2019-04 April Oxford Ridgeway ride
The RIDGEWAY / Red Lions Ride – Thursday 25th April 2019 to Monday 29th April 2019
Day 1 Thursday 25th April. Travel to start and a circular ride to Avebury
PT, ZA, MA and TK gathered at the ‘PopUp World HQ’ Cherry Cottage, to load cars, take coffee and tea .. earlier departure from JR (Isreal Telecomms engagement)
Findon to Swindon journey ( Cherry Cottage to Inn with the Well, Nr Marlborough, Wiltshire) a pleasant trip over Salisbury plain, crossing Kennet and Avon Canal and Traversing Savernake forest
Arriving at digs we rendezvoused with JR establishing our peloton of 5 and set off along disused railway line towards Marlborough
– immediately encountering deer and early views of the North Wessex Downs. On arrival at Marlborough we took lunch at St Peters church – hearty meal very good value ( 5* on the buddadvisor scale).
Having fed well cycling recommenced heading through Marlborough college grounds to Fyfield down for first view of ‘sarson stones’ – making way over glorious rolling hills scenery to descend via ‘wallet shed alley’ into Avebury to marvel at standing stones , Neolithic structures (not including the peloton) and take an excellent cream tea served in the National Trust pop up café.
We left Avebury heading back up to downs along the ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ to join the formal ‘Ridgeway Trail’ for first time – we took in the amazing all round vista and were accompanied by sunny weather rather than the rain we could see across the plains. The Peleton promptly made way to Barbury Castle where we found a ditch big enough for John to hide from wind and make phone call
From Barbury castle we turned east we proceeded the remaining 5 miles along ridgeway and completing our days loop back to Ogborne St George for evening meal and libations ( 7/8th of the golden gallon / 2.5 bottles Malbec , definitely no black forest gateau but a fine meal … Marking our start of the mission on the Ridgeway PT generously awarded ‘Trail Badges’ to all riders.
Trip 22 miles
Climbing 2216 feet
Day 2 Friday 26th April. The Ridgeway across the North Wessex Downs, to overnight in Blewbury.
After a good nights sleep with the possible exception of (i) the Roche / Kersley room where a resumption of underwear wars ‘flared up’ and (ii) the Avery / Topley and Allen room which resonated to the sound of McCartneys Frog Chorus, we regathered for an excellent breakfast.
The generous LSV duo of ‘Superb’ Mark and ‘Anglia’ John set off to park cars at greyhound at Letcombe Regis, top make way back towards ZA / PT / TK who recommenced battle with the Ridgeway.
ZA / PT / TK climbed to the top of the Ridge from Ogbourne and progressed passed Liddington Castle Fort, offering views towards Oxford, Didcot and west to the Cotswolds, before descending to join local roads to cross the M4, before climbing back up the ‘Ridgeway’ passing a permanent location for a traveller where we passed the ‘Larry that everyone seeks to be as happy as’. We paused for a short while at the 5,000 year old ‘Waylands Smithy’ longbarrow – where we were reminded of the peace and tranquillity of the war graves in Normandy.
We proceeded on to Uffington Castle on White Horse Hill where we encountered both a castle and the famous white horse sculpture.
Descending from White Horse Hill we were reunited with MA / JR with tales of Double B hills and ‘Mother In Laws’ to come. We now all rode along Ridgeway to Sedgbury Castle Fort and were met with fields full of Cowslips.
We took advantage of the steep descent to lunch to achieve the maximum speed of the whole Tour ( topping out at approx. 43 miles per hour) on route to the Greyhound at Letcombe Regis – despite the pricey menu and décor which suggested Hallumification, we were dashed as Hallumi was once again absent from the menu – we took sandwiches and soft drinks.
The outlook for the afternoon included stormy weather and rain, and no obvious tea stop, MA kindly offered to take one LSV allowing PT, ZA , JR, TK to proceed back to the Ridgeway. The presence of ZA was soon tested as we observed driving rain in all directions except for us… until we encountered a more minor rain event which coincided with our crossing of the A34, allowing shelter in the Road underpass. Not content with simply riding the shortest Route to the digs, we elected to complete the full distance of the North Wessex Ridgeway section by heading to Streatley, shortly passed our digs, we therefore used local Roads to make our way to digs in Blewbury ( Red Lion & Woodway B & B).
LSV re-equainting / re-gathering and dressing for dinner allowed us to regroup around 7.00pm for a fine meal .. the excesses of the ride led to rather less alcohol intake than normal and in the knowledge that Hurricane Hannah was forecast to blow in early tomorrow, we called an early end to proceedings to sleep and prepare for tomorrows ride.
In commemoration of the first Red Lion, TK awarded British Railway badges to all.
Approx 40 miles
2800 climbing ???
Day 3 Saturday 27th April. From Blewbury, via Wallingford, along Ridgeway to Wendover.
Following a good nights rest and a variety of differing opinions about the breakfast arrangements, MA once again volunteered to lead LSV duties and set off to meet Roy Kruger at the planned lunchstop of the Greyhound at Watlington.
JR,ZA,PT and TK made way from Red Lion over Blewburton fort spotting a darting Hare in the adjacent field. Proceeding through tracks in open countryside and local Roads to arrive at Wallingford, where our arrival had been pre-empted and bunting and bands were on show.
We took morning coffee before crossing over the River Thames at Crowmarsh Gifford,
Immediately heading south to rejoin the Ridgeway and proceed along a man made Iron Age bank known as Grims Ditch – this was ideal for mountain bike touring – so much so we completed the second section twice, having rendezvoused with RK & MA.
A breaking of ducks..
