The clocks have just sprung forward, so it must be time for the Newbury Road Club away weekend! On Saturday 2 April 2022, we took 30 riders (yes thirty! – sorry, still gob smacked at the support) on red, blue and green rides from Newbury, starting the the Bowler’s Arms to Southampton, via various hills and dales.
Saturday saw the red ride gaining height over Coombe and Ham before a beautiful refrain of the Club’s Test Valley Tour all the way to Mottisfont. After a couple of hours through classic Hampshire river views and thatched cottages, the ride headed South toward the New Forest. As the terrain changed it became clear that we would see little in the way of trees and certainly a very olde world landscape. The vista provided a peaceful and beautifully open tribute by way of yellow gauze bushes and blue skies, a resonating colour scheme in today’s troubled world!
After our second cake stop in Fordingbridge, we ventured further into the New Forest and encountered the ultimate and iconic village green scenes with grazing ponies, donkeys and cattle. Curious creatures indeed but gladly the one donkey showing an interest in an inverted bike/puncture repair decided we were dimwits and grass munching a much better pastime. Hey Ho!
The blue rides headed across the Downs towards Thruxton race circuit, unusually quiet, before heading to Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm for a very welcome slice of cake and coffee. Some stunning villages ensued, in particular, through the Wallops before the ‘hill’ everyone had been looking forward to out of West Dean (not out of place in the Tour of Flanders taking place in Belgium that weekend). Thankfully it was only a very short drop to a wonderful welcome at the King’s Head in Whiteparish and lunch. Riders knew the worst was behind them.
The green rides left Newbury via White Hill before a short ride to Preston’s at Overton for coffee, always a great welcome, before gently rolling roads to Winchester, where they then proceeded to ride around the period drama-esque lanes before arriving at the ‘South Downs Social café’ for a well-earned lunch. The roads after lunch were a little busy around Romsey but they all arrived in one piece at the Hotel.
On Day 2 the green ride had a beautiful ride along the Test Valley. The proposed coffee stop in Stockbridge was put on hold as a brigade of vintage motor cars and their ascendant support vehicles thronged the main road, however, the Waitrose Garden Centre at Leckford provided a good substitute. The adventure for the green ride began in earnest when they approached the climb of Watership down; one rider lost power and so only had two gears and shortly after, another had a mis-clipping incident which saw a slow-motion tumble and a broken gear hanger. Both riders got home safely so only a tale to tell and pride intact!
The blue ride followed the reverse of the green ride. Nagging northerly provided a little extra challenge to tired legs. The southerly ride into Winchester included a stretch on Sustrans Route 23 over the Hockley Railway Viaduct before passing St Catherine’s Hill, a 43-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the back lanes again to South Downs Social for coffee. Navigating out of Winchester proved a little more of an adventure. There are some really good cycle lanes over the A34 to enable riders to cross safely from west to ease, however when a number of cyclists are passing through, the odd unsighted bollard unfortunately led to a couple of minor falls, enough to bend a couple of front brake rotors, making the last few miles back to Newbury a little tougher than they should have been.
On Day 2 the red ride started amidst some vintage cars on their own rally or is that normal traffic in this charming part of the world? We headed north to cross into Wiltshire guided by high hedges toward the impressive spire of Salisbury cathedral. A gentle roll through cycle ways and against a constant flow of ten-mile runners, over a thousand strung out over the next five miles, eventually took us to a fabulous bakery stop in Amesbury. Suitably refreshed we were to cross miles of open Salisbury plains including tank crossings. Tired legs kept going awaiting the holy grail of “all downhill now” until we finally folded into The Bowlers Arm’s to be greeted by Lynn Portwood, guardian angel of away day kit and clobber. A welcome sight indeed…
Article by Gordon Fry and Dave Portwood