Words by Tom Scott – Photos by Gary Palmer and Richard Ford
This ride had been advertised as the Barbury Beast, with 50 miles of roots, rocks and ruts and 4,000 feet of climbing.
No-one put their name down, so I decided to devise a route which called in at the starting point at the 30 mile mark, and popped a cafe stop in the middle of the first loop. Hey presto! There were 13 of us at Barbury for the start!
We set off across the castle and down the grassy slope, and ground conditions were okay! Amazing! Then a quick blast down the gravel and a tarmac slog over to Liddington Hill kept us warm and toasty.
Up the hill, down the ruts and suddenly we were at the radio mast. I was intending on going down Snap hill on the road to try and break the Ogbourne land speed record, and come back up Earthline, but a kind soul pointed out that Earthline would be gopping and flying down a road isn’t really mountain biking, so we went down to Whiteshard Bottom instead, did the loop, then down the speedbumps descent to the road and turned left.
We all made it down Rickety Bridge without incident, then took the railway line to Marlborough where we had a cafe stop. We had a puncture (Steve) and broken mech hanger (Sean) on the way out, so we were behind schedule. For the sake of safety, we had to leave Barbury for the second loop by 2pm at the latest, and having been delayed we did not get to Marlborough until gone 12, so I reluctantly announced that the second loop was cancelled.
Everyone was disappointed, so I added a little bit extra on the way back. We did the long road climb from Marlborough and descended into Rockley, up by the church and round the block to the fun bit.
Then it was up towards 4-mile clump. When we got to the Ogbourne St Andrew turn off we went right. Gary Y, Sonny and Fordy were on their last legs and knackered by then so they went straight back. Debbie, Hazel and Sharon kindly agreed to escort them up the hill, they were so worried about the lads.
The remaining Magnificent 7 (Me, Gary P, Gary A, Ian, Sean, Steve and Nathan) then dropped down to the barn, down through Ogbourne and back up the 3 mile slog we know as Smeathe’s Ridge.
In summary, it was a great ride; good weather, fine company and the ground conditions were not too bad, all things considered. Pity we didn’t have time to do the full route, but we will be back in the summer when we have more daylight. This was a good example of a ride where there is a bit of flexibility with the route, some people can miss out a loop, or ride up, or take a short cut. In the end, everyone was happy with what they did, which is the most important thing.