ‘relatively’ quickly turned left and followed the main road south. This ride would have been more pleasant in the latter stages if I had prepared for actually cycling for 4 hours, put simply my kingdom for a sandwich! Two bottles of High 5 Energy Source and a Torq gel I found at the back of the cupboard probably weren’t enough, on the plus side the A449 does have a really smooth surface which put me back in pretend TT mood and I did quickly nip into the Reindeer Inn to get two packets of crisps! I left the main road after 3 miles at Hay/Haye lane to cut down the lanes to Hadley Heath and then onto North Claines, in doing this I stumbled upon Cycle route 46 again, it seems I can’t cycle north of Worcester without route 45 and 46 cropping up somewhere. Finding the cycle route made it easy to navigate though as I could follow this all the way through Claines into the city.
I’m pretty sure before I got to North Claines I took a really nice picture of the river with the reed beds looking golden in the late low winter sun, however my phone appears to have eaten it somehow which is a shame. There were lots of people out and about on this last stage walking dogs and generally enjoying the first sunshine in a long time. Finally once back in Worcester it was a simple spin down Ombersley and Barbourne road to home. Longer than planned but still enjoyable and with a bit more sustenance in my back pocket my body seems quite prepared for longer rides. I need to test my hill climbing skills or lack of them in the Malverns soon though.