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Tuesday group ride reports

The most recent reports are closest to the top of the page.


27 September 2016

Undergrowth and punctures around Cuxham

We assembled at the Half Moon in Cuxham and set off at 10.00 having given the pub our lunch orders. Those riding were Russ, Iain, Paul G, Joe, John B, Ralph, Les, Dave N, Robert, Frank and myself.

The first fairly gentle bridleway ended on the outskirts of Pyrton; a quiet road to the top of Clare Hill led to the second bridleway which was about 2m long ending at Little Haseley. (On my first recce I was told by a horse rider that my timing was lucky because it had recently been cleared; I had the impression that it was usually overgrown). Ralph was caught out by a rut and had a low speed tumble damaging nothing more than his ego. At the end of the second bridleway we repaired puncture 1. A little delayed, we passed Haseley Court:

Nancy Lancaster's last home was Haseley Court in Oxfordshire which she saved from ruin in the early Fifties. It had been used as a POW camp and a Canadian field hospital and the early 18th-century house was on its last legs. So was the garden, although the topiary chess set, laid out in a sunken garden on the east side of the house, had miraculously survived thanks to an old man who bicycled over from the neighbouring village each year to clip what he called "his kings and queens". Over 30 years, Mrs Lancaster regenerated the house and superb 10-acre garden. She died in 1994 after a lifetime of decorating (she was an early partner in the firm of Colefax & Fowler), entertaining, rescuing crumbling houses and garden making. Her design messages were not always clear "Paint it the colour of elephant's breath" she once instructed a bemused decorator.

Our third, rather overgrown, bridleway started less than a mile from Little Haseley and led us to Great Haseley where we noted some fine old houses. Going east to Latchford we joined our fourth and least maintained bridleway and we repaired puncture 2. A little more delayed and undaunted by nettles and a field ploughed to the edge we continued and... repaired puncture 3. Somewhat delayed, we continued and completed the fourth bridleway and ... repaired puncture 4.

After a couple of miles of quiet roads and much delayed we regrouped at the top of Clare Hill and I decided that we should retrace our outbound path rather than attempt the planned route.

The pub squeezed us onto a barely adequate table but otherwise proved excellent. I think everyone enjoyed their pizzas, pastas and ciabatta sandwiches.

We will try again one day if I can find the slot between excess vegetation and excess muddiness. Incidentally, on his return home, Iain found he had another puncture.



6 September 2016

On and off road around Whipsnade

Eleven people: Les, Joe, Eric (new to the group), Steve H, Keith, Iain, Michael, Steve, Pauline, Andrew and myself, gathered at the Valiant Trooper, Aldbury, ready for the off at 10:00 hrs.

Having ordered our lunch we set off and were quickly onto the Grand Union towpath heading for Marsworth. We carried on past Marsworth and left the canal just before it passes under the West Coast main line and then took to roads through Pitstone to Ivinghoe. From Ivinghoe we passed along the long bridleway leading to the prominent church on a hill at Edlesborough. It was all good going and very pleasant cycling.

It was then back to quiet roads leading to the ford near Edlesborough Mills and then up the steep hill leading to Whipsnade. Quite a pull this but at least it was on road! Just before the top we turned onto the bridleway running along the south western part of Dunstable Downs and then turned onto the bridleway leading to Whipsnade village. From Whipsnade we passed along the side of the Animal Park (where we saw a solitary Bactrian camel. The Bactrian camel, Camelus bactrianus, is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia) and then along the bridleway leading to Studham.

A short bit of road followed and then it was a matter of a somewhat slippery and muddy descent to the Hemel Hempstead road and up the other side to Hudnall. Andrew unfortunately landed in the mud at the top of the climb but was fortunately unhurt. From Hudnall it was across the Ashridge estate by road and bridleway back the Valiant Trooper having completed 22.5 miles and some 1400 ft. of ascent.

The Valiant Trooper quickly served our lunches and the beer and drinks were up to their normal high standard. I think everyone enjoyed the ride, including Eric who expressed an interest coming on further rides. Please could future ride leaders make sure he gets details of their rides, thanks.

Thanks for coming on the ride.


Previous ride reports.
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August 2016

30 August 2016

Lanes and bridleways north of Reading

Eleven people gathered at the Rising Sun, Witheridge Hill, on a lovely late Summer's day. The eleven were Leslie, Joe, Dave M-H, Les, Anne, Keith, Dave N, Jim, Andrew, Ralph and myself.

We set off on time and just as we had entered the first off road section Dave N's bike suffered a catastrophic failure – a sheared hanger bolt and bent hanger on the rear mech, leading to a broken chain. After commiserations we set off again leaving Dave to make his way back to the nearby Rising Sun. The route took us by Dog, Kings Farm and Bones Lanes to Binfield Heath and then by Tagg, Sandpit and Row Lanes to Littlestead Green. All was going very well until your leader noticed he had a puncture in his rear tyre.

This was quickly sorted out – thanks for the help – and we set off again across the golf course at Chazey Heath, through Chazey Wood and down towards New Farm, Mapledurham. At the grain store we turned right and tackled the climb up to Lilley Farm from where we made our way by country lane and bridleway to Nunney Green. Here your leader again ground to a halt as he had picked up a further puncture this time in the front wheel. This was quickly fixed and we set off again on the last long section of off road leading past Whitewood Heath and Wyfold Grange and through Bear Wood to The Rising Sun.

We got back a little late after the failure of Dave's bike and your leader's double puncture but the sun was out and the food and drink arrived pretty quickly and everyone enjoyed the after ride chat. My thanks to Dave M-H for acting as back marker and thanks to all those who assisted in sorting out my two puncture incidents.

And finally thanks for coming.


23 August 2016

Off-road in the sun around the Bledlow Ridge

Eleven riders set off from The Wheatsheaf at Oakley on this very warm (reaching 30°C) day. They were: Pat, Joe, Dave M-H, Iain, Jim W, Andrew, Paul, Les, Russ, Ralph and myself.

We set off north and then east skirting Chinnor, on to Emmington then onto a reasonable farm track, through Henton and then slightly uphill and across the B4009. Up to Bledlow Great Wood via Wain Hill and a steep climb of steps that a few managed to cycle up apparently! A fast downhill with slightly unnerving loose stones and gravel, was followed by some further cross country, the leader at several points having to check the route (memory of the recce fading a little bit).

A long off-road climb to Rout's Hill was managed by most, but a few of us decided to enjoy the woodland and take a more leisurely pace by foot for some of the way (OK, it was a bit steep for us!). Two miles on road took us to the next downhill through Sunley Wood. This was about two miles long, which was quickly steep and narrow, then flattened out to an undulating, further shaded track. Having managed to make no route mistakes in the sometimes confusing off-road environment, the leader took a simple wrong turn on the road at Radnage, but no harm done, it just added a bit of extra road to cover.

Then followed something like four miles of off-road track, starting with views of open fields on the flat, then progressing to a steady rideable uphill, into woods. From Aston Wood there were good views and a downhill to Aston Rowant via the Ridgeway, then about two and a half miles of track which was flat overall, but had many short dips and rises, which nearly caught out some of the riders.

We arrived back at the Wheatsheaf slightly before the scheduled time, after no punctures and no incidents. The track surfaces were all in reasonable condition, the mud had all dried out, the only big puddle was avoidable, and the only really bumpy bit (those with hardtails might think differently) was on the section on the Ridgeway. Long may the summer and no wet mud last!

We found some shade in the garden, and the food was served reasonably promptly (given we were early), and the pasta seemed to get a special recommendation. Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride (slightly extended to about 20 miles), so thanks to all those who joined me (and Pat who I think was keeping an eye open at the back for me).



16 August 2016

On road around Thame

7 riders joined me for an onroad ride from The Leathern Bottle at Lewknor: Joe, Pat, Jim C, Brian, Les, Russell and Ralph. The weather was warm with just a slight breeze, perfect for a ride and the Landlady had left out the menus and paper for us to order before departure as promised.

Our route took us in a clockwise direction first to South Weston, then Adwell, Chalgrove, Little and Great Haseley, Milton Common, Tiddington, Ickford and Shabbington, then on to Long Crendon where most of us made it up the hill, some even without getting out of the saddle. At the top we rested to admire the magnificent Manor House, then on to Thame where the market was in full swing.

Riding through Thame, then on to Emmington, Sydenham and Postcombe, then back to Lewknor arriving at 12.30. 30 miles in all with an average speed of 13 mph, no punctures and no accidents.

Food was served on time and seemed fine. Pat bought the drinks to celebrate his birthday.

Thanks for joining me.
Dave MH.


9 August 2016

Back on the bridleways in the North Chilterns

I was pleased to be joined by 14 other riders at The Red Lion in Great Offley on a sunny August morning: Andrew, Iain, Jim, Joe, John, Keith, Leslie, Michael, Pat, Paul, Pauline, Robert, Russell and Steve. When I arrived I met the landlord on his mountain bike and we were able to pre-order lunch and use the facilities.

Despite problems on the M1 we were able to set off from the pub around 10:00am as usual and headed off on road into Great Offley. Once we had crossed over the A505 we turned onto a bridleway and from here we had a mixture of surfaces along fields, gravel tracks and grass fields until we got to the road at Lilley. We had a brief stop here while Joe fixed a puncture and then set off on the John Bunyan Trail towards Luton. After a sharp left turn we lost a few riders who had stopped as Robert took a tumble on the rough track.

Once we were all back together we set off on the excellent Icknield Way Path. As we approached the road from Lilley we saw a white Mercedes and as we had to stop to lift our bikes over the entrance we noticed that there were 2 people in the driver's seat! Not wanting to be observed 'inflagranti' they quickly sped off up the road. We continued along the Icknield Way and then the Chiltern Way to the pretty village of Pirton where we picked up another well surfaced bridleway.

After another short section of Icknield Way we cycled through Oughtonhead Common nature reserve – fortunately Robert was able to open the gate despite the large chain and padlock! After another bridleway we picked up Wibbly Wobbly Lane (sadly renamed Carters Way) and once across the busy A505 we headed up the steep byway avoiding all the rubbish that had been dumped. When we met the bridleway we puffed off up the long hill back to the Red Lion, where we arrived at 13:05. Drinks and lunch were quickly served in the garden.

Thanks to all who joined me and to Iain for providing the excellent route.


2 August 2016

In the rain in August around Knowl Hill

Keith, Iain, Robert, Jim W, Jim C, Dave, David N, Les, Russell, Joe, Michael, Pat, John B, Paul and ourselves made 16 intrepid riders who turned up at the Royal Oak, Knowl Hill, on a miserable rainy August day that had been raining nearly all night. However we were promised that the rain would be gone through by 11am.

Shortly after the start Les was making lots of grinding noises and that was just her bike, and not having much luck at getting it to settle down. Further inspection showed that the free wheel was exactly that! More free than wheel! So she turned back threatening to rejoin us for lunch. Now we were fifteen. Maybe Les knew the rain that was promised to clear through had no thought of behaving itself and gradually got worse and quite heavy at times.

We set off from The Royal Oak heading to Littlewick and Burchetts Greens, onto Warren Row and Bowsey Hill – the only real up on the ride and on tarmac! We then made a detour to visit the picturesque town of Wargrave, onto Ruscombe, then Waltham St. Lawrence and Shottesbrooke making our way back to Knowl Hill about 20 miles later!

The pub food was served in a timely manner and was well received by everyone and at a reasonable cost. Our host capped off the visit with a broad smile as we left!

Thanks to everyone who joined us and for marking the route well, making the leaders' job easier. Only two punctures to report with no involuntary dismounts on a particularly damp day.

Steve & Pauline.

July 2016

26 July 2016

To the north around Stowe and Silverstone

Today's ride attracted 14 riders who made the trip up to Buckingham: Jim W, Andrew, Steve, Paul, Pat, Graham, Russ, John, David N, Michael F, Les, Robert, me and the welcome return of Joe after his injury.

Food list completed and wedged in the door of the pub we set off up the incline towards Stowe and the Massive Corinthian Arch ( there is a 4 story house within each side) and round the corner to a loo stop in the visitors centre. Then it was on with the Ride Proper. Soft surfaced bridleway, grass, gravel track and tarmac took us round the east side of Stowe grounds, with a few short stops to have a look at some of the many historical/decorative structures that are found throughout the grounds. We then turned due east on a hard surfaced track, bypassing the Obelisk, for about a mile and then turning north through a small garden gate we were heading for Silverstone.

Undulating through the woods, walking round the real boggy/muddy bit and over the small trees and soon we were out on a broad gravel track. Not for long, into the long grass again and up the east side of Silverstone Circuit (someone has cut down the brambles and nettles since my recce last week) and eventually, after about 5.5 miles of bridleway and 4 gates, we were heading down through Silverstone Village. Eventually onto a concrete bridleway right up to Blackmire's Farm and then onto the rather bumpy fields, with more gates, bypassing some mud but then through rutted mud, big ruts, where Graham managed to get crossed up on the ruts and went down but no harm done.

