King Alfred's Way Cycle Ride
Urchfont, Wiltshire to Urchfont, Wiltshire with 225 miles in between
3 days in June 2021
Following the highly successful T3 cycle ride, from Guy’s Hospital to Portsmouth, a breakaway of the Penguin peloton attempted to complete the King Alfred’s Way (KAW) over 3 days at the end of June 2021.
Alan, Charlie and Nigel/Kol rose at an unspeakably uncivilised hour on Day 1 and departed from the historic Wiltshire village of Urchfont to join the official KAW route. The first hour was eventful and unpromising. We travelled about 10 miles through various villages, up and down hills, through woods, fields of nettles and farms until eventually arriving a few hundred yards from where we had started. I then realised that my perception that a number of villages had very similar names was because we had passed through some villages at least twice. We then decided that having two navigators with 3 separate navigation systems between them may not be the best way to progress.
Eventually we gained height onto the Ridgeway, an ancient droving track. Lots of wet chalk (very slippery) and numerous ruts made for an interesting time with all riders leaving their machines on a number of occasions. The hills were numerous. Kol, the racing snake, had little trouble propelling his 80 kg frame upwards with alacrity. Alan was somewhat slower and Charlie even more so. The scenery was superb. After an eventful number of hours, and an excellent lunch in a very hospitable pub, we reached Reading. Reading was easy to get into but very difficult to escape from, as Oscar Wilde no doubt observed.
Eventually we escaped and crossed the M4 when it started to rain. A lot. After 2 hours all were very wet but finally reached the Basingstoke canal and the sanctuary of Alan’s house. Day 1 complete.
Day 2 saw pleasant, relatively rapid cycling via Farnham to Liss. Thereafter it became hilly/muddy/chalky/rutted. Kol as ever was effortlessly propelling himself upwards, including completing the daunting Butser Hill without pause. The delightfully named Gibbet Hill was different. Kol’s derailleur disintegrated and his chain snapped. A quick fix of gaffer tape and wire, and some mysterious wizardry meant he was able to continue albeit at a reduced tempo. Eventually we reached the rim of the Devil’s Punchbowl after which it was largely flattish tending to downhill. We finished for the day at Winchester West Gate pub, and looked forward with relish to sampling their much vaunted Moving Mountain burgers. Rather surprisingly these turned out to be vegetarian, and although good for keeping the system regular, were not quite what was needed for 3 hungry omnivores.
Day 3 dawned early and after a substantial breakfast we embarked on a very pleasant morning of good surfaces and relatively gentle gradients. The Bridge pub at Upper Woodford provided an outstanding lunch following which we explored a large part of Salisbury Plain Training Area. Charlie suffered 3 punctures, Kol’s bike continued to protest despite his alchemy, and Alan continued serenely and untroubled as befits one returned to his native Wiltshire. Eventually we reached Urchfont and were royally entertained by both Alan’s parents, Richard and Sandra, and the Lamb Inn, who serve an excellent pint of Wadworth’s 6X.
Ultimately a challenging, esoteric, enjoyable 225 miles with over 9 000 ft of ascent over 3 days, remarkable for its lack of significant disagreement, noting that the cyclists have all known each other since 1984.
L to R: Nigel ("Kol"), Alan & Charlie
The Kings of King Alfred's Way
Charlie Beardmore, PAC President