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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

2016 Biking Weekend - Sutton Benger (Wiltshire) 23th-25th September

The venue for 11th biking weekend of the modern era (i.e. this century) was the Bell House pub/hotel/restaurant/coffee shop/bakers/post office! The Bell House is situated in Sutton Benger (north Wiltshire) sandwiched between Chippenham and the M4 motorway.

The area was chosen due to its close proximity to many bridleways and BOAT's (Byways Open to All Traffic) that criss cross Salisbury plain to the south east. After Gary had failed to find anywhere suitable to stay and went on holiday, Ed took over the search was successful in finding some eminently suitable accommodation.


A recce of the area and the pub by the Summers and Ian, in August, proved very worthwhile. The pub was found to be exactly what we wanted, but several of the byways we had planned to use were completely overgrown and not passable. So alternatives were found and new routes plotted by Ed.

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

Friday - The "warm up" Ride

Accompanied by some very welcome late September sunshine we set off for Sutton Benger for another weekend of fun on two wheels.

Unfortunately quite a few people were unable to make the Friday afternoon ride due to other commitments. Those with a "sick note" were Gary (first ride I have missed on any biking weekend ever!!) & Janet, Dick & Deb, Colin & Trish, Veronica and Sue.

The Friday ride was a gentle 20 mile jaunt over to the very pretty village of Castle Combe. As I wasn't there I cannot regale you, dear reader, with tales of "daring do" from the ride, so you will have to make do with the photos that follow.

Rod doing some maintenance before Friday's ride

Ian trying out Jan's e-bike

Terri, Pete, Rod, Jan, Liz, Ed, Ian
Team photo before leaving on Friday afternoon's ride. Behind the camera ... probably some poor unsuspecting passerby

Ed telling the "passerby" how to take a photo!

Liz entering Castle Combe

Castle Combe

Jan and Paul entering Castle Combe

Team pic at Castle Combe

Team pic at Castle Combe

This is taken at the Market Cross which was built in the 14th century

Stopping for a quick pint at the Castle Inn in Castle Combe

The Gestapo arrive in their Citroen

Pete parked on a double yellow line

Crossing a field somewhere

Pete, Rod, Ian and Liz

Jan on her e-bike

Jan, Rod and Ian

A "last day of the Tour De France" moment for Ian, Paul and Liz



Paul & Liz

I think Jan's e-bike is only meant for one!

Friday's ride completed the participants arrive back at the Bell House to find Gary & Janet and Dick & Deb sitting outside in the sunshine enjoying some early aperitifs. We were soon joined by Veronica and Trish who had traveled up later in the day. Colin was arriving very late in the evening having gone to a Harvest Supper. He contributed a lot to the recent harvest including his elbow which he broke when falling off of the back of a tractor that he was cleaning! If you have an hour to spare he would be delighted to tell you all about it.

Tales of travel and the bike ride over we enjoyed a very nice evening sampling the beers and wine and some very excellent food at the Bell House. Chris the owner was very welcoming, nothing was too much trouble and he joined in many of the conversations during the weekend to tell us about the pub, village and surrounding area. The long table in a separate part of the restaurant area meant we could make as much noise as we wanted without disturbing the rest of the patrons (too much!).

Saturday - The Ride

As usual it seemed like we were back at the long table for breakfast all to soon after leaving it the night before! Breakfast was very good and having fuelled our bodies we set about fettling the bikes for the days 30 mile (planned!) loop to Avebury and back. Liz & Paul and Trish not content with cycling all day set off for Chippenham at 08:30 to take part in the Saturday Park Run event. They duly completed the 5k run and got back in time to sort their bikes out for the days ride.

As Colin couldn't ride his bike he was accompanying Veronica, Janet and Trish to visit the National Trust village of Lacock for a days sight seeing, the girls determined to show him how shopping was done "properly"!

Sue ~ Paul ~ Dick ~ Deb ~ Liz ~ Rod ~ Jan ~ Ed ~ Terri ~ Gary ~ Ian ~ Pete

Fettling done we posed for a few pics before setting off down the long trails to Avebury. Sue had come up from Dorset for the day to join us on the ride, a welcome sight as it had been some time since she last rode with us.

The first part of the ride was all on road and flat, however Paul was suffering from the previous days riding and the 5k park run earlier in the morning and it was beginning to take a severe toll on his legs. Attempts by Gary, Ian and Pete to get him back to the peloton were to no avail.

At Foxham we stopped while Ed looked for a bridleway that they couldn't find on the recce, Ian disappeared in the opposite direction also looking for the bridleway, Ed re-appears not able to find the track and the group go off up the road. Unbeknownst to them Gary waits for Ian to return so he knows where everyone else has gone and waits and and waits! With Ian not in sight Gary sets off after the main group, comes to a T junction with no one anywhere in sight! He goes left as that is the direction the bridleway would have gone, after a mile with still no one in sight he tries to phones Ian but is unable to get a reply.

Finally after a a few turn offs and a steep hill climb somebody, Sue I think, notices that Gary is no longer with them. Ian phones Gary.

Gary - "where are you"
Ian (very pleased with himself) - "I found the bridleway, came that way and met the others at the canal locks"
Gary - "ok, but where are you now?"
Ian - "Can you see a hill in front of you? We are at the top of that"
Gary - with a hill (unknown to him not "the" hill!) in front of him - "ok, be there in a couple of minutes"

After climbing the hill and descending the other side and with still no one in sight Gary comes to another T junction, with no phone signal he goes right up to Spirit Hill hoping to get a signal at the top. No signal but there is a bloke cutting the hedge ........

