Archive for August, 2009

The Great English 50-mile Bike Ride

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The Bell PubI love biking in England.  The scenery is beautiful, the roads are smooth, the temperature is perfect, and the car drivers are used to dealing with bicycles.

Last weekend I had a fantastic 48-miler around Berkshire. If you’ve got Google Maps installed, you can follow the trip here (a version of the map appears at the bottom of this post) also, clicking on any of these photos will open up a larger version from the photo gallery for this trip).

Westbound on Drift Road approaching White WalthamThe first couple miles of the trip weren’t very interesting, and there was a lot of fast traffic, but once I got out of Sunninghill and Ascot, I found myself on a very smooth and flat country road.  It wasn’t exactly traffic-free, but there weren’t a lot of cars. I saw at least half a dozen other bikers.  This was mostly farm country, and both sides of the road had large fields. Cresting a ridge, I could see for miles across the Thames Valley.

Old Post Office I made my first stop in Waltham St Laurence, a picturesque village with a number of interesting old buildings.  Spotting two bikers sitting in front of what was advertised as a 14th century pub (photo at top), I stopped for a chat and some water.  I got directions out of town, and had a couple more miles of country riding, before getting into the outskirts of Twyford and picking up route 4 of the National Cycle Network in Wargrave.  Outside of Wargrave, I soon found myself riding down a series of increasingly narrower lanes.

Single track country lane The road narrowed to a single lane as I crossed a steep ridge near Warren Row. This is what English cycling is all about: I was surrounded by cows and sheep, riding up and down on ancient roads, with nary a soul in sight. The descent down to the Thames was exhilarating, although my enthusiasm was tempered slightly by the knowledge that I’d have to climb back up.

Harvest in FrogmillAt this point, I’d temporarily stopped following route 4, although I was still on a section of the Round Berkshire cycle route marked as route 58. After sweeping around some huge pastures and very posh estates, the route took a right on a much busier road, the A4130.  Stopping to photograph the side of a building and wondering when it was last possible to name something ‘Black Boys Inn’ (apparently, Charles II had an Italian granny), I checked my map and realized I could divert to the Thames.  I rode down a short hill, stopped for a moment to watch a thresher, and then continued down to the river.