The Vale of White Horse is sandwiched between the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds and connected by the bustling towns of Swindon and Oxford. Within a 15 minute drive of either the M4 or M40 you can be deep into the Oxfordshire Countryside; the natural cotswold-stone villages tucked in to the green rolling hills reminiscent of times gone by.
We’ve previously spent a decent amount of time in this area over a period of a year, exploring by foot and checking out many of the great pubs dotted across the region. And although I’ve been out on my bike in the area, I’d never spent the day exploring.
I met up with my friend Char, in the village of Childrey, just East of Wantage and from where I’d put together a 70km ride. We couldn’t have picked a better day for it, the sun beating down and a strong 22-24 degrees throughout the day.
We headed straight out onto Wantage Hill, climbing to the top of the Ridgeway. The 10% gradient sign at the start of the climb put the fear in us, but the road climbed fairly gently (unlike my heart rate). At the top, the land opens to amazing views across the Vale, showcasing 20-30 horses racing across the Valley of the Racehorse. How apt!
Here we happened to catch up with a group from Swindon Wheelers, tucking in for a bit of a chat and sprint as we made our way down into Lambourn where we said our goodbyes. As we passed through Upper Lambourn and onto the next ridge at Ashbury, the landscape changed dramatically again. The rugged hillsides scattered in large stones and sheep which very much reminded us of Wales.
What goes up must go down and it wasn’t long before we span into the village of Shrivenham and a well earned break at the fabulous award winning Bloomfields Fine Foods Deli. Locally sourced, their cakes, quiches, pies and sandwiches are all too delicious making any choice difficult.
Back on the road, we headed up to Lechlade-on-Thames. The road was a little busier now but with a bit of a tailwind and the gradient on our side we blasted the section. If we hadn’t have stopped at the deli in Shrivenham, we’d have popped into the Lynwood Cafe – popular with cycling clubs for the good coffee and Aussie charm.
From Lechlade, we were back on country roads, cutting back over the Thames and skirting anti-clockwise around Buscot Park to Coleshill and into Farringdon. Here we hit the hardest part of the ride – Badury Hill. Three quarters of the way into 70km, the legs were starting to tire and the 8 – 12% climb took it’s toll.
We were both happy to spot the ice cream van at the entrance to Badbury Clump, a forest of bluebells looked after by the National Trust and another one of the world’s wonders I’d never know was there if it wasn’t for exploring by bike.
The last 20 km of our ride took us back into the Vale of White Horse with views up to the Bronze-Aged chalk white horse and ripples of the Giant’s Steps at Uffington. Here we followed the undulating valley road back to Childrey and headed to the pub for a well deserved pint!