Slow Cotswolds

  • National Cycling Week 10th to 18th June

    This year marks 200 years since the 'birth' of the bicycle, a contraption that was created in Germany. And this week is National Cycling Week, an opportunity to celebrate all things two-wheeled.

    With Slow Travel: The Cotswolds encouraging the use of bikes to explore this beautiful region in detail, naturally, cycling features quite significantly within the guide. As does food - and pubs, tearooms and coffee shops - a decent match! Ambling along a country lane, finding a particularly fine pub for lunch in the garden, followed by a few more miles to reach one of the Cotswolds inimitable views is not a bad way to spend a day.

    Some of my fondest childhood memories of growing up in the Cotswolds are of disappearing off for the day with friends and a round of homemade sandwiches, a packet of crisps and a Penguin biscuit. There was never any need to say where you were going - most of the time, we didn't even know when we set off. But we'd cycle for miles, me on my not-so-cool Raleigh Shopper, and simply arrive home as hunger required. Field gateways and village greens made good interim lunch stops and sometimes we'd arrive home with punnets of strawberries from the 'strawberry farm' or baskets of blackberries from the hedgerows.

    So, in celebratiion of National Cycling Week, here are some of my recommendations for cycling in the Cotswolds. You don't even need a bike.

    Bainton Bikes (page 37): with HQ in Oxford, Bainton Bikes run the Official Oxford Cycle Tour alongside various other theme-specific cycle tours. There's bike hire, including children's bikes, either for use on these tours or for your own self-guided cycle rides. Free puncture repair and breakdown support is offered. And, since the 2nd edition of 'Slow Cotswolds' was published, Bainton Bikes has increased its spread of locations. Using a phone app, you can now rent a bike in Oxford (Chapter 1), Whichford and Moreton-in-Marsh (Chapter 3), Cheltenham (Chapter 4), Cirencester, Charlbury and Kingham (Chapter 5), Kemble and the Cotswold Water Park (Chapter 6), and Tetbury (Chapter 7). Several of these bike hub locations, such as Kemble, Charlbury and Moreton-in-Marsh, are at train stations, ideal for accessing the Cotswolds by public transport to enjoy a day's cycling. Visit www.donkey.bike to see the hubs within each location on a map. More bikes are due to be 'rolled-out' across the Cotswolds very soon. Great for doing your own thing and spending a day in the saddle.

    Windrush Cycle Tours (page 171): Based in Kingham, in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, this small company, led by Peter Hill, offers cycling holidays, mini breaks and short guided cycle tours of the Cotswolds. In addition, Peter has been operating an extension to the cycling holidays, Cotswold Electric Bike Tours. Using electric bikes, these tours enable visitors to discover some of the north Cotswolds hidden gems on guided e-bike tours from Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Burford, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Northleach and Bourton-on-the-Water.

    Compass Holidays (page 130): A long-standing company that, for over 25 years, has provided full-on, multi-day packaged cycling holidays that include accommodation, bike hire and luggage transfers around the Cotswolds. Using quiet back roads, the holidays can be tailored to suit those who haven't been on a bike in years or for families with young children. Optional short-cuts allow the daily cycling distance to be adapted according to energy levels and what customers want to do. Except, you'll want to do everything! All holidays, which can be anything from a two to three-day weekend break or a 7 to 11 day vacation, are self-guided and customers are provided with a tour pack that highlights all the visitor attractions plus historical and cultural places en route.

    Pedego Cotswolds (page 233-4): Based in Thrupp, in the Golden Valley, here is an opportunity to explore the Cotswold escarpment and the Stroud Valleys on the western edge of the Cotswolds, Pedego Cotswolds rent electric bikes either by the hour or by the day. But great fun is the Cotswold Electric Bike Treasure Trail, a treasure hunt by bike. You'll receive electric bike rental for the day and be supplied with a map and set of clues to follow. I love this kind of thing as it really makes one look out and spot things you might otherwise not have noticed about the locale. There are three treasure trails to choose from and each includes a suitable lunch stop at a recommended pub and a break for morning coffee or afternoon tea. Unless you're a regular cyclist that's used to hill climbs, I thoroughly recommend the use of an electric bike to smooth out the contours of the Stroud Valleys - there are some punishing climbs if you're not used to cycling!

    There are lots more cycling recommendations, bike hire companies and suggested cycle routes, including traffic-free rides, throughout Slow Travel: The Cotswolds. Each chapter has a dedicated section on cycling and on public transport - and you don't have to be acknowledged as a 'cyclist' to take part. The suggestions are as much for a leisurely ride with little ones as they are for serious cyclists with all the gear.

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