Monday, August 5

A week of less ordinary cycling!

Having said that I was going to write about ordinary cycling, this week I have done less of the ordinary cycling and more of the "Wot-I-did-on-my-holidays" sort of cycling. That's because Husband had the week off and so did I (ish!!). He's been paragliding, and building a garden arch. I've been cycling on 3 days and we had a lovely walk together on another day, when we saw crayfish, both the good (native) and bad (non-native) sort. The baddie was dead.

So, on to the cycling.

There are days when I think -

"I'll go on a bike ride today."

 - but have difficulty making up my mind where to go. Last Sunday I ruminated on whether to go to Hungerford (which meant a climb over the Ridgeway at some point - was I in the mood for that?) and possibly go along the Kennet and Avon canal a bit, or do almost the same ride I had done the week before, in order to find a bridlepath I hadn't been able to find then.

In the end the frustration of not having found that bridlepath won out. The particular path I was looking for was one near a tiny place called Carswell Marsh and which I thought might be useful, and interesting, on future rides as a quiet cut-through from one busy road to another. I like sussing out these little byways, bridlepaths etc. when I've got more time, to see how rideable they are on bikes like mine (hybrid and  touring).

Once home I had had a better look on the OS map and could see where it was meant to start, so off I went again. I'm glad to say I found it this time - the sign was very faded and hard to see, but probably the week before I hadn't looked carefully enough. The first part was rough grass and thistle, so I pushed the bike, the next part was flatter grass so I rode, then it became a tarmacked farm track, albeit very potholed (not much different to most roads then!) so all in all, at this time of year, an acceptable route for cyclists, as long as you're not in a hurry, which I rarely am! At one stage it even goes through somebody's garden; it wasn't very clearly signposted but I was very polite and did my best not to nose around too much....

I rather hoped I might then be able to get across the Thames via a footbridge, and cut across more footpaths to Bampton, but unfortunately the kissing gate at the bridge was too narrow to get my bike through, and even if I had I might have encountered more such problems further on. I know cyclists aren't meant to cycle on footpaths, but it's often handy to be able to use them and either cycle, giving way to pedestrians, or just push. Anyway, I carried on to the Thames Path (which I cycled - here it was wide and not too rough) and got back on the road at Radcot bridge.

Thence I went to Bampton and on to Aston Pottery for a very belated cup of coffee (I'd eaten my sandwiches earlier in a field) and cake. The observant of you may have noticed that I now have a Cafe Reviews page on the blog. I update it whenever I go to another one, and I've added Aston Pottery now. I have been here lots of times over the years, and it's extremely popular with cyclists. It's gone from being quite a small shop to a much bigger one selling not just their own pottery but lots of other stuff as well, and the cafe has expanded too, but I can't help thinking that it's one of those places that was nicer when it was smaller.

Anyway, I was not impressed with either my coffee or my cake. The americano I had was bitter, and the carrot cake was so dry it fell apart whenever I stuck my fork in it, so I contacted them via their website to tell them so (politely...). I have not heard anything so shall have to resort to a letter as their website gives no email address. That always makes me wonder if having a contact form and not giving an email address as well isn't a cunning trick to get rid of annoying customers. Sometimes you can copy an email address even if it doesn't actually show up on the website but I couldn't even do that. I won't give up.... I have to say that their lunches looked very appetising though.

After that it was home again, a flattish ride south via the villages of our Vale of the White Horse. The weather had turned out quite hot, and windy. I did 35 miles and when I got home I was rather knackered, and I thought to myself that I have in the past done 50 miles in a day (I once even did 67 on my very ordinary Trek) and found myself doubting whether I could still do that, so just to prove I could I went out the next day and did! Husband laughed and said he was going to tell his paragliding chum that -

"My wife cycled 35 miles on Sunday and said she was knackered afterwards so the next day she goes out and does 50!"

If you're interested, here's a link to this ride -

My decision to go out and try for 50 after a tiring 35 made perfect sense to me even if Husband found it amusing. I wasn't so knackered that I needed any longer than overnight to recover, and I tend to analyse things a lot and I wanted to know exactly why I was knackered - was it perhaps the food I ate, either the type of food or the quantity? Or something else? With these thoughts in mind I set off the next day at 9.15 (not as early as I'd have liked but I had been distracted by various bits of housework that needed doing) to explore further our local NCN Route 5 which travels east from Wantage to Didcot and Wallingford, and north to Abingdon and Oxford. I'd been as far as Abingdon previously but fancied going up to Oxford. The first 9 miles or so of my ride were again via villages in the Vale of the White Horse - Childrey, Denchworth, and West and East Hanney, then a boring and sometimes busy road across to Drayton and on to the NCN path. I'd stopped 8 miles into the ride at West Hanney for a drink and bits of fruit, and then my next stop was for free coffee at Waitrose in Abingdon.

