Driving along the A419 through heavy rain, I wasn’t hopeful of anyone being at Barbury; However Debbie and Sue were already there ready to go. At this point it was just drizzle but by 10am, the heavy rain I had driven through had reached us.
We cycled across Barbury Castle and soon realised it was going to be pretty muddy out (completely different to 6 days before when I had recced the ride). By the time we had reached the old railway line, the rain had eased and by about 10.30 it had stopped completely.
We headed up the radio mast climb, stopping at 11 to observe the 2 minutes silence. It was quite poignant as the guns from the local shoots stopped as well and the sound of bird song filled the air.
We carried on along the old Ridgeway, where it soon became apparent that Sue would be puddle depth scout, and then back down towards the old railway line where we stopped for snacks.
Then it was the final climbs back up to Barbury through mud, long grass and puddles (although there were some puddles even Sue wouldn’t cycle through) and to homemade cakes from Debbie.
Despite the horrible weather at the start of the ride, and the fact we were all plastered in mud at the end, it was a really enjoyable ride out.
The morning started well, with a brief look at the weather forecast showing very little chance of rain with a stiff South-Westerly breeze, which suited us fine as we were heading North-East.
Words and photos by Tim Norris.
I tried really really hard to deter people from coming on this ride. I told them I hadn’t ridden it. I said we may get lost. I put it on in the middle of October. And I even said there would be no cake. But they came. List it and they will come, and they will expect to be entertained and have a blooming good time. I was up for the challenge.
Perhaps downloading the GPX to my Garmin would have been a good start or bringing a map that started at our start point. How can it actually be to follow a cycle path up the valley anyway? Turns out it was easy, really easy in fact to follow the WRONG cycle path for 3 miles!
So we turned back and I don’t think anyone noticed.
The weather was typically Welsh and autumnal – sunny and dry – and our pedal up the sort of clearly way marked Sustrans Route 465 was really pretty. We rode through some typical Welsh villages and parks, a rugby ground in Abertillery all the while admiring the autumn colours on the trees and on the ground.
At Nantyglo we diverted so everyone could get a look at the “roundhouses”. Oh how they nagged and begged to see these 19th century fortified homes! I hope some one took a picture as I didn’t!
After this we began our ascent of Mulfran. Mulfran is the 5,217th highest peak in the British isles and the 446th tallest in Wales. I’m sure I remember someone asking me for this info as we made our way up the track.
Here’s where things started to get interesting. My map, and GPS and Jay’s (thanks Jay) GPS didn’t all exactly agree on where the bridleway was atop of Mynydd James so as we at first fought our way through mud and motorcross ruts we then made our own way through the wild grassy hill top trying to find a way down.
What we did find was a cool rock fissure and decided it was a good place for a snack and to take a 100 or so photos.
After leaving the at least one or two of the gang down a hole in the ground we sort of found our way off the hill by way of a storm/water gully that feeds the Cwmtillery lakes. Getting to the lakes meant we would be back on my planned route so there was only one thing for it! Bobsleigh time!
It probably wasn’t the most sensible way off the side of the mountain but, no one got hurt (seriously at least) and we had bagged a special moment that all will remember!
A short climb and hike out the other side of the valley had us on our homeward stretch as we traversed the hills side above Pen Y Bont towards Abertillery. With one final climb in our sights and the Welsh sun (it was Welsh sun) shining on us we headed up for one final treat!
The Penrhiwgarreg woods delivered one final treat as we dropped down through the trees, twisting and turning on a mix of woodland trails and tracks following some sort of memory I had from some Strava research. With a mixed ability group it delivered enough to challenge but not too much to scare and we all arrived at the bottom without any issues.
What a finale to a great day!
I’m already planning another visit.
Distance: 60km with nearly 1,000m of climbing
Words by Hilda-May Latham Photos courtesy of Debbie Davies
I was joined by 9 ladies, all prepared for an adventure on their bikes. At 10am we’d all had our first round of flapjacks and were raring to go.
