24th Jan 2009

I was on my own for this ride which I didn’t enjoy much at all. I wanted to see if there was a route to the Berkshire Downs without having to go via Wantage. There isn’t. Well, there is but it’s rubbish. Literally rubbish.

I cycled through Harwell and Didcot and onto the old railway line to Upton. There are byways that lead to the West Ilsley turn on the A34 which I wanted to try. The first bit wasn’t too bad, uphill on an unsurfaced track but quite cyclable. Once I reached the bridge over the old railway it turned nasty. The deep cutting here has been turned into a landfill and the track to the A34 was made up of broken rubble and bricks used by refuse lorries. There was a road scraper apparently ‘levelling’ it when I was there, he was turning it into more of a mess. It was also covered in a brown/grey slime that absolutely stank. It was too far to turn back so I very slowly and carefully picked my way to the road. My mudguards and tyres were covered in the smelly mud by then and it’s all I could smell for the next few miles. I was seeking out puddles to try and wash some of it off. Yuck.

The road up to Bury Down was crap too. The car park at the top of the hill is used by foreign lorry drivers as an overnight stop and the road and verge were covered in detritus. By the time I got to West Ilsley I was a bit fed up and not enjoying the ride much.

I turned towards Farnborough and eventually got to nice country lanes through Catmore and Stanmore to East Ilsley. At Compton I had the steep climb up Applepie Hill to Aldworth where I joined the B4009 to Streatley and the very steep hill (down for me). A couple of miles on the A417 were necessary next to get me to the Cholsey turn and then I was on familiar roads I use for cycling to work.

So, what did I learn from this ride? Seeking out byways on a tourer is a stupid idea, getting to the downs is not sensible without going via Wantage, the roads around West Ilsley and Farnborough aren’t great fun in the winter and having your mobile phone bouncing around on the handlebars is likely to crack the LCD screen.

Distance :: 44.18 mi
Time :: 3h19m47s
Average Active Speed :: 13.27 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile