Tag Archives: west woods

Goldenballs 2019

Hilda-May Latham will be leading the Goldenballs ride, using the route previously used by Richard Ford. This is an easy-paced novice friendly route along the escarpment of the Vale of Pewsey on the Marlborough Downs.

From Knap Hill we will head to Martinsell via a fun bit of single track through Gopher Woods. The route offers some of the best views in the area. We then head to West Woods  for a bit more woodland riding before heading back and enjoying the fun descent down Goldenball Hill.

The car park is a popular spot for outdoor lovers, hence the early (9.00am) start. Please share cars where possible.

Directions from Swindon

  • Take the A4361 to Avebury.
  • At the right bend in the road (after the Red Lion Pub) turn left to take the B4003
  • The B4003 comes to a T junction with the A4.  Turn left.
  • Take the next right (after about ¼ mile).  Sign posted East Kennet.
  • Drive through East Kennet and follow the road to a T junction.
  • Turn right at the T junction.
  • Follow the road for two miles.  The car park is on the left just after three houses on the right.  Be careful, it is rather difficult to see until you are right on top of it and quite easy to drive past.  If you start going down the hill into the Vale of Pewsey you have gone too far.

Tracks, Trails, Woods & Hills

Kate Davidson leads a 26-mile mixed ride starting at Barbury Castle, heading along the Ridgeway to East Kennett (stopping off for a cuppa at Avebury en route) and over towards Alton Barnes, up Knap Hill and along the Pewsey Downs, and on towards West Woods. Returning via Clatford Down, through Rockley and back up Four Mile Clump to Barbury Castle.

We’ll be riding on byways, hills, downland, through woods and the odd country road. Everybody is welcome, and no-one will be left behind, but although the terrain is not especially technical, it is a long ride, with the longest hill at the end, so please bear this in mind when gauging if this ride is suitable for you. Anyone happy to ride this distance, who can cope with hills and varied terrain, is very welcome.

The usual applies – bring anything you might need for your bike, warm clothing and waterproofs in case of rain, and a bit of food to keep you going.

Meet at Barbury Castle Car Park for a 10am start.

Photo credit Visit Wiltshire.

Trying to trace fellow rider – Mike from Swindon

We all know the risks of mountain biking and hope that we never need the assistance of a Good Samaritan, but that’s exactly what happened to local rider Michael when he was out riding with his two teenage sons. He is now trying to trace the man who helped him and his family in his hour of need.


I’m trying to trace a guy who helped me enormously after a bad fall back in March.

The accident happened in West Woods near Marlborough on 12th March which resulted in breaking my neck in 3 places.

I’m now at home after a month in hospital and hope to make a full recovery.

If you know of this chap I would really appreciate it if you can let him now and ask him to contact me via this email address.

All I have is:

  • First name is Mike.
  • Lives in Swindon
  • Occupation: plumber (I think)
  • He’s about 5′ 8″ quite stocky
  • Rides a very old reconditioned full sus.

Mike initially raised the alarm and stayed with me for hours whilst the emergency services got to me.

He also drove my two teenage sons who were with me back home.

Without his calm practical help, things might have turned out very differently for me, so I am very keen to contact him and pass on my immense thanks.

Hope you can help.

Kind regards


If you have information about who Mike is, or if you are Mike, please get in touch with us at info@mbswindon.co.uk and we will pass the details on to Michael.

Ride Report: Frozen Bronze Age Epic

Words and photos by Phil Allum

Forrest Gump once said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what y’all gunna get”.

The same is true for the weather. The last time we rode this route it was very wet and boggy, and with most of the route being on grass, it was hard going. By the end it felt like we had travelled twice the distance.

This time though, the weather was near on perfect; sub zero overnight temperatures and then clear blue skies meant it was a cold start, but a very pretty one. The temperature was forecast to climb very little, barely above freezing all day, so multiple layering was required. At the Silbury Hill start point, I was greeted by 9 hardy folk who had braved the freezing conditions in the expectation of a good bike ride. Best not let them down, then.

