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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

2015 Biking Weekend - Faringdon (Oxfordshire) 4th-6th September

old crown inn

As it was the 10th anniversary biking weekend we planned to try and make it extra special and do something in France. However holidays and other events got in the way and in the end Gary, Ian and Ed came up with a September trip to Oxfordshire based in the small town of Faringdon. The chosen venue was the Old Crown Coaching Inn, a 16th Century establishment with a quirky layout and ghosts a plenty.

This years attendees were:
Gary & Janet, Ian & Veronica, Dick & Deb, Liz & Paul, Ed & Jan, Colin & Trish, Pete & Terri, Ross and Rod.



The trip to Faringdon was complicated by the Great Dorset Steam Fair at Tarrant Hinton requiring a long detour to get around the congestion. Those who went via Ringwood/Salisbury/Marlborough got held up by various jams and arrived too late for lunch. Those taking the Newbury route faired much better and had time for lunch before Friday's ride.

The facilities at the Crown were a bit basic, but any shortcomings in the decor were more than made up for by the landlady Heather (photo right). She kept us well fed, entertained and always had a smile on her face whatever the circumstances. She made it a thoroughly welcoming stay.

The plan was a short cross country ride to the east of Faringdon during the afternoon and the car park was soon filled with people assembling and fettling bikes, some of which were blinking in the daylight having been in dark sheds and garages for some time.

No long rambling stories from the author this year recounting (and exaggerating!) the events which happened on the rides and the jolly japes that occurred in the bar. This time the pictures and captions (where applicable) will tell the story. As the fisherman that I am though the captions may well exaggerate the size of the events that occurred.


route map

Friday's route including the town centre detour when we missed the right fork out of town

Pete ready for the off or going back to the bar!

Ready to go

map reading

Rod fixing his bike while Gary and Ian plot the route out of town.
A waste of time really as we still got it wrong!


a lumpy field crossing past Wadley Manor



a lumpy field crossing past Wadley Manor


Colin's face showing why you need rear suspension on a Mountain Bike!


Trish enjoying herself

Colin pretending to enjoy himself!

Thru Buckland Warren to Pusey

Debbie thru the triangular window
Ed's artistic side coming out

Thru Buckland Warren to Pusey

Gary leading the peloton across Buckland Marsh


Trish and Jan


Colin and Rod

Liz crossing Buckland Marsh

Charge of the (not so) Light Brigade

Charge of the (not so) Light Brigade (Ver 2.0)

The Old Crown Coaching Inn courtyard where we refreshed ourselves with post ride beers & wine

The Friday afternoon ride was a nice gentle flat 15 miles (on paper) across some very nice countryside avoiding wherever possible the very busy roads around Faringdon which link up Oxford, Swindon and Wantage. As usual we managed to get lost before leaving the town centre and had to double back to find the correct road. Following the detours and a few route alterations on the fly to avoid the heavy traffic and a copse of very nasty looking Stinging Nettles we eventually arrived back at the pub having done 18 miles! A nice warm up for the 30+ mile jaunt on Saturday.

Friday Evening

Taking a post ride shower Rod then caused a major problem at the hotel. Mr & Mrs Summers noticed water pouring thru their ceiling while getting ready for dinner. Going outside into the corridor they found the people form the neighbouring room who were also being flooded. Having located the hotel manager they burst into the room above theirs and found Rod in the shower cubicle up to his shins in water with the shower doors "ajar" which was letting the water out to flood his room and those below. A large scale mopping up operation was then underway in all three rooms

Dinner was very good with Heather doing a grand job in the absence of the chef, who had gone awol, even cooking a steak dinner for Ross when he arrived at 22:30. The usual fun and stories over dinner with most folk toddling off to bed sometime around midnight.

Saturday's Bike Ride

After what seemed like only a few hours since we had been there for dinner we were back at the same table sampling Heather's full English breakfast, which was very nice indeed. A 10:30 start for the bike ride was agreed and people went off to get changed and fettle their bikes. The ride was to be approximately 32 miles first going south down the western side of the Vale of the White Horse to to the centre of the English horse racing world, Lambourn. Then, after lunch at one of the pubs there, return north up the eastern side of the vale.

