Off road tour - the ridgeway

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clanton
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Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby clanton » 13 May 2013, 4:28pm

Thinking about doing a 3 day tour along the Ridgeway and back over the May bank holiday weekend - whilst towing a 7 month old in a Chariot Cougar 2. Self supported and camping. The idea is as a shakedown tour prior to a longer trip in June.

Looks like we would need to do around 50km per day and there are campsites at about the right intervals. I understand the Ridgeway can be very muddy if there is recent rain - anyone know what conditions are like currently? How long does it take to dry out? The longer term forecast looks like we're in for a nice spell......

How suitable is the Ridgeway for towing a child in the trailer? We'd be taking it pretty easy and it has coped admirably with local bridleways and blue runs at mtb centres so far and the sprog seems to love riding in it - but clearly we don't want to make it a miserable experience for her!

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andrew_s
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby andrew_s » 13 May 2013, 10:23pm

Whilst some sections would be fine:
Image

Others are not really suitable for a 2-wheel trailer:
Image

Try checking it on the google maps aerial view to get an idea. There are even some sections that are on Streetview (eg Chiseldon to the top of Hackpen Hill). There are also the panoramio photos on google maps, and also those on geograph.org.uk.

I know that Hackpen Hill to Avebury & the Sanctuary wasn't suitable as a through route for a trailer last July (as above), although it looks OK at the ends.

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al_yrpal
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby al_yrpal » 13 May 2013, 11:25pm

And...some sections are not a bridleway and bikes are not legal.

Al
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clanton
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby clanton » 14 May 2013, 1:26pm

Thanks Andrew - that is useful. If it is only fairly short sections like the second photo we could cope - but clearly long sections would be an issue. Will look at it more.

Al everything west of Streatley is legal for bikes - which is what we are thinking about doing - parking at Streatley, riding west to the end and back.

andymiller
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby andymiller » 14 May 2013, 10:08pm

It's been a few years since I did it, but I remember the bit in Andrew's second picture. FWIW, my memory is that it's pretty iffy until Goring and then there was a really good run until you hit the bit above Avebury.
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simonhill
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby simonhill » 15 May 2013, 12:44pm

I cycled the Bridleway bit of the Ridgeway (A4 near Avebury to Goring(ish)) back in the early 90's. It was June and I remember some very muddy sections on the high chalk downs. These were dips in the track which were full of very wet mud/slime. There were only a few of these dips, but they were a pain on a solo MTB. Be prepared to push - maybe get some wellies. I don't remember it being a particularly wet year, the water just didn't seem to drain or dry out very quickly.

Otherwise a great ride - enjoy.

iviehoff
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby iviehoff » 15 May 2013, 6:16pm

I managed to ride extensive sections fo the Ridgeway W of Goring towing a trailer bike, but it was tricky in places, and I was doing it in early October after a long dry period. There would be some tricky bits with a two-wheel trailer. And it would be sufficiently bumpy I'd be worried about liquidising the brains of a baby. The following is therefore provided for people looking for reasonable off-road, possibly with trailer bike or free-range children on wheels.

Once you get east of Goring, or north of the Thames if you prefer, then the Ridgeway is not always a bridleway, but you have the Icknield Way which is a bridleway for a long way, and in places is the same as the RW and in other places is closely parallel.

From Goring to (near) Ewelme you could in principle put together a route mainly on track, but I don't know what they are like, but those look like very muddy fields they run across, so I'd be suspicious. Tracks across fields in that part of the world have often been far more trouble than they are worth due to very sticky mud. From near Ewelme the Ridgeway/Icknield Way are coincident for a long way and a pretty good track heading NE at the base of Chiltern scarp, provided there has been little rain in the preceding 6 weeks. If we hadn't had the recent rain in the last couple of days, I'd say go for it, but I suspect might be sticky for a while now. It is a bit rougher than W of Goring, but mostly good track with puddles to go around rather than deep mires to get stuck in. It's bumpy in places. Don't thrash through the puddles, I once met a cyclist who encountered a brick in the bottom of a puddle near the M40 crossing and he had a pentagonal wheel. That track continues thus until just NE of Chinnor, where Rw and IW split, but rejoin near Princes Risborough. You'll be mostly on road from near Bledlow until a couple of miles past Wendover, but there is a track round the back of Princes Risborough if you can be bothered I'm not sure I've tried taht one. You climb out of Wendover on the pretty road to The Hale, and in theory there is now a track, but this is too steep for me to ride even without encumbrances, so I'd follow the road to Lanes End, turn left and rejoin. Unfortunately the bridleway section above the south rim of the Crong (valley) is tricky and can be horribly muddy, but it is beautiful if you can do it. It continues on good tracks and road sections through Hastoe and then on a good track through Tring Park to Wigginton. Then via good track through Ashridge Park above Aldbury, but throwing you down off teh scarp and and bascially you have to be mainly on road after that for a long way. There's another good length track section from a golf course in the NE corner of Luton to the outskirts of Hitchin, which again is rideable, and there my knowledge of it runs out.