Gary - "are there some locks and a canal near here?"
Bloke - "yep, near Foxham"
Gary - "Where's that then?"
Bloke - "The quickest way is back the way you came, about 3 miles"
Gary - looking at the nice descent in front of him - "Can I not go straight on?"
Bloke - "No that's much much further"
Gary - "Really, how far is that then?"
Bloke - " about 3 miles"
Gary - silently - "what the f...."

Gary ignores the advice and carries on down the hill eventually coming back into Foxham where he started 5 miles earlier! Having made contact with Ian he eventually finds the sign post to the locks which is almost totally obscured by brambles and hooks up with Ian at the top of the hill (a different one mind you!). Then with no one else to worry about they enjoy a great run thru the Melsome wood, around RAF Lyneham and Catcomb Wood before stopping in Goatacre to "try" and meet up with the rest of the group.

It should be noted that during this game of tag the phone signal was up and down like an uppy downy thing on uppy downy day in Upton and trying to keep everyone abreast of what was happening was nigh on impossible.

At this point Gary and Ian came across Paul, Dick & Deb going in the opposite direction. Paul's legs had had enough and he was heading back. Dick & Deb decided that having covered so few miles in such a long time that they would also bail out and stop somewhere on the way back for lunch which they did at the Foxham Inn (right) which was very nice apparently.

Gary and Ian eventually met up with the rest of the gang just outside of Goatacre and the reformed group headed south east into a fierce head wind towards Avebury. An hour or so later we came into Avebury a village surrounded by three henge like stone circles and managed by the National Trust. If you want to know more click the link.

the red lion avebury

We headed to the only pub in the village, the Red Lion (left), for a lunch and beer stop. Although there was long queue to order food and drinks we hadn't been back at the table for long when the eats arrived. Rod unable to wait had headed to the local shop and bought his food there before coming back to the pub to eat it.

Rested refueled and re-beered we headed out on the return leg to Sutton Benger. The riding was much easier with only a few gentle inclines to ascend and the wind firmly at our backs we made good time over the well compacted trails.

After a brief and unnecessary detour near Spirit Hill (Ed got his bearings wrong) we came back into Foxham and decided to visit the pub as we were passing, unfortunately it was closed and so we headed back to Sutton Benger instead, stopping only for Ed to twice repair a puncture. Back at the pub we partook of a few ales and swapped stories of the day's events with those who had gone elsewhere.

Getting ready to leave

Rod and Pete on the RAF Lyneham perimeter fence

Pete and Paul

Someone was being naughty, read the sign and make up your own captions!

Liz repairing Paul's puncture

Not the most hygienic way of removing thorns from a tyre

How many people does it take to repair a puncture?
Answer on a postcard please ......

Map stop to check where we are

Sue and Gary crossing a field somewhere east of Goatacre

Liz and Jan on the same field

Pete showing Ed what he thinks about the route (maybe)

Rod with his expensive, cold pasty, the pub food was much better

The best descent of the day, down Highway Hill to Lower End Farm
Ian went ahead to take pictures and took many, the best of them are these two!
Lots of others with no one in the frame!

Ed coming down Highway Hill

On the bridge over the Avon River, waiting for Ed to find his punctures!

Saturday's route (or at least the extended one that Gary took!!)

Saturday - The Gala Dinner

Saturday evenings dinner was the usual noisy fun and games, with some music (sic), singing, the usual awards, a new (one off) award and the usual bath tub of beer and wine consumed. The evenings highlights were .............

Rod, Deb, Liz and Pete

Ed, Janet, Ian and Gary

Ian's speech

Jan gets the Golden Peddle from Ian

Dick gets Gordon's Goblet from Terri

Rod before presenting the newly penis adorned Golden Helmet

Dick wins the Golden Helmet for the third time!

Deb plays the Gazoo with Liz, Pete, Terri and Dick

Colin, an epic fail trying to play the Gazoo

Trish and Deb's Gazoo playing obviously amuses Rod somewhat!

Sunday - A Culturally Invigorating Day (or "how much to park here!!")

We decided to have a more cultural day on Sunday and to visit two local "attractions", namely Avebury Village and then go on to Caen Hill Locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

We headed off to Avebury for a closer look at the stone circles that we had visited on the previous days ride and all was well until we gathered around the National Trust car park machine, the only parking in Avebury. £7 to park, "how much", "you're having a f'ing Giraffe" and many other expletives, not just from us, but everyone who came to the machine. The Summers looked suitably smug as they are NT members and didn't have to pay.

We had a pleasant walk around the stones and coffee before heading off to Caen Hill Locks (right) to see the impressive Victorian built main flight of 15 out the 29 locks that go up the hill.

Nice easy parking at Caen Hill only a £1 for 4 hours, NT take note! We had a walk down and up the flight admiring the engineering and skill in the massive build before going to the Black Horse pub (below) for some lunch.

Lunch was ok'ish (certainly not good value for money!) for most folk, if you didn't mind the waitress's food stained clothes and the unnecessarily long trek she had to make from the kitchen to our tables on the quayside. amongst other things. However Janet's order was forgotten and after an hour's wait and a long debate with pub staff (apparently it was all our fault, even though the order was correct and we were at the right tables!) Gary got the money back.

As we were leaving Ed and Gary remembered we came here last summer and that the food was ok, but really not worth a return visit. Certainly won't be eating there again.

Foot Note: Messrs Biles and England spent a very stress relieving few minutes on Trip Advisor on Monday morning telling Avebury and the Black Horse what they thought of their parking charges and food/service.


So ended the 11th biking weekend, looking forward to next years event with Colin & Trish in the saddle ............

GB - 2nd October 2016

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