Category Archives: Ladies Ride Report

Ride Report: Ladies BMB Ride

Words & Photos – Kate Davidson

This stunning summer weather has made riding a pleasure – long hours of daylight make it perfect for exploring, no dirty bikes to hose off, and no muddy clothes to chuck in the washing machine. Places that in winter were an icy, slippery quagmire, or a gale-lashed hill, are magically transformed in the summer months into a picturesque rural idyll.

Arriving at Barbury Castle early on Saturday the car park was almost full, with mums dropping off nervous-looking kids about to set out on a team-building mission. I bumped into Michael Duller, who was out on the road bike, and we chatted about the amazing Land’s End – John O’Groats ride that he, Graham and Gary from MB Swindon had recently completed. 

Debbie was the first of my ladies to arrive, followed by a welcome new (old) face in the form of Fiona, an MB Swindon member of old, proudly showing off Celeste, her new Giant full-sus. Trudy, Amanda, Sarah and Caroline soon followed, and off we headed down to Smeathe’s Ridge.

The long, grassy run and far-reaching views from here never fail to lift the spirits, and we bounced our way happily to the gate at the end, Fiona using all her cattle-wrangling skills to move a herd of young cows out of the way. We followed the Ridgeway through Ogbourne and across the main road, picked up the old railway path and headed to Marlborough.

Stopping off at Mercer’s café for food and drink, we sat in the sun and ate vast slices of cake – it’s one of the better café stops, and always reliably good. 

After refuelling, we made our way down the High Street, up Hyde Lane and past Marlborough Common, turning off to ride along Manton Down and on down the track to Rockley. There’s a nice little bit of single track, with some small jumps and drop-offs, in Rockley woods, and some of the girls had a bit of a play here – some light relief before everyone’s favourite (!) climb up Four Mile Clump  back to Barbury Castle.

There’s nothing for it here but to settle in and ‘love the hill’ and enjoy more of those gorgeous views. The temperature by now was well up in the high 20s, and there were some sweaty brows by the time we arrived back at the car park! 

We did a leisurely 16 miles – thanks to the lovely ladies who attended. See you next time!

Ride Report: The Lakes at Leisure

Words by Debbie Davies    Photos by Debbie Davies and Rafe Aldridge

I have led ladies-only rides for the last four years but this one was going to be my first ‘open’ club ride and, as befits that event, it was preceded by a sleepless night. The MB Swindon Facebook page showed there were three people going (and one of those was me!) so I thought it would be a nice gentle introduction, and ideal for anyone new.

The weather suggested sun most the day and as I set off to the meeting place it was already warming up. I’m happy to say that the ladies’ ride weather appears to be transferable.

Mountain bikers in a car park.

There were cycle helmets visible from the trail as I pedalled towards the car park so someone had turned up; in fact, ten turned up which was lovely but a little unexpected. Everyone signed in and we took a quick group photo before we set off down the track towards the road that links both parks. It’s a shame there is no off road section to cut out the tarmac but we split into two groups to keep everything rolling and were fairly quickly at the first part of the cycle way.

The Thames path had been impassable for a part of the winter with the usual flooding – with some very deep mud sections – so we attacked the area from the opposite side. With a brief warning about the churned up track, we instantly lost one to it.  All well and no damage done, we rode into the nature reserve and whizzed along the gravel path and then out through the kissing gate at the far end with some nifty gate handling skills.

We headed along to the café stop where we took over two picnic benches in the sun. Ladies’ rides usually involve cake; this mixed ride seemed to be a bacon-fest. Rafe demonstrated his ‘flying trivet’. Apparently it wasn’t a standard drone, but it did a good job of photographing us and we spent more time relaxing in the sun as we watched it fly.

Turning out of the café, a short paved section led us back to the old railway line and a straight return back to the Cricklade Sports centre. Those speedy ones amongst us took the front and pushed for a Strava section; the rest of us just chatted in the sun as we pedalled. A slightly longer detour, agreed by everyone to take us off the busier road and via a lovely country lane, took us finally back to the car park.

