Ride report, Sunday 31st October

PhilJ went on this ride and writes:

Quite frankly I don’t know where to start on this one. We were wet, windswept, and cold, and that was just at the start at EH. JohnW, BrianH (the elder of the two) and I joined PeteB for this long ride to Stowe in what was shaping up to be unpredictable riding conditions from the beginning and all of us unaware of the drama to unfold later. Setting off, Pete mis-read his Garmin in record time and almost took us into Yeoman Meadow at the top of Hunsbury Hill. Not surprising really given the rainy conditions we set off in and the difficulty he was having reading the small screen. It is a quaint cul-de-sac but not on the route.

Soon back on track we headed towards Milton Malsor where we cycled through a deluge of water and quickly got soaked even more. Climbing Gayton hill, rainwater came cascading down quicker than we were going up! A large reservoir at the top proving tricky to cross. Heading out to Dalscote we commenced our battle with the forces of nature. The sun popped out briefly just as the wind and rain threw all its fury at us as if to say, ‘take that’. Still upright we crossed the A5 for Cold Higham still reeling from our surprise wind slammer. I have never seen so much debris from trees on the roads but incredibly none of us had any punctures or mishaps. Many roads were covered in leaves and broken branches for most of our journey, not to mention being hit with them occasionally as the wind swirled around our heads. Downhills were precarious and if anyone has any brake pads left then I’ll be surprised. Further flooding at the bottom of many dips made us cautious of traversing the water. Covered potholes became our main concern.

The Nevillery Café at the National Trust in Stowe became increasingly more inviting during the journey for our battle-weary riders. As we entered the grounds however, a friendly official unwittingly crushed our spirits by informing us that the cafe wasn’t open due to power issues. We were stunned and speechless. Power lines had come down in the windy conditions. Nor was there any other option to get food he concluded. It was a devastating blow, just when we needed coffee and cake to lift those flagging spirits. After a sharp intake of breath and suitably resigned to our fate, we decided to continue the ride hoping to call in at the Whittlebury Bakery instead, just a few miles further on. That hope came in the form of several signs at the side of the road indicating it was ‘Now Open’. Once inside the entrance we were dealt another hammer blow as we realised the doors were well and truly bolted. Our group was now getting desperate for food to keep us going. With around ten miles to go, at least the end was in sight.

But more dramas came our way on the approach to Shutlanger, adding to our misery. A Road Closed sign. Fortunately, this type of situation does not usually prevent us from getting through and despite friendly advice from a passing local about a fallen tree, we ignored it. Further on, as it became clear that the road had taken a battering from the winds, we continued, despite more advice from a fellow cyclist coming from the tree’s direction. Furthermore, and even further on I was shown pictures by another friendly local who assured me that we would not be able to get through and we ignored that advice too! We would not be defeated.

At the sight of the fallen tree, some head scratching eschewed. But with some swift pruning of branches by Pete and BrianH we were soon viewing the devastation from the other side. The second and third fallen trees further up the road obviously proving less of an obstacle to our green fingered tree experts and we swept them aside with some ease.

The rest of the ride home now provided us with a sense of victory. Man had braved the elements, overcome the forces of nature and moved immovable objects.

Chapeau to everyone who took part in this eventful ride today.


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