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Kingston MCC
XT660Z in Wiltshire July 2012

This summer has been such a washout so far, so when the sun finally came out with a vengeance, I very reluctantly dragged myself into work on the Monday. At work I checked out the forecast for the rest of the week and hatched a plan to take Wednesday off and to go for a joy ride. That night I suggested to the wife that we could go out and have a picnic on the Downs in Berkshire/Wiltshire and she thought that was a great idea. Tuesday came and Nicky set off to the shops to sort out a picnic feast while I finished off a late shift at work and convinced our area manager to let me take the time off. I also sent Phil an sms asking him if he fancied coming along and he was well up for it but a tricky meeting could not be moved so on Wednesday morning I packed the huge feast into a small tailpack and off we went for the day. I pretty much know all the area but I took a map and gps as backup as its nice to be able to follow the auto routing on the gps sometimes when on the road.

all packed and ready to leave - tailpack stuffed with food!


first stop of the day on the way over to the downs

pretty flowers


As it was so hot I’d opted to junk the full body armour that I normally wear and got dressed in much cooler feeling jeans and a light summer paddock jacket instead. The jacket had some elbow pads too but as I had no intention of taking liberties with Nicky on the back I felt perfectly justified in going semi-naked!

Having had some bits and pieces to sort out in the morning we had a bit of a late start but were on the road by 10am or thereabouts and headed over to the downs via the back roads. From Stockenchurch I headed for Christmas Common then on to Cookley Green where I turned right down I single track lane that takes you down to the bottom of the old section of the Ridgeway via some farms. On the track we stopped to take in the views as it looked like the farmer had planted a massive crop of poppies – the naughty kind, I assume it’s for medical purposes. There was a buzzard overhead and the wild flowers growing along the side of the road set off the field of poppies nicely – I was 'leaking' all over by now and it was a relief to get back on the bike to get some air flowing through the jacket.



up onto the downs at last and go for a jolly on the ridgeway
open for a short time during the summer


We carried on past the recycling centre and crossed the Thames using the A4130 then turned right towards Moulsford where we turned off up towards the downs. There was a police car sitting in the track entrance to the Ashdown farm mx track but I don’t use this bit anyway so we turned right and carried on down to my usual access spot. Up the broken tar and then stopped when we were faced with the first section of green lane. Bugger the summer rains and sent the weeds and various flora into overdrive and I could barely make out one rut. This called for a rethink as trying to negotiate the track two up while the ruts are hiding in grass did not fill me with confidence. We backtracked back to the A329 and headed to Streatley were I followed my nose and found the access track to the bottom part of this section of the Ridgeway. As soon as I got onto the dirt I stood up to control the bike better and got a concerned “what the hell are you standing up for” from the rear! Urrh “I need to stand up to control the bike” was my answer but that didn’t go down too well so we continued on with me sitting down so Nicky had something to hold onto as we bumped along.


one of my old rest stops - time for a snack


mmm home made the night before

We passed a few walkers who had obviously just found out their dog had died or something as they looked absolutely fed up and must have blamed us cos they didn’t look too happy! We carried on up the hill sticking to the Ridgeway byway signs as it was nice to ride them for a change as this bit is only open for the summer months. A little further on we met a mtb rider talking to another couple and I said ‘morning’ and they looked a little more amenable than the other lot as they nodded and greeted us back. Right up near the top of the hill a team was busy filling some tiny holes to get the track billiard like, but for the life of me I’m sure the council funds could be better spent than trying to make a road a smooth as a table.



the way we'll head when we leave.


The small bridge by the disused railway line was always a favourite stop back in the day when we trial road a lot as it was a nice break having used the trials all the way from Stockenchurch along the now closed section of Ridgeway. So today I wanted to show Nicky our rest spot and it was an ideal time to break out the homemade carrot cake for a snack! I surveyed the map for a bit and looked for a non rutted route for me to take. I opted to follow the track down to the A road going to Compton then followed that through the town and out the other side to east Ilesley where you can pick up another lane but it looked rutted and too overgrown for two up trails so I set the gps to take us to the Crab pub near Cheively – again another favourite route and rest stop of mine but once again the lane was overgrown (quite badly) so we skirted round on the roads to get to the other end where I knew it had been flattened quite a bit previously.



mmm bit too overgrown for two up sitting down



the way we'd just come


When we got there I tentatively set off up the hill but by the time I got to the top I was baking from the slow going and stress of trying to control the Tenere sitting down and fitted with road biased tyres. The next bit was far too overgrown so we backtracked down the hill and turned right on a lane called 'Hangman’s Stone Lane'. Coincidently I had this stone marked as a waypoint on the gps as I wanted to included it in my organised rideout visiting interesting geo sites in the area. Legend has it a sheep rustler was taking a rest on this rock when the sheep took off. The rope was around his own neck at the time so the sheep effectively hanged the poor chap, hence the name! It’s a rather unremarkable rock though, but a funny story in a macabre sort of way.



