A 400 mile mini-adventure in two parts! First up, from Brighton Pier to Clevedon Pier on the Severn Estuary, then from Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge back to the majestic Tower Bridge in Central London.
I really like bridges and I’m quite fond of piers, too… I think we can all see how this particular challenge came to be! Any excuse, right?
I planned the route to go from my front door in Essex, meaning that I didn’t need to use public transport at any point. Face mask packed and riding solo – it was the safest and most responsible way I could think to complete an adventure under the current circumstances.
The complete Tour was six days in total, with four days of riding to tick off the Brighton and Clevedon Piers and then the last two days were spent riding from Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol back to Tower Bridge in London, and then back home to Essex.
I love exploring the UK, and this Tour comes highly recommended if you're looking for a fun mini UK adventure or staycation. So many beautiful country lanes and such gorgeous views!
Rolling through Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve makes for a peaceful start to this challenge! It’s a haven for all kinds of wildlife; birds, water voles, dragonflies and more. It’s also part of the Thames Estuary so you’ll get a glimpse of the river as you roll through. There are dedicated cycle paths throughout so this section makes for both scenic and speedy riding as you head into London.The London section is predictably busier but mostly makes use of more cycle paths which are great. The cycle network is much more comprehensive than I realised and makes for a brilliant link between Essex and London, avoiding the much less cycle-friendly A13! Soon enough, you’ll be out of the hustle of the capital and be amongst more peaceful country lanes once more. Ditches Lane, in the Farthing Downs, is a steady climb that rewards you with views of London. It also makes for a serene snack break with plenty of trees providing shade if you need it! Although Farthing Downs is in the London Borough of Croydon, as you roll onwards from here, you finally feel the busyness of the city fading away.The final section is surprisingly calm. Given the proximity to Gatwick airport I was expecting to hit a lot of traffic again, but actually the cycle route is well segregated and Riverside Park is lovely to ride through. I couldn’t resist stopping by the river for a few minutes to soak it all in!
The first pier of the Pier2Pier challenge; Brighton! Brighton Palace Pier is a Grade II listed pleasure pier. Opened in 1899, it was the third pier to be constructed in Brighton after the Royal Suspension Chain Pier and the West Pier, but is now the only one still in operation.The Palace Pier was constructed as a replacement for the Chain Pier, which collapsed in 1896 during construction.I think this was my favourite route of the whole week. I felt drunk on scenery for most of the day, absolutely gorgeous!This Tour has a little bit of everything; quiet country lanes and a couple of steady climbs. Devils Dyke will get your legs and lungs working for sure but the views more than make up for it, and then you get to enjoy a glorious descent into Brighton. The city of Brighton itself is really well set up for cyclists with plenty of designated paths separating you from the other traffic. As you might expect by the pier, there are plenty of kiosks for food so this is a good time to refuel if you need to. I couldn’t resist getting some chips followed by a vegan ice cream… even if it was only 10am!After Brighton, the sea will be to your left as you steadily pedal onwards, making easy progress and drinking in the stunning sea views. In Worthing, the beaches were much quieter so a perfect chance to go for a quick dip if you might want to cool down. On a sunny day, that sparkling water is almost impossible to resist.
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A shorter day at 45 miles (72 km), but beautiful nonetheless. Lots of today was spent rolling through tree tunnels and quiet lanes. Colour of the day? Definitely green!One for the history enthusiasts: you’ll pass by Titchfield Abbey on this Tour, an English Heritage site. The ruins of a 13th century Premonstratensian abbey, later converted into an impressive mansion by the Tudor Earls of Southampton. The church was rebuilt as a grand turreted gatehouse and the former cloister formed the central courtyard of the later house. Edward VI, Elizabeth I and Charles I were amongst the important visitors who spent time here!Salisbury is the stopping place for this day, which is handy for restocking anything you might need as there’s a big Tesco supermarket and also a Halfords Cycle store a couple of minutes away from each other.
The second (and final) pier of the #LKPier2Pier challenge; Clevedon! The Clevedon Pier was built in the Victorian era to receive paddle steamer passengers from Devon and Wales. It was described by Sir John Betjeman, as 'the most beautiful pier in England' and was designated a Grade I listed building in 2001.Before you get to the pier, however, your legs will do a fair bit of climbing, but the views are well worth the effort and the descents are really fun! There are some wonderful sights along the way on this route. Sadly, on the day I did this, there was biblical rain ALL day. Despite the grey skies and somewhat soggy… well, everything, I was still able to appreciate the views, especially across the Mendips. The descent through Burrington Coombe feels like a great reward for all the hills beforehand, too! There are a few busy traffic sections but I found the cars respectful so no huge issues there.The sun came out for the final eight miles (12 km), which allowed me to admire the pier and then appreciate the views of the Bristol Channel as I made my way towards Portishead. In better weather, I think this route would have been an absolute dream, British countryside at its best!
With the two piers ticked off, the #LKBridge2Bridge Challenge began, with one of my all time favourite bridges first… The Clifton Suspension Bridge!This bridge opened in 1864, spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who referred to it as 'My first child, my darling...', it marks a turning point in the history of engineering and has come to symbolise a city of original thinkers and independent spirit. Bristol is also one of my favourite cities so if you’re not pushed for time then there are infinite cafes to enjoy and plenty to explore before continuing onwards.There's plenty of climbing to follow after leaving Bristol, and with a bike fully loaded with lots of extra water (in stark contrast to the monsoon-esque rain the day before, this day was 34 degrees plus for most of the day) I really felt it in my legs. The Hackpen Hill climb felt extra sweaty, but what goes up must come down and the views were gorgeous, which certainly helped! The final stretch into Newbury is along quite a busy A road, but by that point, I was quite glad to be able to put my head down and make speedy progress so I could cool down and rehydrate after a day of riding in a heatwave.
The second and final day of the #LKBridgetoBridge challenge was back to the iconic Tower Bridge in London.Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge consists of two towers, tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces imposed by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge's twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, for which there's a small admission charge.Fun fact: I have also paddled under this bridge whilst kayaking home for Christmas a few years ago, finishing up just after the bridge and soon after diving into the nearby The Dickens Inn historic pub, situated within the lovely St Katherine’s Harbour. Highly recommended!The first couple of hours of the ride were through lush countryside and wide country lanes, rolling through pretty woodlands. Inevitably it became less about the views and much more about the busy London traffic. Having said that, thankfully the route kept me well segregated from the worst of it so it was still enjoyable. Great for making speedy progress; mostly flat and great for getting my head down to churn out some (relatively) quick miles!Once back in London properly, I really enjoyed ticking off the usual and oh-so-familiar landmarks; past Windsor Castle, along the river and back through to Central London, making sure to wave to the Queen as I went past Buckingham Palace, having passed a Royal Family sculpture only earlier that morning. I couldn’t resist pausing for a photo at the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, too. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband Prince Albert, who died in 1861.Finally, rolling back over Tower Bridge was a cause for celebration. Something so familiar seen with new eyes, happy to have made some new memories, proving you don’t have to travel far from home to have an adventure!