Category Archives: Ride Report


Getting out of Monmouth was the most likely part of our journey where we were going to make a mistake and I didn’t want to miss any turnings early on in the ride. So 18 patient riders had a bit of a stop-start start to the ride until we got off the road and began following the River Wye south towards Redbrook.
A twisty trail that had a distinct footpath feel to it eventually brought us to Redbrook. A small village on the edge of Gloucestershire, and a village we would ride through 3 times today as we would fan out in various directions including across the border into Wales.
From Redbrook we made a steady 200m climb up above Whitebrook towards New Mills. The cool November air that had us wrapping up in Monmouth now seemed like a distant memory as we shed layers after warming ourselves nicely on the climb up.
As you may know this route hadn’t been ridden before by any of us so surprises were in store and our first one was probably the highlight of the ride.  While looking for my planned exit from the top of the woods I found what looked like a fun trail down so decided, after a review of the map, that we should take it.
Pwllplythin Wood delivered a gnarly leaf strewn treat that dropped us almost all of our 200m in a very short distance. We picked up the scent of my original plan and free wheeled the rest of the way back down towards the river and our trail back to Redbrook.
After we had a stop for lunch we lost Gary P. as his rear shock was misbehaving and he’ll be disappointed to hear that he missed plenty more climbing.
After our second visit to Redbrook we climbed towards Offas Dyke and then followed Valley Brook in a large U shape to what can only politely be described as a very muddy second descent back to the village! Yes we got a bit mucky on our second loop and the descent, while it definitely delivered some smiles and laughter it was almost certainly the muddiest track I’ve ridden in a long time.
We were in Redbrook again for our third and final visit and then a fairly stiff climb up Duffields Lane.  Mostly track and solid surface it wasn’t too bad and eventually brought us to a farm at the top, where we sniffed out the bridleway to bring us down to Wysham Lane.  It was fast and fun but the off road section was over a little too quickly and we were soon on tarmac and pedaling back into Monmouth.
After navigating some traffic lights and a subway we found our way back to the start.
The weather had been kind to us and though we were mostly covered in mud, we were pleasantly warm for a ride in mid November.
Thanks for the huge turn out and once again for the riders who put their trust in me to take them to new territory. We definitely found a route that we should revisit in the Summer.

Ladies Barbury Ride – 11th November 2017 – Ride Report

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.

Ride Report – Wantage Cafe Ride 22nd October

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.

As I rode to the start on my brand new tyres I was feeling good, then spotted Mr Yeates on the other side of Dorcan Way. A quick bunny hop off the kerb and we were a pair.  We became a trio at Covvy shops where Howard “No relation to Elizabeth II” Windsor was just completing his pre-ride faff.
As Graham hadn’t bothered riding to Covvy and we had some spare time, we rode down to his place and then Gary Lee turned up and that made five. On arrival at Fox Hill there was a positive cornucopia of talent, all ready to make the most of the tail wind. So the twelve set off up the Ridgeway.
The going was reasonable apart from a stretch where a tractor / trailer and a digger had made a bit of a mess of the trail, a nice ride through the woods by Waylands Smithy, some sketchy Ridgeway rut riding (reminded us we were alive) some climbs and a bit of Tarmac and we arrived at the caff.
I think that we were all dreading the ride back into the wind, but to be fair it wasn’t too bad apart from a couple of open stretches, and it’s amazing how quickly the miles rolled by and there we were back at Fox Hill, the Dirty Dozen!
Graham being overtaken by a dog walker.


Ride report: A Ding Dong in the Valleys

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.

Ridgeway Marathon Ride Report

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.

Riders feedback:

 ‘Absolutely fantastic route, lovely people and a gorgeous day to boot!! Red wine 🍷 here I come, I deserve it tonight…’

Fantastic ride!’

‘Epic route, beautiful scenery’

Ladies ‘Womble to the Warren ‘ Ride report

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.

