Heading to the west coast of England our next pit stop was Malmesbury.
Passing farmland along the way we were mobbed by welcoming sheep, who tried to out bleat each other in indignation when they realised we had no intention of feeding them.
Some of the classic red public telephone boxes are getting a bit of a makeover, this particular one had been converted into a free book exchange. We have also seen them fitted out as WiFi hotspots or first aid stations.
We made it to Malmesbury after 78kms of mostly flat and easy riding. The market town was the most postcard perfect English town that we had ridden through yet.
The sleepy town had two unique points of interest unlikely to be replicated anywhere else.
- Naked Gardening within the Abbey House Gardens conducted by the husband and wife naturist owners, visitors welcome to join in. Sadly this naked horticulturist couple are currently going through a divorce, the wife stating that her husband is a womanising alcoholic.
- There is a grave of the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger. Hannah Twynnoy died in 1703 after being told repeatedly not to harass a tiger kept in the pub grounds as part of a travelling animal menagerie.
We also discovered that blueberries here are ginormous! And cheap at 500g for £3/$6 AUD – thanks Tesco.
Malmesbury also had fantastic camping on a hill overlooking the town by the river. As lovely and intriguing as this little town was we needed to continue. Following quiet bike paths we joined onto the Bath to Bristol cycle path which runs along an old railway line. It’s so great to continually come across cycle paths which are completely separate to the road.
We had another Warmshowers host lined up for Bristol, Ed and his fiance Vin. Ed had recently returned from riding all the way from Bristol to Brisbane (Suyin’s home town!). As we had limited time Ed kindly took us for a whirlwind tour in his car, showing us the sites including the tidal river Avon. Ed and Vin could not have been more enthusiastic hosts or more passionate bike riders owning 10 bikes between themselves.
Bristol is home to Aardman studios, creators of Wallace and Gromit. Another favorite character, Shaun the Sheep, was the hero of the City Sculpture trail which families were busy running around like mad trying to tick off all 70 Shaun sculptures scattered across the best Bristol sights.
We bid Ed and Vin a sad adieu but not before Ed gave both bikes a gear once over and stuffed museli bars into our panniers. We had a short ride to Central Station to take a train up north as we were running a little behind schedule. The 120 mile journey to get us closer in to ride to Aughton cost £94/$205 AUD, it was obscene. We would later discover that the rail system here in England is privatised and if we had booked ahead we might have completed the same journey for up to a 5th of the price.
After recovering from the shock of the ticket prices a twilight zone moment occurred when we changed trains halfway through. The signs suddenly became indecipherable nor could we make sense of the announcements…it turned out that we had stopped in Wales.
Our train arrived in Shrewsbury, a medieval market town (At this point I am just going to assume every British town is a market town). Shrewsbury is largely preserved as it avoided the bombing in WW2. The town is particularly famous for being the birthplace of naturalist Charles Darwin (not to be confused with the divorcing Naturists).
About 6 miles north of Shrewsbury we made it to a small campsite on the river and set up our tent between the crab apple trees. Where it sat for another extra night due to 24 hours of non-stop rain. However an extra rest day is never unwelcome!
Camping fees: £13.50
Total: £43/$99.90 AUD
New gloves/towels/leggings: £41.96
Total: €52.40/$114.56 AUD
Camping fees: £10
Train tickets: £95
Total: €115.91/$253.20 AUD
Camping fees: £10
Total: €24.45/$53.40 AUD