Three out of the four days off work for the Easter break were surprisingly fine and sunny – which, after the wet winter we’ve had, is more than one hopes for. So in amongst sorting out details of what promises to be a very busy May, I managed to get out for two very good rides.
Good Friday served up what was the most fun ride I’ve done in ages. Nothing spectacular, especially compared to rides this time last year, but the riding around Winchester was remarkably dry (two weeks ago we got proper soaked on the South Downs Way) and I even came back with dust on my bike – & as an added bonus, it didn’t need a hose down. Out with Dan & Chris, we took whatever bridleways took our fancy, found some really enjoyable singletrack, and sessioned that. Of course, there was a good lunch & a satisfying pint at a pub somewhere along the way – Otterbourne, I think. I do enjoy a nice ride around Winchester – it’s very pretty, if not particularly hilly.
Since the last time I visited Andy, he’s gone & shifted out of Bristol – this time conveniently right on the edge of the Mendip Hills. The Mendips, when the limestone is dried out & not gloopy, provide much quality riding. On that last trip I stopped en route & explored a bit by myself. Somehow Andy & Jo have managed to buy a brand new house pretty much in the middle of Winscombe – with plenty of space & nice views I was suitably impressed. Well-fed, there was plenty of time now that sunset is late, to explore the village a bit to walk off dinner.
It was another very enjoyable ride out in the sun – starting off on the Strawberry Line (yet another victim of the Beeching Cuts repurposed as a shared cycling-walking path) before turning sharply up Crook’s Peak – Andy was keen to ride up here for the first time. It was worth it with some nice views, although Wales was a bit obscured by the haze, and good fast descending. Back on the flat, it was in to the outskirts of Cheddar before climbing up on to the hills a bit. We missed a turn so found another route near the quarry – probably a bit steeper than we bargained for, but not too bad. It was an OK detour as it turned out most of the route we rode I had done on my last visit – albeit in reverse.
With a more-planned excursion into the forest to sample a bit of the many small sections of singletrack done, it was a gradual climb along the top to the highest point on the Mendips – Beacon Batch. A gradual whiz downhill had us closer to Cheddar again, near the top of the gorge. There was about a hundred metres of elevation to gain up a rooty hike-a-bike before we could ride to the edge overlooking the gorge. Unfortunately, there were many people out enjoying the sun & views so the blast down in to town was a little tempered by scrubbing of speed so as not to frighten anyone too much. Back home on the Strawberry Line to a kitchen filled with wonderful baking aromas.