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.