Ride Report: Return to the Iron Mountain

For some bizarre reason, people started to turn up just after 9am for a 10am ride. It’s possible it had something to do with them camping in the Brecon Beacons the night before and being up early but I’d like to think they were equally as eager to get on the ride.
As the name suggests, we’ve been here before – riding the descent off the Blorenge and battling the ferns and hidden rocks down to the Punchbowl has been well documented in previous ride reports. We have tackled the Blorenge from Blaenavon (2014 – The Ponds The Pit and The Punchbowl); and we rode to the Punchbowl all the way from Pontypool (2016 – The Full Ponty); this time we were approaching our goal from 500m below summit in Abergavenny and essentially starting the day with a 500m climb.
MB Swindon visit the Iron Mountain
We set off in good spirits, even though I had fully briefed the gang in the car park about what we had in store: “See that up there? We are pedalling up it!”
After a gentle start along Sustrans National Route 46, we soon began to climb Gilwern Hill. For the most part it was a road surface so it was a simple mater of getting on with it and pedalling. But as we left the road, aiming for the old service road along the side of the hill, my preparation of this section of the route failed me a little, resulting in a short hike-a-bike to the level ground. After a little laugh at the situation, a snack and well earned leg rest, a nervous ride leader began wondering if he was going to make it home without being lynched so we set off again.
The landscape is amazing. To one side we have views of the Black Mountains and on the other the rugged and scarred landscape of the industrial revolution and Blaenavon’s World Heritage Site. The weather was very kind to us and from the high points of our ride we could see the River Severn and across to England.
Before our first bit of downwards related fun, we had a puncture in the group that was fixed while the back marker took the opportunity to have an ice cream from a nearby van! We had been climbing and pedalling for almost 2 hours so we all took a knee and had a bite to eat.
Some great downhill and singletrack fun followed a brief warning about the next section, as this had been the location of a rather nasty shoulder injury for a rider in 2014 and I was a little nervous of any repetition!
A compulsory visit to the BMX track preceded our climb up to The Keepers Pond and then we hit the Iron Mountain itself for some proper off road fun.  Rock gardens, steep hill side trails and deep ferns accomanied us to the PunchBowl where we all stopped for a snack and refuel before the gruelling climb out.
But there was more fun to be had by way of a bridleway connecting our exit from the Punchbowl with the Nant Llanelen stream – cutting through some steep fields and only spoilt by a few gates. At the bottom of the descent we had a slight diversion and added a cheeky little 100m road climb in to drain the last of the reserves from our legs. But there was one more surprise in store.
I had eyed up a little segment on Strava through Ffrwd Wood for a finale of down hill fun; what we found was a sweet little trail on the hill side that kept us on our toes and our brakes, as locals had dug all sorts of jumps and drops in to the steep banks.
By the time we reached the bottom, the nasty road climb had been forgotten (at least I hoped it had) and we were all smiling and excitedly reliving the trail as we rode back to the car park, this time finishing off with a gentle ride along the canal and another Sustrans cycle route.
A round of drinks in the Angel Hotel topped off an awesome ride which saw us ride a little over 30km and climb just under 1000m.
I am already scheming some new routes in the area. Who’s in?
You can see Tim’s Iron Mountain video here.

Tom’s Anniversary Waltz Ride Report

Tom writes:

I decided to become a ride leader in 2013 and my first ride was from Foxhill to Wantage out and back, a repeat of a ride led by Nigel Gregson which I had enjoyed. To celebrate four years of ride leading, and over 100 led rides, I decided to go back to where it all started. Rather than pinching someone else’s route I decided to make up a brand new one.
Thirteen of us gathered at Foxhill for a 10 am departure, and rather than go up we went down, across the Moto X track to Hinton Parva. We kept going north and joined a bridleway across a farm yard and on to the village of Bourton. A bit of road and then another bridleway took us over the railway through to Shrivenham where we made for Highworth, turning left onto a byway which took us back to the main A420 road. We crossed over safely and proceeded down a track to Shrivenham Park Golf Course, and then back into the village where we turned left.
We came across a railway bridge with steps both sides, which most of us cleared without dabbing then briefly joined the B4000 followed by a very sharp left onto the bridleway to Compton Beauchamp. If you have ever ridden south from Compton Beauchamp you can’t help but notice the rise in the road. Basically, the road rises 120 metres in about 1200 metres which makes it a steady 1 in 10, or 10% these days. Once atop the hill it is a short ride to the Ridgeway, then a straight shot back to Foxhill.
A good time was had by all and the weather was glorious!

Aldbourne Odessey Ride Report

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 🙂





Ride Report: Summits of the Cotswolds

Words by Gary Palmer   Photos by Gary Palmer and Michael Duller

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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…

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.
…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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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.

MB Swindon mountain biking in the Cotswolds.

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!