I’ve lived in Bath nearly 21 years and during that time had always known about the famous Prior Park and it’s beautiful gardens. I had always intended to visit but never got round to it, mainly because you couldn’t drive there and I couldn’t be bothered to get the bus.
Twenty years on and I decided that I would use the burning sun as my prompt to get the touring bike out of the garage and do some leisurely cycling for once.
It felt odd straddling over the frame without a single item of cycling clothing on as only the helmet remained from my normal weekend attire. It also felt sore as my arse bounced about on the seat, but I was determined to ride it out and enjoy the new found freedom of cycling without computers, tempo or deadlines.
The route to central Bath was designed for people who love the outdoors. After a short gravelly roll along the banks of the river Avon I cut over a stone railway bridge and onto the canal towpath. At this time of day and in the height of summer, it was surprisingly quiet which gave me ample opportunity to both free ride along the bank, whilst stopping periodically and frequently to capture the moment on camera. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed the feeling of independence this brings and it reminded me I should think about getting the SLR camera back out and trying a bit harder with the composition of my photographs.
After a pit stop on Pulteney Bridge for a baguette I was ready to hit Prior Park Road, a steep hill that my 15kg bike with heavy lock weren’t going to take well too. And nor did I. I arrived at the National Trust entrance greeted by a chatty and friendly gate keeper who was oblivious to the sweat now pouring down my face and back. Today was not the day I wanted a full time membership to the National Trust and I politely waited five minutes to hear the benefits before giving myself the chance to interrupt. Bless him.
The gardens were everything I imagined but was in places a little disappointing. The sun lit up the gardens and stone of the beautiful Palladian bridge perfectly. But the long dry summer had taken its toll on the fishing lakes and only two remained full of water, leaving a slightly messy boggy meadow like no-mans land between them. It wasn’t a problem, but I was hoping for that same photo that everyone else on Google Images seemed to own.
After a long walk around the gardens and a quick espresso at the sweet little cafe I reversed my fortune and rolled the bike at full speed back down the hill and with little effort back to the canal.
After more pootling past the colourful mix of barge owners and holiday makers, I climbed my final hill of the day onto the old roman Fossway back into the village.
Not my longest ride by any imagination, but I don’t mind admitting I was shattered all evening as a result and I guess I’ll have to put that down to the heat. Regardless, I was now able to tick off Prior Park and it’s definitely fuelled a desire to do more leisure riding. Perhaps next the Ridgeway. Only this time I hope not to wait 21 years.