OMR Meetup Ride Report 6th December 2023 Wessex Ride to the Queens Arms

And can it be . . . December and our last club ride for 2023? The weather certainly thought it was! No snow but Wednesday morning broke with low hanging mist and some chilly temperatures. We had a plan, stay home if weather conditions dictated at your location, otherwise enjoy a bracing ride to our meeting point at Frilford (Webbs Garden Centre – great coffee and charming staff). Apart from a large Wunderlich winter screen, handlebar muffs, heated grips and seat, heated Keis jacket, heated Keis insoles and Zerofit base layer, mid layer, top layer I had nothing to protect me from the cooler conditions!

Navigating the A40 near Beaconsfield I happened upon a big red bus strangely stuffed into the adjoining hedgerow. No other vehicle involved. Perhaps he had not been paying attention to his external temperature gauge, a wonderful device for setting off internal alarm bells!

Joining the M40, I selected lane 2 as the least shiny and possibly offering the most grip. Before long a shiny GS pulled alongside to exchange greetings before disappearing into the misty far yonder. The smile and massive tan could only mean that David A. was on route following his Eurotunnel dash the previous day to dine in the Eifel Tower restaurant with Isobel to celebrate a zero birthday!

As Oxfordshire approached speeds dropped as did visibility. Everyone driving sensibly contrary to popular belief. Uneventful circumnavigation of the ring road and the miserable A34 to Abingdon. Refuelling at Frilford hear the rumble of boxer twins x 4! This looks promising. Some unexpected playmates as A.A. might exclaim!
Arriving at Webbs knocked out to find 8 out of the expected 10 riders had ventured out. David A, Derek, Laurence R, Laurence J, Martin, Pip and Robin and James. Larry G and Garry W had to defer to the extreme conditions where they lived. In no rush to depart we enjoyed an extended coffee break until 11am.

Derek led the first part of the ride up onto the North Wessex Downs. With visibility still reduced but sunshine forecast after Lambourne he did wonder aloud why he always seemed to end up with the grottiest part of the route. Apparently, the only explanation available was something called FTM. You will have to ask him what that means. Mucky roads, compacted leaf mould, washed out gravel on local roads towards Wantage. Just the usual for this time of year. Keeping everything smooth and steady in the lingering mist we join the B4001 near Childrey. What a transformation. A couple of degrees warmer, clear blue skies and wonderful winter vistas across the top of the North Wessex Down. Speeds built as we run alongside the gallops. Not too many thoroughbreds out today. A gentle amble approaching Lambourne then an exit on the B 4000 and a fast ascent up the side of Ashdown Hill to Ashbury. Slow mucky roads through Bishopstone to our crossover of the M4 near Badbury. Then a short blast on The Ridgeway. The Three Trees Farm shop/café at Chiseldon is our coffee/comfort break. Great coffee, loos but not much indoor seating. It’s a popular waypoint. Being manly(?) we opt for the outdoor picnic benches and enjoy the feeble attempt of a watery sum to warm us.

Strangely by pure chance, the temperature is up, visibility stretches to infinity and don’t the roads look nice and clean. Must be James’s turn to lead the ride. Derek looks particularly pleased for him. We roll over the Downs towards Hackpen Hill climbing up past the White Horse running a line alongside the ancient Ridgeway path. Lots of flowing lines devoid of traffic. Cobweb banishment country! A gentle descent into Marlborough and then familiar roads through Ramsbury, Chilton Folliat and Woodlands St Mary. A mile of leafy track and we arrive at lunch at the glorious Queens Arms.
Although well after our booked time and having lost Martin on route with a puncture (now 7 of us) we get a warm welcome. And as if it couldn’t get better we are seated in the Garden Room which has been heated to sauna temperatures. A lot of clothing is abandoned at this point but modestly is not lost!  Things get better as within 20 minutes Martin arrives having sorted his puncture in double quick time. Even better, Larry G does a ride-in to join us for lunch. We are 9 out of 10 . . . who could have predicted it, on what started out as a bit of a challenging day.

A fitting close to a year of riding pleasure, great company, good humour and probably a little bit of gentle micky-taking! Roll on 2024!


Author: James O'Shea