NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

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DavidT
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NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby DavidT » 4 Jan 2010, 10:13pm

I have come across this National Cycle Route and am tentatively planning to cycle it later this year. At least a route based on it, if not the specified route exactly – I do not do off road for example beyond canal paths. I understand that the “ownership” of this route is quite fragmented and various organisations and local authorities either do :) , or do not :( , publish route guides. I’ve also come across what promises to be a pretty useful “definitive” website, but that still appears to be in the process of being populated.

So, I’d love to hear of any anecdotes or opinions anyone has on this route, any part of it – hopefully encouraging, rather than off putting :wink: !

I’m not a good climber, but appreciate I’ll need to cross the Cotswolds. Any other hilly areas to be aware of? I’m also stuggling to find any of the routing between Tewkesbury and Kidderminster.

Any comments appreciated. And yes I do have a Mercian, but that is coincidental to the fact that this route seems at this stage at least to be an attractive proposition.

Thanks
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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby bikepacker » 4 Jan 2010, 10:42pm

The routing between Kiddy and Twekesbury can't yet be complete because the bridge of the Severn at Diglis in Worcester is still under construction. I can tell you it passes across Stonehall Common 50 yards up the lane from my place. We have a bright new sign proclaiming route 45.
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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby pal » 5 Jan 2010, 7:42am

I cycled along the stretch from Shrewsbury to Chester last summer, and enjoyed it. It's pretty flat, apart from a few short (but steep) bits around the Peckforton Hills (near Tattenhall) -- though in fact it's easy enough to tweak the route and just go round the edges of the hills, if your legs are failing by that point. Signposting is pretty good: I got a bit lost going through Whitchurch, but it was easy enough to get back on track; signing in Chester itself is terrible.

At Wrenbury, the Mercian Way intersects with the Cheshire Cycleway, which gives an alternative route of getting to Chester. The last stretch (for both routes, I think) is along the canal towpath, which is a bit narrow, but otherwise fine for cycling on (I had no problems on a road bike).

The ice-cream farm in Tattenhall is recommended!

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby Si » 5 Jan 2010, 9:15am

I've been up the bit north of Bewdely, to near Bridgnorth.

I really like this trail - it's very scenic and passes some nice places. There's a really nice bit that runs along side the preserved Severn Valley Railway, although it can get a little crowded with walkers, dogs, families on bikes, etc at peak times - so you need to take it easy, no racing the steam trains :wink: Afraid you can't get away from the climbing in this area.

However, parts of it you'd not want to use a normal road bike on, especially in the wet, if you could help it. My friend had his frame snap shortly after riding one bit - the bumpiness of which he blames for the failior. I've got down it on a Dawes Galaxy with camping kit on board, but it did take a lot of care and one section I missed altogether. Although my Dawes Onedown (roughstuff/expo type tourer) with slick Maraton Plus tyres managed it all on another occassion with little complaint apart from some wheel spins in the mud. But, there are plenty of quiet roads that by-pass the worst of it.

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 5 Jan 2010, 2:12pm

I've cycled it from Salisbury to Gloucester, and where possible, on from there to Worcester and Droitwich. It's a very pleasant route, but much of it is not signed as yet. I'd recommend you print out some maps from the Sustrans website and from OpenCycleMap.org - a GPS loaded with OSM data is better still, if you have one.

None of it is too hilly, certainly not by NCN standards. A few comments on individual sections:

Salisbury to Amesbury: Fully signed. A lovely route on quiet back roads, following a river valley so it's pretty flat. It also has the most accidentally obscene road sign I've ever seen, but I'll let you discover that (maybe I just have a dirty mind).

Out of Amesbury (taking the western braid via Stonehenge): Signage stops here. You'll have to cross the A303 by Stonehenge which is a little hairy. Then it's onto tracks/military roads over Salisbury Plain, which is enormously good fun and very isolated. I'd say the surface is roughly canal towpath standard, perhaps slightly chunkier. One path just beside Stonehenge is a bit rough and I actually punctured there, but that was more due to taking a pothole at speed.
I believe there's an eastern, on-road braid (also unsigned) as an alternative, but it'd be a great shame to miss out on the plain. I've had a lonely old signpost from the summit as my desktop background ever since!
At the northern end of the plain, it looks like the intention is that you turn right, follow a track, and then left again to descend to the main road. Don't bother. The track down to the main road is virtually unfindable and you'll struggle on road bike tyres. Just carry straight on to the A342, then follow that east and rejoin the route near Wilsford.