Not wanting anyone to get cold, we promptly set off on the climb up to the Wansdyke. There’s not much of a warm up here; a 2 minute spin on tarmac, then its uphill on a byway, breaking the ice on the puddles as you go. It was within this first mile or so that we had our first mechanical. Phil Lawson’s rear mech and wheel had a coming together with catastrophic consequences. No amount of bodgery was going to get that back in shape.

With Phil returning for an early bath, we continued on, picking up the Wansdyke and tracing a line eastwards. All along this section of the Wansdyke you are blessed with glorious views all around, Avebury to the north and the Vale of Pewsey to the south. If you’ve been there before, you know what a gem it is. But you should go again when it’s all covered with a layer of frost, it’s pretty special.

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We dodged rabbit holes along the Wansdyke all the way to Milk Hill, where we turned off down a byway to climb what we now call ‘Pointless Hill’: there is a perfectly good bridleway that takes you around the side of the hill, but I had opted to take us up and over the hill instead. Someone mentioned that it seemed a bit, well, pointless. Hence the new name.

We carried along past Gopher woods. Knowing what a bogfest it is at the best of times, we decided to go around rather than cutting through the middle. From there it was a climb up and along to Martinsell fort, to have the mandatory sit down on the bench to admire the views.

A bit of 4X action on the grassy descent and then a short tarmac spin brought us to the southern edge of West woods. Here Gary Duller opted to cut the ride short. Nobody would blame him as he and his brother Mike rode to the start point from Swindon, so had done the thick end of 20 miles before the ride officially started and with nearly the same again to get him back home!

On to West woods, and sometimes a little local knowledge goes a long way. All the routes that I know through West woods are verging on the impassable in the winter for all but the most dedicated of bog snorkellers. The intended route through West woods today was going to stay on the hardpack track that skirts around the edge of the woods. But after a quick chat with local lad Ollie, who knows the place like the back of his hand, we were soon being shown some great all-weather singletrack which nobody else knew about. Nice one! Have to try and remember that one.

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With legs getting tired and time getting on, it was decided to miss out on the loop through the Sarsen stones at Fyfield downs and instead we took a more direct route back along a mixture of bridleways and quiet country roads through Lockeridge back to Silbury hill. But it wasn’t over just yet, there were still a couple of mechanicals to come; I snapped my chain and Clive ripped a hole in his rear tyre. Here we found out that a can of tyre repair sealant doesn’t seal a rip, but instead will do its best snow-machine impression, much to our entertainment.

Big thanks to everyone who turned up for the Frozen Bronze age epic, I hope you thawed out quickly! We’re looking to run this route again in the spring or summer, probably with a pub stop in the middle. Keep your eyes peeled for details coming soon.

Ride Report: Goldenballs 2

Words and Photos by Richard Ford

Despite the the weather forecast the night before being for fog, I woke to brilliant sunshine.  Leaving a sleepy Swindon behind I drove past an army of joggers in Wroughton and then on to the ride start point in the Vale of Pewsey.  Despite arriving 30 minutes before the ride, Tony was there waiting for me.  As we chatted, more riders arrived, including eight that had taken Graham’s offer to ride from Swindon to the start of the ride (nutters).  Eventually 20 riders arrived.  I was delighted that our numbers included six ladies (proving that the novice rides are for all, not just the boys).

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We set off by taking the climb up Goldenball Hill (hence the name of the ride) to the gate.  I puffed up the hill with Steve chatting to me about how wonderful the scenery was.  Steve rode ahead to open the gate three quarters of the way up.  The hill steepens markedly at this point.  I chose to push up the rest of the hill.  A lot of riders put me to shame by riding up.

After stopping to let everybody regroup and get their breath back, we headed along the escarpment to Gopher Woods.  At this point Gary managed to prove my warning about the tyre cutting properties of flint by having a puncture.

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The singletrack through Gopher Woods was possibly the highlight of last years ride on this route.  Unfortunately this year it was a lot muddier.  This meant that in places you had to pick your line to avoid getting bogged down.  Most of the riders managed to do this successfully with some having to dab a foot in places.