I usually take home made sandwiches with me, as well as fruit, tomatoes (yes I know that's also fruit!) and a snack bar but today I had brought with me a tuna John West Creations range meal  instead, but when I got to Waitrose at 11.30 I fancied some of their sandwiches. Bearing in mind what I had been thinking about food, I went for something substantial - chicken and bacon - which I sat outside eating, along with a few tiny chocolate biscuits from home (I only bought them as we needed a tin!) and my free coffee. A lady joined me and we chatted about walking. It was very pleasant sitting there, and I was interested to see that many shoppers came by bike, more than do in Wantage.

Then it was off through the Abbey Meadows -

to join NCN 5. I had worked out a circular route home and decided I hadn't quite got time to go as far as Oxford, so I turned off west just north of Radley, having passed this Millenium milepost marker -

NCN Millenium milepost marker
What spoilt this ride for quite a few miles was the noise of the traffic from the A420. It certainly spoils the lovely village of Sunningwell, which I had never been to before but had heard of as I had seen it mentioned in the Oxfordshire Art Weeks booklets - it has a School of Art in the old school building. Just fancy - a little village with its own School of Art! Imagine the conversation -

"Oh, you went to art school? Glasgow? St Martin's?" [They're the ones I've heard of]

"Oh no - Sunningwell!"

[Cough, splutter] "Where????"

I went in the church opposite to have a look round; I often stop and go in churches, and it is good to find that invariably they are open. I have only found one, on my recent jaunts, that wasn't. I also refilled my water bottle at their outside tap - I have said in a previous post that most churches have an outside tap somewhere! The water is usually lovely and cold too.

After Sunningwell I went through Shippon, which I hadn't realized was the home of Dalton Barracks, though I could tell it was somewhere military just from the look of it. I've often passed the sign to Dalton Barracks on a different road but had no idea it was in a place called Shippon! You learn something new every day! The next place of any significance was Tubney, and here were the usual signs of wealth - big houses set back from the wide verges, electronic gates by the dozen -

Nice bike in the foreground.

- and anti-climb paint, which apparently never dries and is therefore an effective anti-intruder measure. It is apparently difficult to remove from clothing so it's a good job that I didn't get too close to the fence it was on. I just think - what's the point of having that much dosh if you're so terrified of invaders that you need these electronic entry devices and anti-climb paint, and no doubt intruder alarms and probably CCTV as well? Maybe there are even security guards lurking in the gardens too. And probably fierce Alsations. Or perhaps those latter two are a bit old school!!

Part of my mission on this ride was to find the tunnel under the A420 at Fyfield; I had read about it on Wantage CUK ride reports. I could see it on the OS map on Husband's old smartphone but couldn't find the path to it. I ended up having to cross the dual carriageway (had to wait ages for a gap in the traffic) to where I could see the bridlepath opposite, then pootled along it, saw another path off it, went down there, found the tunnel, went through it, and followed the path back to where I should have got on it! Interestingly, when I got home and looked at our older paper OS map, I could see the old road, that is now really just a path, that led to the tunnel, and where I should have got on it. I suppose it's no longer classified as any kind of public right of way, so is no longer on the map. Just goes to show, the old maps are useful.

The tunnel in the distance

At the other end of the village of Fyfield there is no tunnel and if you want to get across the A420 at this end then you do have to cross over it, but here there is a place to wait between the two carriageways making it easier and safer to cross -

You can just see where the path comes out on the opposite side of the road.

I then found another old bit of road, now re-classified as "other route with public access" which led me to Kingston Bagpuize, and here once again I went on the search for a short cut, which on both the old and new maps is clearly marked as a "restricted byway" but which is simply not there at all in places, or where it is it has an unofficial notice calling it a footpath. I did some homework when I got home, looking it up on the Oxfordshire Definitive Map, a legal record of public rights of way, and it is definitely marked as a restricted byway, so my next step is to go and see if I can find physically where it originally came out onto the road at the other end. I've looked on Google Streetview but can't see evidence of it. The next step after that is to report it to the County Council.

I was beginning to flag slightly at this point; I'd done about 35 miles, the same distance that had knackered me the day before! I tend to stop more often later in a ride, both to rest and to drink and eat. I wasn't actually particularly hungry but bearing in mind my thoughts the evening before about food intake I thought that maybe I should eat the John West meal. I was jolly glad I still had it with me; I think I needed it as I ate the lot quite easily and felt better for it. I also walked for a bit, pushing the bike. The explanation for this is that a) it uses different muscles for a change and b) every bicycle and rider creates some noise, and sometimes I just want to be able not to hear that noise but to hear the sounds of nature around me and c) I just like walking.

