All posts by Steffan James

The Savernake Saturday Social

Kate Davidson will lead this social ride of around 25 miles starting at Postern Hill Car Park, Marlborough. The route will be non-technical and at a steady pace, and will mostly comprise woodland tracks, bridleways and lanes.

We’ll start at Postern Hill and make our way along the forest tracks to the end of the Grand Avenue and head towards Wilton, and through woodland to the outskirts of Great Bedwyn and then on to Ramsbury, via byways and bridleways, for a café stop, returning a slightly different way.

Possible treats in store might include a windmill, an ancient chapel and a Tudor mansion and mosaic. Terrain will be woodland tracks, byways, bridleways, towpath and country lanes and a couple of railway crossings. There are a few fun, rooty bits which will probably be slippery. Please come equipped with anything you might need, and bring pennies for a cup of tea at the café.

Meet at Postern Hill Car Park, Marlborough SN8 4ND ready for a 10am start.

Photo credit: Visit Wiltshire

Urban Round 7th November

Tom Scott leads this week’s Urban Round. Meet in the John Lewis car park (Mannington Roundabout) ready for a 7.00pm start.

Urban Rounds are mostly flat and mostly on cycle paths, but there may be occasional detour. The rides are suitable for all abilities and no-one gets left behind.

You’ll need lights, a spare tube or repair kit and a drink. Expect to be out for about two hours.

Ride Report: Exploring the Vale

Words by Kate Davidson – Photos by Kate Davidson and Gary Palmer

After a blisteringly hot summer that seems to have lasted forever, it was a bit of a shock to wake up to heavy rain on the morning of our Vale ride. The recce two weeks before was similarly sodden, and I was hoping the sun we’d all been so used to for the last six months would grace us with its presence, but alas not.

However, MB Swindoners are nothing if not a hardy bunch, and soon the car park was filling with familiar faces, with others heading across the campground towards us, having ridden all the way from Swindon. Some, like Gary P, had driven even further afield from Gloucestershire! It’s great to get a decent turnout when the weather’s good, but even more gratifying when the weather is filthy. We headed off, 14 strong, into the forest; the rain kept falling but spirits were high as we set off. 

This route was a little different and headed in a new direction, over towards Pewsey, where I grew up. The hills around the Pewsey Vale comprise chalk – and the first big descent, from Fyfield Down, reinforced what all mtb-ers know: riding down wet chalk is like riding on ice. Luckily, with varying degrees of speed and finesse, we all got down in one piece and rode on towards Pewsey and, hopefully, tea and cake.

Praying that my proposed café stop, The Applecart,  would take pity on us, we promised a healthy tip if they would accept a big group of soggy riders – they were happy to welcome us, and couldn’t have been more accommodating and kind. After a refuel (during which we soaked the floor so much they had to put out yellow hazard signs!), we headed out of Pewsey towards Oare. 

Originally, the ride was to be around 30 miles long but at this point, I took the decision to cut it a little short due to the sharp drop in temperature and incessant rain – the long route could wait for another day. We cut across to Sunnyhill Lane and the base of Martinsell Hill and trudged up the short, but deceptively steep, track up onto the hill fort.

There’s a well-hidden, but fun, sunken bridleway a little way along from this – in fact, the minute I mentioned we were due to turn sharp right shortly but couldn’t remember precisely where, the bridleway appeared suddenly, causing some of us to skid to a stop! This bridleway leads to the top of Martinsell Hill and the ever-popular grassy descent to the car park, which is always a hoot. From here we crossed the road into Mud Lane, still riding well despite the wet conditions, and back towards Savernake. Once back in the forest, we rode for another couple of miles or so and back to the start, dripping wet and chilly but pleased to have braved the elements. 

Cold, wintry rides are a real test of people’s commitment – but if this first ride of the autumn season was anything to go by, hopefully we’ll have some healthy turnouts over the next six months!

Minehead Big Weekender 2018

Minehead Big Weekender 2018

Dates: Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th November

This is a re-run of the popular and hugely fun Minehead Big Weekender that we did in 2017. We will be staying at the same accommodation right in heart of Minehead, convenient for pubs, shops and whatever else floats your boat…

Outline plan for the weekend:

Friday – optional ride around the beautiful Lynton/Lynmouth and Valley of the Rocks – start time TBA
Saturday – ride ‘from the door’ up cliffside path then few uppy-downy bits including the stunning Horner Woods and the awesome Dunkary Beacon Descent (be warned – you gotta get up there first!)…
Sunday – Quantocks – brilliant ride round the stunning Quantock hills (yes – that’s more hills!) including a play on the downhill runs at Triscombe.

All rides will be a bit on the ‘lumpy’ side with a reasonable degree of technical challenges – nothing mad, and you can always get off and push… These will be big days out, though…

Accommodation is at the Base Lodge, 16 The Parks, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 8BS – nothing fancy, but clean and functional. There is a very well equipped kitchen for knocking up your nosh, although we will probably visit the local hostelries for food and beverages.