At the bottom of Gopher Woods we waited while puncture number two was fixed.  This was followed by a short climb that was rewarded by a descent down a farm track to the road at the top of Oare Hill.  Everybody safely over the busy road we climbed up to our next bit of singletrack along the surprisingly dry Mud Lane.  I always enjoy riding this section of this route because its possible to get a bit of speed and flow along the trail.

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Mud Lane ends at Martinsell hill.  I got a few groans when I asked the group to ride to the top.  I think I made good on my promise that it would be worth it.  Martinsell has one of the best views in Wiltshire. We stopped for a breather whilst taking in the view.  Spirits raised I then gave the group the next bit of good news.  We were riding all of the way down the hill.  At the bottom of the hill I was met by a lot of smiling faces and folks asking if we could ride it again.  Phil was so keen to do it again he abandoned his drink half way down.  Hazel very kindly rode back up to retrieve it for him.

The next part of the ride involved a bit of road riding through Clench Common to West Woods.

The riding in West Woods can be fantastic, but it also can get very boggy.  On my recce ride I had to abandon part of my original route as it was unrideable.  This meant that I had to take a slightly different route through the Woods to the one that I know best.  Thankfully I managed to remember the route to the track that leads to the downhill runs in the woods along some muddy in places tracks. During our journey through the woods we paused to repair the third and final puncture of the ride.

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Last year I had to virtually drag some of the riders from the downhill runs.  This year’s group were not interested in such silliness preferring to head on back.  We started our return journey by riding a stony bridleway descent that most of the riders enjoyed.  Although Chung looked a bit shell-shocked at the end of it.  We rode out of the woods to a track that last year was christened nettle alley.  This year thankfully there were no nettles to be found.  This led back to the bottom of Gopher Woods and the final climb of the ride.  A draggy grass climb up the side of the woods that is surprisingly hard on the legs.  Most of our number made it up the climb to be greeted by the site of a couple of paragliders flying over Goldenball Hill.

We then rode back along the ridge line to descend down the first climb.  Based on the grins on the riders at the end I think everybody enjoyed this part of the ride.  Kat then topped off the ride by offering everybody some yummy homemade apple cake.

I’d like to thank Hazel for being such an excellent tail gunner on the ride and eveybody for being such great company.

Wiltshire Woods & Skyline Epic 2014

Note: This event has been changed from June 1st to June 15th.

Warning: This is a very long ride, participants should have a very good level of fitness and stamina to cover the distance and climbing. If you can comfortably ride a hilly 50km (30 miles) off road route then you should be able to stretch to this.

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Andrew Weaver is leading a repeat of last year’s epic summer ride. Starting at Barbury Castle, we head to Rockley, followed by Clatford Down gallops and then Clatford, over the road and into the West Woods. In the West Woods there will be chance to hoon about a bit.

Once playtime is over well head back out of the woods to Martinsell Hill fort; there are some spectacular views from the fort. Then we go west through the woods at Oare Hill and onto the Mid Wilts Way, and up and over Knap Hill.

Crossing the road we join up with the ancient Wansdyke path, then it is all the way along the Wansdyke to Morgan’s Hill. There are spectacular views all along the Wansdyke path. From Morgan’s Hill we go to Cherhill, climb the back of Cherhill and scoot down the other side. Phew, that’s the first 45km (28 miles) and 800m (2600ft) of the climbing done. Time for well earned coffee & cake at Divine Café.

Once refreshed we’ll head back via the villages of Compton Basset, Yatesbury & Winterbourne Monkton. We’ll follow a little used bridleway back up to the Ridgeway. Then it’s a quick blast back along the Ridgeway to Barbury.

Weather permitting this promises to be an epic ride that takes in the West Woods, Oare woods and has some of the most spectacular views in the country.

Read a report of last year’s ride here.