Avon Valley to Avebury: Minor roads, very easy and pleasant. I think the signs start again by the junction with NCN 4. The canalside pub at Honeystreet is worth stopping in. There's a reasonably hefty climb out of the valley but nothing too impossible.

Avebury/the Ridgeway: This is probably the bit where you'll struggle most with the surface. The Ridgeway is essentially a track and years of 4x4 use haven't done it any favours. I've had no problems with my Ridgeback hybrid (cycled it a couple of times now) but I did bounce around a little, and had to be careful to stay in the right rut! On anything less hardy I think you might be best advised just to take the A4361 to Swindon - a shame to miss the Ridgeway, but both the main route and the Marlborough diversion would be too rough for you.

Swindon to Cirencester: Flat and easy, and fully signed. The route in Swindon is reasonably well signposted but, as ever, take a map with you. Most of this bit is on railway paths, and when we cycled it, very wet. This was in the aftermath of an extraordinarily wet period so I'd hope it's improved, but again, on a road bike I'd consider following the minor roads through the Cotswold Water Park and rejoining the route at Cirencester.

Cirencester to Stroud: Lovely country lane cycling. Obviously the Cotswolds are hilly, but there aren't any impossible gradients in this direction. Some nice villages, too - despite living in the Cotswolds I'd never realised how pleasant places like Minchinhampton are. From Nailhouse to Stroud and Stonehouse is good-quality railway and roadside path. Well signed.

Severn Valley to Gloucester: Easy minor road cycling. A bit more undulating than you'd expect the Severn Valley to be, but nothing too harsh. Well signed and I believe the canalside route in Gloucester should have reopened again now.

Gloucester to Tewkesbury: Minor roads again apart from a short traffic-free initial section. Some hilly sections until you reach Ashleworth (good pub just off the route at Ashleworth Quay), then flat.

Tewkesbury to Worcester: The signage ends entirely near Tewkesbury - but on the other side of the river. I think there might be a ferry in summer or you could carry on upriver to the main road, a couple of miles north. Treat the projected routes on the Sustrans map with caution at this point as several of them follow currently unrideable bridleways and tracks. We've investigated some of them on our hybrids but I wouldn't recommend it!
For now, I'd suggest you put your head down and follow the B-road to Upton, cross the river on the main road, then the A38 north. The signing restarts just off the A38 at Kinnersley, from where the route follows good minor roads to Worcester. Do make sure to cycle ostentatiously along the private road with the mardy residents in Worcester where they've put up a "no cycling" sign (I didn't just say that).

Worcester to Droitwich: Reasonable canal towpath followed by pleasant minor lanes. Fully signed. There's also an alternative route (46) from Worcester to Droitwich which is entirely on-road and very lovely too, though the signage gives out in Droitwich.

I've not cycled it north of Droitwich but others have given excellent notes on most of the northern sections. FWIW I did Salisbury to Swindon in one (long) day, Swindon to Kemble on another, and Kemble to Gloucester on a third.
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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby bikepacker » 5 Jan 2010, 4:31pm

Richard Fairhurst wrote:
Tewkesbury to Worcester:
Do make sure to cycle ostentatiously along the private road with the mardy residents in Worcester where they've put up a "no cycling" sign (I didn't just say that).

.


That is Barnshall Avenue. The new cycle way is completed so if you follow the signs before and into Barnshall Ave you can't go wrong. I have removed the residents diversion signs but cannot remove the other home made signs as they are too high. Wanted 12 foot tall cyclist or a crane.

I think the final route between Twekesbury and Kinnersley is still under discussion and the routing up the canal after Worcester may change once the new bridge is opened.
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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby andrew_s » 5 Jan 2010, 5:10pm

Richard Fairhurst wrote:Avon Valley to Avebury: Minor roads, very easy and pleasant. I think the signs start again by the junction with NCN 4. The canalside pub at Honeystreet is worth stopping in. There's a reasonably hefty climb out of the valley but nothing too impossible.

They have a load of stuff about crop circles, and a big mural (?) on the pool room ceiling
Avebury/the Ridgeway: This is probably the bit where you'll struggle most with the surface. The Ridgeway is essentially a track and years of 4x4 use haven't done it any favours. I've had no problems with my Ridgeback hybrid (cycled it a couple of times now) but I did bounce around a little, and had to be careful to stay in the right rut! On anything less hardy I think you might be best advised just to take the A4361 to Swindon - a shame to miss the Ridgeway, but both the main route and the Marlborough diversion would be too rough for you.

