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Part 4 - Frome, Somerset to Salisbury, Wiltshire (via Warminster) | Part 5 - Salisbury, Wiltshire to Eastleigh, Hampshire (via Romsey)
National Cycle Route 24 is a part of a National Cycle Network of both National and Regional cycle routes is currently being created in Britain. This aims to be a series of routes that are easily accessible and can be cycled by cyclists of all ages and abilities, using off-road routes where possible and quiet roads and bicycle lanes where necessary.
It is hoped that these routes would not only be used by commuters but also by cyclists wishing to use undemanding cycle routes away from traffic, enjoying the countryside. They are located near Britain's cities and large towns, making them easy to get to and easily accessed so that the cycle paths can be cycled by anyone.
Once the 'Two Tunnels' project is complete, the route will begin in the centre of Bath, Somerset, and runs south along the Colliers Way cycle route to reach Frome. From here it follows mostly quiet roads eastward to visit Warminster and Salisbury in Wiltshire, followed by Romsey and Eastleigh in Hampshire.
- Two Tunnels, Bath – 2 miles
- Colliers Way (Bath to Frome, Somerset) – 23 miles
- Frome, Somerset to Salisbury, Wiltshire – 29 miles
- Salisbury, Wiltshire to Eastleigh, Hampshire – 28 miles
Attractions On Route:
The route of National Cycle Route travels close to some points of interest. These include:
- Dundas Aqueduct, near Bath
- Longleat Park and Safari
- Salisbury Cathedral
Status of the Route
While the route essentially runs either off-road or along quiet roads, at the time of writing some parts are technically not yet open, and it is advisable not to rely on signposts alone. At the time of writing the status of the route is thus:
Two Tunnels, Bath – this will be a two mile shortcut through two old rail tunnels, leading from central Bath out to the existing Route 24. The main elements of the Two Tunnels route should be complete and ready for use by October 2012, but a couple of bridges will still need to be finished, and the section past Midford Castle towards the south end of the route will also need work. The route will probably not be fully open until midway through 2013. In the meantime there's Route 4, which connects with the current end of Route 24 at the Dundas Aqueduct, and can be followed for seven miles to reach the centre of Bath.
Colliers Way (Bath to Frome) – fully open, well signposted, generally off-road and otherwise mostly free of traffic.
Frome's Missing Link (1) – at the time of writing, the Colliers Way ends two miles west of Frome. The disused railway that Colliers Way follows to this point continues for a short way, but then meets a branch line that is still in use by goods trains. Work has started on clearing a route that would run alongside this line and then into Frome along a new riverside path, but there is much still to be done.
Frome's Missing Link (2) – while the cycleway is fully open from Frome to Longleat, it includes both a steep incline and a junction crossing a dual carriageway. Work is ongoing to establish an alternative route along an existing cycleway, along the edge of fields and under the road via an existing farm bridge, creating a shorter, safer and less steep route towards Longleat.
Longleat – in February 2012, the cycle routes through Longleat estate were briefly blocked, signs were taken down 'in error' and security guards denied at least one cyclist access. This state of affairs was quickly reversed, and at the time of writing the Longleat section of Route 24 is 'under review' but open.
Longleat to Sutton Veny – the route passes through the south part of Warminster along quiet housing estate roads, with some route signage in the form of stickers on lamp posts.
Sutton Veny to Wilton – the route runs through several villages and along quiet country roads. This section is relatively easy to follow with good signage.
Wilton to Alderbury – the route is currently forced to use the A36 briefly before continuing into Salisbury along quiet roads. Salisbury itself is navigated via the Cathedral grounds, Churchill Gardens and wide cycle paths alongside the A36 Southampton Road. There is, however, a stretch on the A36 without a cycle path before turning off towards the village of Alderbury.
Alderbury to Mottisfont Abbey – once more, the route follows mostly quiet roads with good signage.
Mottisfont Abbey to Romsey – the approach to Romsey is mostly along a main road without a cycle path, and is not properly signposted.
Romsey to Eastleigh – the final section continues just east of Romsey along a local road to connect with a series of off-road cycleways that lead all the way to Eastleigh, passing safely undermeath the M3 to finish in a park next to Route 23.
When cycling National Cycle Route 24 a bicycle helmet, bicycle lights and high visibility clothing is strongly recommended. The bicycle used should be in a fully working order. A strong pair of boots or trainers is recommended. Footwear should ideally provide strong ankle support, good grip, be waterproof and lightweight. High heel shoes should not be worn.
Brakes, tyre pressure and lights should be checked before the journey. Lights and rear reflectors are legal requirements in dark conditions. Moving parts should be lubricated also, such as cables and the bike chain.
Although the route can be completed by any type of bicycle, not all parts are tarmacked, meaning it is preferable to use an off-road bike with wider tyres, such as a mountain or BMX bikes, rather than narrow tyred bicycles such as racer bikes. Similarly the route is not intended for purely urban bikes, such as folding bicycles with small wheels, especially given the occasional steep section. Hybrids and touring bicycles are ideal.
A strong bike lock is also advisable. Cyclists should ideally use bicycle stands when provided but other street furniture such as lampposts are acceptable. The bicycle should be left somewhere visible, with any quick-release wheels or saddle secured. A common-sense approach should be adopted to ensure that the bike is out of the way, not attached to private property or railings, and is not blocking the road or pavement.
