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  • Writer's pictureLBD

6 Nov – Marlborough

Blog 6th November 20022 – Marlborough – a SHABI day out

Dearest SHABI’s

Slumpy nagged and then nagged again and nagged some more. It was Nag level 3 before finally, in an effort to get some peace and quiet, that Smashie agreed to organise another ride around the Vale of Pewsey, a repeat of 2020’s ride from the same location.

Can you spot the canal section in the elevation profile?

Initial preparations involved phoning the pub (The Barge and Honeystreet) and booking a table for ten (optimistic I hear you say) and dusting off the GPS tracklogs from 2020. The route still looked good and so the route was shared with the DRM allocated for the ride – none other than Faff Cheeks himself. Although there are other well qualified DRM’s to choose from, Faff has “wearable tech” which means that if we stray so much as a millimetre off the trail, “electronic mechanical shouting” will emit from the “wearable tech” and we can all stop and change clothes, fix the bikes or whatever.

LBD was driving the Travelling Community van when a desperate call came in from Big Ring asking for directions to the “approved carpark”. Sadly a number of other SHABI’s were also “contributing” to the conversation at the same time as Big Ring was asking for directions. So as per usual neither LBD nor Smash (co-driver) were the wiser as to what was going on, never mind who was going to park where. The SHABI’s know how to take a perfectly simple instruction and still become confused. Its what we do so well.

So LBD, Smash and Faff arrived in the correct car park passing Spanish (name withheld) and Polly (our Agricultural adviser) and we settled into getting ready. I would like to say that LBD, Smash and Faff were fully organised in a matter of minutes having returned from an expedition in Wales the previous weekend. But no, we had not reckoned on the windy, calm, dry, wet, sunny, cold and warm conditions causing Faff to a brain based short circuit as to what to wear. Luckily the presence of Spanish encouraged Faff to get his act together as she is not one to tolerate “messing about”.

Whilst waiting for Faff to change into his windproof summer undercrackers it becomes apparent that Spanish has stolen Polly’s bike forcing our hero to ride a “gravel bike”. It turns out her bike is “unwell” and therefore the days first misdemeanour point for “failure to maintain the bike and force someone to ride a gravel bike”. Poor show Spanish – no-one, but no-one, should have to ride a gravel bike in public.

So we meet at the Town Hall and we have a quick review of the list of riders with; Smash (RM), Faff (DRM), Love Bus Driver, Major Meccano and Mrs Meccano, Spanish, Polly, Slumpy and his carer Tonya, Big Ring, Strangely Brown (Swami), Tarmac St John, Gary Newman, Mrs Doyle and last and very much not least Slasher Giles.

A special mention for Slash as last time in 2020 he decided to “kick the tyres” to make sure his bike was okay. This managed to remove the tyre valve stem and resulted in white puncture fluid spraying everywhere from his tubeless tyres …all in front of the posh estate agents. Oh how they must have loved the sight of the SHABIs crowded in front of their window in the middle of a gently expanding pool or tyre fluid trying to install an inner tube.


Throwback to 2020:


Anyway everyone was assembled in good order and we set off up the main A4 towards Hungerford on a hill that is designed to take everyone from “just the right temperature” to “completely overheated”. Therefore we stop at the entrance to the Savernake Forest and everyone removes various clothing or unzips as far as decency allows.

Let's play - 'Waterproofs on, waterproofs off'!

LBD is the official photographer and it becomes clear that Spanish is not prepared to have her picture taken. After minutes of research your blogger has discovered that she has sold her image rights to Damart – the catalogue thermal underwear people. She is modelling their “Autumn head wear range” and the best way for the uninitiated to think about it is “big pants, but on your head”. All SHABI’s wish her well in her new venture.

Then through the forest and Smashie stops to talk to a Dalmatian Dog as he is missing Doris but we have to press on. Then we take a right turn at the place where we did not turn right last time, and we enter a section of forest trails with “surface mud”. That is to say that picking the correct route was essential if the rider wished to avoid engaging emergency power to keep progressing,

By a miracle (communing with the tree spirits according to our Swami) we arrive at the right place to join the disused railway. First injury goes to LBD who has an argument with a hanging down bramble – there is blood. Mrs Doyle is similarly injured and there is even more blood. We proceed to plod along the old railway and arrive at farm adjacent to the road we intend to join. We bypass a fence and talk to the cows (our Agricultural adviser was able to identify them as cows, and that’s good enough for the SHABI’s).