Many thanks to the four ladies and six gents that joined me on the ride and especially to Sarah for back marking for me.

Ride Report: Savernake Sisters’ Spin

Words & Pictures – Kate Davidson

Riding up through Savernake Forest on Saturday morning through a fairly thick mist, it was with trepidation that I headed on up to Postern Hill Campsite. Winter seems to have lasted forever this year, with endless rain and cold, and parts of the forest were still looking pretty muddy.

However, when I arrived, the sun was trying its hardest to poke through the cloud and when the first ladies Jane, Hazel and Sarah arrived, the campsite was starting to brighten up – and by the time everyone else arrived, we were bathed in warm spring sunshine. Eleven ladies in all turned up (special praise goes to Hazel, Sarah, Debbie, Sharon, Hilda-May and Trudy, all of whom rode from Swindon to Marlborough, Hazel all the way from Lyneham!) – a great turnout and a real boost to me leading my first ride. 

Heading out of the campsite down to the Grand Avenue, we crossed over the Avenue and picked up some lovely, mostly dry singletrack through the woods. Coming out at Amity Drive, we whizzed along the fire road for a mile or so, then had to negotiate our way around a fallen tree and plough through some pretty boggy bridleway leading to the next section of fire road, and then onto a lovely long tarmac track which gave some of the ladies a chance to build up a bit of speed, taking us to the far end of the Grand Avenue.

From here we headed back into the forest to make our way towards the Column. The latter part of this track was particularly soupy, some of us just about managing to get through it, and others simply having to give in to the relentless mud. Footings were lost, feet got muddy, wheels were spinning, and much swearing was heard as we inched our way forwards.

Eventually we emerged at Column Ride, and shortly after stopped for a bite to eat and to admire the beautiful Ailesbury Column, built in the 1760s to celebrate the recovery from illness of King George III. It was here that Sharon was treated to the arresting sight of my bare bottom, after I headed into the woods for a quick wee without noticing her. I did say I’d treat the ladies to new sights on this ride!

After our quick pitstop we rode up the charmingly named Lover’s Lane, and down through Durley to the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath. After stopping to look at the beautiful inscribed 19th century and modern replacement stone plaques, carved by Lloyd of Bedwyn, on the east portal of the Bruce Tunnel, we rode along the towpath (in places pretty off-camber which could catch you out) to the Grade I listed Crofton Beam Engines – the oldest working Beam Engines in the world – where we stopped for a well-deserved lunch and a spot of sunbathing. Hilda-May got horizontal; cake, sandwiches, coffee and tea were ordered and after a seemingly endless wait, we eventually got our lunch. 

It would have been easy to stay all afternoon in the sun, but we made our way back and rode up through Crofton Farm, after which came the muddiest part of the ride – huge, deep tractor-wheel sized ruts filled with thick, gloopy water, and the only option was to get off and push. Eventually we made it through and rode on to St Katharine’s, stopping to look at the church, before riding a short way along the road back to the Grand Avenue.

At the start of the Avenue, we turned left onto the Gallops Track, a nice, sweeping piece of old tarmac trail, then turned off at eight walks, riding past the old Christmas tree nursery and arboretum. From here we bounced down a muddy, rooty little chute that spat us out at a grassy clearing, and made our way back to the campsite. 

The blissfully sunny weather helped to make the ride special, but I was thrilled that so many ladies made the effort to attend my first led ride – I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. 

Ladies’ Tracks and Trails Ride

Words and photos by Debbie Davies 

After last month’s somewhat wintery weather for our Ladies ride, I was paying lots of attention to the TV forecasts in the run up to this month’s event. It wasn’t looking too horrible. It said cold but dry with sunny spells. Despite that, I wasn’t expecting a very good turn out as there were so many colds and bugs hitting our riders.

