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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

2017 Biking Weekend - The Malvern Hills (Worcestershire) - 20th-22nd October

Brian, a storm in a tea cup?

Colin & Trish organised this years event and did a fine job in finding an excellent location although it was a bit of a trek "up north"! For many and varied reasons the turn out was not as high as previous years, but the small but perfectly (more of this later) formed group arrived along with the beginnings of Storm Brian on the Friday. This years riders and walkers were: Gary & Janet, Liz & Paul, Jo & Brian, Ed & Jan, Colin & Trish, Rod. The accommodation was in amongst the woods on the side of the Malvern Hills at The Cottage in the Wood hotel. The various drinking & eating venues over the weekend were:

 

Friday lunchtime

The Wyche Inn (Upper Wyche)

Typical town pub, nice food and good ales

 

Friday afternoon

The Malvern Hills Hotel (Little Malvern)

Posh pub, nice ales, only stopped for a quick one

Friday night

The Foley Arms (Great Malvern)

JD Weatherspoons, Ruddles Best at £1.99 a pint, enuff said!

Saturday lunchtime

The Blue Bell (Callow End)

Typical country pub, food was ok, nice ales, footie on Sky Sports

Saturday night

The Marlbank Inn (Welland)

Excellent menu small, but something for all tastes and the food matched the descriptions in presentation, taste and great value for money, very accommodating with our requests for various bottles of wine, Port, Rum and Scotch, very nice pint of Otter ale

The Hotel

The Cottage in the Wood

Great location, rooms were pretty standard although Colin & Trish's came without hot water! Minimalist cooked breakfasts served on huge plates, you would be disappointed to have paid £20 for it. Expensive bar and restaurant, however this gave us an unexpected bonus of visiting many of the local hostelries instead.

The routes we took and places visited over the weekend. Blue route over the Malvern Hills on Friday afternoon and the Red route to Worcester and back on Saturday.

Friday - The "warm up" Ride

Everyone accept Jo & Brian and Rod arrived just after midday at the hotel which was set in a very picturesque woodland high on the side of the Malvern Hills between Jubilee Hill and Perseverance Hill. From there we cycled (actually Janet and myself took the car) to the Wyche Inn for lunch and the start of the afternoon ride. The pub was at the top of the second steepest residential road in England and apparently it was a bit of a grind to get up there, easy in the X-Trail. A very nice lunch and a pint or two consumed we (Liz & Taff, Jan & Ed, Colin & Trish and Gary) set off on a circuit of the Malvern Hills. The hill top trail was just around the corner from the pub and took us up Summer Hill to the Worcestershire Beacon, at 425m the highest point in the Malvern's. We then did a circuit of North Hill all the while taking in the breathtaking views in all directions. On the return leg Gary and Liz got back to the top of the beacon and waited for everyone else to arrive, chatting away, sitting in a small hollow in the sunshine and out of the blustery wind (the precursor to Storm Brian which was due to arrive on Saturday) it was some time before they realised that nobody else was coming up the beacon. The others had taken a lower route back to Upper Wyche, but a very fast downhill run saw them meet up again at the bottom of Summer Hill.

From Upper Wyche a very nice downhill woodland trail across Perseverance Hill took us back to the hotel, but not before GB once again disappeared on the trail missing the turning to the hotel ("I was having too much fun, it was a great track thru the woods"). After a brief discussion it was decided some more riding was required and that we should head south to the Malvern Hills pub for a swift pint. In the mean time Rod had arrived, but gone out who knows where on his bike and was uncontactable. Liz, Gary and Ed headed back up to the woodland track to do an off road route while Colin & Trish, Jan and Paul headed on to the road.

 

The hill top climb was a grueling set of switchbacks, but set amongst the autumn trees and with glimpses of the stunning views it was well worth the effort. A steep descent at Black Hill and we found a nice track which should lead us to the pub, however here we encountered Mr & Mrs Middle-England who in no uncertain terms said we couldn't ride on the track and that it was for wheelchairs! They were slightly nonplussed when we were polite and courteous and pointed out that there were no signs to tell us this fact. They were clearly looking for a full fifteen minute argument. We found the correct track 10m away from the one we were on and continued on to the road which was 50m from the pub. Once there the others told us about the very long steep hill they had had to climb to get there, sounds like fun on the way back. After a pint we headed back to the Hotel, a long switchback road descent from the pub to Little Malvern was followed by a steady climb back to the hotel where we met up with Rod.

