Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Oxford / Uffington White Horse - Cycle Circle

2 Days
61 Miles
13 Hours Travel Time
1 Puncture

We are back! After two days of serious cycling, my wife and I have completed our circular ride from our front door in Oxford to the famous Uffington White Horse and back.

We set off on Sunday morning around 9:30am, travelling by our well-known route to the large town of Abingdon. From there we proceeded south along the river, before veering off to go around the town of Didcot and its skyline-dominating nuclear cooling towers.  Two hours in, we made a quick stop for some McDonald’s fries, and then we were off again.  Across the railroad tracks, down a road, and then back into Oxfordshire wilderness.  We were aiming for the ancient road known as the Ridgeway.  Just as we got in sight of the ridge, I heard that dreaded noise from my rear tire.  Flat.  Setting up a temporary camp, I pulled the tire off and located a needle-thin splinter of wood that had pierced the tire and the inner-tube. I’m certainly no cycle maintenance expert, but I had brought a couple of extra inner tubes, and less than an hour later, we were back in business.

I admit it; we pushed our bikes up to the Ridgeway, but having obtained the ancient road (now a byway cleared for walkers, cyclists, and horses), we set off down the bumpy track.  The Ridgeway was made for mountain-bikers, but our hybrids performed admirably. We passed Lord Wantage’s Monument, which is most notable for being such an out of the way place to stick a monument, and the beautiful plunging valley, known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. We arrived at the White Horse after just over 7 hours of travel, before cruising down the side of the Ridgeway to the 16th Century White Horse Inn, where we spent the night.

About the White Horse itself, I have only a little to say. To my eyes it has none of the impressiveness of standing stones or borrows, but it is interesting for the mystery of its purpose and for the 3,000 years that the local populace worked together to preserve it. More interesting to me was the vast earthwork fortress that sat on the hill above it.  Those Celts had a commanding view from that place. Bring the kids, they’ll love running all over it.

After a hearty ‘Full-English’ breakfast, we set off the next morning at 9:30.  Wanting to see some different sights, we decided to take a different route back.  We started off along the road that runs parallel to the Rideway, before veering off to into the town of Wantage (birthplace of Alfred the Great). From Wantage we found some quiet roads up to Grove, before getting a bit lost on the way to East Hanley.  We quickly found the road again, but decided to try another byway that was marked on our map – mistake. The byway became a trail became a path became a field. Somehow, we found ourselves pushing our bikes through a series of empty fields, scaring the hares, trying to find a road. After an hour of pushing, we broke out onto a road, and made our way to Steventon. Drained from our field-pushing, we decided to take the most direct way home, and followed the road back to Abingdon. After a much needed lunch break, we carried on, arriving back home a 3:30.  Tired, but triumphant.

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