Barbury Castle Car Park – https://maps.google.co.uk/?ll=51.483464,-1.77617&spn=0.002756,0.006968&t=h&z=18

Ride Report: Return of the Bronze Age Epic

Words and Photos by Phil Allum

Return of the Bronze Age Epic

Back in February we rode this route in freezing conditions, with rock solid frozen ground. In the summer, Richard Ford took us around parts of it in lovely warm, sunny conditions. With the lack of rain, the ground had been baked hard by the sun. But today, a mild November day, it would be different. This time the ground would be soft…

People arrived not only by car, but cycling as well. Nick & Shaun from Calne, Andrew from Chippenham and Allan from Swindon. I felt a bit lazy, sitting in the car drinking coffee with the radio on. By 10 am we had 12 riders in total; great turnout.
As the 11 other riders readied themselves, I could hear chatter about mud tyres, mud guards, waterproofs, snorkels and the like. ‘Yes,’ I replied to most, ‘there’s a chance of some mud’. This was evident as soon as we set off. The bridleway from Silbury Hill to Avebury was a gloopy mess. This would be Fun! We took the chalky climb eastwards out of Avebury, crossing the Ridgeway and past the Sarsen stones. This proved a good warm up and soon layers were coming off.
Going around the gallops at Clatford Downs we were soon on a narrow muddy descent to Clatford Bottom. It’s flatter at the top with a few turns, but it gets steeper and straighter further on. Even in the mud, the speed was soon building. I could hear the whoops of laughter behind me, then all too soon it was time to slow down as we approached the A4.

Return of the Bronze Age Epic

Crossing the A4, we took a minor road towards Lockeridge, whereupon turning up the bridleway that would take us into West Woods, Jamie snapped his chain. With this fixed in double quick time, we continued into West Woods, where Malcolm had a stick flick up and, with a nasty metallic crunch, pull his rear mech into his back wheel. The mech was totalled, with one side of the cage snapping off. He managed to straighten it enough that pedalling was possible and decided he would limp it back to the car on the roads. We were now down to 11.

West Woods was a bit damp. OK – it was a bog-fest! The key to success was not stopping. If you could build the speed up, it was all about drifting through the slop. Too slow and you would get bogged down and sink, making it twice as hard to move. This was probably the hardest half mile of the day. Riders emerged from the forest with mud hanging off every conceivable place.
All were relieved at the sight of a bit of road, with the chance to shed some of the mud. With the whirl of knobblies on tarmac, mud flying in all directions, we were soon at the car park by Matinsell Hill. I had promised ‘some of the best views in Wiltshire’ but as we gazed up at where the Hill should be, all we could see was mist and fog. Oh dear! We soon started climbing, this hill being the hardest climb of the day, with most managing to conquer it. A stop at the infamous Matinsell Hill bench for lunch, minus the view, allowed Andrew the time to fix his puncture.
bronze1Heading along Oare Hill (another snapped chain here and Graham having a few technical dismounts) to Huish Hill, a previously unnoticed bomb hole was spotted and the next 5 minutes were taken up playing in it. It was a bit overgrown, as these things tend to be. Jamie Flanagan was awarded top marks for ‘most ridiculously unrideable line’.
Into Gopher Wood, which was as dry and dusty as West Woods, and out along the ridge line past Golden Ball Hill and down to Knap Hill. From here, tired legs climbed us up onto the Wansdyke and we turned and headed west. The fog now completely gone, we had great views of the Vale of Pewsey to our left, the Marlborough Downs to the right, and you could just make out Cherhill monument way ahead in the distance.
As we traced the Wansdyke, tiredness was setting in for some, but luckily we were at the top of the last hill and it was all downhill from there. Not that anyone believed me, as I had been saying this all day! A rutted byway dropped us into Beckhampton and all that was left was 200 metres of tarmac to carry us back to the car park at Silbury Hill.
Another great day out with great company. It was a hard 23 miles, but worth the effort.
As we’ve covered most of this route in Winter, Summer and now Autumn, maybe we should have a revisit in the spring? 

View the route: OS Map  or  GPX – right-click and select “Save As” to save to your computer

Ride report: Martinsell 1st September 2103

A Ride Less Ordinary
Words by Tim Norris (from his blog) / Photos by Daniel Smee and Kristian Price


It was supposed to be a Novice Friendly ride. Richard Ford was leading his first ride for the club and was concerned that he wasn’t going to deliver something that people would enjoy. The ride went via West Woods; this was going to be a ride people would remember!