 

Ed, Colin and Paul take in the view across the road from the Wyche Inn

View from the Wyche Inn

View east from the Malvern Hills

Great Malvern

Gary, Colin, Trish, Liz, Paul and Jan on North Hill

Trish on North Hill

Colin, Paul, Ed and Gary at the Worcestershire Beacon

Gary, Ed, Trish, Liz, Paul and Jan on North Hill

Paul on top of the Malvern Hills

Worcestershire Beacon

Gary on the way up to the Beacon

Liz on the way up to the Beacon

The group at the top of the Beacon

 

Friday Night - The Pub

Colin & Trish said that the hotel was far too expensive to eat in (it was!) and had found a couple of local pubs in which to wine and dine on Friday and Saturday evening. As a sweetener Mr England said he would pay for the cabs to/from the pubs, which he duly did and very grateful we were too. For Friday evening we went to The Foley Arms in Great Malvern, a JD Weatherspoons pub. Colin & Trish and Ed & Jan went in the first cab which was straight out of an episode of "Pimp My Ride" (see photos). At the pub we met up with Paul & Liz and a hour later Jo & Brian arrived, we were now at the full compliment of 11. It was the usual JD Weatherspoons fare washed down with cheap (in price) beer and wine. Sometime later we headed back to the hotel in cabs which were £2.50 cheaper than the fixed price we had been given on the way down!

 

Above - Colin & Trish and Jan & Ed in their "Pimp My Ride" taxi

Below - Dinner at the Foley Arms in Great Malvern. Liz is behind the lens.

 

Saturday - The Ride

Saturday morning started with many a nervous look thru the curtains at what Storm Brian was bringing, so far just breezy and no rain. Breakfast was ok, not huge, but perfectly formed and made to look very small on the ridiculously large plates on which it was served, put one each side of the table and they were touching! Janet, Jo & Brian were doing a hill top walk, meeting us for lunch and then doing a town walk around Great Malvern. So around 10ish we set off east and north towards Worcester still looking south west, where the weather was coming from, for storm clouds and the expected heavy rain.

 

After a 1km or so we headed off road and thru the delightfully named Hanley Swan, Picken End, Gilberts End and into Church End where we picked up the main road into Upton on Severn. As rain looked imminent we went into the Stables Tea Room by the river for coffee and cake. With the rain stopped and a few patches of blue sky showing we headed across the River Severn and took a muddy track north past Ryall's Court. In Severn Stoke we took a footpath, yes you read that correctly, which ran alongside the River Severn.

 

This part of Worcestershire isn't exactly riddled with bridleways, but rather lots of footpaths which Mr & Mrs England said wouldn't be a problem! Famous last words! As we meandered alongside the river on a very wide grassy track a tractor, which had been cutting hedgerows, sped towards us on an intercept course. The driver (Farmer Middle-England) leapt out of the cab and ran over to us shouting that we shouldn't be riding on the track and clearly was looking for a fight or at the very least a good shouting match. Instead we were polite and courteous again which rather took the wind out of his sails and he had to be content with us walking away pushing the bikes along the trail.

 

Now I have looked closely at the map and the trail we were on when he accosted us is actually marked as a "black dashed" path which according to the OS people ...............

 

"Paths that do exist on the ground are sometimes marked on maps as black dashed lines. On 1:50,000 maps, paths - when marked - are shown as clearly visible dashed lines. Dashed black line paths are most frequently shown on maps when there is either no public right of way, but an actual path on the ground, or where a nearby public right of is perhaps not representative of the true course of a path. The existence of a public right of way on a map does not necessarily mean that there is an actual path on the ground. The existence of a path on the ground does not mean that there is a public right of way to use it. A path shown on a map does not mean it is a public right of way - it just means there was a path on the ground at time of surveying."

 

Ok all as clear as a muddy thing on muddy day in muddy town. Anyway we walked on until he was back cutting hedges and just about out of sight then jumped on the bikes and headed towards our exit to the road, after all he was only going to catch Paul who was doing a great impression of "tail end Charlie" for most of the ride.