I've done all the Ridgeway from Avebury to just short of Streatley (except the section between Barbury Hill and the A436) on a road bike with 28c Gatorskins. 4x4s have been excluded from a fair bit since, so the rutting may have been improved.
Another alternative if you don't want to visit Swindon would be to take NCN4 west from Avebury to Yatesbury, then take the track north towards Winterbourne Bassett, and take a lane route through Clyffe Pypard (good pub with YHA bunkhouse), Wootton Bassett and Purton to rejoin NCN45 south of Cricklade. The track gets a couple of big puddles on when it's been wet recently, but is otherwise OK

Severn Valley to Gloucester: Easy minor road cycling. A bit more undulating than you'd expect the Severn Valley to be, but nothing too harsh. Well signed and I believe the canalside route in Gloucester should have reopened again now.

Gloucester to Tewkesbury: Minor roads again apart from a short traffic-free initial section. Some hilly sections until you reach Ashleworth (good pub just off the route at Ashleworth Quay), then flat.

The canal path is open, and can be followed from Stonebench right up to Gloucester docks. Between Gloucester and Ashleworth you only actually use the A417 for two 30m sections.

At Tewkesbury there was a part time ferry between the pub at Lower Lode and the east bank, but I think the jetty was washed away in the 2007 floods and it's not started up again. It might be worth looking if you want lunch in the pub, but probably not otherwise

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby DavidT » 8 Jan 2010, 10:18pm

Many thanks for all your replies - exactly what I was after. Overall clearly a very good thumbs up for this route? I'd hate to single anyone out, as all comments were appreciated, but thanks indeed to Mr Fairhurst! Detail beyond any reasonable expectation? Thanks Richard.

Now I just have to wait until summer, and hopefully I'll be off! (Following a bit of domestic negotiation, although early signs are positive.....)

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury-Chester or Chester-Salisbury

Postby totalhiptouring » 17 Oct 2019, 5:18pm

Planning this route for a family tour in 2020. As an American, might I ask which direction would be preferable for June?

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby nirakaro » 17 Oct 2019, 8:38pm

The prevailing winds in the UK are always from the south-west, which would suggest riding south to north. However they don't prevail reliably, and that's not a very windy part of the country. So if there are no other factors to consider, you might choose to ride that way, but it won't make a big difference. I'm thinking of riding the Mercian way myself early next year (may bump into you?), and as I live in the north of England, and have family in the south, I'll ride north to south to visit them. I don't anticipate the direction being an issue.

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby totalhiptouring » 18 Oct 2019, 2:50am

I appreciate the prompt reply. Sounds like north-south will likely be fine as our arrival is in Manchester.

As a Warmshower Host near a Trans USA route, I always wince when I am contacted by a cyclist riding east-west who is just about to face several hundred miles of open terrain and often fierce headwinds.

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby nirakaro » 18 Oct 2019, 10:10am

I'm tickled, incidentally, that any descriptions of the whole route that I can find say that it 'starts in Salisbury'. Typical southern English chauvinism – it actually starts in Chester. :D

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby Si » 21 Oct 2019, 10:58am

I did a bit of it recently - Gloucester to Ironbridge. I noticed that because it tends to meander a bit I quite often spent equal parts of the day riding west and east, thus both into the westerly and with it throughout the day. Plus, as you get up the Severn Valley to the Ironbridge gorge the wind seems to ignore the rules and just funnels itself up and down the valley as it sees fit. Overall, though, I think south to north is probably going to give you a little more tail wind from May to November.

Only did a small section of the route but have to say that I really enjoyed it.

It should also be noted that the short section Bewdley to Ironbridge does require quite a stout bike with good tyres as it's a bit rough in places, but very enjoyable. You don't need a full on MTB, a good tourer or gravel bike is fine.

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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 21 Oct 2019, 12:13pm

How was the Wyre Forest section (after Bewdley) when you rode it? When I did it the other year it was unrideable, but that was in winter and the Forestry Commission trucks had been churning it up - hopefully they've put it back in good order since.
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Re: NCR45 - The Mercian Way - Salisbury to Chester

Postby Si » 21 Oct 2019, 3:28pm

It was very good. I'm surprised that you found it in such a state - I used to ride it all the time and it was usually fine.

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