Hangmans stone - part of a upcoming tour - hopefully


Time was moving on and it was getting really hot now so I decided to head off to my picnic stop I’d picked out in my head. In Lambourn we stopped for a couple of extra cans of cold coke and then left town on the B4000 turning off onto the Byway on the right just outside town. Nicky jumped off to open the gate and we parked up. I pointed to the views and asked Nicky what she thought of the spot. “Nice place for a picnic – but a little on the cow patty side” she reckoned. We looked for a cow poo free spot and set out the picnic .....mmmm I need to add a picnic blanket to my biking equipment. I pulled the cool box out of the trail pack and Nicky got the plates and crisps out of her rucksack. Meat pie, scotch eggs, dips etc. All washed down with a nice cold cider. Man life is hard sometimes. I noticed it was 2pm, the time I should be starting my shift – this was sooooo much better!



we reach the picnic spot!


nice views across the downs



nice views on the picnic 'table'


Well fed we chilled out in the shade and watched the buzzards and kites fly around with the occasional glider too. Nicky pulled out her home crafted sketchbook and did a quick watercolour sketch of the field on the other side of the valley, as it had an interesting red splash of poppies in it. I studied the map as I had pointed out a nice little stream when we were on our way to Lambourn and I’d told Nicky every time I used to see it in the summer I wanted to stop for a swim. She identified it as a ‘chalk stream’ hence the ultra clear water. She then suggested we look for somewhere to get close to the water (but away from people) where we could dip our feet in to cool off a little.



the moving shade forced us to move further up the slope


the field's usual residents


I identified a byway just before the A34 as it looked like it crossed the stream. I had visions of some great water crossing photos for the report. I was keen to get on the move again by now so Nicky relented and we started to get ready once more. Just at that moment some cows came to drink from the water trough and were most concerned with these strange things in their field. They had some calves with them – who were quite comical in the way that they peered at us round the trees – so we decided not to upset them and did an about turn back out the gate and down into Lambourn where I turned left before getting into town and left again to bring me out at the bottom of the field we were just in. I then turned up a lane that is always fun to ride and it brings you out onto the gallops where they run horses. The lane on the other side is again a little rutted to we turned around but half way back down I turned off onto another byway and followed this for a bit and got a great view of a sparrow hawk as it burst out of the cover with a prey animal in it talons. I little further on the track became muddy and Nicky didn’t fancy that so she bailed but the tenere made short work of the mud and sailed through.


got to negociate the narrow track on the right and be sure not to drop the Tenere into the wet stuff!


With Nicky back on board we headed down into Lambourn and followed the course of the Lambourn River. I found the byway but it looked well overgrown and narrow so I sent Nicky off down it first to see it I could get the bike down it and turn it around. I waited and waited getting more and more cooked by the sun and started to wonder where the hell she had gone.

The phone rang, she was watching a doe and her fawn in the woods but yes I could get the bike down there and turn it around, but it was a bit soft in places. I set off down the byway and the undergrowth opened up quite quickly to overhanging trees that stopped the excessive grown of other plants. I carried on and it got a little muddy in places and I was a somewhat concerned the heavy bike would sink into it with no grip from the rear and we’d be pushing in the boiling hot temperatures. Luckily the bike made it through but I was stopped short of the river by a locked gate.



End of the line for the bike as we find a locked gate on the byway


The map shows that the byway crosses the river but the locked gate 'on the ground' had other ideas. There was a byway sign pointing sort of left, but there was nowhere to go as it went stright into a bog/tree filled undergrowth patch. I parked up and joined Nicky in walking the last bit down to the stream where we found a delightful little concrete bridge where we could sit and dangle our feet into the water. I pulled off my boots and dipped them into the F*CKING COLD WATER! Holly crap that water was cold. No matter how long we sat there I just could not get used to the water temperature. From the map it looks like it comes to the surface in Lambourn and no doubt doesn't have enough time to warm up at all.


nice little stream. fast flowing and COLD


ouch ....... cold cold cold!



Travel teddy comes along for the ride - and nearly gets a swim



We chilled out for a while and finished off the other can of chilled cider (coolbox and ice blocks remember) and a can of coke. After an hour or so we set off again and Nicky went ahead to take some pictures of me but the bright headlight of the Tenere under the trees upset the camera so they didn’t come out too well. Heading back home it was getting late so we diverted to the oxford service on the M40 and grabbed a burger king to save us having to prep a meal when we got home. I think we got home somewhere around 9pm – hot, slightly sunburnt and tired but happy!

Nicky spots some deer as she's walking back up the byway


on the way back up to the road. i had to sit down to get under the tree.
road tyres and mud -eek!


on the way back we see a hare in the field


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©2012 John Muizelaar