A writeup with a difference. After my foot becoming as twisted as the singletrack I attempted, a more relaxing ride awaits me at Alton Water Reservoir in East Anglia. The easy pace meant time to take some pictures to complement the descriptions.
I’ve done it thrice before on a rented bicycle, but this time I make amends for the 8.2 mile loop with only a 24" muni with 150mm cranks as my weapon of choice.
I’ve seen how busy the main car park gets at weekends, so it is a pleasant surprise that only one other car is there at 8:30am on this warm summer Friday morning. After getting everything out apart from my knee/shin pads which aren’t needed for this non-technical ride, I mount and practice hopping on the spot for a bit on the uneven tarmac, before riding off past the café building.
Crossing the road that accesses the yacht marina and I pass the sign “checkpoint 1” to a starting straight, a sandy coloured rough track that is easy going. It is open-air, a fence with bushes behind on my left. On my right is a vast expanse of grass dipping down into the reservoir. The first half-mile or so of it is pretty straight and level with the occasional shallow bend to the right. Every now and then some grass bushes obscure my view of the water on the right.
On a little uphill gradient with a bend to the right, and I see a lady coming the other way on a mountain bike. As always I try to avoid eye-contact by pretending to scan the ground, completely unnecessary on this path if it weren’t for her gross lycra shorts. The plan works, she says nothing. My first accompaniment going the same way as me are the occasional dragonflies, air dancing about perilously close to my spokes.
After passing a diversion path that leads to a wooden hide for the birdwatchers, I reach the shade of the first of tiny woodlands encrouching the path. Here it gets a little up and down, but nothing requiring any significant effort. The path begins to meander a little, but nothing to slow down for. The shade disappears, and now the view of the water on the right is obscured completely by thick trees, little grassy paths offering opportunities for walkers to get to the water. A man and woman ahead are on a mountain-bike each in single file and pass by me, again no words are exchanged.
Taking it steady for a few gradients, the surroundings otherwise don’t seem to change that much. The tree cover on the right side gets more occasional again allowing for more views of the water, but ahead of me is a ginger-haired lady wearing a hat walking her two dogs. She collars them over to the side and I thank her, but her response is a single word sounding like “hi”, or “bye”, or “ride”, or “right”… too slurred and insignificant as she presents a glared unimpressed face for me to remember.
The trees close in again for another shaded section, and as they open out again the track turns from brown to dark grey with slightly bigger cobbles, a low wooden beam on my right preventing any vehicular access from people parking in this tiny, well hidden car park by checkpoint 2. Across a little access track and into a further shaded area, the track forks into a T junction with a road, which I don’t remember.
Getting terribly confused I dismount and have a look at where I should go, not left as there is a metal gate closed so there’s only one way to go. I “rewind” back to just before the fork, remount and take the transistion from gravel track to grey road with a little TLC. A short way down a bicycle sign directs me left back onto further gravel track, which for a short time opens out and runs parallel to a wooden bar fence, separating the gravel track from the road. A turn to the right away from the road, a little more shade.
Again the shade opens out and I see the water again. Pausing to take a photograph of a distant earth bank somewhere on the other side where housemartins are coming to feed, a gentleman passes me with a joyful “Good morning”. I prepare to remount and a black and white small dog takes an interest in my legs before beginning to trot along back to it’s owner. As I get going the dog doesn’t seem bothered, in fact he trots next to my wheel playfully as I slowly pass the gentleman and then accelerate away.
I catch sight of a solid white metal railing in the distance, the edges of a road bridge crossing the water on the most northerly part of the route. I approach a lady walking two identical brown curly-haired dogs, after doing a fake cough in the deliberate intention of attracting attention she collars them over as a farmer approaches the gate on the left. As I ride away he bursts out laughing for some reason. As the gravel track ends and turns into pavement an attempt to photograph the road bridge on the move fails and somehow I UPD on the smoothest surface, the first UPD in the 3.1 miles up to checkpoint 3.
The ride across the bridge is fast and easy with the potential audience of a passing car or two. After a kerb drob I sharply turn right through the car park, past checkpoint 4 and further onto the brown track on the eastern side of the reservoir. After a short time the track turns to tarmac for the first of the mean short, but very steep uphills on this side. I take it slow and get all the way up it to a view… of the checkpoint 5 sign. Despite not being worn out I dismount and take some time to eat a banana.
end of part one