Looking through the Fleet CTC rides programme and a Thursday ride to East Ilsley caught my eye. Digging out the Ordnance Survey maps suggested it would be in the region of a 90 mile ride by the time I got back home and a good test for stamina and endurance.
For the previous couple of days I had watched the weather forecast with interest as the prediction for the day suggested a fine start with rain and strong winds getting to our area by mid morning to accompany us on the ride.
The day dawned with broken cloud and sunshine and I decided to use my Van Nicholas with mudguards and a new Carradice Barley saddlebag to carry wet weather clothing and supplies. I cycled the ten miles to the meeting point in Church Crookham to meet Mark, Bill, Charles and Bob where all eyes were to the sky looking westward for any sign of approaching bad weather.
From Fleet we pedaled out to Winchfield, Phoenix Green to Mattingley and then Rotherwick. Through Hartley Westpall we then joined the A33 for a short while before turning north at Sherfield -on-Lodden and our morning stop at Mortimer. Here we were joined by Peter who had cycled out to meet us for coffee and cake.
The coffee stop took its toll with just just three of us continuing to East Ilsley, myself, Mark and Bill, the others returning to ride nearer home territory. The clouds gathered and the wind freshened as we approached Aldermarston. We crossed the A4 at Brimpton where at least the narrow hedge lined lanes offered respite from the gusty headwind. Through the village of Bucklebury, its new found Royal connection seems to have given the community a sense of local pride and all looked very neat and tidy.
As we crossed beneath the M4 the first few drops of rain started and turned into a heavy drizzle and the road to Hampstead Norreys proved a hard slog into wind and driving rain, on through Compton and our destination was in sight, the Crown & Horns at East Ilsley.
The final downhill run to the pub provided a sting in the tail as the gusty wind came very close to removing me from the bike pushing me uncontrollably to the centre of the road, I have never been subjected to these forces on a bike before but fortunately there was no vehicles close by, a lucky escape.
Our lunch stop was a welcome respite from the heavy rain and before starting our return journey the i-phone connected us to the Met Office web site and the rainfall radar that showed the rain clearing for our return journey, spirits were lifted.
Retracing our tracks to Compton we then headed East to cross the M4 near Bradfield, a town dominated by the college and then Sulhampsted and the quaintly named Ufton Nervet.
The weather had gradually improved and as we went through Mortimer the skies began to break, the route to Wellington Country Park and Bramshill saw the sun put in an appearance as the wind dropped.
The final few miles proved a bit of a struggle as I had forgotten to eat on the return journey and as I pulled into the drive the Garmin GPS read 90.8 miles, a very enjoyable ride in good company, the weather for the day was not as bad as forecast and as I was reminded rather testily, “rain should not stop you cycling, skin is waterproof ” !!