As the nearest unfilled squares are 25 miles away as the crow flies, my old habit of starting and ending my rides at home is becoming more and more of a problem. I would put a “one new square” ride into the route planner, and it would come back at me with 100km ride. That’s sort of fine, but my boys are growing up and having more and more activities to go to… my long-suffering but enormously patient wife wants me home sometimes.
The solution is to head out on a train somewhere and then ride home. Even with Britain’s notorious public transport system this is usually a little quicker than me riding. This weekend though I was blocked in almost all directions – engineering works into London, and on the lines out of Woking down to Petersfield and Basingstoke meant the ONLY option was to head to Reading. [Bikes are not allowed on replacement bus services].
The route out of Reading took me over the river and onto the A4074 which heads up straight up a 13%-in-places lump called St. Peters. Hill. I got to the top without being passed by a car and thought wow I must be in good form if the cars aren’t squeezing past me in frustration. Turns out the lady behind was just incredibly patient, so I gave her the thumbs up as she finally passed as part of my resolution to thank the nice drivers rather than just bawl at the usual ones. She burst out laughing.
Anyway I soon turned off down the nice roads over to Goring – no surprise someone has put the whole 7.7 miles as a segment – the final stretch is a sharp descent with twists and turns so never in month of Sundays am I going to get close to the top-end, being the lily-livered descender that I am.
Heading north out of Goring, still on the east of the Thames I bag the first new square of the day at 12 miles. Wedged as I am between the western end of the Chilterns and the river, I have high hopes for a great clear November view. Sadly as I turn east at South Stoke I realise it is fairly featureless farmland and, more importantly, the wind is actually a fairly strongly easterly and I am 30 miles due west of home. Damn those trains forcing me to Reading! About five minutes later the puncture fairy visited AGAIN. Inner strength, rule 5, blah blah blah.
The alignment of roads and squares turns out not to be so good here and I have to execute three “nubbins” at Ipsden, Well Place and somewhere in the middle of nowhere to get all the missing squares. Heading east of Ewelme I pick up square 9 of the day and immediately hit the Chilterns Wall. From Wallingford to Princes Risborough there must be about 20 roads heading up this ridge. And the only one that doesn’t get above 10% for a sustained period is the M40, where the motorway builders just cut straightforward. Looking at VeloViewer, I think the route up to Cookley Green (Swyncombe Hill) was my 10th different route up. Road was pretty good, but had high hedgerows spoiling the view. Inevitably, after a few miles of empty road, a car trailed inches from by back wheel, and shoved me off the road to the extent I put a foot down :/. No thumbs up to him..
At the top of the hill I swing back round again to get square 10. This has no public roads, being dominated by the former site of Ewelme Park (a royal hunting ground on ground original owned by Geoffrey Chaucer’s son). I didn’t quite establish if the current Ewelme Park House is ever open to the public, but fortunately its fine main entrance road is a bridleway, so I happily cycled down it to get into the square.
All new squares backed, after an aboutturn I was soon back on familiar roads. I joined the main Henley-Oxford at Nettlebed and despite going what I thought was quite fast on the lovely descent, my 23.8mph average for this segment still puts me at 3483rd out of 4490. I can blame the headwind, but I really am a lousy descender.
From there it was my standard back from Henley – up Remenham Hill (no PR, damn my fit self from last Summer), then through Cockpole Green (dammit, I still smile every time), Warrens Row and White Waltham before hitting Drift Road. 14.21 for the Drift Road segment against a PR of 11.26… really must mumble something about a headwind.
Strava : https://www.strava.com/activities/793405430
New squares: 10
Minimum squares for project 50: 211