Words & Photos by Debbie Davies
Having recce’d this ride on three occasions in beautiful weather with wonderful long distance views and wildlife abounding, it was a shame that the morning of the event itself was looking somewhat less promising. Worse still, it was threatening to get much worse.
Five ladies and myself gathered outside the cars, checking waterproofs were packed as we watched dozens of runners and walkers coming off the Ridgeway. It looked as though we had booked the same weekend as a 100k event.
We set off up the long climb from the car park with the promise of a great downhill run once the hill was conquered. The downhill stretch through a grass valley was particularly beautiful despite the sheep poo (everywhere!) with the track eventually emerging onto a quiet lane in Bishopstone.
I appear to have forgotten to mention the inevitable payback for such a nice pedal free stint – the climb back up; a road climb, not technical but which may have been misplaced from somewhere in the Alps. Eventually, having split into the ‘can and can’t pedal’ groups, we reached the Ridgeway again and continued to go towards the Uffington White Horse, via a fun little woodland stretch.
The fort ramparts were our spot for lunch as there was no cafe on this particular ride. The views as we ate were outstanding. From a distance we could see waves of rain but even at this stage the promise of grim conditions still held off and we only had to suffer the lightest of misty showers. By the time we had reached the bridle path to the gallops, the sun was even starting to make an appearance and the Skylarks didn’t disappoint. They were in fine song and soared out of the barley as we rode past; it was all rather magical.
Some brilliant fast-speed-pedalling by the Ladies got us through wheel high grass and into a flax field. The blue flowers had long gone and were replaced by leg whipping pods but we bravely pushed on … Ladies’ rides are becoming a bit hardcore it seems!!
The perimeter of the crop field was reached, only to be replaced by a steep chalky climb (thank goodness it was dry). The summit was reached by various means – mostly pushing but there were two amongst us with legs of steel who rode to the top.
The rest of the route was taking in the lovely countryside around the NT property ‘Ashdown House’, with its manicured lawns. There is a sizeable deer herd around there but they kept hidden today. As we reached the Ridgeway track again and turned towards home and the car park for the final couple of miles, the sky had changed dramatically, the overcast day being replaced by very large blue-grey clouds. It now looked as though it was a race back to the cars before we were drowned. However, we were now greeted by a large group of cyclocross racers pushing on with real intent. The place was starting to look like a motorway.
We made the final climb up the gravel trail and whizzed down the other side , all safe and still dry. Time for the promised cake! As we chatted and mingled, the dampness started to arrive. Bikes packed hastily away, kit stowed, and the cake was still out when the next group of event walkers came past, duly noting said cake. We invited them to help themselves and, once suitably fed on flapjacks, they carried on and we drove away. A hundred yards down the road, the heavens opened; someone had been very kind to us !
Many thanks to the trusting five that joined me and paid no attention to the weather forecast.