Onwards to Wappenham Lodge Farm and out to the road. 5 more gates. An easy coast along the road to the next section, a byway, broken tarmac, gravel track, then into the woods - not too bad but then a turn onto a really bumpy bridleway for about half a mile. It was then a wide farm track with the remains of massive ruts and through to more fields and gates to the road, just by the Silverstone Real Ale micro brewery at Kingshill Farm. 4 more gates. Then down almost on to the A43, turning up to Syresham and heading south to the next and last off road. Easy through the trees and bushes to another field margin and wide bridleway where the nettles had now grown to ankle/calf height, some mud in a gateway that was now easily passed. This led down to a gate which as you approached looked completely impassable, with just a wall of bushes/thistles etc, but in 20 yards of forceful riding we came out on a track and easy going. Eventually bumping over ruts and into the undergrowth for a short distance led to a gate with a latch and rope over the top and a clipped chain.

We entered a field with another similarly fastened gate at the other side, through the woods on to another field margin where the previous 2 ft high grass had been cut down. Now it was easier farm tracks for about 2 miles to the road. 5 more gates. Now only a slightly undulating road for about 3 miles back to the cars and the pub. The whole ride was easy going, nothing steep or difficult, and the roads were quiet, over rolling countryside. I made it 18 gates that we opened and closed, 20 miles in total. One fall and no submissions.

Returning to the pub we found that our food order had gone missing; they had not seen the order! So we ordered again. It did not take long for the food to appear and all was well. While we were eating the list was found – I, being economical, had printed the list on the reverse of info about Artex and in the pub they had only seen the Artex side and had put it in the recycling bin. DOH!

The drinks were good, the food was good and I enjoyed the ride and I hope that everyone else did, even those wearing shorts!



19 July 2016

Ups and downs west of High Wycombe

Despite (or perhaps because of) Mediterranean temperatures only a small group assembled at the Crown at Radnage; the riders were Andrew, Pat, Iain, David N, Paul, Jim C, Ralph and myself.

The ride took just over 3 hours and included 5 ascents – up to Cadmore End, up to Frieth, up to Southend, through the Wormsley Estate to the Christmas Common Road and finally up to the pub at Radnage. There were compensations for all the climbing such as the downhill sections through the woods to Piddington, along the edge of Hangar Wood towards Fingest, from Little Frieth to Skirmett, the knobbly rooty descent into the Wormsley Estate and the final descent from the comms tower on the A40 into the valley leading to Bennett End.

A couple of minor incidents but otherwise a glorious day. The pub served us promptly and had a couple of good draught beers on tap (and a big cider list).



12 July 2016

Around Sarratt, Chorleywood and Chandlers Cross

Thirteen of us met at the Cart and Horses, Commonwood, namely Iain, David M-H, Steve, Graham, Jim W, Pat, David N, Russ, Jim C, Ralph, Les, Robert and the leader.

The pub was open, so we left our lunch orders, although it wasn't required as they didn't start preparation until we had all turned up later and we missed out on the day's special of steak and chips for £5.95! The food was therefore a little slow in arriving but was well worth the wait and good value.

There was drizzle in the air as we set off, many donning waterproof jackets. Nothing much materialised and we managed to dodge all the showers especially a really heavy downpour that had left some very large puddles. The theme of the ride became stops for jackets on then jackets off, but we never got wet!

We set off down and up to Sarratt Green, down to the watercress beds and up to Chenies. Here we picked up Old Shire Lane to Chorleywood and thence by Roughwood Lane to the top of Phillipshill Wood. Down and up again to join Old Shire Lane once more. A good run down and then keeping left we found the bridleway up to Bullsland Farm.

Then it was around the back of Chorleywood, across the common and down and up Solesbridge Lane. Taking the bridleway alongside the motorway we arrived at Chandlers Cross and the bottom of Whippendell Woods. Using the good tracks through the woods and golf course we met the canal, followed by a short ride going north when we took a steep little bridge into the back of The Grove.

Then it was a climb up to the road, where we used the path towards Langleybury and then the long bridleway past Model Farm which led us back to the pub where we arrived in good time. No incidents to report. Thanks for joining me.



5 July 2016

Many hills West of High Wycombe

Nine people (Pat, John, Keith, Les, Dave M-H, Steve, Michael, Russ and myself) arrived at The Wheel, Naphill, in good time to place our lunch orders before setting off on Iain's ride.

So it was off across Naphill Common where some manoeuvrings were required to locate the bridleway down to Bradenham. From Bradenham it was along the roadside cyclepath to Saunderton where a left turn took us over the 'col' between Slough and West Wycombe hills before turning right along the Deanfield track. From the end of Deanfield it was left up the hill to Bledlow Ridge. We then went down and up and down and up mainly on bridleways through Radnage, Bottom Wood and Piddington to Wheeler End.

With the character of the ride thus set we proceeded to go round a loop which included Bolter End, Moor Common, Moor End, Chisbridge Cross, Lane End and back to Wheeler End. Part way round the loop your leader picked up a slow puncture, which proved slow enough to allow periodic re-inflation of the inner tube. Also part way round the loop your leader led you astray down into Blueys Farm, which led to an unwelcome return up the hill to find the correct way forward - sorry about that! Once back to Wheeler End fatigue and the lateness of the hour led us to take the road (Bullocks Farm Lane) to West Wycombe village from where it was the long grind up the bridleway to Downley Common and a short ride through the woods back to The Wheel where Iain greeted our somewhat late arrival.

The food, service and hospitality at The Wheel were very good and we enjoyed the after ride 'chat'. I hope you all enjoyed the ride despite its somewhat strenuous character. The route we completed was 21 miles long with some 2030 feet of ascent excluding the involuntary diversion down and back up from Blueys Farm.


June 2016

28 June 2016

Up and down on the North Downs

With so many of our regular riders ruled out by illness, injury or absence away it was a select group of six (David N, Andrew, Jim, Keith, John and myself), who gathered at the starting point in the car park on top of the North Downs to the north of Shere. Everyone arrived in good time with the M25 having been busy but reasonably okay – no incidents thank goodness!

The ride started out along the top of the North Downs to Newlands Corner before descending off the chalk and onto the Greensand, winding around St Martha's Hill and then on to visit the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills. We then commenced the long climb to the top of the Greensand ridge at Winterfold Heath and traversed along the top of the ridge to Pitch Hill with its fine views over the Sussex Wield. A cracking descent down to Peaslake was followed by a grinding ascent to the top of Holmbury Hill, the highest point of the ride. After a brief rest we headed off down some fun single track past the youth hostel at Holmbury St Mary to The Volunteer at Sutton Abinger for a well-earned lunch break.

The Volunteer proved to be very welcoming with good quality food and beer and friendly service. After lunch we faced the worst ascent of the day up the North Downs escarpment and back onto the chalk. Fortunately this ascent was on road - I had earlier investigated two off road alternatives but these were really taxing! Once back on top of the North Downs it was a pleasant ride through the woods back to the start. The ride length was 23 miles (17 miles before lunch) with a height ascent 2650 feet.

There were no major incidents during the ride although there was at least one mishap fortunately without major consequences. I hope everyone enjoyed the ride, thanks for coming.



14 June 2016

Around Burnham Beeches and Black and Langley Parks

Twelve intrepid riders (Michael, Iain, Robert, Russ, Keith, Pauline, Steve, Dave M-H, David N, Jim C and Leslie) met at The White Horse, Hedgerley despite a forecast for continuous rain and downpours experienced by some on the way there. Michael just had time to mend a flattie and Russ earned extra points for riding 11.7 miles to and from the event!

After almost filling the limited parking and pre-ordering we started off up the bridleway between pub and church. This bridleway ends in a stile but just before there is an exit left allowing descent towards the M40. Just as we entered a road the leader, in an attempt to avoid some blackthorn, caught his handlebars on an ivy covered fallen tree and suffered an involuntary dismount. Riding on we crossed the road and continued up a bridleway, muddy in places, past a large derelict house to Stoke Common. We then continued on road to the entrance to Black Park, rode past the lake where we saw preparations for a film, traversed the Go Ape facility, lost Iain briefly as he went exploring independently and ended at the southern gate opposite Langley Park.

Crossing the busy A4007, passing Temple Gardens (amazing Rhododendrons in May) we rode down to Langley Park House, created by the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, its magnificence hidden by scaffolding as it is converted into a hotel. We continued past the Capability Brown lake and crossed the main road again to pick up a northbound bridleway at Bell Farm. From there we skirted Stoke Poges and picked up a bridleway around Farnham Common to reach Burnham Beeches. Legs getting tired at this point, we followed the road through the beautiful Beeches, crossed the A355 and returned to the pub in a direct and gradual descent past Pennlands Farm.

On arrival I had to have an assisted dismount having stiffened up during the ride. The beer was excellent and the food reasonably priced although, due to lack of an itemised till receipt, we had to throw in some extra pounds to make the total.

I had feared that the mere 330ft of ascent and 20.7 miles would not be challenging enough for the group but with recent rain making the bridleways a bit slippery and muddy most felt they had earned their lunch. At least it was 'clean mud' in that it washed off easily. The forecast rain amounted to only a light shower.

Thank you all for joining me.



7 June 2016

Ashridge Park and Dunstable Downs

Several of our regular riders were on holiday, so a small but select group of Joe, Iain, Robert, Keith, Russ, Steve, Pauline and Michael set off at 10 am from The Grand Junction Arms at Bulbourne, initially along the canal towpath south east, then north east past Park Hill Farm to the diverted bridleway past Albury Nowers.

We followed the edge of the golf course down through Walk Wood to the road, then across to the long climb up to the Bridgewater Monument. Rather than follow the road from the monument we used the dog-leg of bridleways through the woods to the main road. Then across to Ashridge College where the bridleway across the golf course is restricted to horses, so we used the roads past the college, up to Little Gaddesden then east to Hudnall where we turned north onto the only bit of bridleway which had some mostly avoidable serious mud.

A fast descent to the Hemel road took us to the toughest climb of the day up to Ravensdell Wood, managed only by Iain with his electric assistance, though others had previously done it in their younger days. After a short road section to Studham, we picked up the Chiltern Way to Whipsnade and some glimpses of deer in the park. From there, the Icknield Way Trail brought us out of the woods to the glorious views at the southern end of Dunstable Downs and a very steep walking descent down steps to the Dagnell Road.

A road section with a rideable but wet ford took us to the long open easy bridleway from Edlesborough to Ivinghoe, then a short section of road and we were back onto the canal towpath through Marsworth to the pub at almost exactly 1pm. The landlord had been concerned that at that hour there would be a long delay before he could serve us, but the food appeared very quickly and was excellent. A fine day with no punctures and no falls.


May 2016

31 May 2016

Wet but happy around Caversham and Reading

Well, the forecast was for rain and it certainly did! Despite the slightly troubling outlook, six optimists joined me at the Packsaddle Inn on the edge of the Mapledurham estate for the morning ride – Les, Michael, John, Pat, Jim W and Jim C.

We actually set out in dry conditions and the first mile passed without incident, until Michael suffered a rear tyre malfunction (I hesitate to say puncture) which, though mended, led to him pulling out and heading back to the pub after a couple of miles or so. Our route took us into Tokers Green and then to Dysons Wood (where Michael had his mishap) heading initially north, but then turning south to travel along Tanners Lane in Chalkhouse Green and down a steepish bridleway into Bugs Bottom and Caversham. We were on the National Cycle Network Route 5 at this point and we followed the route through some parkland (giving us some great views of Reading) into the centre of Caversham.

After negotiating our way through the traffic we moved onto the riverside path leading us to the recently named Christchurch Bridge over the Thames, which we crossed and continued eastwards to the Horseshoe Bridge over the Kennet. There is a wide tarmac path next to the Kennet all the way into central Reading and keeping on this we arrived at the Oracle Shopping Mall. The rain had well and truly arrived by now, but we avoided the temptation offered by numerous coffee bars and stayed with the Kennet (now the Kennet and Avon Canal). Almost immediately we were out of the hubbub of town and onto a pleasant towpath, with homes backing onto the water on the other side. The greenery and vegetation increased and only the noise of the traffic to our right told us we were still in Reading.

After dipping under the A33 dual-carriageway we headed west. We passed many locks, a few narrowboats and even a small nature reserve. The number of gravel pits in the area is evidenced by sailing and boating club signs. Eventually we arrived at a swing bridge over the road at Sheffield Bottom and here we turned north to Theale. On this stretch of road our only fall of the day occurred, when Jim W ran into problems with his gear-change and ended in the gutter with a grazed arm. Fortunately, those behind him were able to avoid a Tour de France-style pile-up.