I visited another church on the way home, at West Challow, where they had no tap but offered free bottles of water inside. They also had books you could borrow, and I picked one by Mark Tanner, entitled "The Introvert Charismatic: The Gift of Introversion in a Noisy Church". I have since read this interesting article about the author, who transports blood by motorbike in his spare time.

I had begun to realize by now that if I carried on and went straight home, I wouldn't reach 50 miles, but only about 44. I really wanted to do 50 if only to prove to myself that I could do it (OK, I admit, it looks good on Strava....) so when I got to within 1 1/2 miles of home I went back and did a 2 mile circuit before heading towards home again. Uh oh, still not far enough........ but some more veering off the route and I did it! 50.14 miles to be precise. I got home about 7.20 pm, not too knackered!

I have to say that this wasn't, overall, the most enjoyable of bike rides. As I said earlier, for quite a few miles I could hear the busy A420, and the roads across from Radley to Fyfield, although rural, are quite busy, almost rat runs in places, but, as they say (well I do anyway) "there's no such thing as a bad bike ride - just some that aren't as good as others!"

And just out of interest, here's a list of what I ate while out -

2 clementines
2 quarters of tomato (I didn't fancy the other 2)
2 chicken and bacon sandwiches
About 5 tiny chocolate biscuits
John West Creations meal
Yogurt (bought in Waitrose)

In case you're interested, here's a link to this ride -

Then I had two days break from cycling before going on our local Wantage CUK 1* group ride on the Thursday. The 1* group may be the bottom rung of the ladder but we certainly put in some miles, and for me at a pace which is usually faster than my normal one. To put that in figures, I've noticed that my normal pace when out on my own is between 8 and 9 mph, whereas with the group it is between 10 and 11, which is considerably faster, and I have on some rides felt that I was not only struggling to keep up but that I simply didn't want to go at that speed. After one particular ride I even thought - do I want to do this? I ruminated a lot on it........... However, I'm happy to say that more often than not on these rides I have been perfectly able to keep up and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

The pace of today's ride turned out to be a fraction over 10 mph - perfectly acceptable even to me! - and was about 20 miles long. I joined the group at the usual start, 6 miles away, and left them after the stop at the Huddle Coffee shop at Stanford in the Vale to make my own way home. A note about the coffee, my usual Americano - it wasn't quite as good as last time (see my review) when it was very good. I do wonder if the standard of a coffee in the same cafe can vary from time to time for some reason unknown to me - something else for me to investigate! As it was beyond mid-morning coffee-and-cake time and well into lunch time I had egg mayo sandwiches with a side of salad* and they were excellent! Proper home made style. We did a flat ride of the Vale and although we cycled roads we've ridden lots of times before it was still very enjoyable. We had a couple of new riders join us this time, which was good.

So, there we have it, a week of Less Ordinary Cycling. Back to the more Ordinary this week I think....

* One of Eldest Son's Strava (and real life) friends has a habit of adding "with a side of" to the title of his Strava rides, which I think is rather amusing, so I've decided to slip this into my blog on occasions, even when it's nothing to do with food.....


  1. looks like it was a lovely week and well done on the 50miles.
    happy cycling Brenda x

  2. I am fair knackered after two dispiriting days at work.

    After reading your post I have decided that tomorrow I will shop by bike. A round trip of about 8 kms, mostly flat (ish), riding my massive cargo bike. With a side of home made flat white...

  3. Accordian3 - you have made my day! I'm so pleased to have inspired you to do this, and I do hope you enjoy it - with the side of flat white!

  4. Oh Lizzie, your bike rides sound delightful. I used to visit Wallingford every year to visit my dear friend Sheila, sadly she passed away so haven't been for a few years. There is lovely walk along the Thames to a café on the canal side, just up from a lock, I think at Benson?, it was a boatyard and the café was excellent. Its interesting what you eat, I need to make sure that I eat protein for lunch otherwise I run out of steam when at work.

  5. Don't know that cafe - I see there's one called The Waterfront, is it that one perhaps? Funny how one often remembers good (or bad!) cafes though! Yes I definitely need protein at lunch time, though carbs as well.

  6. Yes, Lizzie that's the one. I've had a look on the website, it looks posher now, especially the new veranda, very smart. I used to walk the dog there every day for either morning coffee or lunch. It was a lovely walk from Wallingford, all sorts of wildlife next to the river, barn owls, kites (the bird variety), dragonflies.

  7. So wonderful to read your exploits, once again. Which bike did you use? Wondering how your new one is working out.

  8. Annie - on both of these rides I used the Koga. I'm very happy with it; after adjusting the saddle position (and tensioning the saddle itself) and handlebar position several times I think I've finally got it dialled in (as you US lot say!). I'm still experimenting with tyre pressures, having read an interesting article some time ago, and realizing that maybe I had them higher than they needed to be for my weight. I've done a lot of miles on it now. It's the bike I always use for my longer journeys.


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