 

Once on the road we followed a quiet lane to Kempsey before joining the very fast and busy A38 on the outskirts of Worcester. We crossed the river again and picked up another set of footpaths, this time without irate farmers, but with many locked gates which involved lifting the bikes over. Now this is fine with a normal bike, even better with Gary and Ed's carbon framed steeds, but not good when lifting Jan's e-bike which is probably made by the same chaps that put together Challenger Tanks and those guys are definitely not "weight weenies"! After I gave up counting the gates we emerged at Powick and a klick or two later we arrived at the Blue Bell pub, where Jo & Brian and Janet were waiting for us, for a well deserved lunch and an ale or two. The food was ok as far as I remember and they had some very nice ales which we consumed while watching Watford go 2-1 up against Chelsea. After we left the pub Chelsea made a big come back and won 4-2.

 

Lunch break over we again parted company with Jo & Brian and Janet and headed to Pixham where we got on a bridleway for a change, but at Chapelhill Rough after a short but very steep hill Rod found he had a puncture so we stopped for him to make the necessary repairs. The repairs took some time as the patch wouldn't stick, his spare was punctured as well and wouldn't inflate and all the while the clouds were getting thicker, darker and heading our way! Eventually Liz took pity on Rod and gave him her spare inner tube and he duly got his bike ready to ride again. While waiting for Rod we took turns on Jan's e-bike to go down the steep slope and then back up like it was flat ground! Somehow the clouds went around us and by some miracle we stayed dry!

 

Back rolling again we made fast time of fairly flat tracks and the road to Guarlford. After another nice woodland trail we emerged at Malvern Common on the A4208. From there it was road all the way home. At the Three Counties Showground, which was hosting a quilt making event (we didn't stop!), Paul left us to take the short but unknown to him very steep route back to their campsite while Liz came with us to pick the camper van. Two klicks of mostly up hill brought us back to the Cottage in the Wood. Amazingly we had encountered nothing more than a few light showers all day and a few places where the headwind made cycling quite difficult. Considering the weather that had been forecast for Saturday we got away with it very lightly.

 

The bridge over the River Severn, we crossed after coffee

To Coffee or Not To Coffee? .... we Coffee'ed (and caked!)

Ed's wood turned light holder, every bike should have one apparently

Gary and Ed alongside the River Severn

The nice trail alongside the river

A photo opportunity before the farmer arrived

"Get orf my land" enough said!

The trail we were on, we were intercepted by Mr Angry about Rhydd

Walking after our telling off from Mr Angry Farmer!

Paul on a very nice woodland trail

Gary at another gate, this one opened fortunately

Rod does his aeroplane impression

Ed, Jan, Gary and Liz on the steep and slippery hillside
Gary proving how slippery it was by dismounting!

Ed points out Rod's puncture

Colin and Tish modelling their leg protection
I think they are from Ann Summers

Rod, Ed and Gary taking in the full vista of the Malvern Hills

A wee stop in the woods

 

Saturday Night - The Pub

Cycling gear put away, showered and dressed we headed off to our fifth pub in 48 hours, The Marlbank Inn. A very nice country pub with a camping site which was where Liz & Paul had their camper van, needless to say as they were closest they were last to arrive in the bar! We took over a very large table while we had pre-dinner drinks and perused the menu, and an exceptionally good menu it was too. I would add a link here to show the reader how good it was, but the menu link on the pub website doesn't work!

 

Dinner choices selected we adjourned to a another table tucked out of the way so that we wouldn't disturb the other patrons, too much. The dinner was exceptionally good from starters to desert and no one had any even minor complaints. The smaller than usual group meant that everyone could join in all the conversations around the table and much laughter was heard accompanied by the clink of many glasses of wine and ale. It should be noted that Janet, Jo and Trish drank the pub dry of Prosecco, ok they only had two bottles in stock, but a good effort girls, one which Trish would pay for in the morning.

 

At some point in the evening Brian announced that today was Trafalgar day, the anniversary of Nelson's victory over the Frog eaters from across the Channel. He promptly went off to the bar returning a few minutes later with a bottle of Lambs Navy Rum and 11 glasses. The rum was poured and we duly toasted Nelson until the bottle was empty.

 

Most of us shared a cheese board with our other halves for desert, just as well as eating a whole platter yourself would have taken a supreme effort. Gary and Rod went off to the bar returning with a bottle of Port each to accompany the excellent cheese. There's a theme here!

 

Just before the prize giving Taff went to the bar and returned with a bottle of Dalwhinnie single malt whisky and another 11 glasses and more toasting was done, but I cannot remember what for. At this point most of the pubs glassware was on our table!