I cycled to our starting point at the Croft Trail car park in plenty of time and waited to see who arrived.  It was lovely to see some of our past riders joining us again – the urban ride has been held every February for the last 3 years and it just seems to work for people when the trails are thick with mud and the days chilly.

By 10am we numbered 8 and were nearly ready to set off when Sharon discovered that her helmet wasn’t where it was supposed to be. A protective bobble hat was donned and a phone call to home to see if the helmet could be delivered to the café stop soon had everything sorted and we were on our way.

We made our way to Lydiard Park and the café via the cycleways and quiet roads around Swindon. We are very lucky to have so many linking routes and each time the urban ride has been done it’s been a challenge to find trails that not everyone knows. I’m pleased to say that, apparently, I managed it again.

Ladies mountain biking

We got to the café to be met by Nigel with the helmet and the amazing Mr Turnip in tow. Mr T is a Bull Terrier with the best ‘feed me I’m starving’ eyes. He helped me with my donut before we set off again. The weather was sufficiently nice that we all had refreshments outside.

We left the café (and Nigel and Mr T) and rejoined the route using the mud free cycle paths until we reached the off road cycle path towards Peatmoor Lake. Trudy and I had ridden this route the week before and it was a bit damp; now it was under water! Riding through it was the only way, so I went through first expecting the others to wait and see how deep it was before getting wet feet. I seems they were all more intrepid than that and followed me through.

We made our way around West Swindon and back onto the Old Town railway track. The mud and puddles came thick and fast at this point, and my bike seemed to be a magnet for all of it.  As we rode down into Old Town and towards Coate Water, the weather was changing and the wind had picked up. The sun had left us and it looked as though it might even snow. Time to push and get home.

Ladies mountain biking

At the exit to the park, we became seven as Mandy left us to take a short cut home. We turned into a headwind and made our way back to Croft Trail via the golf course and straight into more mud. Julie had come on semi-slick tyres and here it proved just a bit too much for them, so walking was the best way at this point. She showed great skills getting back along the bridleway to Croft Trail though, as we picked our way down the well-trampled paths.

We reached the car park, where bikes were loaded hastily into cars and most of the ladies went home to get warm. Three of us stayed chatting in the car park until a hailstorm ended our social and sent us scuttling for our cars and home.

Many thanks to Trudy, Julie, Kerry, Caroline , Mandy, Sharon and Sarah for joining me, and double thanks to Sharon and Sarah for being my back markers for the ride .

Ladies ‘Cake Burner ‘ride – 21st January 2018

Words and photos by Debbie Davies

The Ladies rides have the reputation of always being on the best weather days. This ride bucked the trend well and truly.

I sat in Coate Water car park, far too early for the agreed meeting time, watching the rain hammer down on my windscreen, driven by the increasing winds. It was going to be foul. I was fully prepared for the wet, having packed suitable jacket and waterproof shorts, waterproof gloves and a helmet liner to keep out the draughts. I did put out a warning on the ride details to makes sure to wear enough as the Ridgeway can be a bit blowy in the winter so looking at the spare clothes in my car I appeared to have heeded the advice.

Sue was as early as me, parked at the other side of the car park. Soon after Trudy arrived and finally Sharon who had run and ridden the day before and for some daft reason thought she needed more exercise.

We rode out from Coate via the motorway bridge and had our first indication of how cold it actually was. The rain was going to be variable throughout the day and at this point it gave us a little respite, enough to reach the byway and the mud. The ride was designed to avoid the worst of the heavy going but this was seriously sloppy, it was going to be a messy one.

We carried on up towards Hackpen Hill battling now icy rain, stinging our faces as it was pushed by a crosswind. We briefly stopped to adjust our Buffs over our noses, highwayman style. It looked so comical in the awful conditions that I had to take a photo of us all. There were comments about whether this was normal behaviour.

The route after Hackpen has a lovely descent into a dip before a climb out towards Fyfield Down. By now the visibility had gone and the usual views were just a memory …it was seriously wet and very cold. It was then we realised we were the only people up there, mountain bikers seem to be a different breed.

