Somerset Smiles – Pulsium 3.0 Disc
The county of Somerset, which snuggles nicely in between Devon to its South and Bristol to the North is a place of plenty and splendour. With it’s ancient history, myths and legends its a land steeped in culture and tradition.
Famed for its cider, farmland and laid back way of life it is certainly a pleasant place to visit. The county also has such a varied landscape. From the 'flat as pancake’ Somerset Levels through to the steep, almost mountainous rolling Mendip Hills to the wide sandy beaches of its coast it has something for everyone…Especially if you are into riding bikes.
So it was why I chose this location as my next place to take the stunning new Lapierre Pulsium Disc 3.0 for a ride and photo shoot. And to join me, following in his new camper was my buddy Josh, who is a wizard at photography and an all round lovely guy. So that week we pre planned a 35 mile route, cherry picking some of Somerset’s iconic places, and a few days later met up in the famous town of Glastonbury on a slightly nippy March morning. With a quick sandwich and cup of coffee to warm the cockles and set us up for the day, I jumped on the Pulsium and headed out of the quaint town and straight out into the classic rolling Somerset countryside, with our first stop set for the Glastonbury Tor.
A Tor is the geological name given to a free standing outcrop of land which rises up abruptly compared to the surrounding area. And Glastonbury Tor is a prime example of such a natural phenomenon. It sits proudly looking across the Somerset levels, with its iconic 15th century stone tower taking centre stage at the top of the hill, looking out over the nearby site of the world famous Glastonbury Music Festival and Worthy Farm. With its links to King Arthur and King Henry VII, and so many other incredible events in history and myth, it was the perfect place to capture the first snaps of the bike.
Once Josh had got his shots it was time to head back down the steep sided Tor and for me to get riding and eat up a few miles. Once back down from the hill I made my way through the Somerset levels. An area of tranquil flat farmland, peppered with ancient stone built hamlets and criss-crossed with network of natural and man-made waterways, it’s a fascinating place to cycle through. If you squint your eyes you could be riding through the flat lands of Holland. From here the next stop was the beautiful city of Wells with its stunning cathedral, narrow oldy worldly streets and quaint pubs and coffee shops it made the ideal place for a few more photos plus a bite to eat and a hot drink.
Whilst scoffing a quick pastry snack in the old square in the city centre, a couple of cyclists made some nice comments about the Pulsium and we chatted about bikes for ten minutes. Always nice to stop and geek out with other riders on all things cycling! Once I had fuelled up with food and caffeine it was time to once again jump back on the green machine and head out of the city and up into the Mendip Hills in the North of the county. Things were about to get steep!
The Mendips are a large area of huge folds in the land. Rolling hills that seem to bunch up at the edge of the Somerset Levels, made of rock and covered largely in forests on land that is too steep to farm. They are also an enticing place for any cyclist who like their rides to be more on the undulating side. I have cycled in the Mendips on several occasions, but on this day we had chosen an area which was new to me. Josh had already been up through these parts and warned me that the route I was about to head up was far from flat. He was not wrong! So Josh headed to the top of the hill and waited for me, camera at the ready, to capture me and the bike with the views across the levels behind. As I made my way up to Josh, I was surprised at how steep and winding the road got with some parts approaching 20% gradient. By the time I topped out I was really feeling the burn and no longer feeling the cold nip in the air; it’s not often you sweat when cycling in early March!
Once I got my breath back we carried on across the top of the mendips, capturing some shots in one of the beautiful forests, and then on past an area which almost feels like Scottish moorlands. Certain parts of the Mendips, where the land levels out at the top, have their own micro climate and eco system. So as you cycle along, the landscape seems to be in constant flux, morphing from one environment to the next as it unfolds in front of you. As if to highlight this, halfway along the Mendips there is a vast deep crack in the land, seemingly tearing the hill in two. The iconic Cheddar Gorge was now our next and final destination of this incredible days cycling.
The Gorge itself can be seen from across the Somerset Levels. From a distance it’s quite a site, where the scale of this vast fault in this stunning landscape can be truly appreciated. However, once inside the gorge, with a road that passes up through its centre, it’s even more impressive. Steep gnarly looking cliffs rise up hundreds of feet either side as the road snakes up through its heart. A perfectly epic place to ride the Pulsium.
I meet Josh at the lower end in the pretty little town of Cheddar for a quick chat, before I clip back in to the bike and head up into the jaws of the Gorge. Josh drives on ahead so he can snap me at key places along the way, and apart from the odd goat clinging to the side of the cliffs as if to defy gravity, I pretty much have the place to myself. Just the sound of my bike chain and laboured breathing to keep me company as I wind my way up this amazing road.
When I finally get to the top and catch back up with Josh, he is so excited by the some of the images he had captured of me riding up through the gorge he asked if I’d go back down part of the way so he can snap me riding fast. It didn’t take much twisting of my arm to give it another go. So what transpired was another hour of me cycling up and down Cheddar Gorge whilst Josh happily clicked away on the shutter till his hearts content.
Finally as the light started to fade, and the sun disappeared down over the back of the Mendips it was time to call it quits. We stood and reflected on what was an amazing day in Somerset, and how the fact that we had passed through so many different landscapes and back drops it seemed like we had been there for a week!
It also once again made me think how lucky I am to live in a country with so much to offer when it comes landscape and culture. We have stunning coast lines, quaint countryside, rolling hills, mountain passes, lakes and more. Such an amazing place live and also, if it’s your thing, to ride a bike.
Photography: Josh Raper Media