The Ridgeway then proceeded over rural roads and bridleways, where after a collective 350 miles we suffered the first blasteet.. Rapidly attended to we made way to Wattlington for lunch, encountering the first sightings of a number of Red Kites. Having broken both our puncture duck and Red Kite duck, we were also able to break our Hallumi Duck, as two of the peleton enjoyed a fine looking Hallumi salad. An enjoyable lunch for all was then taken.
(A requested entry into these annals by ZA, professor of all things related to the Civil War, suggests that at this point readers should take note of events that took place nearby at Chalgrove on 18th June 1643 – Battle of Chalgrove and Village of Chalgrove ).
Lunch enabled us to attend to a second blasteet (the last for the tour) and to plan an early afternoon tea stop, approx. 1 hour away.
Rejoining the foothills of the Ridgeway we promptly made way under the M40 and through open countryside to Chinnor for tea, arriving we spied Trains – of real excitement to some…. And a model railway in the ‘Wee bookshop and café, where we all gladly polished off an array of cakes.
To this point the days ride had been strangely flat, although this now changed as we gathered for an assault on ‘Pulpit Hill’ and an unofficial visit to ‘Chequers’, all the time accompanied by several Red Kites… recognising the threat posed by the ‘Regime Changer’ in our midst, one of the Red Kites attempted a ‘killer blow’ by throwing a piece of branch at Roy. Having survived this incident and steps / narrow ‘knife edge’ path we descended through ‘Happy Valley’ to take local road to end of ride at Wendover and digs at the Red Lion.
Approx 34 miles
2 portions of Hallumi
Superb LSV duties then ensued to recover Anglia John and Mondeo Roys vehicles. A fine evening dinner was taken by all 6, London Pride was consumed and 3/4th gallon achieved..
Day 4 Sunday 28th April A circular ride From Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon Via Ridgeway, Ickfield Trail, Grad Union Canal and return.
Following a restful night and an excellent breakfast, the final and perhaps best full days ride of the tour commenced upon the arrival by e-bike of MA. The circular nature of the ride meant all 6 could ride out alleviating the need for LSving for the ride.
Another excellent route plotted by PT took us through bluebell woods onto the Ridgeway, across through rural roads to an avenue of trees and superb vantage point across Tring
A quick descent on local roads (top speed around 35mph) led us down to the Grand union canal where we joined the tow path and headed north for 2 miles, close to reaching the bridge where we were to leave the canal, and somewhat desperate for a break we encountered a mobile ( pop up ?) café barge temporarily berthed. We climbed aboard and enjoyed tea / coffee
Leaving the canal boat the peleton headed back onto the Ridgeway climbing high, where we could see our destination and end of the Ridgeway in view. We then proceeded onto local roads to climb adjacent to Ivinghoe Beacon, allowing a short walk of around 300m to reach the summit. Superb panoramic views from Whipsnade Zoo marked by a large ‘white lion’ round to a view along much of the Ridgeway extending back to white Horse hill / Uffington castle some 50 miles west.
A short passage of road led us passed bluebell woods the match of our own patching woods, into parkland surrounding Ashridge House, passing the ‘Bridgewater Monument’ the former owner and grandfather of the British canal network, where the entire population of Buckinghamshire seemed to be congregated.. we skipped this.. ( or so we thought) to find an excellent descent to lunch stop in Aldbury, however half of Buckinghamshire were dining at our allotted lunchstop so we diverted to an alternative the ‘Valient Trooper’ arriving just ahead of kitchen closure permitting sandwiches to be taken
The late lunch led to a short debate about the likelihood / merits of an afternoon tea stop – where we resolved a return to the canal barge was our best bet. Despite planning a longer than direct route we arrived for tea 12 minutes after leaving the oub ( a new FGCC record) and set about tea and cake.
Leaving the tea stop we passed back along the Grand Union canal, spying a kingfisher on Route to climb a long hill , whereupon MA realised that he needed a third trip to the canal barge to recover his bag. Empowered as he was on e-bike he duly completed the recovery and rejoined the peleton who had made their way close to Wendover, but had found an alternative excellent descent to Wendover., where last posts were tried in vain, before arriving back at the Red Lion. We said goodbye to RC at this point who returned to domestic servitude and were treated to a superb curry in Tring (booked and chauffered by MA). This also allowed a critical review of a bicycle rikshaw reinforced to allow all FGCC to climb aboard…
Day 5 Monday 29th April. Return from Wendover to Findon by car interspersed with a short circular ride at Leith Hill.
Anglia John departed the digs around 6am to resume work duties, the remaining peleton took breakfast and then made way to Leith Hill for a short circuit and ascent to Leith Hill Tower, where a fabulous vista and tea / cake awaited.
A pause for approx. 20 minutes allowed the spotting of Chanctonbury on the skyline
and the singing of a Ralph Vaughan-Williams ditty ahead of descending back to the car to pass RV-Ws former abode , en-route to Findon, pausing at Chez PT to view the new accommodation say hi to Mrs T . All then safely progressed to Cherry cottage for final drop offs.
*** feet climbed
2 Deer, 1 Hare, 2 Hawks, countless Red Kites, 1 Kingfisher, Fields of Cowslips, Fields of Bluebells..
All agreed afterwards that the whole event had been organised with military precision by Mr Kersley
TK: Organising the event with military precision and with regular reminders to keep moving in order to get to locations on time with a “gentlemen I think it is time we moved onwards” call, frequently when the last member of the peloton had just reached any particular summit.
MA: playing the loss of memory card (backpack left in canal boat cafe) when all he wanted to do was to ride his sisters e-bike and leave others behind going up hills.
RK: Dodging missiles by red kite drones organised by potential targets of his regime changing activities.