Saturdays route to Lambourn and back

liz rod
Rod removes his jacket as Liz is wearing the same one!

Ross, Jan, Terri, Rod, Debbie, Ian, Dick, Paul, Liz, Trish, Colin, Ed, Gary, Pete
Group photo before we left the Old Crown Inn
Janet and Veronica were behind the cameras taking the photos

ed trish
Ed and Trish at Coleshill Park

Jan and Dick at Coleshill Park

Ross and Terri at Coleshill Park

A map stop at Stone Farm near Longcot

A map stop at Stone Farm near Longcot

Pete in the woods near Hardwell Farm

Terri in the puddles near Compton Beauchamp

Trish & Colin about to get their pristine bikes a tad muddy!

Trish shows how much she likes her bike getting dirty

Rod on the climb up Odstone Hill at the start of the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Trish on Odstone Hill the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Gary on Odstone Hill the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Terri on Odstone Hill the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Dick, Debbie and Colin on Odstone Hill the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Ross, Pete, Liz and Ian on Odstone Hill the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Paul and Jan enjoying (not!) Odstone Hill on the D'Arcy Dalton Way

Paul can't decide which is the most fashionable way to wear his baggy shorts!

On the top of Odstone Hill the bikes are abandoned!!

Dick on a bit of downhill to Odstone Down

Jan on a bit of downhill to Odstone Down

Odstone Down a very long grind (2km) on soft loamy soil across a huge wheat field, not enjoyed by many, Gary stayed well away at the front to avoid the abuse!

Paul takes a nap with his comfort bottle after the short, but very steep, climb to the top of Weathercock Hill

Dick joins Paul for a roll in the hay!!

Terri and Jan on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border at Fognam Down just outside Lambourn, they took the road into town with Dick & Deb.
The rest of us went over Row Down across all the "Gallops" into Lambourn.
Unfortunately no pics of Liz falling off of her bike on the descent into Lambourn

A very welcome lunch and some fine ale in the George (Lambourn).
Dick all smiles before getting very "twitchy" about the late delivery of his lunch!

The George (Lambourn). Colin also all smiles before he started wondering if his burger would arrive today or tomorrow.

The a beautifully carved medieval preaching cross upon a slender shaft, set upon a stepped plinth. This cross dates to 1446, when Lambourn was granted the right to hold a market, and was restored in the 19th century. in the centre of Lambourn.

Well, whatever! We just thought it was a great place for a group photo!

Colin & Trish missed this opportunity as they stayed in the George to watch the second half of the England v Ireland rugby match before heading back on the road.

Just after the photo was taken the group split up with Jan, Terri, Dick, Deb heading back to Faringdon also on the road route

Gary and Pete checking the map (again!) near the top of Sparsholt Down.
Just working out where Ian would fall off on the descent

Ian re-mounts his trusty steed after playing about a bit too much in the ruts on the descent to Sparsholt Field and having a bit of a tumble, just where Gary and Pete thought he would,

The rut that took out Ian!

Sparsholt Field. The hedgerow across the field provided the best descent of the day. 1km of excellent stony, flowing, rutted track to let the brakes off and let it go.

Paul had the only puncture of the weekend
Fixing it by the railway bridge in Baulking

Father & Son waiting for Paul to fix his puncture

Ross on the railway bridge at Baulking

No more pictures were taking as headed back to Faringdon. The trail from Baulking to Sands Farm proved extremely difficult to ride and find! Eventually we gave up and took a direct "hors piste" route across a field and thru Sands Farm to the Road. As it was getting late we decided to give the remaining planned bridleway's a miss and use the road to get back to Faringdon about three miles away.

On the way back in Fernham we came across a very nice looking pub, The Woodman, well you would wouldn't you, so we did and stopped for a pint. Paul & Liz pushed on to Faringdon as Paul's legs, arms, torso and head were feeling the strain of a long and arduous day's riding. The six of us that were left (the usual beer swilling suspects, i.e. Gary, Ed, Ian, Pete, Ross and Rod) from the original 14 riders went in to the very nice pub and ordered beers straight from the barrel, can't remember what it was, but it was very good. I also can't remember most of what we talked about it, but it was very loud, raucous and extremely funny unlike the two (eastern european) young ladies behind the bar who couldn't raise a smile between them. I do remember Rod got a fair amount of stick about the shower episode and Ian bought him a very literal beer with a Lemonade top. We were only there for a couple of pints, but I think the locals and those who had come for a quiet evening of fine dining were quite glad when we took our sweaty, muddy and cow poo flecked bodies out of the bar and rode off into the sunset.