We started off with a grassy descent down Smeathe’s Ridge that offered beautiful views of the Ridgeway. This was shortly followed by a steep climb out of Ogbourne St George that tested our legs and lungs. Spirits were high as we re-grouped at the top of the climb admiring the views across Swindon.
With grins from ear to ear, it was clear to see that we all enjoyed the cheeky descent into Hinton Parva. The perfect way to prepare for a relaxing lunch in the sun.
With most of the hard work done and 50% of the distance completed it was time to set off back to Barbury, but first we had the opportunity to admire the picturesque grounds of Ashdown House.
The little history lesson was shortly followed by our second biggest climb of the day. All the ladies did a sterling job of persevering and keeping their balance on the narrow line.
With the end in sight and a soaring sense of achievement it was time to head back for an ice-cream or more flapjack before heading homewards.
‘Absolutely fantastic route, lovely people and a gorgeous day to boot!! Red wine 🍷 here I come, I deserve it tonight…’
‘Epic route, beautiful scenery’
Words and photos by Debbie Davies
I drove up to Badbury Clump really looking forward to this ride. Despite the fact that I had ridden it 4 previous times to recce a workable route it was still fun to show the ladies a new ride that they may not have been familiar with.
Andrea had already beaten me to the venue, having driven all the way from Bristol, and was quickly followed by a stream of cars. We numbered 8 at this point which was wonderful and so was the weather.
After the usual group photo and a short briefing about the first section of the ride we set off. I say we numbered 8, we actually became 9 but not until we reached the Great Coxwell Tithe Barn, where we met Sharon who lived locally. The descent to the village was fun but the up part to meet us didn’t have the same appeal early in the morning so Sharon took the opportunity to video us all arriving.
We crossed the A420 and set off on the quieter lanes until we reached the first sandy bridleways. This took us for some distance running parallel to the main road but no hint of the noise, the varied surfaces took us through farm barns, open fields and trails and farm drives all rolling gently downhill. We finally reached another road to cross, not too busy, and entered through the stone pillared gateway of a country manor house. The drive was still a bridleway and edged by several very attractive cottages complete with roses around the doors. The drive ran into a section of single track, narrow and nettle bordered. The inevitable stings and apologies on my part and we continued into a long stretch of grass trail along side newly harvested fields, vast open skies surrounded us and the sun continued to shine.
We reached Buckland Warren which is a mixed broadleaf and pine forest and dissected by numerous footpaths. It was here we saw a Muntjac standing his ground and holding our gaze in the middle of the trail before slipping away into the shrubbery. We made a figure of 8 around this area crossing the A420 another 2 times and passing along a wider tree lined bridleway through Buckland village. There is a rather nice pub here but we were too early for its Sunday opening.
We entered ‘The Warren’ once more but on the opposite side and made our way through the softer low lying ground after the previous weeks rain. In winter this area is ankle deep in mud so the inch of slippery mud was not too bad. At the end and with a small section of repeated trail we exited the woods and stopped for our picnic lunch at the edge of a nearly deserted golf course. The sun continued to shine as we settled down on the grass to eat and chat.
The pit stop finished, we retraced our route back to the Tithe Barn where several of us went to have a look inside. Some of the other ladies started to tackle the road climb back up towards the Badbury Clump car park. After we had admired the very beautifully preserved and enormous Tithe Barn, we set off to join them and regrouped at the top. A small section of road and the perimeter of a Maize field brought us back to the cars and the welcome sight of the ice cream van for some. Homemade cakes were despatched with more chat before we all headed home. Many thanks to the wonderful ladies, Andrea, Hazel, Kerry, Sarah, Sharon B, Sharon Y, Jen, and Amanda for joining me and a special thanks to Sarah for bringing up the rear and seeing us all home .
See you all soon.
This route was the club route that I enjoyed most when I started with the club. That day I was pushed to the max of what as a novice I thought I could do whilst enjoying good company in the local countryside. When Nigel stopped being a ride leader I asked him if he minded if I stole his route. Being the gent he is, he let me.
