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The gathering of the clan was arranged at Reading station on Tuesday 11th September at 12:00. Ev arranged to meet Paul Martin in Coulsdon at 09:45 for the ride to Redhill to catch their train. As I (Ev) came into view Paul promptly rode off before I reached him. Nice! We got to Redhill without mishap and boarded our train to Reading where, at the agreed meeting point outside the Cornish Pasty shop, we found Trevor waiting for us. Shortly Paul White and Paul Kelly turned up with Paul Kelly requiring a large Pasty before he could turn a pedal. As there are three Pauls on this ride Paul Kelly is now known as “Pasty” Kelly.
Of we set on a fair day to the foot of “Facebrake Bridge”, where on an earlier version of the ride Paul “Facebrake” Martin managed an endo and busted his lip open. Beer had been taken earlier. After photographing him in his “Over the Bar Scar Club” jersey we crossed the bridge and took a group photo of the gang at the beginning of the ride proper.
We made our way through Reading and out into the wilds where the designated mechanic decided to let air out of his tyres as the smooth surface was now behind us. Having not tightened his valve core in the back wheel sufficiently, upon taking the valve cap of managed to deflate his tyre very quickly. Cursing I put it all back together again and pumped the tyre up to 30lb and set off again!
Trevor and Facebrake decided to ride off like madmen only to find themselves on the wrong side of the canal much to the amusement of the three of us trailing in their wake. “Radar” Hughes’ Garman obviously failed him and it should have been chucked in the canal! We had a lovely lunch stop where beer was taken before we completed the short first day ride to Newbury, but not before have to negotiate a fallen tree on the canal path.
Arriving in Newbury we made our way to the wonderful Bacon Arms, a lovely old coaching inn, and checked to make sure that Dennis’ gloves were still not on the beer garden fence before booking in to the rooms for a well earned shower.
We made off into the town for liquid refreshment, meeting for a pint in the hotel bar, at the old Hogshead, another pub that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of and the Monument before another fantastic Tibetan curry at the Ghurkha Spice.
The following morning dawned bright and sunny, and after a good breakfast we made our way towards Devizes via Pewsey for lunch, removing our arm warmers after half an hour or so. Paul (Icon) White pointed out all of the architectural history to Radar, who was on his first ride on the canal. The countryside is stunning on this ride and it is surprising how different things look when we ride it East to West (only the third time in fourteen years or so) rather than West to East. The canal avoids everything barring the railway and the quietness and tranquillity is a joy.
The sun popped in and out of the clouds as we made our way to the French Horn in Pewsey for lunch (the last time we stopped here was on the last ride in this direction about eight or nine years ago) where we experienced our only shower of the ride: so there was no riding in the rain for the whole duration of the ride. Also, there was a nice surprise for Facebrake as the pub was selling bottled Old Timer from Wadworth’s, which he and I both had and agreed that it was a most wonderful beer!
Back to the trail we made our way to Honeystreet, over Den’s Bridge, and on to Devizes past all of the delightful canalside houses.
We setup camp at the Castle and met in the bar for a pint before setting off to the Lamb, a great out-of-the-way pub before making our way to the fantastic Hare and Hounds where I stole Pasty’s girlfriend from him which he did not mind! Then off to the British Lion before getting back to the Castle for a very good meal and the taking of a lot of spirit in the bar to celebrate Pasty’s birthday! A good night’s sleep was assured!
We set off on the descent of the Caen Hill lock flight, which made a change from having to climb it at the end of a day’s riding, and made our way down to Bradford-upon-Avon, our usual stop. In this direction though it is too early in the ride, so I made off like a maniac at 20mph to Avoncliffe where we had planned to trick Radar into missing the road under the viaduct to leave him riding on the opposite side of the canal path. Sadly Pasty got it all wrong and I was left with my camera in hand with nothing to photograph! The best laid plans…
Hitting Bath we found the tunnels under Cleveland House and into Sydney Gardens had be resurfaced, which is nice as they were rough and in the dark.
Soon we had bid farewell to the Kennet and Avon Canal and joined the River Avon before veering away and onto the Bath to Bristol railway path. A nice smooth surface greeted us as we made our way to the lunch stop at the Bird in Hand; a new stop for us. Here Radar once again complained about the lack of movement in his forks, so I got the shock pump our only to find that he had no air in his forks at all! No wonder there was no movement! Evidentially, Halfords had set them up for him. Well we got it all setup nicely so that he could ride the final ten miles of the ride in comfort!
Entering Bristol the Icon had decided to ride via a different route to the Hotel in Clifton via the river and then a trail that leads right up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. “It looks alright on Google Earth” he told us. Well the first 100 metres were fine, it then turned into a road of large broken up slabs
which forced us to walk, before also turning very steep. “Google” White had cocked up royally as we forced our way up before remounting. Well, some remounted and one fell off. In putting my shoe back into the pedal the bike slid from underneath me forcing me to do the splits, hitting my right knee on the bottle cage, straining the hamstring in my left leg and bruising the knee and getting a hand full of tiny thorns. Pasty was soon on the scene, pulling the bike from underneath me. Valiantly I re-mounted without complaint and completed the ride but was very stiff for the rest of the trip.
We spent some good time in the brilliant Portcullis, which is tucked away in a basement cellar area of some very grand houses followed by some Italian food.
Pasty, Google and Ev went on for another pint at the Royal Oak whilst Facebrake and Radar went back to the hotel for their Farley’s rusk and Horlicks. In the morning we helped ourselves to the fantastic buffet breakfast before descending into Bristol and the train home.