Actually it was getting quite dark as we left the Woodman, but a very quick dash took us the final two miles to Faringdon. Ed and Gary got some ear bashing from their wives after messages asking "WHERE ARE YOU???" had been left on Gary's phone and Jan had contacted the police in case we had had an accident! In the end according to my Garmin GPS we clocked up something over 36 miles.

Saturday Night

A quick shower, change of clothes and back in the bar for some pre-dinner drinks. The dining area was decorated with balloons and banners to celebrate Ed's impending birthday and we sat down with many many bottles of wine (courtesy of Mr Summers) to enjoy an evening of entertainment, awards and good food. With the chef still awol Heather again provided an excellent repast.

Saturday night dinner

The first award of the evening, The Golden Helmet

"Unaccustomed as I am to speaking ............"

The Golden Helmet
Now with electrickery and lights, supplied and built by last years winners Pete & Terri

" ..... and the winner is ..............."

Who else could have won after the shower episode!

Ian overcome with emotion after winning the Golden Peddle for his tumble on Sparsholt Down. The award was presented by Ross, who also made the decision on the recipient, as last years winner Sue Woolley couldn't come along this year.

Still shedding a tear or two

Terri the winner of Gordon's Goblet, it's been a tough year

Terri and Gordon's Goblet

And so the birthday boy took centre stage in proceedings ....
Firstly with a foldaway bike, one of his pet hates

Didn't stop him riding around the dining room though!

Astride the bike with his new cycling t-shirt

Deb and Dick want to have a go .......

The prize for a winning line in Bingo (another of Ed's pet hates) you get to sing the Clash's "Should I Stay"
Much to Liz's disappointment Ed won all the prizes during the game of Bingo. I think it was fixed Liz!

The prize for a full house, you get to dress up and Morris Dance (yet another of Ed's per hates, there is a theme here!) with Jan, Veronica and Ian.

Ian and his Ukulele lead the community singing of various pop songs, mainly form the 60's which is about right given the age of the audience!

Ian is joined by the Sumbettes

Can't remember what Dick was singing, but he is taking it seriously

Ian & The Sumbettes

Just after midnight and its a raucous chorus of Happy Birthday for Mr Summers

More singing ......

Heather joined us for a while, maybe our singing wasn't that great!

Sometime around 02:00 in the morning we had had enough and went off to bed, one of us a little bit older!


A slightly more subdued group came down to breakfast on Sunday morning, but once again Heather did us proud, still without a chef and with 100 roast dinners to do for lunch. Ed's arrival livened up the dinning room, another round of Happy Birthday followed by the opening of the many presents and cards he had been given, well you are only 60 once.

We paid our bills said our goodbyes and thanks to Heather and the convoy of cars headed off to the Royal Oak in Wootton Rivers (scene of the 2007 Biking Weekend) for Ed's surprise birthday lunch. Ed arrived to find his brother and his wife had made the trip up from Devon to be there. We had a coffee and then set off for a walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal and true to form got lost on the way back by taking a route thru the open fields. However we did find the correct track eventually which popped out in the pub car park. On returning Ed had another surprise, friends of many many years Phil and Steff had also come along to celebrate his birthday. The pub lunch was very good and following the consumption of Ed's birthday cake we said our goodbyes and made our way back to Dorset.

Ed with the helium balloons to keep him upright in his old age
With the family at the Brimslade Farm Bridge over the Kennet & Avon Canal

So ends a rather special 10th biking weekend, not the 10th anniversary edition that we had planned, but an even better one that I am sure Ed will never forget.

Next years event ............ no plans yet or an organiser elected (read coerced!), but a return to Wootton Rivers is a possibility or maybe somewhere around Devises where there are a huge amount of trails for us to go and play on.

GB - 14th September 2015

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