It’s no secret that Savernake Forest is one of my favourite places – having grown up nearby, I’ve spent over 40 years exploring it and watching it change through the seasons. It never loses its magic, no matter how often I ride there – and curiously enough, despite my familiarity with it, I am forever finding new trails so can create an almost endless combination of rides. This particular Saturday morning was shaping up to be an absolute gem – bright sunshine early on was sure to lead to a baking hot day later, and I was glad I slapped on the suncream.
If part of the fun of riding in Savernake is the opportunity to enjoy the forest trails with friends from the club, it’s even better introducing new members to it and this weekend, we had two new ladies, Katie and Jannette – and even welcomed a gravel bike rider, Darren! How’s that for inclusive? Twenty of us set off from the campsite car park and snaked our way towards the first bit of singletrack, a fine, swooping run downhill that puts a huge smile on your face.
Leading such a large group can sometimes be a challenge – with a variety of paces to cater for, and twisty trails to contend with, it’s easy to get temporarily split up. After a few minutes’ wait, we all re-grouped and mulled over the possibility of not only having a back marker, but a mid-marker too! Back markers do such an important job – while I’m up front trying to remember where to go, they make sure no-one is left behind or stranded – and David was helpfully shepherding everyone along. One of the things I love about our rides is hearing the chatter and laughter of the riders behind me – it’s such a cheerful sound and affirms that everyone is having a great time. New riders are made to feel welcome, and old friends are busy catching up. There’s a great mix of trails in the forest – from flowing woodland singletrack, to grassy rides, to long tarmac tracks – with the odd hill thrown in.
Emerging from the forest, we made our way through Durley and on towards the top of the Bruce Tunnel, a canal tunnel carrying the Kennet & Avon canal through about ¾ miles of hillside. Dropping down onto the towpath we rode on to one of our most popular café stops at Crofton Beam Engines. By this time, it was well into the high seventies and the opportunity for a bit of lounging about and sunbathing was welcome. I think some of us (Trudy!) even sneaked a cold cider! It’s not every day you get to eat your lunch in the shadow of a Grade I listed historic building – these are the oldest working beam engines in the world, and it’s a lovely spot to sit outside and marvel at the Victorian engineering.
Heading up through Crofton Farm and back into the forest we cane upon the one patch of mud on the entire ride, and happily, Gary A’s swanky new carbon Whyte got its first christening! Poor Adrian later came a bit of a cropper on a fiendishly low bar at the bottom of a fast track, and went over the bars of his fabulous YT – after a bit of a sit down, we checked he was all in one piece (and so was the bike) and we headed back towards the campsite.
The forest rides well at any time of year but there’s no denying it has a special magic in the height of summer, when all the greenery is at its most abundant, there are deer around every corner and squirrels racing about in front of you. MBS’s forest rides are always popular, and on a day like this, it was easy to see why.