Objective: Cycle a reasonable distance away from Bristol, wild camp somewhere and return home by whatever means I felt like.
I’ve long been a fan of sustrans and in particular the National Cycle Network (NCN). I’m a lazy navigator and certainly bad on roads so I really enjoy just getting on a well-signed bit of the NCN (they aren’t always..) and just going. It definitely stops me from feeling lost when there’s a sign with a bike on it every few hundred metres. So yesterday morning I popped to the shops for supplies, packed an unfeasible amount of gear and set off on NCN route 4 over the Severn Bridge which I’ve done many times before. Although the last time with tour gear caused 4 tube blowouts getting there and I gave up at Chepstow.. But my luck had improved and I made it into Wales scott-free. There’s something really excellent about cycling across the bridge, perhaps it’s feeling really tiny on a huge structure or maybe just avoiding the £6.40 toll.
I then hit NCN 42 and followed it as far as Abergavenny, which is a painfully hilly route if your derailleur is broken and the only way to get into the lowest gears is moving the chain by hand. I should point out that as a student of 8 years, I still haven’t managed to get a good bike and my current “touring” bike is a heavy town bike I bought about a year ago for £60 off gumtree. It gets me around but it certainly has its quirks.
On reaching Abergavenny, I headed north out of town and found a quiet looking field to pitch my tent, make some dinner and read my book for the evening overlooking the town and the Blorenge. Hanging around by my tent before bedtime the only people I saw were two ladies taking a stroll who I chatted with about sleeping out, puffball mushrooms and cuckoos naturally. It turns out lying in a pile of bags in a field with a bike just before sunset is a good talking point.
In summary, the ride itself took me about 6 and a half hours with breaks and I think I covered about 42 miles, less than I’d hoped but I still managed to get out of the city for a night. The following morning I made a cup of coffee like a true caffeine junkie (I can’t camp without coffee, fact) and chickened out by getting a train back to Bristol. It’s only a microadventure after all.
Lessons learned: Carry strictly only what you need. I had a fair bit of food left over and my tent is far too big for this sort of thing. I’m quite glad I didn’t take a can of cider this time. Also, subsidiary lesson, Usk is a pretty damn cute village.