We then passed along Theale High Street heading east. Crossing the M4 on the footbridge we came to the latest store of the retail sensation that is Ikea (not open 'til July, for those who may be interested). We headed past and onto a wide bridleway north, now skirting Reading to the west, again in open country. Passing Sulham church we moved onto Pangbourne where we took the turning to Whitchurch and crossed the toll bridge (free for cycles) back into the Chilterns. We passed through the Hardwick Estate and followed the bridleway into Mapledurham. By now, thoroughly wet through and looking forward to a hot meal, we took the road out of the village to Trench Green and back to the pub, where we received a pleasant welcome from the staff.

Michael was still there, some 2 hours or so after we left him and we all sat down to an enjoyable round of club sandwiches (it seemed most of us chose this option). The rain was still hammering down outside. Thankfully, it didn't affect the ride or the condition of the paths and tracks we used. We made good time throughout despite the driving rain, completing over 23½ miles.

Thanks to all those brave enough to join me today.


24 May 2016

Around Chobham Common

What a day, blue skies and sunshine but never too warm. On Tuesday morning I thought that I would never arrive, just over two hours to pick up Robert and drive there, Wycombe and the A404 had the worst traffic I have ever experienced.

At least the group were unlikely to set off without me! At The Four Horseshoes at Chobham 11 riders gathered: Pauline and Steve, Keith, Leslie, Dave N, Jim W, Andrew, Jim C, David N, Robert and myself. With food ordered and fingers crossed that the food list pushed under the door would get to the right people, we set off slightly later than intended, 10.15am, and within minutes we were on Chobham Common. Quite a short section of common (the mud was definitely less than last week) and then we were on Gracious Pond Road for one of the few stretches of tarmac. Soon onto another section of Chobham Common around the Fishponds area and over the road to more of Chobham Common which eventually led us on to a private road past a large stone – part of the old Waterloo Bridge.

At the A319 a quick right and a left took us into Fairoaks Airport and then the start of another bridleway, down the side of the airport, past the end of the runways and on to the edge of Horsell Common. Easy going on a wide farm track until we turned off into the woods – a few riders at the back had not noticed the turn off – through the car park, where we were all together again and onto the very wide track that runs north east through the common past the ‘Sand Pit’. This is the site where the Martians landed in the book War Of The Worlds; H G Wells lived nearby and often walked on the common. Then off to the edge of the common and along the perimeter of the airport again to the A319, another short right and a left and into the mud leading up to Stanners Hill, an extremely modest height gain of about 15 metres.

Leaving this part of Chobham Common, along another short section of Gracious Pond Road and back onto, yes you have guessed it, Chobham Common by the Bee Garden (earthworks) with a mix of mud and lots of gravel tracks, where to the west of us some of Carry On Cowboy and Lawrence of Arabia, etc were filmed, until we crossed a minor road and almost to Chickabiddy Hill. Under the M3 and more gravel track, on an almost straight run through to the edge of Sunnindale, bypassing the Memorial to Queen Victoria where she reviewed the troops before the Crimea War.

Back on road and through to the level crossing where it was discovered that Robert was missing. He had stopped as he felt unwell and in the end Paul, Steve and Pauline escorted him back to the pub. The remaining seven of us continued to the bridleway through Sunningdale Golf Course and up to the highest point at 90 metres. Eventually the really good downhill route became wet and muddy but soon we were on another short stretch of road to Brick Hill and the bridleway over the M3 to Walk End. Then it was over the B383, another good downhill, over another road, then it was lumpy and bumpy, and slightly muddy, followed by easy going back to the pub.

As you must have gathered Chobham Common is now broken up by roads into different sections, it was all part of Windsor Great Park/Windsor Forest in the past. Re-reading the report I seem to have gone on about the mud rather a lot but I think that my original recce was so full of flooding and mud it must be imprinted into my sub-conscious.

About 18 miles, no punctures, no mechanical problems and no one fell off, a good result. I have no idea what the food was like as I took Robert straight home. I hope that everyone enjoyed the ride and thanks to Paul, Steve and Pauline for escorting Robert back to the Pub.



17 May 2016

The Nickey Line and beyond

I was pleased to be joined by 12 other riders at the car park on Redbourn Common on a sunny and reasonably warm May morning: Andrew, Iain, Jim, Joe, Keith, Leslie, Michael, Pat, Pauline, Robert, Russ and Steve.

Although I had arranged to use the facilities at the nearby Cricketers pub we were able to use the café in the cricket pavilion. We first went to the Cricketers to drop off the lunch order and then returned to the car park for a bit more faff. We were soon all ready and headed off around Redbourn Common and picked up The Nickey Line to Hemel Hempstead.

The surface is certainly good on a MTB and we made good progress uphill into the industrial estate in Hemel where we had a slight detour as part of the line has been built on. We were soon back on The Nickey Line and had a nice downhill run until the track ended with steps that some riders were able ride down. We had to pick our way through the busy Hemel Hempstead town centre but were soon climbing up Astley Road where we had our only problem – Robert had a stone lodged in his front mech – once this had been removed he was able to get all of his gears. We then took the canal through more of Hemel until we got to Red Lion Lane where we had a little more road before heading through Abbots Hill School and onto a bridleway to Pimlico.

Once in Pimlico we had to go on road to Bedmond and then down quiet lanes to the Gorhambury Estate where we stopped to view the old Gorhambury House which was originally completed in 1568. It has been derelict for over 200 years. After the long downhill run past the current Gorhambury House we crossed the A4147 and went through St Michaels and then onto the bridleway against the traffic past Batchwood and into the Childwickbury Estate. We were able to admire the 18 bedroomed Childwickbury Manor where Stanley Kubrick lived and is buried.

From Childwickbury we took the cycle path to Harpenden where we cut through West Common and into the Rothampstead Estate to take the bridleway back to The Nickey Line and to Redbourn. We arrived back at the car park at 12:55pm having cycled about 24 miles and once bikes were loaded we were soon in the Cricketers where lunch was quickly served and hopefully enjoyed.

Thanks to all who joined me.


10 May 2016

A hardy lot in the rain around Wycombe

Well, a hardy lot! Seven other riders came out despite my and the BBC's warnings of heavy rain – and happily we were both wrong, almost! The seven were Robert, Leslie, Russell, Andrew, Jim, Michael and Joe.

Was't too wet at all to start, just damp really, as we set off from The George and Dragon, West Wycombe, through lanes and off-road up the woods to Stokenchurch. However, by this time the weather did more accurately match the forecast but hey, on we went!

Down a fast and furious descent to The Ridgeway which was pretty dry and rut free -ish. This was followed by a final bit of single track down to Dean Field Valley (I never knew it was called that) and quiet lanes back to the pub. A shorter route and time than usual but not such a bad plan given the rain, and nothing wrong with a bit longer in the pub.

I understand the food was very good and served promptly in a friendly ambience. There were no planned or unplanned dismounts or mishaps and it was a puncture free ride. It had more descent than ascent which I feel is always a good thing. According to the GPS we did 18.58 miles in 1 hr 57:46, averaging 9.5 mph, 971 ft of ups and 1047 ft of downs. And if anyone is interested I burnt off 673 calories!

Thank you for joining me on my inaugural ride lead.


3 May 2016

Some hard climbs around Chinnor

Ten riders turned up for this ride from the Old Red Lion at Tetsworth on a bright morning. They were Dave M-H, Joe, Michael, Russ, Jim W, Andrew, Les P, Robert, Keith and myself.

After ordering our lunches we set off towards Thame on a solid surfaced bridleway, then joined the Phoenix Trail and headed towards Monks Risborough on a long, straight 5 mile leg, on another good surface. At the end of the Trail we cut south through Horsenden and Saunderton. A little further, about mid-way on the route, Michael decided to return suffering from a long term cold. He managed to get back to the pub before the rest of us.

The remaining party took the steady climb up to Bledlow Great Wood, followed an undulating track and then paused at the bottom of the first of two very steep climbs that had been cunningly included in the route. This first climb went up to Chinnor Hill. There were two options: up the soft gulley or up the narrow but hard track that had more tree roots than you would think were really necessary. Russ and Jim had a crack at cycling up the gulley, while the rest of the desperados walked their bikes up the rooty bit. We were rewarded at the top with great views over Chinnor and far beyond to the North West.

The next opportunity to test our climbing skills came shortly after at Sunley Wood, where a fast downhill was followed immediately by a steep uphill (having momentum meant nothing!). Not quite as tough as the earlier hill, Russ and Jim beat this one too, while the rest of us made valiant efforts but knew in our hearts that it was in vain. The next off-road section through Kingston Wood was flat, which on the recce had been a bit of a quagmire, but a week later it was much better as it had dried out a bit – challenging, but rideable. A slow, gentle climb brought us out onto the A40 and a long sweeping downhill bridleway towards Aston Rowant, which was less treacherous than I remembered it, and we all arrived safely at the bottom.

A few undulations across a number of dry and very bumpy fields, with brilliant yellow (mustard or rapeseed?), brought us to Upper Copcourt Farm, where the last few miles back were on road. There were no punctures or other mechanical problems on this 21 mile ride, surprisingly little mud and we got back to the pub at about 12:45, so despite the climbs, we made good time (must have been the easy first half!).

The landlady provided the food orders remarkably quickly considering she was the only person there and had to deal with another customer as well as some grocery deliveries to the shop (this pub seems to be a pub, a village shop and nursery, all in one). The food was of reasonable quality and reasonably priced, and everyone seemed to enjoy the day.

Thank you all for joining me!

April 2016

26 April 2016

On and off road west of Henley

11 of us turned up at the Maltsters Arms in Rotherfied Greys on a beautiful but cold and windy day. Those were Pat, Pauline, Steve, Keith, Paul, Iain, Andrew, Jim, Robert, Russell and of course me.

Unfortunately Russell locked his keys in his car and decided that he needed to get into the car so did not join us. We were all pleased to see that both him and his car were not in attendance on our return to the pub and were told he left at 11.30ish. Not his planned day at all!! However, the rest of us left at about 10.20am as Jim and Andrew got caught in some traffic on the way and got delayed. I am delighted to say that the rest of the day was less eventful!

We left the pub and cycled down the road to Pack and Prime Lane - a lovely bridleway down to Henley which was muddy towards the Henley side but to my relief not as bad as it has been. On hitting Henley we took the back road between George Harrison and Rodney Bewes's houses (Likely Lads fame) and travelled through the council estate to the Fair Mile where we cycled towards the Stonor turning. Taking the bridle path parallel to the B4130 we cycled up to Bix where we hit the fields and passed some wonderful bluebells in the woods on the way towards Nettlebed.

At Crocker End, just before Nettlebed, we turned right and cycled past Soundness House shortly afterwards turning left onto a lovely downhill run to the Warburg Nature Reserve. From here the sign said Park Corner 2 miles – uphill! The first mile was on reasonable tracks and a gentle climb, the second mile was steeper but over a gravelly surface making it a bit more of an effort until we eventually arrived at Park Corner. We then took a short area of road crossing the A4130 again, turning into Haydone Lane track past the fields and into the woods where we took a left turn onto a small road which arrived at Witheridge Hill. Pat had the one and only puncture of the day along this section but at least it was sunny.

Another short road section travelling towards Henley we took to the trails again, up a steep and muddy track through woods taking a turn left downhill through Greatbottom Wood – more bluebells but not so impressive – then riding up a steep but short hill to Peppard Common where we again briefly hit the road to Blounts Court and then back off road where we rode the final downhill of the day, ploughed through some very muddy, rooty tracks through the wood to Dog Lane – straight to the pub.

This was our first visit to The Maltsters since they have changed hands and the food was served very promptly and was enjoyed by all.

Thank you all for coming.


19 April 2016

Bridleways around Dorchester and Abingdon

14 riders gathered in the car park of The George Hotel in Dorchester on Thames (one of only two remaining coaching inns out of the ten that were in the village) on a very promising morning: Steve and Pauline, Dave MH, Paul, Les, John, Joe, Andrew, Jim, David, Pat, Graham, myself and our leader today, Robert.

Food ordered we all set off, south through the village and out to the west via Dyke Hills (remains of an Iron Age hill fort), by-passing Days Lock (which was the venue for the Pooh Sticks World Championship, up until this year, then over the Thames at Little Wittenham Bridge. Road and bridleway to Long Wittenham, passing the Pendon Railway Museum and onto the road at Bow Bridge, over the railway at the push button Appleford crossing and then past the prettiest part of the route with all its recycling sites and the giant composting area at the end!

We by-passed most of Sutton Courtenay and through to Drayton, mainly on bridleway, over the A34 and via various bridleways and re-crossing the A34 we arrived in the south side of Abingdon. Due east to the Thames/Isis and headed south on road and bridleway and road again into Sutton Courtenay proper, eventually crossing the Thames/Isis at Sutton Bridge. We noted that the Wagon and Horses at the traffic lights that we used on a previous ride is no more.

