20th Sep 2008

Unfortunately Andrew had to work last minute so our planned joint ride didn’t happen. So I looked up some routes in South Oxfordshire and went off on my own. I came across the Wantage Section of the Cycling Touring Club (CTC) and they did a 36 mile route around the Vale of White Horse a few weeks ago so I shamelessly stole that route to see what it was like.

It was a beautiful morning for cycling, sunny, warmish and calm. The Vale of White Horse is stunningly beautiful when you’re doing around 15mph on a bike. I drove to Grove and parked at the recreation ground and set off from there. Down to Wantage and a short stretch along the A417 to East Challow. There is a good surfaced track that runs parallel to the B4507 to Childrey which was a useful find. Then along deserted lanes through Sparsholt and Westcot. At this point I had to join the B4507 for a short stretch to turn towards Uffington, but it was very quiet. Probably the best part of the ride was through Uffington to Shrivenham. Deserted lanes with views to my left up to the White Horse and Uffington castle. Following and crossing the course of the old Wilts & Berks canal as it meanders through the valley. Hopefully we’ll see boats on this again one day.

A fast descent followed by a reasonable climb soon found me in Highworth where there was a street fair, I got off the bike and strolled through the stores of goodies and resisted buying lots of cake! I knew what was coming next, the B4019 to Faringdon is undulating to say the least, I’ve driven it a few times. The first climb wasn’t too bad and I took my first short break halfway up at Coleshill, for a small chocolate bar and some water. I sat outside the church for 10 minutes and then pushed on.

The worst was to come. Badbury Hill with it’s Iron Age hill fort on the top is steep, the sign at the bottom said 8% but I thought that was overly optimistic (the final 150m measured on a map when I got home says it’s more like 14% or 1-in-7 in old money). I got about three-quarters of the way up and I admit I had to push the last 100m, but I didn’t feel too bad about doing that. It was mostly downhill from there then. Past the amazing Great Coxwell barn which is well worth a visit. The A420 crossing between the Coxwells wouldn’t go down in my top 10 of life experiences, it was a wait patiently and then dash across moment. More quiet lanes and villages followed, Fernham, Shellingford, Hatford, Charney Bassett and Denchworth. I had another brief rest stop before Denchworth. And then I was back in Grove for the tedious last mile through the housing estate.

I found it quite difficult to pace myself and frequently found I was going much faster than I intended, but in the end it all went well. A lovely ride.

Distance :: 36.49 mi
Time :: 2h30m52s
Average Active Speed :: 14.51 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

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John Talbot

The main protagonist behind this nonsense. The website title is inspired by the lyrics of the B-side to Lily the Pink by The Scaffold. "The buttons of your mind were difficult to find and my fingers far too clumsy."