Heading out on my bike again but this time a slightly earlier start
as I needed to ride to Preston Railway Station to catch the 6:17am
Virgin train to Birmingham. I left the house at 5:10 and it was
light enough to cycle without lights. I reached Preston Railway
Station in plenty of time and was surprised how quiet it was. There
were very few people around and my train was leaving from platform 6
and when I got there the train was waiting but not yet open to
passengers. The bike compartment was at the rear of the train and
the train guard let me on well in advance.
Empty carriage at Preston
It was one of the carriages where I didnít have to hang my bike from
the roof and I was able to wheel it into the compartment and tie it
to the wall. In the main carriage I was the only person there and as
we left exactly on time at 6:17 I was still the only person in the
carriage. It was only when we reached Wigan that people started to
get on. We had a few stops and I was surprised at the length of time
we waited at some stations, in particular Crewe and Wolverhampton.
As we approached Birmingham New Street Station I asked the cleaner
was it always this quiet on a Saturday morning. She said it was but
the next trains get extremely busy. I had to wait for the guard to
open the door from the outside and the cleaner suggested I get off
through the normal pedestrian exits and go back to the bike
compartment and if nobody arrives to open the door all I have to do
is stand with my hand on the train and they are not allowed to move
it. I got my bike off OK shortly after 8am.
Birmingham New Street is not a station I am familiar with and I had
to get the lift up a level with the bike and follow the exit signs
to get out onto the main street. As it is such a large station there
is more than one exit and I was at the wrong end for the start of my
ride. I cycled around the streets to find the correct road south and
followed it to where I got off for the Grand Union Canal.
I was glad to see the back of the Birmingham roads. I cycled this
length of the canal last year and cycled along it easily with the
exception of a couple of causeways where the surface was bricks
which had been placed to assist horses but they were they were very
rough for riding the bike. I continued along the towpath but didnít
go as far as I did last year and left the canal north of Solihull to
follow the road.
Grand Union Canal
The first part was rather busy but it wasnít long before I turn left
to a quieter road and after crossing the M40 to reach the delightful
town of Knowle.
Here I left the main road and took a quieter road through the
distinctive buildings of the town. I stopped to photograph an
impressive date stone on a house to commemorate Queen Victoriaís
Jubilee in 1897. On the approach to Warwick I saw the sign to the
right that took me down to the Grand Union Canal again.
Queen Victoria's Jubilee
I followed it and started to ride along the towpath which was fine
for a while but it started to get narrow with thick undergrowth and
encroaching. At one point the undergrowth had grown so far across
there was only a narrow gap to ride on with the canal on my right. I
decided to leave the towpath when I saw a private drive that took me
up to a road. I join the canal again when the towpath widened and it
took me in to Royal Leamington Spa. I left the canal here and joined
the main road that headed south. I stopped at a small shop to buy
something to eat and find a small pack of coconut and jam tarts
which were very tasty and helped recharge my energy batteries.
A left turn up ahead took me on to a quieter road but as the tarmac
began to disintegrate I was on a rough track. Iíd seen this on the
map when planning the route and was suspicious about the cycle track
heading crossing fields. When I left the track and started on the
path my suspicions were correct and it was a narrow rough path with
thick undergrowth either side which was very difficult to get
through in places.
Grand Union Canal
I had the main line railway on my left and rode on with difficulty
until I eventually emerged at the main road. I joined a minor road
which was a pleasant ride through the villages and countryside. The
earlier cloud and mist hard now lifted and I was riding in pleasant
sunshine with a very slight headwind at times.
Grand Union Canal
I approached old tractor up ahead and in front of it a steam roller
but going very slow on the climb and I was able to overtake it with
ease. I rode ahead with the intention of stopping to photograph it
but it kept stopping and then starting again. The vintage tractor
stayed with the steamroller and they must have been part of the same
team. I took some photos as they entered a village (I think Harbury)
and as I rode ahead I noticed many people in fancy dress so there
must have been an event on.
I continued through the lanes and on the approach to Fenny Compton
saw a village fete sign which said it started this afternoon.
Various signs pointed to parking in fields and when I came to the
entrance I stopped and had a quick word with the man on the gate. It
was only £1 to get in but I didnít really have time to check it out.
I continued up the hill which became steeper meaning near the top I
got off to push the bike. A left turn at the summit took be on a
much easier road to negotiate and I rode through open countryside
until I met the main A423 road to Banbury. Unfortunately this was an
extremely busy road with fast traffic and there was no cycle track
for refuge. I followed it to the outskirts of Banbury where a cycle
track is shown following the canal I wheeled my bike onto the bridge
and look down to see the cycle track was very narrow with thick
undergrowth so I decided to avoid it. I returned to the main road
and continued in to the centre of Banbury Town. I followed the road
through the shopping centre area to re-join the canal again which
had been very well landscaped into its surroundings. A footbridge
bridge over it took me to the east towpath which I joined for a
while. The nice weather had brought many people out and the towpath
was full of pedestrians enjoying themselves. I wasnít on it for long
and left to join a road and back to the south end of Banbury Town.
Here there was a large Morrisons superstore where I stopped to buy
water. They didnít have any cheap 2lt bottles so I bought a 5lt for
£1.09. I continued south on a fairly busy road which I soon left to
ride uphill past a Park area. My plan was to camp somewhere in this
area and the cycle track eventually left the road and followed a
cinder track by a farm. It was a steep climb for a while so once
again I pushed the bike. I was then on a long straight Lane running
directly due west towards Bloxham and this is where my planned
finish for the day was.
I could see some useful areas to camp but signs said no unauthorised
access. I reasoned that the only place I could camp was on the wide
verge by the lane. There were occasional vehicles and a few walkers
and cyclists as it is a designated cycle route. I had to flatten a
large area of weeds and nettles to get my ground sheet down and put
up the tent in the shade of a tree.