The mysterious location somewhere along the Wansdyke, known as Knap Hill, had been the cause of some discussion on the run up to the ride – one person seemed to think it was a two and a half hour drive from Swindon! The stigma of getting lost, being the last one there and keeping everyone waiting meant that a few were cautiously early. None more so than myself, though – I had polled Facebook earlier in the week for estimates as to how long it would take me to ride the 12 miles to the start point, and got answers ranging from 45 mins to 2 hours! I arrived with 40 mins to faff about and 20 mins ahead of the next people, Nigel and Rafe.

By the time Richard arrived, the riders had gathered in their masses! MB Swindon Novice Friendly rides unsurprisingly attract new riders and this was no exception, with 4 first timers by my recollection out of a total of 26 for the ride. Eventually we all set off east toward Golden Ball Hill.

The pace was pretty good and the first bit of fun started as we descended towards Gopher Wood. The sudden braking as we all got a bit carried away and nearly missed the turning was the source of some amusement and the singletrack through Gopher Wood itself was so good some of us used the misfortune of someone’s puncture to ride back and have another go!

The scenery along the Mid Wilts Way can be breathtaking and we had perfect weather that gave us some blue sky but not too much sun. However, within a few minutes of the ride some riders were removing layers as the short climbs and grassy tracks helped to warm us up. My rule of thumb is that if I’m a warm in the car park then I have too many layers on; better to feel the breeze and be a little cooler in my experience. Once you start pedalling the body generates its own heat.

martinsell3kpThe ride continued on through some more singletrack past Oare Hill and onto Martinsell. We stopped for a breather, trail snacks and to take in the 270 degree view from the edge of the hill fort.

A grassy descent down to the road from the fort dropped us around 60 metres and we all enjoyed racing down the hill. The race continued for some along the road to Clench Common and then we got into single file and hit the short stretch of road before heading into West Woods.

It didn’t take long for the laughter to start. No sooner were we in the woods than we came upon an obstacle that caused a bit of a hold up. It was nothing serious, just a branch across a narrow bit of the track. Just the other side were some ruts and low hanging branches. It really wasn’t anything that required a mass of skill but it caught a few out and even “the housewives’ favourite” and king of the Novice Rides had a little sit down in the bushes! Proof that inconspicuous trail obstacles can unbalance a rider with years of experience.

martinsell4dsAnyway, we were now in the West Woods and it was play time. The short down hill runs here are great fun, and there was something for everyone. A bunch of us rode down a few, some slower than others and a few decided to watch from a safe distance as this little diversion was a little more than they bargained for on this ride. Unfortunately – and I will take some of the blame – the little party lasted longer than it should have and at one point we were being hunted down by some of the more sensible members of the group and told it was time to leave. This wasn’t before Phil Allum went over “the big wooden jump” – check the video evidence (though it was a lot more scary than the GoPro recorded.)

One final bit of fun in the woods resulted in a puncture or two as we rode fast and straight down a particularly loose bridle path – pinch flats on the large loose rocks was the only explanation we came up with.

This brought about the end of the fun and it was truly undone by the nettles. We rode a long the edge of the forest back to Gopher Wood through and endless trail of nettles and brambles. Those who had removed long sleeves and coats earlier on the ride wished they had kept them on as we battled stinging undergrowth that was right up to the arms and even the shoulders of most of the riders. A frantic hunt for dock leaves and thorough rubbing session followed for those that had been stung worst or had particular reactions to the toxins.

martinsell7ds martinsell9dsStill tingling and with many tiring from what had been quite an adventurous and eventful Novice ride, we made our way back to the start point and car park at Knap Hill. A few of us made the short steep climb up Knap Hill itself to provide us with a blast down to the car park and one unfortunate rider got another puncture at the gate at near Knap Hill and had to push the last few hundred meters to the cars.

It was a long ride, considering the distance was only 12 miles or so. But a group of 26, including a few big kids, can be tough to manage and keep on track. Richard did a great job and with the help of Tom Scott’s whistle we all stayed together and arrived safely back at the car park. Richard Ford will lead another ride one day, as this was a resounding success: we found some new singletrack, many were introduced to the wonders of the West Woods, but most of all and above all else, he will do it again because, “No one died…”

 View the route: OS Map    GPX – right-click and select “Save As” to save to your computer

You can read more of Tim’s MTB adventures here.