We resorted to walking part of the byway as it had turned so slippery, ably demonstrated by Sue who had her front wheel wash out and unceremoniously depositing her in even more water and mud as a result. Fyfield Down is a glorious area, but not this day, we were now all cold with numb fingers …my waterproof gloves leak, and frozen toes. There were the smallest signs of a mutiny in the ranks at this point, with talks of short cuts but the draw of cake was stronger and we pressed on to Marlborough.

The Café had become a sanctuary from the bitter cold, it took us all a few minutes to be able to operate fingers to remove helmets and open purses, to the amusement of a few diners. Finally cake and tea was ordered and we sat warming our hands around hot mugs and slowly defrosted. The café staff were wonderful , they wouldn’t let us mop up as we left and even provided us with latex work gloves so we could put back on our now dripping cycle gloves  more easily . We promised we would go back in the summer, clean and dry and buy more cake.

We made our way home, feeling much happier at the prospect now we had thawed out. The old railway path we were going back along was sheltered from the wind and the rain and I think we actually enjoyed the final leg, chatting most the way. The last 10 miles passed quite quickly now there was no headwind and very soon we were back at Coate car park. Sometimes we chat before we move away, this day we had already said our goodbyes before we even stopped the bike wheels moving and hastily packed up saturated kit and muddy bikes. The lure of a hot bath was very strong.

The ladies of MB Swindon always support their rides and make them special …this one was in a different category, many thanks to Trudy , Sue and Sharon for turning up at all  to ride in that weather and then sticking with it to the end.

 

 

Ladies Christmas FoD gathering

16th December 2017

Words by Debbie Davies

Debbie

Photos by Debbie Davies and friends

A little idea came into my head one day last February. Just before Christmas Kat and I had held a club gathering at the Croft Trail for our club and it occurred to me then it might be fun to do just a Ladies one. The idea kept popping up all through the summer until in August I decided to action that idea. I contacted other Ladies from local Ladies only groups and asked them what they thought, it seemed to be a winning plan. So on it went. From the original 8 ladies I contacted the numbers spread via FB to 17, spreading the word amongst their riders. In September the date went in the calendar. We were now official.

Helen from Dame Forest of Dean group had arranged to have mince pies and mulled wine ready at the end of the ride, Tinsel and club shirts were part of the dress code so we would all know what clubs we were riding with . The ride organisation was gaining momentum and before we knew it we were now being offered lunch too. Ladies just kept adding their name to the event list and my idea of a little social with maybe 20 ladies attending was, all those months ago, was now a staggering 77 ladies.

The week before like great chunks of the country, we had snow. Not masses near Swindon, but that was not the case in the Forest of Dean. They were covered in the stuff, enough that the trail centre had to close for a couple of days. When they were able to open again the trail pixies and Forestry Commission had been hard at work to make the trails usable after all the fallen trees, we were lucky it still looked good to go, the trails were ready. Then came the message that the family trail, that we were using for the morning social, was still impassable due to fallen trees and frozen icy snow blocked tracks. A hasty change of plan took place and along with it some cancellations. The weather was starting to have an impact on another week it seemed.

I set off with a friend to The Forest of Dean, the early hour still very much swathed in darkness, to make sure I had enough time to organise everything. One of the Ladies had got there even earlier than us, unsure of what the local roads would bring. An hour later, and expecting a considerably reduced gathering, we were set for MB Swindon’s first mass Ladies club event. However, despite the weathers best efforts, we seemed to have amassed 72 Ladies, ready to hit the now amended route of the Verderers trail. With Helen at the helm to keep the pace steady due to some icy trails, we set off. It was an amazing sight to see so many riders winding their way up the trail with tinsel bedecked bikes. Malvern Maidens made a big impact with their Unicorn themed shirts and Unicorn fairy lights. We had Father Christmas, Mother Christmas, several Elves and a great many Father Christmas hats all pedaling their way around the now sun washed trails. The usual photo stops, regrouping pauses and just general chat stops made for a wonderful atmosphere and there was the usual encouragement for those who were new to the trail centre.