Round behind the International School, off the tarmac, dodging all the puddles on the bridleway and then onto the concrete perimeter of the Culham Science and Technology Centre. Soon we were on the bridleway through New Covert, very slightly uphill on some very slippery mud where everyone was stopped at some point. Eventually out onto the road and straight over the Golden Balls roundabout and a southward turn onto the bridleway at Little Baldon Farm. Now it was a straight run through Berinsfield, past the old gravel pits and over the A4074 into Dorchester coming out opposite the hotel.

About 22 miles, 1 Puncture and a follow up pump up, arrived slightly late about 1.15pm. A good choice of ales on offer, lunch in the hotel was in the timbered hall, rather grand just for my sandwich and there was some confusion over the food order but it was all sorted out and everyone seemed satisfied.



12 April 2016

Around Denham and the Misbourne

After heavy rain the day before, the sun came out for the 15 riders who turned up at the Coy Carp, Harefield. They were Les, Steve H, Pat, John B, Keith, Andrew, Steve and Pauline, Paul, Jim W, Robert, Iain, Dave, Graham and myself.

After ordering our food we set off at 10.00, crossing the canal the pub sits on and joining the Colne Valley Trail which runs along the eastern edge of the valley. We then crossed over to the west side via Springwell Lane and Long Lane, then a steady climb up a track that runs alongside the M25 before descending back down into the valley at Woodoaks Farm. It was then a short section of the Old Uxbridge road to complete the first loop of the figure of eight route.

Crossing over the North Orbital Road to join Shire Lane we took a diversion on the mysterious 'road to nowhere', to avoid the heavy clay the construction has caused, and were met by a jobsworth in hi-vis who informed us we were trespassing – after explaining we were trying to get to Shire Lane which the road had dissected he said we looked like sensible people and let us carry on, he obviously doesn't know us very well!

After eventually joining Shire Lane we found this undulating track in good condition considering all the rain, this brought us out onto Tilehouse Lane which took us to Denham Airfield where we joined Halings Lane, then across Isle of Wight Farm for a brief visit to the Misbourne Valley, where we forded the mighty Misbourne River, a few wet feet but no swimmers.

It was then on to the challenging ascent of Caps Wood, which proved to be virtually unrideable in the wet conditions but this was the last climb of the day and marked the half way point of the ride. We then made our way down to Denham via Broken Gate Lane, and after making our way through the village and the Buckinghamshire Golf Club we joined the Colne Valley Trail again for the scenic ride alongside various stretches of water. This included a diversion along a boardwalk to Troy Lake which was new to most but very familiar to Jim and I as we sailed here many years ago. Here we encountered a heron standing a few yards from us but it flew off before most arrived.

We then got back on the Old Uxbridge Road to complete the second loop overlapping by about 10 yards and made our way back to the pub along a track that runs down the middle of Pynesfield Lake emerging at the car park. The ride was a bit short at 17 miles but the muddy climbs in the first half made it a good work out and we finished in good time at 12.30 as there were no punctures.

We were met at the pub by Ray and Frank and enjoyed a very nice lunch that was served in good time, with the added bonus of a 33% promotional discount I received from the Coy Carp as a previous customer. This knocked £50 off the bill and it was decided to keep this, less the £10 tip, for the Christmas lunch.



5 April 2016

Bridleways and Lanes east of Luton

It was on a clear, sunny spring morning that we gathered at the Strathmore Arms in St Paul's Walden, a trek for some but all arrived before 10am. The riders were Keith, Joe, Andrew, David M-H, Pat, John, Iain, Robert, Steve H, Graham, Paul and Les(lie).

A short ride on a minor road brought us to the first bridleway which led to the first testing downhill section. Les led the way and fell halfway down, scraping her face on the side of the track. Luckily she had no cuts or visible damage and, although a little shaken, she completed the ride. She told me on Wednesday she was back to normal.

The next section of about 2.7 miles of tarmac took us through Kimpton to a bridleway climbing to the road to Peter's Green where we joined the bridleway to Ansells End. A tarmac climb on a minor road towards Whitwell brought us to The Holt where the bridleway towards Bendish begins. This bridleway was mostly firm and dry but over a boggy field the track became a set of deep ruts separated by narrow grass strips. I think almost everyone had difficulty negotiating this field.

A few yards of road by Bendish and we met our next testing downhill bridleway; this time Les chose her path carefully and descended with style. We were now half a mile north of Whitwell and stayed on the road towards King's Walden for about a mile. Before reaching the village we turned onto a bridleway (or a 3 mile series of bridleways) that led us to within a mile of Hitchin. Back on tarmac we rode through St Ippolyts to Little Almshoe and from there on to the farm track up to the farm at Almshoe Bury.

From the farm we rode on the very exposed track that climbs to about 150ft overlooking Stevenage to the east and Rush Green to the west. The final downhill was to the farm at Rush Green and then a few hundred yards along the B656 to the final uphill bridleway. After that ascent the pub was about a mile away on minor roads.

The pub had a good beer selection and provided satisfactory meals for all. We thought the food excellent value for money and were a little puzzled why we had so little as a tip. The landlord solved the mystery by admitting that the website prices were out of date and prices had gone up 60-70p. I still rate the food as good value.

Iain, whose power assisted bike was in the workshop, rode his old unassisted bike and did not appear to find the ride difficult. He assures me that he will be using his power assisted bike as soon as it is available.


March 2016

29 March 2016

Denham Country, Langley and Black Parks

The prospect of an easy, flat ride lured 12 riders to join me as we set off from Denham (Jim, Andrew, Russell, Pat, Steve and Pauline, Ralph, Robert and Iain, Keith, Leslie and John B on his gleaming new carbon mountain bike).

First through Denham Country Park then down to the canal, turning off at the Slough Arm which we rode for several miles before taking country lanes where Ralph got the only puncture of the day, passing Langley Park until we reached Black Park. Here we tried many of the purpose built cycle tracks without any mishaps and no one got lost.

We then set off back to Denham via Iver Heath and the busy Denham Roundabout arriving at 12.30. Frank and Ray joined us at The Green Man where the beer was quite dear (average £4 a pint) but the meal, when it finally arrived, was fine.

Length of ride was only 17.5 miles as I opted out of some of the more technical bike tracks.

Thanks for joining me.
Dave M-H.


22 March 2016

Enjoying familiar ground East of Henley

Sixteen people (Richard, Pauline, Steve, Anne, David N, Russ, Joe, David M-H, Les, Iain, Jim W, Andrew, Ralph, Robert, Michael and myself) turned up at The Rising Sun, Witheridge Hill, in time to pre-order our food and be off on the ride in beautiful Spring sunshine shortly after 10:00hrs.

The ride took us around mostly well known bridleways in the general Nettlebed, Ewelme, Witheridge Hill area. There probably weren't any tracks etc. new to the group but I think they were put together in a unique order and included some nice long and gentle descents through typical Chiltern beech woods and the really good 1 mile or so of twisting single track along Grim's Ditch near to Mongewell.

The weather remained beautiful throughout and there were no mechanical breakdowns or incidents of which I am aware. We arrived back at The Rising Sun shortly after 13:00hrs having completed some 21 miles and 1,450ft of ascent. We then repaired to the inn and enjoyed the quickly served food and beer.

Thanks to everyone for joining me.


15 March 2016

Around Hastoe and Wendover with a growing group

On a chilly, grey but dry morning 18 eager souls foregathered at the Old Swan, Swan Bottom – Anne, Dave N, Dave M-H, Iain, Robert, Jim C, Jim W, Joe, John B, Keith, Michael, Pat, Paul, Pauline, Steve, Richard, Steve H and myself.

Setting off down the hill we were soon onto the first stretch of bridleway to Arrewig Lane, which was followed to the west and round to the track to Dundridge Manor; often very muddy but surprisingly good today. Passing the closed White Lion pub, where the group has had a few lunches and a couple of Bar-B-Qs in the past, we continued on quiet lanes and tracks to Hastoe and that lovely run down to Kiln Road, interrupted today by a fallen tree. Turning north west we rode by lane and track to Wiggington where we joined the Ridgeway which was followed for 6 miles, 4.5 off-road, down to Wendover. This section included the worst mud of the day on a stretch that was also very rooty, but also included what some think the best downhill around, from Hale Lane to Boswells Farm.

We were doing so well at this point and, with all the planned off-road behind us, a climb up to Dunsmore was contemplated but abandoned. Instead a short detour was made to Bacombe Lane and the bridleway alongside the Wendover bypass. Continuing past Smalldene Farm, across the A413 and the only hill of the day up to Kingsash. Here Iain and Robert continued on the planned route back to the pub whilst the rest of us did a further detour by King's Lane, Hunt's Green and The Lee. We arrived back at the pub at 12.50 having completed 22 miles.

Squeezing into a very busy pub with a bit of table moving and chair gathering we all had a good lunch and were heading home shortly after two o'clock.



8 March 2016

Snow and sun around Wendover

As we arrived at The Bell, Chartridge and got out of our cars there were mutterings of "Didn't think it was going to snow today!" Those arriving were: Paul, David N, Jim, Andrew, Michael, Joe, Keith, Russell, Les, Robert, John, Pat, Richard plus the two of us making 15 in total.

We set off just as the snow was turning to light rain and very soon died out – as did Michael's freewheel which very soon developed a fault, forcing him to pull out and return to the pub.

We headed off on minor roads to The Lee, Hunts Green and then taking Kings Lane to Kingsash where the vista across the valley is lovely. One member clearly pinpointing where HS2 is going through! Then that fearful cry of "puncture" was heard. Quickly mended, we were onto our first tricky off-road descending into Wendover. Picking up the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal before the only real ascent up to Wendover Woods where those still suffering cold hands could warm them on a cup of coffee!

On leaving Wendover Woods we encountered our only real bit of mud which left almost everyone pushing for a few yards before the trail improved. The trail to Hastoe and on to Cholesbury is in reasonable condition given the wet winter, the gradual downhill makes it a really nice ride through the trees. This was the last of the off road for today as conditions dictated that minor roads would be the more sensible way back.

Through St Leonards and then onto Arrewig Lane, where a very polite motorist seemed to want to play skittles with cyclists as he carved his way through us taking no prisoners! Fortunately we all survived and made our way back to The Bell at Chartridge where we were joined by Iain fresh from his visit to the dentist! Lunch was served after a short delay and went down well.

Thanks to everyone for joining us.
Pauline & Steve.


1 March 2016

Up and down in the wet and mud around Ibstone

Despite the weather forecast , the overnight rain and the promised 2000ft of ascent with mud, 12 masochists turned up for Tuesday's off road ride. They were: John, Les M, Joe, Michael, Jim W, Andrew, David M-H, Keith, Robert, David N, Russell and the ride leader Pat.

We met at the Bull and Butcher in Turville and after recording our lunch orders set off at 10am in the rain. Pat decided that the first off road section to Ibstone would be too muddy and therefore opted to take the road. This meant climbing the steep ascent up and past the Turville Windmill and then continuing to climb albeit more gently to Ibstone. At Ibstone Common we turned left onto our first bridleway. This involved a slippery and muddy descent with exposed wet chalk and the occasional deep mounds of leaf mould making it quite tricky in places, but all survived unscathed.

We then made our way through the Wormsley Park Estate and picked up a further bridleway to climb up to the road near to the A40 junction. After a short stop we headed south and turned right onto the bridleway through Aston Rowant nature reserve with splendid views over Oxfordshire. We took the steep descent down to the Ridgeway which again proved tricky in parts due to the rutted surface. We then headed south along the Ridgeway, which was surprisingly good going, before climbing by road up to Christmas Common. From here we took the track to Stonor which afforded us a fast and exciting two and half miles of descent.

We then took the road up to Summer Heath, involving another long climb and then onto Southend. Here we turned onto the gated bridleway which again provided a fast descent interrupted by opening and closing the large gates. This section gets steeper and steeper, the final section down to the road being very slippery due to the wet mud and grass. At the road some of the group decided to return to Turville by road with the remainder continuing off road across a further field edge and then a final descent back into Turville village for 1pm.

Wet and muddy we had completed 17 miles in 3 hours without any problems or breakdowns and only the occasional dismount. Once all seated with drinks, the food was served reasonably quickly and although more expensive than some of the pubs we visit, it was of excellent quality.

Thank you all for joining the ride and enduring it with me!

February 2016

23 February 2016

Around Hampton and Richmond Park

On this occasion traffic did cause some problems getting to the Pub on time – The Bell Inn, Hampton – but in the end everyone made it, at least everyone that I know of.

Everyone: Steve and Pauline, Dave M H, Leslie, Joe, Andrew, Jim, Keith, Russ, Robert and myself and after a few changes to the menu we set off in crisp sunny weather, from the Hampton area, about 10.10am aiming for a 1.30pm return.

Round the corner, over the road, up Station Road, over the railway bridge etc, etc, etc, all small quiet roads until we reached the very busy A316 but no matter, there is a foot/cycle bridge up and over. Now into the Hanworth area. Past the lighthouse structure which many people failed to spot, even though they were no more than 3 metres from it! Over the A312 then a few more back streets to the A315 cycleway and onto the Crane Park/Crane River cycleway, all on tarmac, with a quick stop at and to discuss the Shot Tower and the methods of producing lead shot, then under the A316 and another road, and past Kneller Gardens.