Cyclists should familiarise themselves with the Country Code and be aware of the dangers that the route can face – never attempt the route in the dark. The route does involve various hazards, including stretches on roads. The terrain and climate can also vary significantly. Cyclists should stick to authorised cycle paths and roads, not cycle cross-country on farmers' fields etc. Leave only tyre-tracks and take only photographs and memories.
Cyclists should carry plenty of fluid and a basic bicycle repair kit in case of flat tyres etc. There are bicycle repair shops en route should they be required, although these are infrequently spaced and should not be relied on. It is recommended that you take a phone and/or whistle with you, consider carrying a first aid kit and keep someone informed of your progress at all times. Clothing appropriate for the time of year and weather should be worn and/or carried with you.
Advice for cyclists
Cyclists should remain alert for hazards at all times. When cycling on the road, cyclists should obey the rules of the road, stopping at red lights and zebra crossings etc. Failure to do so is illegal and against the Road Traffic Act 1984. Similarly when cycling on unsegregated shared use cycle paths, pedestrians have right of way and cyclists should slow down and take every care when passing them. When using segregated shared use cycle and footpaths, take note of the signs and markings and ensure you use the correct side. The side across the line is classed as a pavement. Cyclists should not use any pavement or footpath not labelled as a cycle path as this is illegal.
When cycling, be courteous and polite to pedestrians met along the way. When using a bike bell to alert pedestrians to your presence, try to do so in a friendly and unaggressive manner, using a short, friendly ting rather than repeated and sustained ringing, which can be considered annoying. When cycling in large groups, cyclists should cycle spaced out1. This prevents unnecessary accidents and collisions between cyclists and other road/cycle path users. It also feels less imposing to pedestrians, horse riders and so forth that you'll meet on the way.
When a motorist stops to allow you to cross the road, respond with a polite smile, nod or wave to acknowledge their friendly gesture. Sadly, many motorists are under the delusion that roads were made for them2.
Signs and Maps
Although you can follow the signs, it is possible that you will need to divert from the established path. Similarly, in places the signs are difficult to spot and may have been vandalised, and so it is recommended that you take an up-to-date Ordnance Survey3 map with you. Ordnance Survey maps of the area commonly come in two scales: 1:25,000, which is used by the Outdoor Leisure and Explorer map series, and the less detailed 1:50,000 scale used by the Landranger map series, although fewer maps are needed for the route with the Landranger series.
Bath unfortunately lies at the bottom of both Explorer 155 and Landranger 172, though the route around will be relatively simple thanks to the Two Tunnels, with maps existing for the Colliers Way stretch. Further unfortunate divides spread the route onto multiple maps, and the route is often only marked where off-road. However, OS maps remain the most reliable means of following the route, and it is advisable to trace the route on paper before setting off. OS maps can be found in outdoor pursuits, tourist information and book shops or ordered online in advance. On an up-to-date ordnance survey map, off-road sections of the route are included as a red/orange4 circular dotted line clearly labelled with '24' in a rectangle.
|Area||1:25,000 scale||1:50,000 scale|
|Bath/Two Tunnels||Explorer 155 – Bristol & Bath||Landranger 172 – Bristol & Bath|
|Outer Bath to Frome||Explorer 142 – Shepton Mallet & Mendip Hills East||Landranger 183 – Yeovil & Frome|
|Longleat, Warminster||Explorer 143 – Warminster & Trowbridge||Landranger 183 – Yeovil & Frome|
|Salisbury||Explorer 130 – Salisbury & Stonehenge||Landranger 184 – Salisbury & The Plain|
|Romsey||Explorer 131 – Romsey, Andover & Test Valley||Landranger 185 – Winchester & Basingstoke|
|Eastleigh||Explorer 132 – Winchester||Landranger 185 – Winchester & Basingstoke|
Alternatively it is possible to use Online Cycle Maps, maps provided by the civic authorities that the route travels through or even road maps. It is even possible to download cycle route apps for mobile phones. These, though, are no real substitute for a proper Ordnance Survey map.
Signs to follow for National Cycle Route 24 usually show a red 24 in a square next to a picture of a bicycle in white on a blue background. These can appear on stickers on lampposts or on railings etc, as part of a blue or green sign post listing numerous other destinations or even simply painted on the pavement. Sometimes just the red 24 is shown.
Cyclists should also know and recognise the meaning of the relevant road and off-road signs that relate to cycle lanes and cycle paths in general as well as National Cycle Route 24 in particular.
National Cycle Route 24 is part of the National Cycle Network. It passes and connects with other National and Local Cycle routes, offering alternate destinations. Not all cycle routes have been fully completed and developed at time of writing. Other cycle paths en-route include:
- National Cycle Route 4 – London to Fishguard, via Reading, Bath, Bristol, Newport, Swansea and St. David's.
- National Cycle Route 23 – Sandown to Reading, via Cowes, Southampton, Eastleigh, Winchester and Basingstoke.
- National Cycle Route 25 – Longleat to Bournemouth, via Gillingham, Blandford and Poole.
- National Cycle Route 45 – Salisbury to Chester, via Swindon, Cirencester, Gloucester, Worcester, Ironbridge and Whitchurch.
The charity Sustrans, is the leading force behind the overall development and creation of the National Cycle Routes, working closely with the regional councils that the route passes through. Because of this, the completion and upkeep of the routes is largely the responsibility of the civic authority that each section of the route is within.
Sustrans is an organisation dedicated to sustainable transport, in particular transport beneficial to health and the environment. It has done this since 1983, working initially to convert former railway lines and canal towpaths into footpaths and cycle ways.