2 hours later and with everyone safely back without incident, we made our way to the café and the room set up for our mince pies and mulled wine, hard to miss as the winter spice smell permeated the area as soon as you entered . Pedalabikeaway and the café staff had done us proud. The mulled wine was well received as it was still very cold on the ride despite the winter sun, and the pasta lunch was just the perfect meal to top up energy supplies.

In the afternoon we all set off to do our own thing , some riding other trails with Katy Curd as their guide , others headed for the skills loops and the red trails and some Ladies headed home having made the very big effort to travel from as far as Taunton and Kent.

10 months ago I had this little idea, on the 16th December 72 Ladies made it a reality. Many thanks to all those Ladies who made the day very special, who gave up their time to support other riders , who made the day such a fun and memorable one for me especially , it only ever started as a small thought …Thanks too the Staff of Pedalabikeaway for all their work in making sure we were fed and watered so well .

 

 

 

 

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.

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: Stinchcombe Hill ‘Flatty’

Words and pictures by Debbie Davies 

Stunning views should have been the order of the day for Jo’s ride; the wet morning and low cloud suggested otherwise.

I pulled into the car park at the golf club on Stinchcombe Hill having spotted some familiar cars and bikes being unloaded. Hazel and Sarah had already arrived and bikes were being prepped. Several more of the riders followed and as we debated whether we were in the right car park out of a choice of two, our ride leader Jo arrived and told us we weren’t! We repacked and followed her up the hill to the correct meeting point and started again.

MB Swindon Ladies Stinchcombe Hill ride

It was the Bank Holiday weekend and Jo had been held up on the motorway due to the traffic. From our high vantage point, we could look down on a continuous snake of vehicles that a little earlier she had been caught up in. We waited for one more rider, Jen, to join us – she had messaged through earlier so we chatted and tried to keep warm as we got ourselves together. The previous day had been lovely and most of us had come expecting more of the same. We were cold; it was very breezy but it was now dry. From the top of Stinchcombe Hill we had to imagine what the views would be like as they still weren’t ready to reveal themselves.

An hour later we were ready to ride. We set off around the perimeter of the Golf Course on a grassy, mown track that soon turned into the most gorgeous length of single track, just as Jo had promised. We snaked our way around blind corners that turned into open stretches and then into woodland. One by one we followed each other with each turn bringing new features.

MB Swindon Ladies Stinchcombe Hill ride

We stopped to regroup after a few short little hills and let everyone appreciate the now-emerging scenery… it really was stunning. Jo gave us a little briefing at this point: we were going to meet a slightly more technical point of the trail, a slightly rocky, steep but short descent. A few of us went to have a look at it before we rode it and some of our group decided to walk down instead. Jo stayed at the top to photograph us as we went, while her fellow Malvern riding buddy (also called Jo) took the front of the snake to lead us on to the next trail.

MB Swindon Ladies Stinchcombe Hill ride

With a small stretch of road to navigate, we came to our café stop. A fascinating ridge of Silver Birch saplings on bare rock gave this area a unique feel; take the trees away and it could be a moonscape. The ‘café’ was a coffee machine, a mini freezer full of ice creams and an honesty box. Drinks and ice creams paid for, the Ladies settled down for the usual break and chat synonymous with Ladies rides. This soon became a bike-trying session, though, as one of our group was in the process of choosing a new bike and had a few test rides as we finished our ice creams.

We set off again through the moonscape and another small section of road, returning all-to-soon to Stinchcombe Hill and the long tarmac road that dissected the now very active Golf Course. As we returned to our cars, the low cloud still veiled the best of the views but didn’t spoil the enjoyment of a very unique area or a very social ride.

Many thanks to Jo for showing us this lovely area that many of us will be exploring again, I’m sure. Thanks too, to Jen, Sarah, Jo, Andrea, Nikki, Holly, Hazel and Amanda for joining us.