Tuesday, August 2 Grantham-Lincoln
The days ride was uneventful through hilly terrain. We stopped along the way to visit a very interesting looking parish church that invited guests in.
Unfortunately, it was locked up tight. We had our morning cup of coffee at a small enclave that had a tea and coffee bakery, a bike shop, and a few craft shops. We sat outside at a picnic table and chatted with 2 local riders who were out for a 60+ mile spin. These are the only bike riders we’ve seen in 3 days. Many subjects and opinions were covered. Both the men were named Phil and were nice enough to lead us through back road ways of getting to Lincoln. They warned us about the “hill” we would encounter getting to the cathedral. We had been told about this hill by other riders, but none had mentioned that the grade was in the vicinity of 20%, very narrow and paved with cobblestones.. Everyone had mentioned walking it. Just hearing the words “Lincoln hill” so many times had made us more than curious.
We pulled into Lincoln about 3:30, had coffee and went to our B & B. We were surprised since we had encountered no hills to get there, and it was located in the valley below the Cathedral .Even from afar the cathedral is imposing. We hoofed it to the Cathedral, which our host said was a 10 minute walk away but took us 25 minutes on the most direct route. Indeed, the hill up to the cathedral was very steep, paved with cobblestones, winding and narrow. There were no bicycles anywhere in sight. there was no way anyone rode up.
We had come to Lincoln to see the Cathedral which had been touted as the nicest Gothic Cathedral in the UK. We were not disappointed. Here’s why:We spent more than an hour walking around, taking pictures and listening to a choir from Germany who were practicing for the 5:30 Evensong service. What beautiful sound. Construction of the Cathedral began around 1070 at the instructions of Richard the Lionhearted to acknowledge and celebrate the glory of God and Richie’s victories and claim to the British throne. The cathedral is beautiful in all respects.
There were many old and interesting buildings on both sides of the cobbled streets on our routes up and down from the cathedral.
On our walk back we stopped for some fish and chips at a place near our B&B suggested by our hostess. What she did not tell us was that it was a take-out only place, far enough away from the B & B that the meal would have gotten cold and would have stunk up the B&B had we gone there to eat it. We back-tracked to a Tex-Mex place and enjoyed a pretty good Mexican dinner.
Wednesday, August 3 Lincoln to Thorne
It was a very windy day of riding. The news this morning said there was a small craft warning out for the area. Fortunately, the wind was behind us or to the side for about half of the ride, and not in our faces that much. The terrain was mostly rolling and through farm country. We got to Thorne about 4 p.m. after 46 miles on our bikes. There was not much to see in this working class village. There are many empty storefronts, lots of rubbish and fewer people on the streets than we have seen in other villages. Many of the store fronts were behind roll down metal, locking security curtains, a sight we have not seen in the UK.
We walked around a very old Church with the outside of the many stained glass windows covered with hard plastic shields. We asked a local woman walking her dog why the coverings. She said that this is a tough and run-down place and the windows were not safe without the coverings. How disappointing. The church was closed. We walked around the cemetery and read some of the tombstones. The oldest one we could find was from the middle of the 18th century.
We finally had Fish & Chips washed down with mixed berry cider at a hotel bar recommended by our host. We were pleased with our selection. It was a very tasty meal at a reasonable price.
Thursday August 4th Thorne to York
We had about 45 miles to ride again today so took off at 8:45. The wind was howling again but about half of the time it was a crosswind not a direct headwind. At lunch time we were passing through the small city of Selby which we had not previously heard of. We followed our noses and found the most beautiful Abbey in the middle of town. We had our sandwiches at their small coffee and snack shop in the Church. The size and beauty were surprising. We were the only sightseers.
We continued following the Sustran’s (a non-profit similar to Adventure Cycling.) route #62 and 65 all the way to York. The signage was great and easy to follow. It truly was a smorgasbord of riding along paved roads, bike paths, (paved, dirt, and gravel), barely paved canal banks, a grass footpath through a field, and a very rough abandoned potholed road and runway through at a WWII airfield which is still recognizable and home of a glider club. You could still see the old landing strip and imagine the chaos during the war. We saw several gliders taking off and landing as we bounced along. The last 12 miles into York was on a pretty good dedicated bike path lined with trees and protected from the wind. It took us into the middle of the old city of York. It was close to 4pm so we found the TI, got a map located our Guest House and dropped our things. We’re staying only ½ block from one of the city gates built by the Romans starting in 71 A.D. and headed to York Minster (think Cathedral or Basilica only Church of England instead of Catholic), to have a look. It’s huge by the way. The cost to visit is 10 pounds per person, about $30 for the two of us, which seemed a little steep. After considering it, we decided to wait 30 minutes and come back for the 5:15 Evensong prayer service which got us in for free. We sat through the very short service then explored the church for about a half hour. Aren’t we clever?
