Clear blue sky greeted us when we awoke but luckily there was a breeze so it wasn’t stifling like yesterday. We enjoyed a lovely run along the canal, well used as an amenity by the locals, children and adults. Passing under the M5 motorway the motorists were stuck in nose-to-tail traffic crawling towards the coast while the Virgin HSTs flashed past. We took the optional detour into Bridgewater for an early lunch at the famed vegetarian no-smoking Cycle Inn only to find a sign boasting of a “Back to basics” pub and “Due to change of ownership, limited menu available” on the board inside. So a total waste of time.
We decided to press on to Glastonbury for lunch so we returned to the canal, the M5 was still choked. We soon had to cross the canal by the railway bridge which involved removing our rear panniers and struggling up and down the steps. At the bottom we chatted to a well-laden Dutch couple, cycling north to south and staying at camp sites. We’d chosen south-north in view of the prevailing winds but given the weather it would have been better to finish in Cornwall with a rest day on a beach.
For a while we thought we’d got hopelessly lost before realising that we’d been directed onto what on the map is marked as the proposed route, though it wasn’t exactly as shown. For a short section we had to cycle along a fast unpleasant main road. We passed through a number of large villages but all were deserted apart from the odd passing car. Ice-cold water from a village store would have been very welcome, the loss of such amenities is bad news for touring cyclists and we had to continue to Glastonbury before we found refreshments. South of Glastonbury we encountered vast peat excavations, dropped peat on the narrow country lanes made us glad we were travelling on a Saturday, when the lorries weren’t operating. The railway line passing right next to the peat beds was ripped up years ago, we cycled along a short stretch of it into the town.
Our first call was at Cafe Galatea for a wonderful fruit cheesecake and peppermint tea, Glastonbury is an attractive small town catering for affluent new-agers and tourists. The northern exit from town was along a cycle path alongside the A39, which took us past the Avalon Trading Estate – what would King Arthur have made of that?
It was late afternoon by now, and a little cooler as we turned off along the Long Drove, a dead straight and quiet country lane where I caught up with a lone cyclist and we chatted cycling along two abreast. It’s not often roads are sufficiently civilised to allow this. Then we were directed up a delightful leafy track which led to a cycle path along a main road into town, past the ugly industrial estates and into the centre of Wells to check into 17 Priory Road. We were dismayed to note it was a busy road but luckily our room was at the back and the road noise didn’t bother us at all. We received a very friendly reception in a comfortable large Victorian house.
Before searching for somewhere to eat we had to take a look at the awesome gothic cathedral which gives this small settlement city status. The low evening sun emphasised the honey-coloured stonework. Tucked away down an unpromising alley leading to a car park, Alley Cats Bistro was very quiet while the smart places in the town centre were doing a roaring trade but the specials were excellent value, as were the side salads. After dinner we took a closer look at the cathedral with its facade of carved stone figures. Close by is Vicars Row, a street of 14th century houses. There is an overwhelming sense of the mediaeval power of the church in the town centre, despite the twentieth century incursion of motor traffic.