May - Vale of Pewsey Camping Weekend
Report by Russell and Rachel
A wonderful weekend away at the Woodbridge Inn Certificated Site in North Newnton a couple of years ago got us thinking about a TC camping weekend in the area. A lot of planning, route-mapping and trying-out of pubs led to 20 of us, plus Andy and Jill and their one-year-old twins, Sam and James, gathering at the campsite on a lovely sunny Friday evening. With motorhomes and vans hooked-up, tents erected and pints drunk, we settled down ready for an earlyish start the next morning.
And there was rain. Not a lot, just the odd shower passing over which the forecast claimed would disappear by lunch – which it did! Quite right, too, as we were owed some dry rides after a couple of deluge outings earlier in the year. Liz and Mark arrived in good time to get their tent up before we set off and Ray and Geri, staying in a very luxurious local B&B, arrived too taking us up to 11 tandems and 2 solos. We headed off west along the Vale of Pewsey, with our first white horse away to the north and our first climb ahead between Etchilhampton and Devizes. We joined the canal just outside Devizes, with some trepidation about Sam and James in their trailer navigating the towpath, but all was well and we reached the Caen Hill Locks Café for re-fuelling without mishap. The sky had started to clear and the views were spectacular but the wind was beginning to make itself felt as we set off down alongside the flight of 16 locks, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caen_Hill_Locks) then followed the towpath for another three miles to Sells Green. Leaving the canal we continued south west, heads down against a strong wind, Andy and Jill peeling off with the boys back to the campsite before we made the climb into Bratton for lunch at The Duke. Fed and watered we hit a real rollercoaster sweeping away from Bratton and up again along the side of a ridge with more amazing views of the countryside stretching away to the north. This time, the wind was at our backs, eventually pushing us into Urchfont which was heaving with visitors on the Scarecrow Trail. Elvis, Pink and Dame Nelly Melba were spotted while we stopped to eat ice creams then it was off again on the last leg back to the site. 43.9 miles (depending on whose computer you checked…)
Saturday evening saw us sitting and waiting, and waiting, for dinner in the Woodbridge Inn. It came, we ate.
Sunday morning, awake bright and early with sunshine and birdsong, cooked breakfast in the pub for some then back on the road by 9.45am. A taxing climb took us up and over the A361 with a fig-roll stop just over the summit, down again and then a gentler rise up, no fig-rolls this time, but a 40 mph descent, braking hard at the bottom for the left turn to Calne where Tess and Mia at the Sampaguita Café were opening up especially for us. Disaster struck on the way in with Ken and Liz limping in with a cracked dropout on their chainstay. Running repairs were fashioned from a length of cord while Russell took Mia (who loved it) and Tess (who didn’t) for a quick spin around the car park. Leaving Ken and Liz to wend their way back to the campsite, we set off again, this time westwards, narrowly avoiding getting caught up in the Calne Triathlon, then up Labour In Vain Hill, eventually passing the Cherhill White Horse (http://wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/cherhill.html) before dropping down to Avebury with its standing stones where we had half an hour to wander around while the tourists photographed our bikes. Lunch was only a few miles away at The Who’d A Thought It Pub in Lockeridge where Philip and Verna, Mark and Liz and Jo and Ian decided to take the long route home via Savernake Forest and Marlborough, while the rest of us moved on to pudding and a shorter route, 45 miles, back along quiet sunny lanes. Rumour has it that the long ride wasn’t the full 58 miles but they did have to navigate gravel and fallen logs!
Monday’s ride took us rolling east through the lanes to Crofton Pumping Station, which was in steam for the day and very busy with volunteers and visitors. Some of us did the tour whilst the rest sat on the grass and soaked up the sun. Numbers had dwindled by the time we left with only four tandems and two solos riding on to lunch at Collingbourne Ducis, though we managed to boost the numbers by roping in a couple of solos who were struggling alongside us up the Col de Wexcombe. (Russell is emailing OS to demand a chevron for that one!) The tandems showed their strength on the Lynden Down descent but the solos weren’t far behind. A vote at lunch decided that the wind was manageable so rather than take the shorter, more sheltered route back to Pewsey, we set off across Salisbury Plain with parachutists to the left, aerobatic gliders to the right but, sadly, no tanks, finally following the Avon north through pretty villages back to North Newnton. Tired but happy to be back after 39 miles.
A lovely weekend in beautiful countryside with, amazingly, hot and sunny weather! Thanks to everyone who came – we really enjoyed it and hope you did too.
Link to some photos on the South East London web site