Friday, August 5th…York day out
It was sprinkling when we first left our B&B, but soon stopped and remained cool and windy until mid afternoon. Like late Oct. in the Grand Valley, it got sunny and warm around 4pm. Our free walking tour of York didn’t start until 10:15 so we walked inside the city walls, got oriented, and took pictures. We joined the tour given by a volunteer of the York Visitors Information Office The tour leader was excellent and versed in the history of the city. York as many of the other cities in England near each coast, had been a major player in each civilization that has come through to conquer it. You know the story. Build it up, conquerer, tear it down, then conquerer again, tear it down and build it up again x 6 or 8 times. The Catholic Church became the Church of England as the result of the Henry VIII/ Katherine of Aragon/ Anne Bolyn divorce/beheading, etc. Since the Pope and the Catholic church did not like divorce, Hank 8 seized the churches and destroyed the abbeys, and monasteries together with the priceless works of art, sculpture and stained glass to demonstrate the extent of his power and create the Church of England and proclaim himself its head. Similar to ISIS and Syria? We study history in order to perfect civilization’s mistakes (not avoid them.)
After lunch we spent 3 hours at the National Railroad Museum. The museum is located in 2 large old train station buildings and includes a turntable with locomotive and tender as found in a roundhouse. The museum is free to the public and well done with demonstrations and talks on many subjects dealing with the railroad. The engines and cars, some belonging to the royalty of the 19th and 20th centuries, are in pristine condition. There is a huge section with works in progress. On our walk back we stopped at the train station to pick up our tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Coventry.
Saturday, August 6 York-Coventry
After breakfast in the room we packed up and brought our stuff into the lobby where it was held for safe keeping. We walked to Market Square and the open air market which is a daily event, although it is bigger on Saturdays. There are more people in the streets than during the week. From there we went to the Treasury House named for the fact that the treasurer of the Minster used to live there. It was purchased by a wealthy, eccentric man together with the house next door and together converted into a mansion that he remodeled a number of times and filled with eclectic antiques. There is little harmony of the furnishings in any particular room. The importance of the house and furnishings was established when royalty stayed there. Some of the rooms are fashioned to highlight this. The mansion has a beautiful garden which we contemplated while eating our picnic lunch.
Since it was early we walked around for another half hour or so, took some pictures around town then returned to the hotel, loaded up and rode the half mile to the train station. The trains and transfer went very smoothly. Ours were the only bikes using the 3 bike spaces on the train. The first train ended in Birmingham which is a large train station with working elevators so moving from one track to another was a piece of cake. The second train had a separate compartment at the beginning of the train for bikes. The outside doors to the compartment are locked during transit so the conductor had to unlock them before we could get the bikes off. She found us very early on the train ride and confirmed that we were getting off at Coventry then met us when the train stopped at Coventry and the unloading was easy.
Our hotel was only about ¼ mile from the station, but we were tired and hungry so decided to eat at the hotel. From a flyer at the front desk, we discovered that Coventry was having a huge bike rally on Sunday where they close most of the roads downtown to car traffic. We got online and registered for the ride (free ride for all levels) that starts at 11 a.m tomorrow.
Sunday, August 7 Coventry
Coventry, we discovered, is a very small city. The Ring Road is only 4 miles around and about a ¼ mile to the center of town from any point on it. We got to the center of town about 9:30 and detoured to the Cathedral destroyed in 1940 by nazi bombs and incendiaries, which is also in the center of town. After walking around, briefly visited the new Cathedral, built next to and with a part overhanging the old cathedral, picked up our reflective safety vests given to all riders and got to the start about a half hour early. The start was jammed with riders of all ages and abilities and clogged at a few places where the funnel openings narrowed. We made it around the course without mishap and decided to forgo another round until the crush of people diminished.