More quiet back streets, past Greggs Bakery/Factory and under the A310 at Twickenham Station, although that was completely hidden behind a high brick wall. More twisting and turning and over the A305 down to the Thames at Orleans House and Gardens, then Marble Hill House and Gardens and Cambridge Gardens to Richmond Bridge. Over the bridge, up Richmond Hill with a stop at the top to look at the celebrated view down over the Thames and just along from the Royal Star and Garter Care Home, (now being converted in to apartments). Past Buccleuch Gardens and on into Richmond Park, round the perimeter cycle way past Bog Gate and East Sheen Common, East Sheen Gate and out of the park at Roehampton Gate.

Soon we were cycling up Roehampton High Street and quickly on to Putney Heath, with a downhill run under the A3; somewhere about here Putney Heath becomes Wimbledon Common, past the Wimbledon Windmill Museum, lots of large puddles but easy going. Here we were treated to some oik demonstrating just how easy it was by doing it on his back wheel. I did get the various tracks mixed up slightly and found we were on the wrong side of the London Scottish Golf Course, soon sorted and on to the fast 1 mile downhill route to Beverley Brook. Now the mud section, which seemed unchanged from my recce, easy enough to get through as it was very soft and liquid but the unknown hazard was what lay in the water and liquid mud filled pot holes – it seems that Les had a bit of a moment in this section.

Soon over the A3 and into the park again at Robin Hood Gate, up Broomfield Hill, a bit of a breather here, where some deluded woman seemed to think that we were not allowed to cycle in the park. Past Ladder Stile Gate and Kingston Gate and out at Ham Gate, then Ham Common and soon back down on the Thames at Teddington Locks, along the river to Kingston Bridge, easy to cross on its segregated cycleway. Now all that was left was the 4 mile section round Hampton Court Park and 1 mile along by Bushy Park via Hampton Court Road to The Bell Inn. It was noticeable that now there was less sunshine, there was a distinct temperature drop. At the pub, in the car park, Andrew demonstrated, how to fall off his bike in a graceful and injury free manner.

Returned at 1.20pm after what was close to 27 miles, about 8 miles on road 19 miles off road, averaging 8.7mph, no punctures, no problems. In the pub, rather disappointingly, only one real ale was on offer but it was a goodish one and food was soon served. Once again all was well with the world. I found no traffic problems on my return journey but I could see a rain cloud up ahead and one section of the M3 was quite wet but no rain on the ride.



16 February 2016

Bridleways around Bricket Wood

I was pleased to be joined by 15 other riders at The Gate in Bricket Wood on a sunny but very cold February morning: Andrew, Anne, Jim, Paul, Iain, Dave M-H, Keith, Joe, Michael, Russ, Leslie, Pat, John, Steve H and Robert. I was extremely disappointed that the pub wasn't open as arranged so that we could use the facilities.

We set off from the pub around 10am as usual and headed off along a gravel path beside Smug Oak Lane – it's a pity there are not more tracks like this. Before the end of the lane we turned left onto a bridleway which passes the Moor Mill pub and under the M25. From here we took the byway past the Frogmore lakes and into Park Street. Having crossed the A5 we took another bridleway across open countryside where the Rail Freight Terminus is due to be built.

After a short run on the cycle track next to the A414 we turned south. We had a short break whilst Jim repaired a puncture and then headed into Napsbury. From here we took a track down to the M25 and where we met the River Colne we slithered through a muddy section to the Handley Page Industrial Park. Crossing over the A5 again we headed along a bridleway to the scenic path beside the River Ver. This was followed by a long quiet road section along NCN Route 6 into Watford and after a short track along the A41 we headed to Aldenham on a new bridleway through the woods next to the M1.

After Aldenham we did a loop circuit on the bridleways round Netherwylde Farm and then we turned into the Munden estate where we had a good view of the house as we crossed the River Colne. Lastly we took a bridleway through Bricket Wood Common and then the road back to the pub. I decided not to use the bridleway next to the Building Research Station as it was too muddy – perhaps next time?

We arrived back at The Gate at 12:55 where we discovered that we had lost Robert in the maze of roads in Bricket Wood – John and Paul went to look for him and fortunately they all soon returned. Lunch was reasonably quickly served and hopefully enjoyed!

Thanks to all who joined me.


9 February 2016

Mud, glorious mud in the South Oxfordshire Chilterns

For a post-Storm Imogen ride, nine doughty souls (Keith, Michael, John, Pat, Joe, Les, Jim, Iain and Robert) joined me for a ride from The Sun at Whitchurch Hill. The storm had cleared through the previous day and it was now a chilly, but bright morning with plenty of surface water, although the first half of the ride was mainly tracks and roads.

At just after 10am we set off south to join up with the Thames Path at Whitchurch, heading west to Goring. A stretch of four miles on country roads followed, which included a hill climb out of Goring on the Icknield Way. After an uncomfortable cross field traverse, we took the road through Ipsden to Hailey and thence onto the morning's biggest climb up to Bixmoor Wood. The weather was positively spring-like with bright sunshine and a gentle breeze and the track we ascended was in good condition. However, this was also the area where, in quick succession, Pat and Jim suffered punctures.

The second half of the ride featured more bridleway riding and conditions were certainly very wet underfoot. Having encountered a hedge pruning exercise on a narrow bridleway near Whitcalls Farm (a definite puncture hazard, but we got past without incident) we descended Newnhamhill Bottom to the foot of Witheridge Hill. This led us into three miles of mud, which provided us with a stern challenge and kept our progress slow. In places wheels became so clogged that pedalling was almost impossible. Jim also suffered a further puncture near Wyfold Lane. Eventually, we left the mud behind and completed the final two miles back on roads.

We arrived back at the pub some 3 hours 45 minutes after we'd left, having covered around 19 and a half miles, but thankfully, the food was prepared fresh on our return and tasted very good.

My thanks to all those who joined me.


2 February 2016

More mud south of Maidenhead

Twelve of us met at The Bridge House at Paley Street on a grey morning for this ride. We were: Steve, David M-H, Les, Joe, Pat, Paul, Jim, Andrew, Robert, Russ, Keith and myself, John.

We set off north as the sky started clearing, and the rest of the ride was mainly in pleasant sunshine. We crossed the M4 then through to White Waltham, through Shottesbrooke Park where the bridleway left the tarmac surface, and then the going began to get tougher. The next stretch of bridleway, which we have visited recently, hadn't got any less slippery but was passed safely, albeit with the occasional yelp from behind me as people navigated the tricky bits.

Back on the road for a few miles and crossing the M4 again, I by-passed the next bit of off-road section I had planned to do, as I thought it might be a quagmire. The next section of bridleway near Felix farm was reasonably firm under tyre, then road and then more off-road which was equally good. From the sewage works at Cabbage Hill (with only a very mild bouquet) we had a long straight off-road section of almost 2 miles, which was again a reasonably solid surface. Through Hawthorne Hill, then another off-road section to Haws Hill Farm. This section was a bit more challenging with some very deep ruts and plenty of mud. A few more yelps were heard, but there were no serious problems.

The road down towards Fifield gave us some great views in the sunshine, then some more bridleways around Holyport and Moneyrow Green. I was definitely flagging by this point so on the last section of bridleway at Touchen-end, which was a bit clammy, I was unceremoniously at the rear. This must have been slightly uphill as a few commented that the last bit was tougher too.

We must have been going at a reasonable pace, though, because we were back at the pub after some 21½ miles by 1pm even though we left at 10:10am. No punctures and no incidents. The food was served promptly, was of good quality and the staff were very pleasant. Add the pub to your recommended list.

Thank you all for joining me.

January 2016

26 January 2016

Up and down around Ashridge

Meeting at the Valiant Trooper, Aldbury, were: Paul, Pat, Michael, Keith, Leslie, Iain, Robert, Russell, Andrew and Jim.

After ordering food we set off up 'the ramp' from Aldbury up to Ashridge where there were two involuntary dismounts proving that the tree roots were still damp. Now nicely warmed up we followed a gentle off-road descent south to reach the canal bridge opposite Waitrose in Berkhamsted. The next section was a pleasant easy ride along the tow path through Berkhamsted to the junction with Bullbeggars Lane where there followed an easy ascent on tarmac up to past Little Heath-by-the-sea (2.6 million years ago) to Potten End.

The next section was across the common, level but muddy in places, to Ashridge College where we followed the quiet road on up to Little Gaddesden. Keith and, later, Michael took short cuts back citing bike problems along the way. Turning left, then right, we continued past Ivinghoe Common (including a short disappointing exploration of what turned out to be deer trails) to the National Trust car park. We then turned south along a beautiful long fast mud-free cycle path to the Bridgewater monument. Unfortunately few noticed the splendid view along the way due to the light rain and freshening wind. The back markers arrived to find the rest of the pack cowering behind the monument eager to continue down the steps to Barley End stables where by popular vote we dropped the final tour of the golf course in favour of a swift return to the pub and warmth.

A shortish ride but, somehow, still tiring due to the unavoidable muddy sections. The welcome, food and local beers were good as always at the Valiant Trooper although the dining area was on the cool side.



19 January 2016

Swinley from the West

Nine people eventually gathered at the start on the Devil's Highway, near Crowthorne, on a briskly cold but sunny morning. The nine were Andrew, Jim, Steve, David N, Iain, Robert, Pat, Russ and myself.

We were off slightly behind time up the Devil's Highway past Broadmoor Hospital and then under the 'newish' main road between Bracknell and Sandhurst. Any mud and water was largely frozen making for relatively easy going. Once under the road we soon intersected the red Swinley bike route, which we then followed to Lower Star Post. From there we explored the heathland areas of Wishmoor Bottom, Olddean Common and Bagshot Heath. Just into the exploration we came across Keith who, having failed to locate the car park, went and parked at the Lookout and was in the process of carrying out his own ride. That was lucky wasn't it?!

Continuing with the exploration we went to the top of Saddleback Hill by way of a short but sharp ascent. This was followed by an equally sharp descent before moving across to Bagshot Heath and eventually rejoining the Swinley red route near to Surrey Hill. We then followed the red route to Upper Star Post where Keith left us to return to the Lookout and then join us at the lunch time inn – The Golden Retriever.

The rest of us then proceeded back along the Devil's Highway to pass back under the Bracknell to Sandhurst main road. All that then remained was a little diversion into the woods before arriving back at the cars more or less on time. I understand that the Swinley red route did claim at least one 'scalp', fortunately without serious injury or damage to the bike and the ride had been for once without delay due to punctures or other bike malfunction.

We then drove the five minutes or so to The Golden Retriever where the food and drinks, after a longer wait than usual, was its normal good and relatively inexpensive self.

Thanks for coming.


12 January 2016

More mud and hills around Pednor

Ten riders met at the Hit or Miss, Penn Street, being Joe, Russell, Richard, Robert, Pat, Dave MH, Jim W, David N, Ralph and the leader in good time to choose our lunch and use the pub which was open, warm and friendly. Dotty checked our orders and we were ready to start. The weather was much chillier than that which we have been used to, but dry and bright.

We crossed the busy Wycombe Road and set off down through Mop End to the A413. The track was much wetter than on my recce and we had to take the diversion into the woods to pass a particularly unwelcoming flood. Across and on the road up towards Hyde Heath and we then cruised down into the back of Chesham. We then took the road up to Pednor Bottom and the steepish hill over into Ballinger Bottom. Not attempting the inviting Herberts Hole as my earlier foray proved too difficult for me, we climbed up to Little Hundridge Farm and took Herberts Hole's little brother, a parallel route, mostly track. Halfway along, a group led by Russ suggested to use the track down into Herberts Hole and to join us at the bottom. We met down on the lane without mishap except I found I had a puncture. Duly mended we set off back up to Ballinger Bottom.

A freshening north westerly in our faces added to the effort. Using the muddy short cut bridleway we joined the road up through South Heath. Crossing the B485 at the now defunct Annie Baileys we turned left and right down to Deep Mill. We pedalled uphill again to Little Boys Heath and taking two lefts we came to Affricks Farm. The bridleway went steeply down and up and was washed away down to a base of large rocks deterring all from attempting to cycle up, again in much worse condition than my recce days earlier.

Time was passing so I decided to keep to the road back down to Little Missenden as I had struggled with the bridleway in that direction with a good half mile of mud and puddles on my recce. Being a lot wetter than when I last rode it, progress would have been slow. In Little Missenden we looped back up the now declassified lane to Beamond End. The locals knew a short cut through Penn Woods to get us back to the pub at about 1.20.

Robert had earlier taken a direct route to the pub, as well as Richard who had an appointment, and Ralph diverted home. Numbers were swelled by Ray, and we enjoyed the beer and food that was efficiently and pleasantly served and met with all our approval. Distance was nearly 20 miles with 1750 ft of climbing, so Anquet says, and mostly all well away from traffic. The forecast rain stayed off until we were in the pub.