Cost for 2 nights digs £35.00 per person, based on sharing a room.

At moment, we have 1 x 5 and 1x 6 room booked – one for Fellas and one for Sheilas. We can add more rooms if we can get numbers up from the 10 currently signed up. Max number is 22.

Please contact Graham Burgess if interested in going.

Urban Round 31st October

Steve Jeans leads the first of this Winter’s Urban Rounds on Wednesday night. Meet at Croft Trail ready for a 7.00pm start.

If you haven’t been on the Urban Round before, here are a few key facts:

The rides are intended to help you keep fit in the Winter, when we all tend to do a bit less riding.

Rides are typically about 20 miles long, taking about 2 hours to complete. (They are longer than the Summer midweek rides because they are mostly along cycle paths and minor roads, and are mostly flat.)

Riders of all abilities are welcome to ride. No one will be left behind.

We try to keep the routes to cycle paths so that your bike doesn’t need much of a clean afterwards (but can’t guarantee that there won’t be the odd muddy patch!)

You’ll need the usual drink and spare tube, and remember to wrap up warm charge your lights!

Ride Report: Super Savernake and Martinsell Meander

Words and photos by Kate Davidson

Leading a ride can be a daunting prospect – what if everyone who promises to turn up doesn’t show? Here, though, the opposite was true – dozens of people I wasn’t expecting arrived, and they just kept on coming! What’s more, we had three brand new attendees in the form of newcomers Mark and Ruth, and our friend Mike – it was lovely to see Adrian again, with Ian also arriving just as we set off. We numbered 23 in the end, a superb turnout which I was thrilled with. Our big group snaked its way off through the forest with Dave acting as my back marker.

The Savernake trails are as familiar to me as the back of my hand, but it was so nice to share them with other members of the group. I’ve been adding various bits of singletrack to my forest explorations over the summer and this felt like one of the best routes so far, with a lovely flow to it.

Stopping briefly at the column, we then rode down through Durley, crossed the Burbage road and up Ram Alley to the byway which took us to Wootton Rivers. I wasn’t sure how the diversion to Wootton Rivers would work, as it wasn’t on my original plan and had to be shoehorned in at the last minute due to a pesky fence going up, but everyone seemed to appreciate the stop-off at the pub. After our break, we picked up the canal towpath for a mile or so, then made our way past Broomsgrove Farm and on towards to the road climb to Martinsell. This is a nasty, short little climb and, as is usually the case, most people shot past me. 

We huffed and puffed our way up the hill to the car park, and along the track to the very top of the hill to enjoy the far-reaching views and have a drink and a snack – you can see for miles across the Pewsey Vale from here. The descent down Martinsell is a lot of fun if the cows aren’t in the way (and luckily, this time they were well out of it), with a chance to get some air over the humps and bumps, and that’s exactly what some of us did! Everyone seemed to like this bit and there were lots of smiling faces at the end.

We then headed across the road to Mud Lane – the start of this bridleway is a bit rough and brambly, but it soon opens out to a long, flowing track of around two miles long, and was another highlight of the ride – you can really get a decent speed up. Cutting through Hat Gate picnic site and crossing the road back into the forest, we turned left at the column and headed down the fire roads back to Postern Hill campsite. Luckily for us, an ice-cream van was blocking in many of our cars so some of the group felt obliged to have one! 

I was grateful for the brilliant turn-out – thanks all for coming!

Tracks and Trails and Woods and Hills

Kate Davidson leads this 25 mile mixed ride. Starting at Barbury Castle, the ride will head along the Ridgeway to East Kennett and over to Alton Barnes, up Goldenball Hill and along the Pewsey Downs, and on towards West Woods. The return will be via Clatford Down, through Rockley and back up Four Mile Clump to Barbury.

We’ll be riding on byways, hills, downland, woods and the odd country road. Though not listed as novice-friendly, anyone happy to ride this distance, who can cope with hills and varied terrain, is welcome.

There is no planned café stop, but there is an option of riding down for a cuppa in Avebury before heading East Kennett-wards. In any case, the usual applies – bring anything you might need for your bike, warm clothing and waterproofs in case of rain and a bit of food to keep you going.

Midweek Ride 17 October

Wailun Chung leads this week’s Wednesday night ride. Meet at the Patriots Arms in Chiseldon ready for a 7.00pm start.

Midweek rides are usually about 15 miles / 2 hours long, using sections of the Ridgeway and the Marlborough Downs. The rides are novice friendly and no-one gets left behind.

You’ll need a spare tube/repair kit, lights and a drink. There may be the option of a drink in the pub at the end.

The “Winter’s Coming” Ride

Tom Scott is leading this local ride. We will do half a lap of the Croft Trail then head out to the hills, before returning via Ladder Lane and completing the lap.

You will need spares, tools, food and drink as well as appropriate clothing for the weather conditions.

This is a novice-friendly ride and we will wait at every turn for people to catch up.
(Note – this ride has replaced the originally advertised Gravel Ride.)