Having not done this route for a while I decided to dust it off and did a recce ride on a very windy Saturday in May. On the day in a fit of enthusiasm (not common for me) I decided to ride up to the start at Barbury Castle. Puffing up the side of the Castle I feared that I might be over stretching myself. I got my breath back and rode into the car park to find about ten riders setting up. Eventually the stragglers arrived and we were 16 of very mixed abiity. That’s actually what is great about MBSwindon rides.
A quick briefing we headed from Barbury to the byway that has been the subject of much debate this week. Thankfully the styles had not been added so we headed over the undulating field to the shooting school descent. I waited at the bottom to see all of the riders down. Steadily they came and all rode the steep chalk descent well. It became clear that we were a few down. Then word got to me that Nikki had, had an off before the descent. Shaken, but not badly hurt she decided to call it a day on the ride. A real shame, but a very sensible decision. Graham very kindly volunteered to help Nikki back to her car and to load her bike. Saying that he would meet us at the top of the first big climb.
We headed on from there via the byway to the main road between Swindon and Marlborough. This is where we first encountered the moto cross event that would become a feature of the ride. They were all pleasant and made way for us, but my do those bikes stink. At the road I had a choice to make. Do I try my alteration to the route and climb from Lower to Upper Upham or go with my old favourite/nemesis the radio mast climb. I decided that the crossing over the road to the radio mast climb was safer and we headed that way.
The climb up to that radio mast is a bit challenging. I can remember being very pleased with myself the first time I cleaned it. I couldn’t help, but notice a few grumbles as we got the to the top. We also had a number of the moto crossers cruising past on their bikes to add to the mix. While we were waiting for everyone to make the top Graham arrived to rejoin the ride. A short breather later we headed on along the Ridgeway towards Liddington and our next descent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the chalky double track run down.
We then got to my first alteration of NIgel’s route. At this point the original ride heads down the road towards Sugar Hill. Instead we crossed the road and joined the bridleway that runs gradually up to Sugar Hill. Here we again meet the moto crossers as they tore up Sugar Hill.
We leave them to head along the ridgeline towards Aldbourne and to the first surprise (for me) of the ride. The path had been quite good on the recce ride, but it has obviously been ploughed in between. This made what was supposed to be a easy part of the ride hard work. This hard work was rewarded with the fun little descent into Aldbourne. Some braved the jump half way down and all had smiles on their faces at bottom.
We took a lunch break in Aldbourne. Sadly the burger van that was there the first time I ran this route was not in evidence. All refreshed we headed for my second alteration to the original route. There were some worried faces as I said I wasn’t sure if the climb to come was easier than the radio mast climb. At the top I was assured by our number that it was much easier. Phew. The route took us to the sadly closed Ramsbury Brewery.
The moto cross bikes made a reappearance as we headed towards the wonderfully named Whitehards Bottom. Thankfully they were playing in a field at the top of the bridleway leaving us to take the fun run down. On the recce there was a big puddle of stagnant water at the bottom. The recent heatwave had thankfully got rid of it.
A short sharp nasty little climb later we headed off towards Rickety Bridge. It was now evident that some of our number were starting to flag. That’s where my back marker Debbie showed her worth by coaxing the slower riders on. I slowed the pace at the front.
When we got to the top of the final big descent I briefed the riders on what to expect (a fun rooty track). One of our number decided that she had, had enough and decided to start walking. Debbie and Tony being a stars went with her. A mechanical at the bottom of the descent meant that they overtook the main ride.
Crossing the main road we headed back up towards Four Mile Clump only to run into two fire engines blocking the trail. There must have been some sort of fire in the barn up the track. This forced a diversion off of the main track to a alternative by the gallops, The grassy trail was hard work to climb on and again I could see that some of our number were tiring (myself included). Catching up with the walking party we decided to ride the final mile. Taking it steady we headed back to Barbury and the end of the ride.