Thanks for joining me.


6 January 2016 (Wednesday)

Enjoying (?) the mud south west of Henley

You cannot have too much fun in the mud! 14 of us braved a muddy ride: Les, Keith, Russ, Joe, Paul, David MH, Jim, Richard, Andrew, David N, Iain, Pat, Robert and me set off from the Reformation Pub, Gallowstree Common, having filled in our lunch order on a sheet left out in the smoking shed.

The first mile was very slippery mud that took a great effort to keep moving followed by a short road ride passing two pubs and up to Rotherfield, crossing the Nettlebed to Reading road and along Dog Lane (which in the past has been unrideable but now has a good surface). A hard and slippery climb (for some of us, a walk) up to Binfield Heath to the Bottle and Glass (shortly to reopen).

At this point, because of the time taken, I made the decision to miss out Shiplake and go along the road to Dunsden. A slippery descent to the main Henley to Reading road turning by the appropriately named Flowing Spring to Sonning Bridge and the Thames Path (looking for George C’s house); we then entered a very long stretch of parkland which was so boggy you began to lose the will to live as we progressed at about 3 miles an hour.

At last we hit the towpath again and crossed by the impressive footbridge over to Caversham, then by backroads and tracks to Bugs Bottom where we discovered Robert had become detached from the group. Iain eventually found him. Up the steepest hill of the day to Chalkhouse Green and back to the pub at 12.45. Distance felt like 50 (my computer packed up) but I am told about 18 miles.

Food came promptly and Andrew – Happy Birthday – treated us all to drinks. I have never seen my bike so filthy but miracles exist as there were no falls and no messy punctures to repair. Well done one and all.


December 2015

29 December 2015

Bridleways west from Dorney

Twelve plus one people gathered at The Palmer Arms, Dorney, ready for the off.  The thirteen were Iain, Robert, Joe, Richard, Pauline, Steve, Les, Keith, Matt (Pat's son), Jeff (Pat's brother-in-law), Dave MH, Jim and myself. Pat unfortunately couldn't make it as he was feeling somewhat under the weather – hope you've recovered now Pat.

With the lunch order left on top of the morning food deliveries we departed the inn accompanied by a few spits of rain. The rain soon ceased as we made our way along a loop taking in a part of the Jubilee River cycleway before proceeding to cross the river by the wooden bridge near to Bray marina. Despite warnings regarding how slippery the bridge can be it claimed a victim on the way over. Fortunately no serious damage was done.

Once across the river the sun came out and a mixed off-road and on-road route was taken through Fifield, Holyport, Paley Street and Hawthorn Hill to the highest point of the ride, all of 75m or so, close to Nuptown Cottages. Two lengthy bridleways then took us downhill to Moneyrow Green and onto a bridleway leading over the M4 in the direction of Ockwells Manor, which had a tank in its grounds – something like a Centurion rather than one hailing from the second world war.

Just before we crossed the M4 Matt got his first puncture of the day. This was quickly fixed and off we went only to be stopped again by a further puncture, this time in Matt's front tyre. This was again quickly fixed and the rest of the ride through Braywick and Bray passed off without incident.

We got back to The Palmer Arms at about 13:15hrs – so not too bad as we had fixed two punctures, etc. The Palmer Arms was very busy but despite this the food and drink came relatively quickly and was enjoyed by all.

It was really nice to have enjoyed a ride in the sun in very mild conditions. Thanks for coming.



22 December 2015

Towpaths and bridleways around Rickmansworth

On another warm but overcast day we met at the Land of Liberty in Heronsgate, Chorleywood. The Heronsgate housing area was originally named O'Connorville but this was dropped after the Chartist scheme failed see trmt.org.uk/…feargus-o-connor.

In addition to the 35 plots of land covering 103 acres (0.42 km²), a beer house was provided which is now the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty public house. Those riding were Pat, Les P, Keith, Iain, Robert, Paul, Graham, Andrew, Russ, Joe, Steve H and Dave M-H.

We rode into the part of Chorleywood known as the Swillet and took the track which is the continuation of the road named Shire Lane until a boundary change within the last 20 years – this road had been for centuries the Herts/Bucks border. The track became bridleway with some muddy but not impassable places. This track and minor road sections took us southwards to Denham airfield and onto a track through an area known as The Marish. Rejoining the road, we rode past the railway station at Higher Denham and took the bridleway alongside the line leading to Denham Green housing estates.

We crossed the A412, rode towards South Harefield and took the Grand Union northbound to West Hyde where there are traffic lights on the towpath. Leaving the canal on the Harefield road and climbing a little we turned into an area of housing development and onto about a mile of bridleway at its northern end. After a short road section we rejoined the canal for some miles going past Rickmansworth and to the edge of Cassiobury Park.

The return loop started with a little urban riding through West Watford (past Morrisons) and onto the Ebury Way (former railway) which led us to Rickmansworth. A short repeat section along the canal to Springwell Lock where we left the canal and took a road/track section towards Junction 17 on the M25. A tunnel under the A412 led us to a track beside the M25 and a bridge enabling us to cross and have a quiet ride through Heronsgate back to the pub.

Ray greeted us at the pub where we had traditional* pub food and excellent beer. When settling the tab, the landlady refused most of the tip saying “We are a pub, not a restaurant”. The balance went into the kitty for next Christmas.


*traditional = what you would have expected pre-bistroification


15 December 2015

Christmas ride around Harefield

The following assembled at the Old Orchard, Harefield, to enjoy its incomparable view over the lakes and greenbelt: Frank, Keith, Iain, Les P, Les M, John, Dave, Pat, Jim, Russ, Andrew, Brian and Richard.

At 10.00am we departed for our 13 mile road ride, passing through the centre of Harefield village, then past the entrance to Harefield Hospital. We descended from the plateau down Springwell Lane – this is very narrow and has several blind bends, most of which are decorated with small pieces of broken glass from collisions. We regrouped at Springwell Lock by the hump backed bridge over the canal. At this point we discovered that we were one missing as Iain had gone back to the pub to fetch something vital. He eventually caught up with us using some of his battery.

We cut though some housing to find Shepherds Lane, which passes the William Penn leisure centre and ascends to a beautiful old house bearing unidentified shields. Then left to a suburb of Chorleywood called The Swillett (where I once gave an earful to a motorist who signalled left then pulled right). Here we turned gradually left to pass above Chalfont St Giles and head south along a road which is shown on Tudor maps. Without mishap we passed under the Chiltern railway at the only station on the entire UK network called after a golf club and stashed 13 bikes in Keith's garage. Then followed an interlude of seasonal refreshment with heavily spiced mulled wine and mince pies.

After an hour of gossip we were underway again, but this time just 4 miles through Denham Green and past the Countess of Derby's almshouses. They used to present a picturesque aspect to the traveller ascending but the trustees have sadly sanctioned a garden fence which largely cuts off the view. Turning left past the well known fishing tackle shop in Harefield we reached the pub as requested by 12.30pm where we found Ray, Steve, Pauline and Paul.



8 December 2015

From Chalfont St Giles to Chenies

Considering the time of year and heavy overnight rain, it was great to see 14 riders arrive at the White Hart, Chalfont St Giles. They were: Michael, Joe, John, Pat, Andrew, Jim, Keith, Steve, Iain, Robert and Les; also Paul and Russ joined me riding to start.

After placing our food orders we set off at 10.00 heading towards Seer Green on road for the first mile, then into Hodgemoor Woods where the track, which is heavily used by horses, rises steadily for half a mile and was in very good condition considering the conditions. We then had a long descent down Bottom House Farm Lane and a short section of the Amersham Road before the first proper climb of the day up Finch Lane. This bridleway rises for half a mile before crossing White Lion Road and into Bell Lane.

From here we joined the Harding Route through West Wood and on arriving at Chenies Manor we crossed the A404 and headed down a fast but muddy track towards Carpenters Wood, then a short but steep climb up to Newhouse farm, Chorleywood. At this point the dreaded call of puncture was heard, and also the sun made an appearance and we were half distance, so it was a welcome break.

Puncture quickly repaired and a short section of road led us to Shire Lane, which runs off road for about 7 miles and is an old Roman road – mile markers can be found hidden in the undergrowth if you look hard enough. Half way down the first section we met a large group of walkers coming up who very courteously stood aside to let us past. We followed this track for about 4 undulating miles before going under the M25 and up to Mopes Farm, then past Gerrards Cross Golf course and down a wooded slalom course and across a ford into Chalfont Park.

From here it was a last short sharp climb on road to Gold Hill Common and then a cycle path the last couple of miles back to the pub, arriving back in good time at 12.50 having covered just over 18 miles with no falls or submissions and just the one puncture.

We were joined for lunch by Frank and Ray, who are unable to ride at the moment for medical reasons, so 16 of us enjoyed our food and drink which was served quickly and I think all present would agree amazing value and quality.



1 December 2015

From Cholesbury to Berkhamsted

Ten people (John, Robert, Richard, Jim, Les, Joe, Pat, Michael, Russell and Paul) turned up at The Full Moon, Cholesbury, in time to place their lunch orders and be ready for the start at 10am.

We set off in very dull but mild and dry weather and after a mile or so of road headed off down the track past Tring Grange Farm. Then it was back on road to Heath End where we took the short bridleway leading from Glebe Farm to the Chesham-Wigginton road. A fallen oak near Marlin Chapel Farm forced us to carry our bikes over the fallen trunk and branches but we were soon back on our bikes and off to the outskirts of Berkhamsted. From there it was down a nice fast bridleway to Dudswell and then up the lane, not so fast, leading to Norcott Hill. As we reached the top of the hill the sun put in a welcome appearance and the weather remained very pleasant for the rest of ride.

From Norcott Hill it was somewhat muddy along the edge of Northchurch Common and this led us to the top of a very slippery descent (tree roots and chalk) into Aldbury village. From Aldbury it was a succession of bridleway and towpath to Bulbourne. Just past Bulbourne we turned onto the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union and followed this until we reached Drayton Beauchamp. Ahead of us now was the major climb of the day up the Chiltern escarpment to Hastoe. Then all that remained was the fast and, despite the mud, very good descent down through Shrubbs Wood and High Scrubs to Cholesbury. We got back to The Full Moon a little after 1pm but the ride was 21 miles long so this was to be expected especially as the going was a little 'soft' at times. For once there were no punctures and also there were no serious dismounts – well done all.

The food and drink were I think enjoyed by all and arrived reasonably rapidly. My thanks to John who took on the role of back marker and to Russell for waiting at the top of the hill at Hastoe for some of us while the rest pedalled on to The Full Moon. I hope everyone enjoyed the ride – I think you did!

See you soon,

November 2015

24 November 2015

More mud around Knowl Hill

On a damp, grey but slightly warmer than recently, morning 16 enthusiastic souls turned out for this week's off road ride. Maybe it was the promise of an easy ride which lured them, which when recce'd was comparatively mud free; pity about Monday nigh's heavy rain!

We met at the Royal Oak, Knowl Hill and after placing our lunch orders set off shortly after 10:00am. Heading due south we were soon encountering wet mud on the bridleway which skirts the golf course and leads to Waltham St Lawrence. Ground conditions improved as we approached and crossed the Great Western railway which will soon have Crossrail running on it.

We continued south with the track becoming a lane and when we met the B3024 the ride leader had a senior moment and turned right instead of left and was just entering a bridleway, which looked familiar, when his trusted lieutenant, John, advised we were heading in the wrong direction. Heading then in the correct direction we turned right shortly onto the intended bridleway and had another muddy and slippery ride until joining the nice firm tarmac road to head through Beenhams Heath and over the M4 motorway for Paley St. Here we turned left into Paley St which becomes a bridleway within a short distance. This was much firmer and after crossing the M4 again we made rapid progress towards Woodlands Park where, during a brief stop, we watched two light aircraft making their final approach for landing at White Waltham.

From here we followed National Cycle Route 4 to cross the railway again and on to Littlewick Green. We stopped briefly as a blue plaque advised that Ivan Novello had lived here for much of his life. We may have waited longer but a mad dog, housed fortunately, and the even more irate house owner persuaded us to move on. We crossed the A4 and headed via bridleway and lane up to Burchetts Green. Here we turned left and then right for the first hill of the day towards the Dew Drop Inn. We then took the bridleway towards Warren Row, again very wet and muddy and then headed due north on a much better surface with a nice descent in the latter half to arrive opposite The Black Boy near Hurley on the Henley Rd.

Rather than using the busy and I think dangerous road, we took the relatively recently made Horse Path which runs parallel to the road towards Henley. Along this we encountered two fallen trees which took the combined efforts of several of us to clear before we were able to continue. The end of the path exits steeply, which most negotiated successfully, onto a lane where we turned left. After a short distance, the route took us right onto another bridleway, where a couple of riders, John and Graham, wimped out and took the easier, and less muddy, road option. The rest of the group, whose appetite for mud was obviously insatiable, chose the off road option and were not disappointed. To add to their enjoyment Les suffered a puncture but fortunately by this time we were at least on a tarmac surface. John and Graham had wondered what had happened to us and ventured down the farm track to rejoin us.

