Friday, June 16

Cooking breakfast outside on my Trangia stove

Before I explain the title of this post, let me just tell you about my trial run to Swindon railway station. I'd already ridden to Didcot station on Bob the Brompton and wanted to compare it to a route to Swindon station, which is a bit further away from us. I didn't ride the Brompton as I wasn't at all sure of a part of the route I'd chosen, which was a bridleway, so I rode the Koga. I cycled via Uffington, Shrivenham and Bourton and then on a bridleway to the village of Horpit, on the outskirts of Swindon, after which I had to negotiate unexpected building works for a new road near the Commonhead roundabout.  Despite there being no signs for pedestrians or cyclists, I found my way through, and then it was on to the cycle paths, or quiet roads on NCN route 45, in Swindon all the way to the station. The whole journey there was 19 miles and took me about 4 hours.... but I didn't set out to do it as fast as possible, but to explore a possible route and to enjoy it. And to chat to people like the lady with a dog who came along just as I was emerging from a field,  having been looking for a bit of privacy to obey the call of nature (unsuccessful) and asked me, probably because I was well off the footpath that runs through the field, if I was lost! We had a nice chat and then further on I was successful....

The bridleway was very muddy in one or two spots but I got round them, and by now they will probably have dried up. It was a really lovely route as far as the roundabout, and even after that in Swindon town it was mainly traffic free. It's rather an odd feeling to cycle somewhere you've only ever driven to before. "Did I really get here on my bike?" I found myself thinking.

I would just like to add a note about Swindon here: As a child I had some friends who lived down the road from me, in a flat over a shop, and when they moved to Swindon my mum made a negative comment about it (I can't remember the comment specifically) and ever since then whenever I think about Swindon, in my mind it is a grey's that thing of associating names and nouns with colours. 

My route home was to go out of Swindon through Lower Stratton and past the police headquarters, and then I was out in the countryside again and going through the village of South Marston, then Nightingale Woods and Rove's Farm (had cup of tea in the cafe and looked round the farm shop) , Sevenhampton (burial place of Ian Fleming), Watchfield (home to the Defence Academy of the UK - I wouldn't mind a snoop round there..!) Compton Beauchamp, and the hilly and winding B4507 to home. 39.46 miles in about 8 1/2 hours....

So - back to breakfast outside. I'm not someone who just goes for bike rides for the sake of it - I like to have an aim and a purpose behind it. As well as cooking breakfast outside, I wanted to see if some bridleways and byways were rideable on my bike, for future rides perhaps. With reference to the stove, I have often used my Trangia burner with cross members, and kettle, to boil water for coffee (and no I don't pour it on boiling, I leave it to cool for precisely one minute) when out on a ride, but had only ever used the whole stove (a Trangia 25 Duodossal) to cook breakfast in our garden, and it hadn't been particularly successful. I knew that I had to challenge myself to take it on a bike ride and cook in the wild (with the hope of doing a spot of wild camping this summer) so that was the aim of this ride. After much map reading I decided on a route, and while preparing to go I remembered that on that route there was a very beautiful and peaceful wooded burial ground at Sheepdrove Organic Farm. This is it - Sheepdrove Natural Burial Ground. Jus' perfick! as old Pa Larkin of The Darling Buds of May would say.  There were two good climbs on the way there, one of which I knew I could do, and did, and the other I knew I couldn't (up to the Ridgeway) and didn't....but I like to have a go.

The owners of Sheepdrove Farm,  Peter and Juliet Kindersley, of Dorling Kindersley Publishers fame, live in the house below, on the byway - the house is very unusual, surrounded by trees on three sides,  and the garden is beautiful, though my photo doesn't do it justice.

And opposite. Not a bad view to have from your house.... 

I chose a nice spot on the edge of the wood, with a fairly new grave (the mound in front of the bench, complete with dead tulips. Incidentally, none of the graves are marked with names.) and a bench. As Mrs Armitage would say - "What every campsite needs is somewhere to put your stuff!". If everything has to go on the ground, including yourself if there isn't even a log to sit on, then it all gets a bit tricky, I have discovered. A bench served the purpose of both table and seat. 

A bit burnt but still very tasty, and  better than my garden attempts - 

I also had yogurt and banana and my home made elderberry syrup, and two small chocolate digestives -  I don't often have biscuits these days but my son and family, who have recently been staying with us, had left them behind and I took upon myself the onerous task of finishing them. It was a lovely spot to sit and eat, and I thought - I must do this again!  However..... I was just packing up when a group of mourners appeared on the path ahead of me, which shocked me a bit! I wondered if the smell of bacon and coffee was lingering in the air..... Fortunately they weren't visiting "my" grave, and in fact they didn't even glance in my direction, though they were only yards away. 

Having had quite a chilly start (it's been like that for many days now, chilly days that take ages to warm up, and I have only just stopped wearing winter clothes) it was now getting pretty hot, and after leaving the wood I removed two layers from on top, and the zip-off bits of the zip-off trousers I'd recently bought. I am always interested in what other cyclists wear (unless it's lycra...), so in case you are too, these were Peter Storm men's ones. They actually fit me really well, though I don't think I've got a manly shape.... The men's clothing in Go Outdoors, where I bought them, is always in colours much more to my liking than the women's, and they also seem to have a better choice of styles and fabrics. I bought some women's Brasher trousers a while ago, in a synthetic stretchy fabric, although I don't normally go for fabrics like that, and for a while I really liked them for cycling in, as they were very comfortable. I even bought a second pair. However, they have gone out of shape and look terrible. The Peter Storm ones are a much nicer cotton mixture fabric. I used to like Craghoppers trousers and shorts until they too started using synthetic stretchy fabrics.

And after that I rode on bits of bridleway, and parts of the Ridgeway, going east. Some were easily rideable, like this part of the Ridgeway (you can see why it is called a white road) and some I had to get off and walk. I nearly fell off once, but recovered myself and bike in time.

In the photo below, looking down from the Ridgeway, the arrow on the left is pointing to new houses (there are thousands...) built on the east side of Wantage, the one in the middle points to the road to Wantage from Newbury, and the one on the right points roughly to Didcot power station.

Another part of the Ridgeway, looking east.

I took a byway down from the Ridgeway towards East Hendred, and then turned off onto part of NCN route 544 and headed west to Wantage, and then home, refilling my water bottles with lovely cold water from a tap outside Ardington church.

I am glad to have completed the challenge of cooking outside in the wild, and I really enjoyed doing the off-roading. I wouldn't want to do it in the winter on my bike, but at this time of year it was fine, and made a lovely change from riding on the road all the time, and I don't mind at all having to get off and walk. About 26 miles - in 8 hours!! That's my kind of cycling!!