Bristol Convention Muni Review (long)

The Bristol Juggling & Circus Skills Convention isn’t traditionally big with
unicyclists - 9 days of juggling in a field, with not a single unicycle friendly
surface to be found. Unless you’re into muni.

The muni ride left at 12:30 on Friday afternoon, and was attended by Richard
Loxley, Jamie Fletcher and me. Ali chose to remain on site. She’d left her Muni
at home, but even when Richard offered to lend her his 20", she wasn’t keen.
Kaleigh was at the convention for the final weekend, but didn’t arrive in time
for the ride. Strangely, she didn’t seem disappointed.

With both Severn bridges clearly visible from the campsite, the cyclepath across
the old Severn Bridge was a tempting target. So Richard planned a route to take
us to Wales.

The journey there was mostly on public footpaths (I know we’re not supposed to
ride on them, but no-one seemed to mind, and we didn’t seem to be riding much of
the time anyway…). The first path (and the only one that was really clear)
took us from Almondsbury, through a field of maize, almost ready to harvest, to
within a few hundred yards of Tockington village. We rode through the village on
the road (to the amusement of a few friendly locals) before turning onto the
next path, which we hoped would take us to a bridge across the M4.

Unfortunately the paths to the M4 were very poorly signposted, resulting in
one comedy moment where we were trying to get ourselves and our unicycles
across 2 barbed wire fences (4’ apart with brambles in between) before the
herd of bullocks on the other side of the field decided to investigate. Jamie
went first, with no particular sense of urgency, since the cattle seemed not
to have noticed us when he started to cross. By the time Richard crossed the
first fence, they were moving towards us and picking up speed. I got across
just in time.

Anyway, at this point we had worked out that if we’d managed to stay on the
path, we would have been on the other side of a ridge. We’d crossed the
bullocks’ field because that was the most direct route to the ridge we wanted to
cross. We reached the road crossing the M4 without further event, and rode our
unicycles over a motorway for the first time.

Once across the motorway, we rode up and down the road looking for the next path
before stopping at a farmhouse for directions. The farmer’s wife was fascinated
by our unicycles, and wished us luck after telling us how to find the path and
where it went. Even with directions, we almost missed the path, the stile to
which was overgrown with nettles. Jamie went first - as he did with most of the
nettles we found, because he was the only one wearing long trousers - flattening
the nettles by laying his wheel on top of them. I went next, flattening them a
bit further with my wheel, and Richard followed.

Then we had to beat our way through more nettles on the other side of the stile,
before thankfully reaching a clump of dock.

The farmer’s wife had told us that on the other side of the field we’d find a
bridge, with a stile on each side. Sure enough we found a slippery wooden
bridge, with a slippery wooden stile at each end, both stiles overgrown with
nettles (my legs felt tingly all night after that ride).

Still, we didn’t lose the footpath again (even though the signs were still
pretty poor), and eventually found signs to the cyclepath across the Severn
Bridge. With the help of the signs, luck and a bit of guesswork, we made our way
to the cyclepath and started riding across the bridge.

For the first 10 minutes or so, riding across this enormous suspension bridge
was fascinating. We had a few friendly toots from passing lorries on the road,
enjoyed the view, and trembled as we felt the bridge vibrating under the weight
of those lorries every time we stopped.

But with my computer reading 7.72 miles, we’d been on the bridge for 1.4 miles
and had crossed the Severn (just over a mile of water). Richard was very tired,
we were all getting thoroughly bored with the bridge, and we still couldn’t see
the end of it. So we just carried on until a tree was within our reach from the
bridge, and we each took a Welsh leaf just to prove that we’d made it. Then we
turned back.

We stopped at the service station on the English side of the bridge for a snack
and to have a look at the map. That’s when we realised that we hadn’t actually
made it to Wales! What none of us had realised before is that the bridge doesn’t
only cross the Severn. It then goes on to cross the Wye. And the border between
England and Wales runs along the Wye! Oh well.

We rode back along the road, making much faster progress (Jamie had to be back
by 18:30 for the tech run through of the show that evening). We were well aware
that the roads had been renumbered since Richard’s map was printed (something to
do with the building of the new Severn crossing, I believe), and didn’t find it
too problematic. We got back at about 17:30, with the total mileage at 14.4.

We’re thinking about going back sometime. Since we all live in Bristol, we
might just hop in a car, park somewhere near the bridge and then ride over.
Though we didn’t do badly on Friday, it’d be nice to say that we really had
ridden to Wales.

Danny Colyer (remove your.head to reply) “We know of no spectacle so
ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.” -
Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859)