With the puncture mended we continued on our way up to Holly Cross and then the final climb of the day up to Bowsey Hill. From here it was a splendid, fast and slippery descent back to the A4 arriving back at the pub by 12:45. We were soon all ensconced in the warm bar where the food was served reasonably quickly and proved to be very good value. Frank, who is still recovering from knee surgery, joined us for lunch.

Despite the conditions there were no serious mishaps, although I understand Jim did leave his bike at one point. The ride distance was almost 19 miles with around 1000ft of ascent.

Thank you to David M-H, David N, Joe, Michael, John, Andrew, Robert, Iain, Graham, Les M, Russell, Jim, Brian, Paul and Richard for joining me. All that remains now is to clean myself and the bike.



17 November 2015

Hills and bridleways around High Wycombe

Considering the weather forecast, a surprising number gathered at The Crown Inn in Penn on a dull, damp and dank morning. We were: Steve, Dave M H, Richard, Joe, Pat, John, Andrew, Jim, Keith, Paul, Russ, Robert and myself.

As ground conditions were expected to be rather poor we set off on time after handing in our food orders and just in case we were late I put down our time as 1.00 to 1.30pm. Along the road and down a few tracks and we were in Hazlemere, over the A404 and off road behind the recreation ground where I expected lots of sticky mud but all the rain had made it much more liquid. Just as we were about to go down the Church Lane bridleway, Paul had the first puncture of the day. At that point Richard decided that he would do his own ride as he had to return home early; he did do 12 miles and managed to return to The Crown just as the heavy rain started.

Soon we were off down the narrow steepish bridleway with its various rooty drop offs to Hughenden Valley. Up, a fairly steep up, through the Hughenden Estate bypassing the church and the Manor and down the other side and eventually up to and across Downley Common. The next bridleway, quite soft in places, down towards West Wycombe and near the bottom Dave had a puncture and found that his tubeless tyre had a cut on the side-wall. This took a little longer to fix that a normal puncture, requiring two pairs of pliers.

On to and through West Wycombe and left up through the West Wycombe Estate, although initially on tarmac where the hill is deceptively steep, then the following downhill, with views over to Adams Park, required considerable concentration as it was rather wet, muddy, rutted and messy. After this the real route was uphill across a bare earth field but it seemed a better idea to use the hard packed track around the field. By this time there was some light rain as we made our way on to Lane End Road, then downhill to the woods on Booker Common. This bridleway is undulating and I believe the first section defeated everyone, the rain was now heavier.

On to Horns Lane and up towards the motorway where I decided, as we were still a fair way from The Crown and time was running out and it was raining heavily, to cut the ride short. East along the road, over the A404 and along the Flackwell Heath Road to Daws Hill and onto the bridleway skirting the old American Air base, just a big building site now – according to Pat 500 houses are being built. The rain had stopped now, down to Funges Farm, along the road and then cycleway by the river and up through Wycombe Heights Golf Course on the bridleway to Penn and The Crown at about 13.25pm. Food was a bit slow, apparently they were getting our orders ready at 12.45pm even though I had written down 1.00 to 1.30pm.

Outside the rain was now pouring down. Never mind, prices were not expensive and everyone seemed satisfied. About 18 miles and two punctures, I don't think that anyone came off and we travelled home in drying conditions.



10 November 2015

Up and down the Nickey Line!

I was pleased to be joined by 16 other riders at the Hollybush in Redbourn on a very mild November morning: Andrew, Jim, Richard, Paul, Iain, Dave M-H, Keith, Joe, Michael, Russ, Leslie, Pat, John, Pauline, Steve and Robert.

We set off from the pub around 10:00 as usual and headed off up the Nickey Line towards Harpenden. I was asked why it is called the Nickey Line but I had no idea and having visited the website, nickeyline.org/…history.htm, I don't think that anyone else has either! Once in Harpenden we were able to use the new loop to exit onto Ambrose Lane – much easier than the steps at the end. We then took a short downhill road to pick up NCN 57 Lea Valley Walk to Leasey Bridge. Back on a bit more road to Marshalls Heath where we headed off on a muddy bridleway which had a short steep section that most of us walked!

Once on the level we wound our way towards Wheathampstead – John had a tumble on the descent but was not injured. We had a stop at the end of the bridleway to fix Richard's chain before heading to the Ayot Greenway in Wheathamstead. We continued up the gentle incline then headed down a bridleway to Waterend. Here we admired Waterend House which was built in 1610 while Andrew changed his tube to fix a slow puncture.

I had planned to take the new bridleway and byway to John Bunyon's chimney but took the easier, non-muddy, Coleman Green Lane to Nomansland Common. Here we took the new track that is parallel to B651 and then went through the car park and onto the bridleway in the new 850 acre Heartwood Forest.

We headed into Harpenden where we cut through Rothampsted which is home to the longest running agricultural research station in the world! (For more information visit rothamsted.ac.uk/about).

Finally, we took the Nickey Line back to shorten the route and arrived back at the Hollybush around 13:00 for lunch.

Thanks to all who joined me.


3 November 2015

Enjoying the mud around Stoke Row

Thirteen riders assembled for the ride from the Rising Sun at Witheridge Hill on a grey and rain free day. They were: Joe, Michael, David N, Steve, Les, Paul, Russ, Andrew, Iain, Jim, Robert, Pat and John.

Once Joe had got control of his bike, we headed off towards Stoke Row, then cut north along a road which led into a bridleway. In a section where we were travelling at only moderate speed (because of the muddy conditions), in the distance an approaching horse (with rider) appeared to be startled by us, and the horse and rider turned and galloped away, just about under control and not to be seen again. This was a reminder that some horses get very nervous of cycle riders, and that they must be given every consideration by us. On this occasion, we did not get anywhere close to them, so it must have been a very frisky horse (on a recent encounter with two horses and riders, I was advised by one rider to talk or shout, so that the horses know we are just people, and nothing to be scared of).

After a pause to make sure it was clear, we continued on the route and eventually took a left down a fast grassy field edge, not too bumpy or slippery, before reaching Hailey, and joined the road turning right. Further on, we took a left off the road onto more bridleway, crossed the A4074, more off-road, and then stopped just after because the previous section must have had some cut thorns as Les and Andrew both had punctures (serves me right for saying I was amazed that nobody had got a puncture on an earlier section). After some delay (in which one replacement tube seemed to have a damaged inner seam), we carried on, then took the long climb up to Woodcote, which was easy(ish) as it was all on road.

From Woodcote we had our second long off-road stretch, going south east. Your leader took a wrong turn at one point, but after a short distance realised the mistake; we retraced our path, and set off the right way. I believe it was along this section (I was at the front so didn't see these events) that Les had an involuntary dismount and Andrew had a few events of his own, including a sudden and unexpected inspection of his front tyre. No serious injuries and we all carried on. At Cross Lanes we reached the road but because nobody yet was looking quite muddy enough for me, we swiftly went off-road again, then re-crossed the A4074 with a quiet road to our next and final long off-road section. This was from Nippers Grove to Kingwood Common, then left finally to Witheridge Hill. Along these sections there was plenty more opportunity to fall off in the sometimes slippery conditions. Nobody did (as far as I know), but by the time we were back at the pub, I was gratified to see that everyone had collected their fair share of mud and had enjoyed it so much they were all taking some mud home with them.

Although there WAS plenty of mud, the actual bridleways were for the most part firm underneath the mud and reasonably good to ride on, and the freshly fallen leaves I think also helped to cushion the bikes from the worst of it. We arrived at the pub at about 1:15, having skipped a last short loop (so be thankful – that would have been muddy too!).

We were joined at the pub by Brian, who arrived a bit late at the start, so he did his own ride, and Frank who is recuperating and who sought food preferences and deposits for our Christmas lunch. The pub served the food up promptly, which looked to be of good quality and quantity all round.

Thank you all for joining me on this ride!

October 2015

27 October 2015

Bridleways north west of Luton

12 of us (Steve, John, Paul, Pauline, Steve P, Pat, Graham, Robert, Russ, Jim, Ralph and Michael) gathered at The Red Lion, Upper Sundon, some 5 miles north west of Luton for a ride in an area we rarely visit.

After a mile of road, we turned onto a short section of twisty singletrack, the start of some 3 miles of bridleway across the northern edge of Luton. A short section of road followed, then a rather greasy field edge which caused one fall – fortunately without injury – and a mixture of tarmac paths and more field edges in better condition until we crossed the golf course and ascended diagonally up the side of Warden Hill with excellent views from the top. More fields, again in good condition, led us onto the good surface of the John Bunyan Trail into Lilley and a steep climb onto Lilley Hoo. A loop of woodland and fields took us through Little Offley and up onto Telegragh Hill where two of us picked up blackthorn stuck in our wheels. Normally that is an inevitable puncture but with Jim leaving his thorn in the tyre and Michael removing his to the accompaniment of a significant hiss soon sealed by his tubeless latex, we continued without having to make any repairs.

The descent of Telegraph hill, then continuing along the Icknield Way to below Galley Hill was fast easy riding. We then turned north onto the Chiltern Way and a short section along the A6 to the spectacular views from the zigzag trail along Sharpenhoe Clappers and a steep descent to Moleskin. After an initially pleasant section following the base of the hills we turned west along field edges which proved rather sapping before a steady climb up on a good track through the woods back to the pub at 12:55pm.

Our food had been ordered before we left but was a little slow in arriving. However it was good and excellent value for money.



20 October 2015

In the Downs around Aldworth

Thirteen riders (Pat, John, Joe, David N, Steve, Pauline, Michael, Graham, Les P, Robert, Jim, Dave MH and myself) gathered at The Four Points, Aldworth, and after ordering our lunch time food were ready for an on-time start.

A short section of road through Aldworth village led to the start of the off road with the bridleway past Bower Farm and so onto a short section of The Ridgeway before taking a right turn over Lowbury Hill and on down to Aston Tirrold. In the fast descent off Lowbury Hill, Jim took a nasty fall on the rutted and somewhat slippery chalk track. By the time I got back to the scene Jim had picked himself up off the deck but did seem somewhat shaken. However he pronounced himself fit to continue and by the time we reached the end of the ride had made a good if somewhat bruised recovery.

After passing through the picturesque village of Aston Tirrold we rode along the side of Blewburton Hill to Blewbury. From Blewbury we climbed back up onto the downs on the track leading up past the side of Churn Hill and then up Several Down to meet the Ridgeway on top. We then followed the Ridgeway westwards for a kilometre or so before passing under the A33 and taking a left turn which led to the really good and long downhill along the side of the gallops on Hodcott Down.

From the bottom of the downhill we went straight across the road and onto a tricky little section of rutted and rolling bridleway. Part way along this, Steve sustained a very rapid puncture, which turned out to have been caused by a half inch nail perhaps from a horseshoe? This was quickly fixed but time was pressing and we chose to take a short cut which removed somewhere in the region of 2 miles and some 250ft of ascent from the planned ride.

The return route followed the Woolvers Road track to East Ilsley from whence another track led us back up onto a further section of The Ridgeway – going eastwards this time. We left the Ridgeway just before the final ascent of the day which took us up to Starveall. All that remained was a good fast descent down into Aldworth where we came out onto the road by the church. We arrived back at The Four Points more or less on time in really lovely autumn sunshine. The food and drink was reasonably priced and I think enjoyed by all.

I hope everyone enjoyed the ride. Thanks for coming,


13 October 2015

On and off road from Sarratt

Eleven riders arrived at The Cock, Sarratt, on a clear, dry but chilly morning, namely: Jim, Russell, Pat, Joe, Steve P, Pauline, Robert, Dave MH, Paul, Ralph and of course the leader.

We handed in our lunch orders and were soon off across Sarratt Common by-passing Belsize and up the lane to Hollins Hall. A tour around Baldwins Wood led us down a steep descent to Flaunden Bottom. Crossing the valley we took the steep hairpins and steady uphill bridleway to Ley Hill. From the crossroads we headed north, off road to pop out on the B4505 via an awkward final climb up to road level.

Crossing the road we took an overgrown track to Moors Farm and continued north to come out on White Hill. Low gear selected, we got to the top of the hill ready for an enjoyable off road descent to Bottom Farm followed by a steady climb back up to cross the A41. A further long easy downhill run took us to Bourne End where we crossed the old A41 and accessed the canal towpath which took us along to Boxmoor. Using an old byway we climbed back up towards Felden and skirted the golf course across Sheethanger Common. A short push up for most of us led us onto the byway towards Bovingdon Church. The large ‘megapuddle’ across the track was certainly a lot less deep than my recce, so we all got across without wet feet.

