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Stroud, 27 August 2012

October 14, 2012

Stroud, 27 August 2012

Well I know what you look like, so don’t ever come near Stroud

‘Bad Review’

Generations of my ancestors lived in the Forest of Dean, so I should probably feel some sort of deep connection with the past as we cycle through the villages I would visit as a lad.   As it is, I feel like a crap cyclist who wants to get to Coleford for a cup of tea and a biscuit because it’s raining.

Unfortunately, it’s a bank holiday, so most of the shops and cafés there are shut. The only place we find open is a Turkish place, and our waitress has a fascinating half-Turkish, half- Gloucestershire accent. I wonder what my granny, who lived most of her life in Coleford, would make of this.   The Forest is a lot hillier than I remember, but it doesn’t take us too long to get to the eastern edge, despite an unsuccessful attempt to locate the Rockfield recording studios along the way.  (Del Amitri of Irk the Purists fame once recorded there; reminding us how a friend of Nick’s once persuaded him that the lead singer was called Derek Amitri).

The lack of bridges over the Severn means we have to go all the way up to Gloucester to get to Stroud.  It’s around this point that we begin a long and gruelling search for a nice place to have lunch. Quedgely initially sounds promising, but turns out to be an industrial estate with only a KFC. Indeed, for a good eight miles, it feels as if we have slipped into an eternal trading estate of the spotless mind.  Hardwicke and Haresfield are disappointing, although, on a country lane, we do spot a Gas Board man in a gas board van, using up his hour in lieu. Shame it wasn’t the Water Board, but you can’t have everything.

I seem to remember my sister (one of Stroud’s notable inhabitants) saying that Stonehouse is nice, so we stop off there.  Unfortunately, I’m thinking of the wrong place – it’s a dump and the pubs serve hostile glances instead of food..    This prompts a spell of low-blood-sugar fuelled ranting about the state of the country, and how it’s not surprising that we’re in a recession when you can’t even get a plate of chips on a Bank Holiday Monday.

As overhead a rainbow appears – in black and white – we resolve to push on into Stroud.  I’ve been there a lot, and am confident that I know exactly the way into town.   Naturally, we end up cycling round and round in torrential rain until Nick, wisely ignoring my adamant claims that I know where I am now, gets directions from a stranger instead.

As we pose under the town sign, our smiles are grim, and there’s speculation that Morrissey may have been right about the last mile being the hardest mile.  However, we’re soon in the Market Tavern, finally eating, and sitting in a cloud of steam as our festering clothes dry out. We’re joined by my sister and her young offspring, who announce that David’s silver bike is the best, and that they’re coming with us next time.  Apart from that, they’re more interested in eating sweets than in our heroic achievements.

By the way, there would have been even more fantastic photos in this blog, but I dropped my phone near Quedgely and then rode my bike over it.

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