An exceptionally pleasant evening was in store for the riders with fantastic weather and great route planned ahead. A big welcome to Mike Fitton on his first Corallian ride.
The excellent weather helped the ride along and it was great to see so many other like-minded people on their bikes riding solo or in various groups. The ladies Time Trialing group was particularly noticeable with orders being shouted up and down their chain gang as we rode through Charney.
The light wind pushed us up my least favorite road in the Vale from Charney to Gainfield making it just as enjoyable as riding down it the other direction. The ride continued through the Thames Valley and Vale without any incidents and it was a very enjoyable ride.
Some of the morning riders stripped off over lunchtime into more skimpy gear, which turned out to be a good call, as it got nice and warm. Joined by Adrian, Mike and Richard, we cracked on through Ginge and Harwell, making the most of a cunning cut-through (that even the locals didn't know of) to avoid Didcot, we made it to Chilton garden centre to see Mrs Chairman, who had just run 26km, and her friends also taking afternoon coffee - an ideal way to spend your 23rd wedding anniversary.
Afterwards, we took the track of dubious laccess to the bottom of Bury Down, where we stopped and had a natter to the farmer's mother-in-law, who instead of shouting "get orf my land" was most welcoming and noted how the family welcome cyclists as long as the crops aren't damaged - point noted and thank-yous said, we rattled our way back to the tarmac.
Climbing over the Ridgeway and then back up to it again at Farnborough was rather hot for those of us (guilty!) who were still in warmer clothes. Still, the descent of Chain Hill provided sufficient wind chill to cool down again.
Only slightly slower and less hilly than this morning's Red ride, I think pats on the back are in order, and it was great to see Richard out riding again, and in good form!
There was a little drizzle in the air before we set off, but the gloomy weather lifted to give us superb views on our climb up Sparsholt Firs, and then down the glorious Sheepdrove road. Then up Baydon Road, with John proclaiming this to be a new route, the first of many for him today. After the descent into Aldbourne and along the flat, we had a last climb up to Ramsbury where excellent coffee 'n' cake was waiting.
More climbing followed, and legs got a little wearier, including the A338 up to the top of the Ridgeway. By this time the sun was out and although the headwind was still rather tough, it may be starting to feel a little like Spring. Overall, a pretty quick ride considering the hilliness and the wind - well done to all.
Lunch was very welcome at Costa in Wantage, where we lost Andy for the afternoon...
A rather nippy morning for 4 riders - it looked like it should be raining for most of the way around, and the sun only shone briefly just after Terry suggested it might.
Plenty of hills and a nagging northerly wind, but we made good time and had a coffee and cake at the cafe in Aldbourne - a hidden treasure. A quick diversion to see the Dalek, and before long we were slugging it out up Marridge Hill, only to find our way impeded by most of a blackthorn tree across the road. A good morning out!
The only dawdler on this ride was the leader, who thought it started at 9.30. Sorry for the late start guys! Good weather throughout. A stiff south-easterly made progress tough when it was head-on, particularly climbing to Ipsden and the final stretches back to Benson. We made it back before the promised rain.
A well-balanced peloton: everyone had a go on the front at some stage and minimal separation on the climbs, although the Turville Tunnel exerted its usual selection process - thanks for waiting for me. Bluebells were much in evidence, particularly in the woods after Turville.
We have coffee at Velolife which was rammed with cyclist and lots of carbon bling parked outside. Lunch at Jenner's kept us fuelled for the return leg. Louis and I took tea by the river before he set-off to cycle back to Wantage.
A really enjoyable ride - no mechanicals or nasty drivers - and excellent company!
As five brave souls gathered in Wantage it started to hail and then snow. Let's get going I said, then all hell broke loose. Apocalyptic hail, rain, snow, kitchen sinks afflicted us through Challow, our faces hurt as we descended.
It didn't last all that long, by Denchworth it had stopped. But now we are wet and cold. The only way to solve that is to ride hard and fast to try and warm up again. Adrian had had enough though so did a circuit round Denchworth and headed for the pub. It was a close call if Barry would continue as we went past his house with snow visible in the verges and fields!
However, the four remaining riders had a spirited and thankfully dry ride and completed the full distance. Some welcome warmth and food at the quiet Fox where Chris joined us for a natter was just what we needed.
Well done for coming out tonight, tough conditions!
Just a couple of riders today - maybe the overnight frost was a deterrent?
Anyhow, off we went and nearly had a club collision before we'd got 100m! An early diversion because the planned route was rather less of a road than had been hoped for, a sneaky route through Shrivenham brought us back on track, sneaking into Bishopstone by a new route. Up to the Ridgeway via White Hill, rather than the more common Hatchet Hill, and the descent into Aldbourne was splendid.
Marridge Hill was as tough as ever, and on the top we got exposed to the headwind, which really did sap the energy, and made the decent into Lambourn rather sluggish.
Over coffee, the discussion was around what makes some days seem "slow" - today is one such day. Climbing back out via Sheepdrove was a novelty and became rather tough into the headwind, and the decent down towards Childrey was similarly retarded.
A quick stop under a tree at the top of Pulpit Hill kept the hail off us, until it made a reappearance just after we finished. A tough morning's ride!
Nice compact group tonight, we deviated up to Childrey cricket club to avoid the roadworks, and got rewarded with a very quiet A417.
Good pace throughout, but still plenty of banter. Jon left us at Fernham to get back in time for his curfew, as we ploughed on through the familiar roads of the Vale, all working hard and nobody struggling. This has been the fastest Corallian ride to date!
Back just before sunset, as the gathering clouds were enhancing the gloom. Nice ride folks!
The BWH audax route gave a great day out, as ever, helped especially by sunshine all day. Challenging hills, safe descents and enough flat sections to keep the rouleurs happy. We lunched in the sunshine in Marlborough. We took an afternoon break in the sunshine at Shrivenham. A good job we checked the route too, as two of the info controls need to be changed! Thanks all for an excellent outing.
Just the two of us confirmed, so the ride was quorate... and imagine the surprise when another familiar face rolled across the car park in Shepton Mallet! Seriously though, for a moment, for all away rides, please let the ride leader know you're coming - worst case scenario is the ride doesn't run and you're not aware (why would you be?) and most likely outcome is that there won't be enough space booked for lunch.
Setting off then, the surprise 17% rise at Winters Hill caused some early consternation, and a few more undulations followed, with the ever-growing view of Glastonbury Tor. The lanes around here are totally straight for miles, with drainage ditches at either side, and we managed to spook a heron into flight as we cracked on.
Breakfast at Sweets Cafe was a relaxed affair, the cafe yet again brimming with riders. Lyn changed his hearing aid batteries, so he could hear us better... Onwards then, to Cheddar Gorge itself.
Normal service was in place - lots of jay-walkers and cars to contend with, but this is a really rewarding climb which somehow manages to get easier all the way to the top. Once the Mendip Plain was gained, we got some good miles in before the plummet down Harptree Hill towards Chew Valley Lake, where drinks, cakes and ice-creams were taken in the sunshine.
The final part of the ride is pretty tough, especially for tired legs. It didn't help on the second climb that your chirpy ride leader called out the gradient every metres, topping out at another 17%.... The final bonus climb was short and steep, and we nearly lost Lyn who didn't manage to hear shouts of "turn left" (I'd go for a refund on those batteries Lyn!), but he made it back to the group in enough time to enjoy (!) the steep 20% climb of Litt Hill.
Some undulating along delightful lanes followed, and then the rewarding descent of Bolter's Lane into Shepton Mallet finished the day off perfectly. Thanks to Lyn and Barry for being excellent riding partners for the day!