We visited St. Mary’s Guild Hall which was the site of the gathering and governing by the most powerful of Guild members starting in the 15th century and is now the site of city hall meetings and other events. It is a multi-roomed building which, despite its proximity to the firebombed cathedral only suffered minor damage in November 1940, when the Nazi’s bombed Coventry all night long. The ceiling in the main hall has been replaced but has retained its original ornamentation. It looks new but some original stained glass still graces the structure as do pieces of furniture. Of note is the room where Mary, Queen of Scots, was detained for a period of time while awaiting her trial. It was not possible for pictures to show how the floors were tilted and uneven, they were.
We walked around the old town some more and grabbed a sandwich from the grocery store before taking another swing around the 4 mile course sans many riders. It was fun. We then repaired to the Transportation Museum and walked through it ogling cars and bicycles that have been fixed up and are on display. and the world’s fastest car with twin jet engines.It is quite a collection with many of the vehicles manufactured in Coventry. During WWII those factories were converted to manufacturing war vehicles.
When we got back to the bikes, which were locked to a bike stand at the open plaza just outside the museum, we discovered that someone had opened Ed’s small seat pack and taken a spare tube and a small knife/tool set that were in there but not his pump (which was on his down tube and worth a lot more than the items that were taken) or tire changing tool. It appeared that he/she had tried to take the bag but could not get the plastic buckle through the seat rails. It was very disheartening. Feeling a bit discouraged we returned to the hotel, put the bikes away and had dinner there.
Monday, August 8th Coventry-Banbury
Shortly after leaving Coventry, we were back in the Cotswolds (which we rode through last year) with its hilly and rolling terrain and big views of patch-worked fields in agriculture. We had a bit of trouble navigating the isolated back roads as the GPS which has been “acting up” seemed to quit entirely on our way to Banbury. Fortunately, the B & B that we had booked was on a main road so no trouble finding it. Ed was also having trouble shifting from 1 chainring to another. We found the Visitor’s Office after much searching and through it found a bike shop where Ed dropped his bike for a quick tune while we had coffee. We picked up Ed’s healed bike and checked out the town.
Banbury’s history mirrors the history of most of England from Roman times to the present, except that the powers that be in Banbury have made no effort to preserve the antiquity. This is a working town. We rode up the hill to our B & B, checked in and then walked to the train station to make reservations for the train from Oxford to London on Wednesday. The station agent told us that the company was doing some work on the line south of Oxford so we could not take the train from Oxford, but had to take the bus (the buses do not take bikes) or ride from Oxford to Didcot Parkway a distance of about 12 miles to catch the train to London. We decided to think about it over night.
As the result of Ed doing a factory reset on the GPS and having his shifting improve, he is now a happier camper. We had the Monday night specials at Waterstones Restaurant, a national chain in the British Isles, and then walked back up the hill.
Tuesday August 9 Banbury-Oxford
The day of riding was through the rolling hills of the Cotswalds (nice way of saying it was up and down hills all day) with lots of thatched roof buildings and beautiful fields.There were many small burbs, but none with anything akin to a market, café, or bar until we arrived in Woodstock, the site of Blenheim Palace where Winston Churchill was born. It was fun to ride around the old town and remember our time there last year. The final 9 miles were on Euro Velo Route #5 into Oxford. We went straight to the train station and bought our tickets from Didcot Station to London for tomorrow then went to the Museum of the History of Science. What a fascinating place, and the price of “free” was just right. It had all sorts of instruments, drawings, tools, etc.
and the original blackboard with a formula drawn by Albert Einstein during a lecture he gave at Oxford in 1933 (?) proving that the universe is expanding. (We knew it all the time) Our B&B was about 2 miles south, so shopped for dinner along the way then ate in the room.
Wednesday August 10th Oxford to London
We left Oxford at 8:15, and rode south along the Thames canal which hooked us with the many small roads that took us the 14 miles to the train station at Didcot Parkway by 10:30. Our reservation was for 12:30 but we asked if we could take an earlier train. They said it was up to the conductor if there was room for the bikes. The next train to London was in 20 minutes and indeed had room for us, so we got into London 2 hours earlier than planned. Our room at the Copthorne Tara Hotel wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we worked on this blog a bit then visited the Victoria and Albert Museum to finish the day.