Ride Report: West Woods 18th August 2013

Words by Neal Middlemore, pictures by Phil Loebl & Andrew Weaver

The date: 18th August 2013
The time: 09:00
The route: Croft Trail > Marlborough > West Woods > Avebury > Croft Trail


We left Croft at about 09:15, so just a minimum of faffing; we may well have broken Tim’s formula! We had twelve riders with bucket loads of experience and a sky that was not quite raining.

Andrew Weaver, the ride leader, had just come back from a couple of weeks in Cyprus and hadn’t turned a pedal for three weeks, so he took us straight up Ladder Lane! An easy enough climb if you’ve warmed up but I was certainly feeling it by the time I got to the tricky bit at the top, and I joined a few others pushing up the last bit.

We then did some road and bridleways (we went past the spot where my freehub seized on the Prospect marking out ride!) and eventually picked up the old train track to Marlborough. On the way we had passed several pairs of horses doing some kind of event. One took a serious dislike to my luminous green top and skittered right across the track about a foot from me. The rider did really well to stay on!


Considering we had twelve riders we managed a really good pace, not only along this section of cycle path, but for most of the ride.

From Marlborough we dropped down to West Woods and we hauled ourselves up most of the climb until we got to a suitable spot for a ten minute break, the same spot that we stopped at on Andrew’s previous epic ride. Andrew made the same offer of, ‘Hey, you can go and hoon around a bit on the down hill sections if you like,’ and got the same response… zero takers!

We had almost made it out of the West Woods when Andrew turned off and went back in, down a bit, up a bit, don’t forget to take the left turn… Oops! Ten of us made it to the exit point and waited for the last two. Andrew went back in and with the marvels of modern technology managed to repatriate the remaining two riders. I felt that is was slightly wrong that I could get a better phone signal in West Woods than I can in my own house!


Out of the West Woods and through West Overton, we cut up the start of the Ridgeway and then off down some bridleways to Avebury where we hit the café. Some Ginger Beer, a Cappuccino and lovely piece of sticky Ginger cake for me – very nice. We loitered at the café for about 20 minutes or so and then headed off.

We headed along cycle paths and bridleways and headed north. We had an encounter with some electric fencing and Leon manned up and reconnected the electrical connection! We also came across some cows with big horns – some of them looking a bit feisty! (The fella in the red top was very nervous at this point!)


We hit the road in Wroughton at Clouts Wood and I think everyone enjoyed the roll down in to Wroughton. We cut through the back of Wroughton and came out near the Check Inn. A short bit of road later and we were back at Croft.
We were really lucky with the weather; it rained for about 5 minutes while we were at Avebury but we had sunshine for pretty much the rest of the ride.
Another cracking Andrew Weaver Epic! Time to start planning the next one!


OS Map of the route. GPX File of route, right-click and select “Save As” to save to your computer.

Ride report: Bertie Maffoons shop ride Wed 1st Aug 2012

Mid Wilts Way near Pewsey in Wiltshire.

This was a ride lead by Sean from Bertie Maffoons bike shop in Marlborough.

Sean lead us off down lanes past Clatford and into West Woods. Inside conditions were a bit damp and several paths had grown over due to lack of use over the wet summer.

The route sneakily worked onto the Wansdyke path where we were rewarded with some great evening views South towards Salisbury plain.

I had been in a real “can’t be arsed” mood before the start of this ride. Seeing Salisbury plain across the valley under a setting sun made me think what a wasted opportunity it would have been sat inside at home.

Evening view from Martinsell hill fort in Wiltshire.

We followed the West Wilts way up to Martinsell Hill fort. The descent from this was great in the dusk. It was only when I looked at the map at home that I realised that we’d ridden up this on Robin’s epic ride (photo).

Because of the conditions then a road link was used in place of the obvious bridleway to Savernake. We then followed an intricate set of narrow paths around Savernake before taking the descent back to Marlborough.

Photos from the May 2012 Bertie Maffoons ride.