Our first proper ride of 2012 and what a great turnout! There were over 20 of us, some very regular attendees, some less so. There were also a good number of new faces seeing what we’re about. Great to see all of them.
After the usual banter and getting ready (including waiting for Andrew W to fix the first of many punctures), we set off from Barbury Castle a bit later than planned but not too shabby. Within a mere minute we had mud on our tyres which was to be the theme of the day.
We dropped off the hill via the “not Smeathes Ridge” route, past the shooting school and down towards the Marlborough-Swindon road. The only way from there is up the big tarmac climb to the masts which isn’t much fun but does get the job done. Unfortunately I got the second puncture of the day halfway up and decided it’d be quicker (perhaps foolishly) to walk the remainder and deal with at the top.
After the climb, the trail quickly got very wet as well as muddy. Chris H kept telling me how good his overshoes were at keeping his feet dry and warm, annoyingly I’d left mine at home so they weren’t doing such a great job. At Bytham Farm, the farmer had run a pipe across the track with metal vehicle ramps protecting it, which of course most people thought made a good impromptu jump.
The last 20m or so of that particular track splits: One way is very deep, wet and had barbed wire in it, the other is just a bit muddy. Tom S went the more difficult way and most people followed him! People were having to get off and push their bike through the deep water while they walked along the bank. Fortunately the next “challenge” (where the entire track gets flooded) wasn’t as bad as expected and everyone got through okay.
And then the puncture fiasco started! First Chris H fixed a puncture only to realise, as he put the wheel back on, he’d actually got two in the same tyre, then a couple of other people realised their tyres had gone flat whilst waiting and finally Chris’ back tyre decided to start hissing…
By the time we’d dropped down “Rickety Bridge” and climbed the other side, a number of people had realised that whilst they started the day with great intention, they were now feeling the excesses of Christmas. Some were also starting to feel the cold so we split the group, I took some people straight back to the cars via Four Mile Clump whilst Tom took the rest on a slightly longer route.
From the feedback that Tom and I received it seems the ride was enjoyed by everyone despite the mud & cold. It also showed that whilst not hugely challenging technically, the downs still provide some good riding and a good day out.
Hope to see you all again!
Approximate route here.