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.
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.
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 .