Thinking something was amiss, the farmer ambled over and asked if we were lost in a friendly tone of voice. Naturally the entire peleton pointed at the RM and said in unison “we’re just following him!”. At this point our Swami (Strangley Brown) attempted to join with the farmer in conversation. However, mentioning “tree spirits” and “equal rights for hay bales” seemed to turn the farmer from a friendly chap to a rather aggressive person. Having been blamed for the “trespass” the RM was edging towards the road and had set off when he distinctly hear the words “….. and you can fluck off as well…” from the farmer. Oh dear! Our Swami does not seem to engender the feeling of peace and tranquillity you would expect from a man of such impeachable Swami credentials.

The Liphook crew are so friendly, they just make new friends everwhere they go!

So we join the canal via a steep track with “steps”. All manage to negotiate these without mishap and we set off along the canal tow path. What a calm and peaceful place after the unfortunate incident in the farmyard. Everyone enjoys the autumn colours, gentle rain showers and passing many many many fishermen.

As the man at the front trying to distance himself from the farmyard, the RM felt dutybound to say “good morning and thankyou” to every fisherman along the way, only 20% of whom even managed a reply (normally a grunt of some sort). Many Fishermen had to remove assorted fishing poles laid across the towpath. It would seem that the average canal fisherman has a prodigious amount of kit consisting at a minimum; 17 rods varying in length between 4ft and 17ft, plus 200kg of various baits, plus a small pier to allow them to sit halfway into the canal, and all transported on a lightweight articulated trolley. The Equality, diversity and inclusion officer has highlighted that the term “fishermen” is used in this blog but agrees that not a single person identifying as a “woman” was observed fishing and therefore the correct term was used. Perhaps some of them are gay? Just saying.

So we continue on and somehow we manage to shelter on the south tow path from the rain. We pass many moored barges that seem to be part of an “alternative life style” – our Swami approves.

Then we have to swap onto the north side of the canal and the heavens open and we are exposed to the wind and increasingly heavy rain. Its gets wetter and windier but we plough on. We take turn s to “sit on the front” to take the full brunt of the rain and wind. Hero points for Spanish and TsJ.

Suddenly the wind increases and the RM predicts the rain will stop …and it does. Before you know it we are parking our bikes under a gazebo and peeling off the muddy outer garments having arrived at the pub.

It is simply unbelievable how welcoming this pub is. The table for 15 was fully laid out and a roaring fire was in the log burner. All the pub regulars had retreated to the other end of the bar and we were left in peace to take off soaking muddy clothes and put in front of the log burner to dry. Many will recall the last time this happened Slumpy caught fire, but his carer intervened to make sure everything was reasonably safe.

A great meal enjoyed by all and everyone is feeling great as the RM ushers the reluctant peleton to remount their bikes. Putting back on those cold and wet clothes, sock and shoes was just horrible. So we set off along the canal again and the mud in this section is worse than before but that warms everyone up a bit.

The RM has a bit of brain fade and a short retreat has to be called due inability to read his GPS map thingy which had steamed up.

We now leave the canal and start going north. Soon we approach the south slope of the Pewsey downs adjacent to the famous white horse. We pose for a picture in front of the “eat more chips” truck and set off up the hill. A great effort by everyone especially after such a long lunch break. Then we are on the top and the view is beautiful with rolling countryside and magnificent cloudscapes.

One such cloudscape began to precipitate on us quite liberally and we splash down the hill into the valley of the A4 trunk road. Very slippy at maximum speed and a few “squeaky bum” moments for the downhill lunatics. We witness a beautiful rainbow – a full semi-circle against the stormy background. Nature is beautiful and our Swami tells us it’s a sign. He doesn’t say what it is a assign of though.

Over the A4 and we regroup and join the Ridgeway trail. Slash takes a turn on the front and gets into the zone – he’s loving it and its quite an effort for the RM to hold him back. Then we turn right and head through the “boulder field of the ancients”. It’s the final stretch and everyone wonders at the beauty and how much longer this is going on.

We finally arrive at the road after a long a luxurious down-hill run. Big Ring gets off his bike and rolls around on the ground hoping to take off some of the mud. Mrs Meccano realises her lights aren’t working but is relaxed and says she will follow everyone else. I am not sure this sensible approach is entirely compatible with the SHABIs, but as a new rider, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Then along the road to Marlborough and we all celebrate at the Town Hall for a great ride, with great people, in beautiful countryside. A total of 30 miles and lots of climbing.

Oh it was so worth your nagging Slumpy – feel free to do it some more.

I love you all


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