On the road again, we toured around Bovingdon Green and Venus Hill towards Belsize. On the way we had time for a very enjoyable off road excursion through Hollow Hedge wood. Carrying on along the valley we had one more short climb back up to Sarratt Common before heading to the pub. Conditions under wheel were amazingly good considering last Tuesday’s rain and even the normal mud patches were easily negotiated.

We were met at the pub by Ray and Keith and enjoyed some hot food. Most picked the "Pensioner" portions which were quite adequate and efficiently served.

No significant incidences to report.

Thanks for joining me,


6 October 2015

Rain, mud and more rain around Dunsmore

With a steadily deteriorating weather forecast I was relieved to be joined by 11 intrepid riders – Andrew, John, Michael, Paul, Les M, Pat, Graham, Russ, Jim, Robert and Ralph – at The Swan, Swan Bottom.

The rain, only light at the start, steadily increased in intensity as we started off up a short bridleway section and Ralph had the first puncture. As we set off again he decided that his sleeveless tee shirt was providing inadequate protection against the elements so dropped out. We continued to the long downhill run from Hale Lane to Wendover which was fast and as enjoyable as ever. Crossing the A413 we puffed up the Icknield Way Trail from Smalldene Farm to Dunsmore pond, descended the road to Old Farm and then took the bridleway over the hill to the Chequers corner. As we followed the Ridgeway south and up towards Little Hampden the rain increased to a deluge and the trail resembled a stream bed as we had to contend with running water as well as gradient.

At the one-time Red Lion pub Andrew had a serious puncture caused by a flint and we cowered under the trees in torrential rain as he fixed it. Turning sharp left at this point we descended back to Old Farm and on up the steep chalky gully (now unrideable in either direction) to the Dunsmore ridge. We then followed the long bridleway down towards Great Missenden losing John and Graham along the way as they turned back nursing another puncture.

On reaching the Rignall Road, I cut the climb to Prestwood; so the mud splattered, drenched group proceeded along Missenden High Street, up past St. Peter and Paul church and up Frith Hill to South Heath. With 20 minutes to spare, Russ sensibly suggested we return via the bridleway from Ballinger to The Lee, which was not as muddy as expected.

Back at The Swan most people had a change of clothes and we were welcomed by a snug bar with log fire, and excellent Chiltern Brewery and Tring Brewery ales. The food arrived quickly and was good, especially the fish and the chicken cassoulet.

This will be remembered as possibly the wettest ride ever, even exceeding Leslie's ride on 22 September. The rain defeated most jackets, filling pockets and disabling at least one mobile phone. It was nevertheless enjoyable because it wasn't cold and although everyone was well plastered with muddy water, there was no thick mud to contend with. About 18 miles, long off-road sections with less than 2,000 ft of ascent.

Thanks to all the brave souls who turned out.

September 2015

29 September 2015

Hard riding around Quainton

Despite several of our regular riders having commitments elsewhere, the unusual 9:30am planned start time, the expected long slow ride, and the somewhat-out-of-area location, 12 riders turned out for a ride, starting from the George and Dragon in Quainton, north of Waddesdon.

Two cars had been delayed by traffic, so Andrew, John, Joe, Leslie, Steve, Pauline, Pat, Iain, Robert, Jim, Ralph and Michael actually got away at 9:40am after ordering lunches at the pub and, for at least one member of the party, having a coffee from the pub's café next door.

The initial 2 miles were on road before we turned east along the Aylesbury Ring bridleway for 1½ miles of fields: damp grass over dry ground, but tough riding in glorious sunshine which lasted all day. At Folly Farm – very apt! – we joined a tarmaced farm track to the main A413 where we turned left up the first serious hill to Whitchurch, then on minor roads to Oving, where we followed a bridleway north for 2 miles, initially on single track then field edges to the road at Christmas Gorse. The leader was just congratulating everyone on making up for the 10 minutes delayed start through efficient gate handling (one rider kept a count: 28 in the whole ride) and strong riding, when we had our first puncture. In fact everyone was glad of a breather and for those who weren't involved in the repair, a bit of blackberrying.

50 yards of road took us back onto field edges, now rather more rider-friendly, and farm tracks for 1½ miles to North Marston where we took the back road through the village, past the pub, onto more minor roads to the bridleway north of Stonehill Farm and – whoa! – a brief rebellion for more blackberrying. Later in the ride, the berries seemed to grow juicier and there was some jockeying for who held the gate at the best spots!

1.8 miles of road led us through Botolph Claydon to a good farm track south for 1 mile (the leader discovered on a recce that the local farmer is a keen mountain-biker), then onto a short section of single track, another short farm track west, then a fast grassy descent to a mile of excellent wooded twisting single track, marred only by the final section being rather overgrown with nettles. A short climb up to Knowlhill Farm led to a longer climb on a farm track back to the top of the grassy descent. We then turned east along field edges onto an open grassy descent to the road, delayed slightly by two more punctures. With the time approaching 1pm and the prospect of another 40 minutes of a fierce climb up Quainton Hill from the north on tired legs, albeit with a superb fast grassy descent, we instead turned south along the road for 2 miles back to the pub.

Food at the George and Dragon was excellent, plentiful, served quickly and good value; good home cooking, hot plates and, as one rider remarked, gravy to die for. A tough day, but a good one, in perfect conditions.



22 September 2015

Wet and muddy west of Henley

Despite the unbelievably awful weather forecast I was joined at The Butchers Arms, Sonning Common, by Jim, Joe, Robert, Keith, John B, Russell, Andrew, and Frank.

We set off from the pub and after a very short stretch of road, turned down the bridleway through Blount's Farm, turning right at Bottom Barn across the edge of the field and into the woods. The bridleway through the woods climbed gently along through the trees but was really quite rooty, which if nothing else required care and attention. At the end of the woods we turned left into Dog Lane towards Peppard and continued on paths round the outside of the golf course through an avenue of trees until we had completed almost a triangle.

On returning to Dog Lane we took a left and headed, still off road, to Greys Road turning right for a short stretch on road, into the woods down Pack and Prime Lane. This was mainly downhill but with a sharpish short uphill just before arriving in Henley above George Harrison's house.

We continued downhill round the back of Henley and on arriving at the Fair Mile turned left and continued up the path on the side of the road to the Stonor turn off. Just up the Stonor road we had our one and only puncture which Jim found had been caused by a large flint. At this stage we had ridden through light rain or no rain and even a hint of sun. However Frank put the kibosh on that by saying the weather was much better than expected – 5 minutes later and for the rest of the ride it rained… and rained!

We progressed up the very wet road, taking the turning left and gently cycled uphill towards Bix Bottom and the Warburg Nature Reserve. Here we left the road and took the long steady uphill through the woods to Park Corner. At Park Corner we returned briefly to the road and towards the A4130, turning left on the road before turning right along Haydon Lane, taking us off road again, mainly flat towards Witheridge Hill. Another brief spell on the road and back uphill heading for home on the second from last hill of the day, through woods, still in the pouring rain.

One last dash uphill got us back to Sonning Common and the pub. We were all soaking wet and had covered just over 20 miles, with about 1,650 feet of climb, returning to the pub at about 1.15. The bridleways were, despite the rain, in amazingly good condition if not very wet, though occasionally the mud seemed quite 'sticky'. We were all wet and covered in mud, as were our bikes. We were met at the pub by Iain and Brian who joined us all for lunch. The food took rather a long time to arrive but it was I hope, enjoyed by all.

Thank you for braving the elements.


15 September 2015

Roamin’ up the Roman road from Dorchester

Eight riders gathered at The Six Bells at Warborough for the morning's ride – Paul, Andrew, Keith, Iain, Robert, Frank, John and David N.

There had been rain overnight and more was expected, so we set off in cool, but dry, autumnal conditions. We left the pub and village green just after the church clock struck 10 o'clock and headed west for Dorchester, riding along a bridleway under the bypass and turning north, over the bridge crossing the River Thame, into the town. We were now on the Roman road which we would follow (as far as possible) for the next seven miles.

Crossing back over the bypass, we headed into Berinsfield, where the road took us through the middle of the village on tarmaced paths, before we saw (and felt) something of the original Roman road as we travelled towards The Baldons. We rode through fields on tracks which had coped well with the rain, with almost no mud. Into Marsh Baldon and around one of the largest village greens in England before embarking on a part of the route which clearly was not used often, with nettles and brambles blocking our way continually.

We changed direction and headed east along a track beside a field before arriving in Garsington, where we encountered our first hill. In addition to being a tough climb, the path was narrow, overgrown and often formed a gully, making it difficult to maintain balance and keep pedalling. This was swiftly followed by a descent into Horspath where we climbed a stony track towards Shotover with views over south Oxfordshire.

A windmill appeared on the horizon which we passed close by, before an enjoyable descent into Denton. A few road miles followed until we picked up the track from Chiselhampton to Drayton St Leonard. The bridlepath through the ford on the River Thame was clearly impassable so we took the nearby footbridge before following some bumpy paths back to Warborough, arriving ten minutes before the rain at just after 1.15pm, having covered some 22 miles.

Our hosts served up an enjoyable and well-deserved meal for us all and we left to find the rain had stopped (temporarily).

Thanks to all those who joined me.


8 September 2015

Bridleways around Ashridge

On a cool, grey but dry morning twelve riders joined the leader at The Valiant Trooper in Aldbury; the twelve were Andrew, Iain, Joe, John B, Keith, Leslie, Michael, Paul, Pauline & Steve, Ralph and Robert.

Having ordered our food, we set off for a mile up the road to get onto the easiest ascent onto the Ashridge Estate, after which we headed back south passing above our starting point and turned east to cross the B4506 heading for Coldharbour Farm. As we were crossing Berkhamsted Golf Course, after 6 miles, we were halted by a call from behind; on investigation we found that whilst Leslie's pedal had remained clipped to her foot the whole crank and gear set had sheared from the bottom bracket! No way this was going to be repaired in the field but Paul very kindly volunteered to go back and fetch his car; thank-you Paul.

Abandoning Leslie at the side of the road the remaining eleven continued to Potten End. We dropped down on the road to the canal with a detour off-road for a short stretch of single track. Using the canal towpath to get through Berkhamsted we spotted Paul returning for Leslie as we left the canal to climb by road back into the Ashridge Estate. Across Northchurch Common to Tom's Hill and down to the road south of Aldbury, we crossed the fields to Aldbury Nowers heading for Northfield Grange. Finding the bridleway blocked by a barbed-wire fence we had to do a short section on a footpath to reach the barbed-wired fence on the other side of the field (this has been reported – the problem was known and is being dealt with).

Around Northfield Grange we encountered the trickiest climb of the day where the leader, unable to detach from his clips, took a stationary downhill fall but was unhurt – physically at least. Continuing over the top of Pitstone Hill to the road it only remained to do the last two miles downhill to the pub.

After just under 19 miles, 75% off-road, and with clean bikes we were back at the pub by 12.45 where Paul was waiting after he and Leslie had had lunch and Leslie had returned home; we await reports. There was a good selection of beers and ciders on offer and after some confusion about tables, being told the large table was booked, but not being told it was booked for us, the food arrived in good time and was enjoyed by all.

A ride I should have saved for the winter as the surfaces are so good but I didn't have time to find an alternative.

Thanks to you all, particularly Paul and I'll see you in a fortnight,


1 September 2015

In the mud on the Downs

When we gathered at the Cherry Tree in Steventon, Oxfordshire, the car park seemed to be half full with work vans but luckily the pub was still fully operational. In addition to our leader for the day, Robert, we were Pauline and Steve, Michael, Joe, Keith, Les P, and myself.

With the food ordered we were off at 10am and within a few metres we were on a bridleway. It didn't take too long before we passed under the A34 and onwards in some sort of circle because we crossed over the A34 and headed west. There were some sections of road but a lot of bridleway until we eventually ended up on The Ridgeway on top of the Downs. East along The Ridgeway until turning north, we headed down off the Downs via various bridleways, one of which had a little optional section of swooping single track. Passing to the east of East Hendred and onto Featherbed Lane, then past the strangely named Quab Hill with a final section of bridleway, we returned to the pub at 1.15pm.

The bridleways were quite mixed, some were easy farm tracks but others ranged from quite muddy to very muddy and slippery but the extreme mud that we have encountered previously brought everyone to a halt in the end. The mud was of the type that builds up in/on the tread and curls up round the tyre and if ignored will get to the spokes and pedalling with the wheels clogging up and with all the extra weight is no joke; it has to be cleared away. At least two riders slid off – I was one of them – somewhere on route. Some sections had a good crop of nettles, there were also brambles and many thistles, pity the two riders who had bare legs. The long grass in places obscured the track and contributed to the clogging up of at least my derailleur. At one point Steve suddenly found that he had only one gear change lever when the other sheared off.

About 20 miles in total with one section of bridleway bypassed because of newly cut hedges and another bridleway missed as we ran out of time. Both food and drink were good and very welcome as the ride had been rather strenuous.



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