 

The prize giving commenced with Gordon's Goblet, presented by Trish on behalf of last years winner Dick, and the winner is ............

Taff, for I think his "tail end Charlie" exploits on all the rides

 

The Golden Peddle, presented by Jan, and the winner is ......

Trish, for her torrent of expletive deletives at the end of Saturday's ride about never ever ever mountain biking ever again!

 

The Golden Helmet, presented by Trish once again on behalf of last years winner Dick, and the winner is ........

Ed, for being Mr "bloody" Perfect.

Expect to see some wood turning attached to the helmet next year.

 

We then had a draw to pick next years organisers. Every couples names (including those not present) were in a hat (well actually it was a glasses bag) and Brian picked out the "winner" ..... Pete & Terri. Pete replied to texts telling him the good news with a certain amount of skepticism, but it was a fair and equitable draw observing all the rules fair play with checks and balances in place and health and safety rules applied.

 

Last drinks finished we settled the bill, a very reasonable £22 a head including a good tip, and left our hosts to fill and refill the dish washer with our many glasses. No games, no singing, no dancing, no musical interludes, but a thoroughly great evening of converstion (some of it slightly slurred) and laughter which will be remembered by those present for many years to come. As we departed the pub on a very dark, wet and windy night was the Immortal Bard heard to whisper .........

 

"And gentlefolk in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed that they were not here this eve at The Marlbank Inn,
And hold their manhoods, and womanhoods, cheap whilst any speaks
That rode and drank with us upon this Trafalgar Day.”

 

Of course I could have been hearing things, but we were not that far from Stratford-Upon-Avon.

 

And so we staggered off to bed a short time later, many with the start of tomorrow morning's hangover!

 

Dinner at the Marlbank Inn

A fair and equitable draw

and the winners are ..........

Pete & Terri

The last of the single malt

Paul gets Gordon's Goblet (and a bit more) from Trish

Paul and Trish

Paul and Ed ... bromance blossoms!

Trish and Rod

Rod and Liz

Trish wins the Golden Peddle
Sandwiched between two ladies, Rod thinks his dreams have come true

Congratulations to the Golden Peddle winner

Trish modelling the Golden Helmet ....

.... now with a Father Christmas beard added!

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

...... Mr Perfect Summers

Probably some wood turning additions next year!

 

Sunday - The Walk and Goodbyes

We gathered for breakfast on Sunday morning with brevity, laughter and Nurofen disguising aching heads. Jo's story of Brian tripping over discarded clothes on the floor in the middle of the night and falling flat on his face received much laughter. Trish's hangover was somewhat worse than most and it was sometime before she appeared at the table, although to her credit she ate a full bowl of porridge.

 

It was decided to do a short walk at British Camp, an ancient hill fort just across the road from The Malvern Hills pub, before heading home. We arrived to find another very expensive car park (see last years story about Avebury), this time Mr & Mrs Summers couldn't use their NT "get free parking" card and we moved on to free parking across the road, mostly in the pub car park!

 

It was extremely windy on the hill, but a nice walk all the same with fantastic views from the top. Unfortunately Brian's recent back operation wasn't up to the walk up or indeed the walk down and we gathered around to help him down the hill at a snail's pace. At the car park we said our goodbyes, Paul & Liz, Jan & Ed, Colin & Trish heading off to Ledbury for a walk around and coffee, Gary & Janet heading back to Dorset, Jo & Brian (horizontal in the car to ease his back pain) heading to Jo's sisters for lunch and Rod also heading back to Dorset.

 

Liz, Jan, Paul, Rod, Trish, Colin
at British Camp at the top of Milleniun Hill

Coming down slowly with the injured Mr Gribbon

Jan and Trish, a cold wind was blowing

Rod and Colin on their way down
The Malvern Hills, where we rode on Friday, in the background

The Malvern Hills

 

The Market House - Ledbury

The Royal Oak Hotel - Ledbury

 

 

Thanks to Colin & Trish for all their work in organising the event, sorting the taxi's and finding a route, albeit not all strictly legal, around the Worcestershire countryside. I for one especially enjoyed all the good pubs that you found!

 

So ended the 12th biking weekend, looking forward to next years event with Pete & Terri in the saddle ............

GB - 7th November 2017

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