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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby eileithyia » 15 May 2013, 9:23pm

It is also quite sometime since I did the Ridgeway over a BH weekend... oh what fun after a wet Spring..... I think I arrived at Inglesham YH with mud up to the pad in my shorts..... some parts were very rutted and the rest was like a quagmire, while others parts were very good. There were 1-2 segments I just had to take to the parallel roads in order to make some pace...... I'm sure you will have great fun..
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al_yrpal
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby al_yrpal » 15 May 2013, 11:02pm

A lot of it East of Streatley is illegal and where legal very difficult even on a MTB, your plan to stick to West of Streatley sounds very sensible to me. Streatley Hill on the road is tough, never tried the Ridgeway up there.

Al
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clanton
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby clanton » 16 May 2013, 11:50am

Thanks for the very useful replies! Sounds borderline at best and given all the rain we've had and the fact that the forecast is now rather less good we are going to look at other options for this trip. I think I'll take my cyclocross bike across the Ridgeway at some point instead.

iviehoff
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby iviehoff » 16 May 2013, 2:26pm

al_yrpal wrote:A lot of it East of Streatley is illegal and where legal very difficult even on a MTB, your plan to stick to West of Streatley sounds very sensible to me.
Al

Must be easier on a tourer then, because that is what I've done it all on and didn't think I was doing anything heroic.

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jezer
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby jezer » 16 May 2013, 3:10pm

I only know the section from the A4 near Silbury Hill to east of Swindon. I sometimes walk it but would not care to do it on a bike. It is very rough, with deep channels worn in to the surface at all times of the year. I think farmers use it for access, and I have seen 4x4 recreational drivers churning it up badly. I'm not sure if the latter is actually legal, but they do it anyway :?
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eileithyia
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby eileithyia » 16 May 2013, 8:02pm

I think the 4x4 are legal but as said it is a long time since I did, when I did at one point, where I was negotiating a large rutted mess of a quagmire, I was greeted with ' ohh our first cyclist'. Ridgeway wardens were out asking users various questions inc and esp about the state of the route.... I think in order to try to get 4x4 banned, we did discuss at the time that it was not illegal for 4x4's but also access was required by the farmers to their fields.. all of which were causing the deep ruts. I think the Ridgeway is like Mastiles Lane in that respect.

Incidently the B/F who got me into cycling, along with club mates 'did' the Ridgeway Easter '76 when it was completely dry.. so it is possible, though they were highly amused that one member of the group fell off in the only patch of mud along it's entire length...
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andrew_s
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby andrew_s » 17 May 2013, 4:03pm

jezer wrote:I only know the section from the A4 near Silbury Hill to east of Swindon. I sometimes walk it but would not care to do it on a bike. It is very rough, with deep channels worn in to the surface at all times of the year. I think farmers use it for access, and I have seen 4x4 recreational drivers churning it up badly. I'm not sure if the latter is actually legal, but they do it anyway :?

All of it used to be legal, but now a lot of it is no vehicles (other than the landowner), and most of the rest is summer only, when it's hopefully drier and less prone to rutting (banned 1st Oct to 30th Apr).
There has been some repair work, but I'm not sure how much it covers.

Dudley Manlove
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Re: Off road tour - the ridgeway

Postby Dudley Manlove » 21 May 2013, 3:29pm

From memory the 25mile(?) high section between Goring/Streatley going west and dropping down again near Liddington is the most easily ridable and also the most enjoyable (imho etc). If I was towing a trailer I think I'd stick to this. West of that, there's some highly rutted sections...and much more up and down. East of that, it's much harder going, and not all bridleway either. FWIW campsite under the Uffington White Horse is one of my favorites, sells wood and lets you have fires.