On reflection I think the route was harder than a lot expected, but all made it. Including some on their first club rides. For me it was a fun route to lead with some lovely people. What MBSwindon is all about 🙂
Words by Gary Palmer Photos by Gary Palmer and Michael Duller
At 9.00am it was already a tad warm; could be a bit of a test for the lads! Starting at Haresfield beacon – one of the highest points In the Stroud valleys – should have been a bit of a warning, but I kept quiet. I was sure they wouldn’t mind until we had to climb back up it at the end of the ride.
Eight of us took off through some of the nicest single-track in the area. The tracks got steeper pace got faster, until one of our health and safety experts didn’t have time to compare the width of his bars and the gap between a couple of trees. It turned out that either the bars were too wide or the gap between the trees was to narrow; either way, it involved a little roll around in the undergrowth.
After a bit more single-track and a few little jumps, we were into the first climb of the day, a nice little stony number up to the Cotswold way.
The next bit was a bit tedious. Going across fields and opening gates and all that gave the upper body a good work out, though, and the view wasn’t bad either!
When we got down to the bottom, we got on to the Severn-Thames canal path and headed towards Stonehouse, which was the start of quite a long road section. The beauty of it is that it takes in the infamous Frocester Hill, quite pleasant in the blazing sun…! When I eventually got to the top, they were all there, like pride of lions hiding in the shade.
We were soon back into the cool of the trees and a good downhill straight line blast. The climb up from there wasn’t too bad… well, compared to the last one!
Next came a quick ride around Uley Bury and then a death-defying descent down to Uley. We had another faller on this section (in fact it was the same person who forgot to bring his tape measure previously!) It was my fault as I was riding too slowly, because I had missed a turning at the top of the hill and I was scanning for a get-out route while still trying to look like I knew what I was doing. The new route I found gave us a bit of a bashing with holly bushes, brambles and a decent set of steps at the end. Then it was out onto the road and a quick spin past Uley brewery, to show the lads what they couldn’t have.
After the tears – because we didn’t go in the brewery – were mopped up, we took off on another climb. I decided to lead from the back on this occasion and gave them instructions on where to turn and wait. Unfortunately, the racing snakes missed the bridleway and carried on to the top of the hill. A quick phone call bought them back down, then we were through another gate and up an off-road climb. Again I gave them instructions where to stop; again when I got there, I had to shout them back down to meet me. These boys liked climbing!
Another nice bit of single-track eventually took us over to Breakheart Quarry, where we sampled the infamous switchbacks, down and up; how pleasant.
A quick spin through the quarry and we made our way down the dark gulley to the New Inn at Waterly Bottom. A couple of pints (to re-hydrate, of course), a quick sandwich and a bit of bike fettling, and we were off again…
…to search out another hill to climb! We found said hill at North Nibley, and a beauty it was! The climb was well worth it though – the views up there were superb.
After we sent a few to the tower we took off to search out this hill I’d been promising them all day, Waterly bottom. What a beauty – it took some effort for me to push my bike up that; fair play to the ones that made it.
Starting to head back now, and covering ground we’d ridden on the way out, we popped out on Lampern Hill, another longish road section that bought us out by Woodchester Mansion. I told the lads that I was going through a gap in the hedge just past the gate, though turned out that I had to make a new gap (not a problem). Stanley woods has got some great single track in it, plenty of stuff to keep you on your toes (or on your butt, if you’re not careful)! This brought us out onto Selsey common, another section with fantastic views.
After a crazy road descent, we got back on the canal path and road to our final stop before the final climb.
A nice cup of coffee in the bar and we took off again. This last climb goes on a bit; you think you’re doing alright and then you hit Ash lane. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but some bloke on a shopping bike went past me! At the top of Ash lane we were back into the woods for a gentle climb back to the car park. Even the ice-cream man was still there – result!
A massive thanks and ‘well done’ to Graham, Steve, Michael, Jason, Gary, Gary and Chris for joining me on this hot and arduous ride. Cheers!