West Wiltshire and Somerset loop by Dan Farrell / Moulton Bicycle Company
Moulton Bicycle Company design engineer Dan Farrell takes us on a splendid loop from West Wiltshire to Bath, taking in some very special tunnels.
West Wiltshire and North Somerset are steeped in history and this is a ride of many contrasts. We start in the Cotswold town of Bradford on Avon, a cluster of mills and weavers cottages; its unique place in industrial history assured by the establishment of Moulton’s rubber factory in 1848 and now home to Moulton Bicycles. A series of quiet country lanes take us to two familiar film locations — Great Chalfield Manor (National Trust) and Neston Park. We sweep past the latter along a lane sunk into the ground as a ‘ha-ha’ and along towards the medieval ‘time-warp’ village of Lacock. This is a good tea stop, and it is worthwhile continuing down the lane a little way for a glimpse of Lacock Abbey, the home of the photography pioneer Henry Fox Talbot.
The road rises past the market town of Corsham and wide views open up on all sides as we pass Chapel Plaister and Kingsdown (ignore the ‘road closed’ sign – it’s perfectly passable for bicycles). After the heady descent to Bathford, the route crosses the busy A4 London Road before creeping into the Georgian splendour of Bath via a toll bridge (free for cycles) and the Kennet and Avon Canal (good surface).
Our journey through Bath — including Bath Abbey and the famous Pulteney Bridge — is greatly assisted by the National Cycle Network route 4 and soon we are away from the crowds on a good path by the River Avon. It’s easy to miss the left turn across the bridge to join the route of the Somerset and Dorset Railway through the ‘Two Tunnels’ — the Combe Down tunnel, at over a mile long, is the longest cycle and foot tunnel in the UK and a real thrill to ride through.
The NCN then takes us back to Bradford on Avon via the Kennet and Avon Canal and the majestic stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff.