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Total distance: 63 miles (100.8 kilometres)
Rutland CircumCycle July 2016. (a.k.a. SaGBaLLS rides again.)
A 60 mile cycle ride clockwise around Rutland county boundary.
SaGBaLLS comes from “Stella and Graham, Barney and Lori, Leo (and) Sam”. Last year the SaGBaLLS team cycled the Coast 2 Coast route from Whitehaven to Sunderland. At that time Leo and Sam were on a tandem so they didn’t rate an “and” between their names. This year Sam had her own, brand new bike, so if you’re feeling pedantic you can call us SLaBLaGS or even SaLBaLGaS if you prefer. We don’t mind really.
After a planning beer in April during which it was decided that Lori would sort the accommodation and Barney the route, nothing then happened until late June, when Leo realised that Sam needed a new bike or else he’d have to pilot the tandem again.
New bike procured – long story, but with a Genesis Croix de Fer 10 at the end – and after a couple of test rides, Sam pronounced herself willing to use cleats. Cue gales of silent laughter from those of us who had already gone through the cleats learning curve, and happy anticipation of at least a couple of pratfalls during the main ride.
Barney stuck the route up on MapMyRide, and we decided on clockwise being the best option, starting and stopping in Stamford, and with an optional detour onto the Hambleton peninsula in the middle of Rutland Water for Lori who likes lakes.
The team drove up to Stamford on the Saturday evening, checked in to a very nice Bed and Breakfast organised by Lori, and headed into town for dinner.
Gwynne House Bed and Breakfast, Stamford. 4/5 stars. Very helpful and accommodating owner, comfortable beds, reasonable breakfast. Only let down by feeble shower and restricted breakfast menu.
Il Vicolo Italian Restaurant, Stamford. 5/5 stars. Superb food, excellent wines, enthusiastic staff, friendly atmosphere.
We set off at the crack of 0930 after a pleasant breakfast, a quick bike check, and checking out of the B&B. Possibly a little later than planned, but this was supposed to be a training ride rather than a gruelling feat of endurance. Downhill into Stamford town centre, and around the picturesque church on the cobbled section we got onto the route proper on the A43, over the A1, and up the hill to Easton on the Hill. There was a fair bit of traffic on the road towards Collyweston, but it was all very well behaved; even so we were glad to turn right off the main road to go down the hill and over the river towards Ketton. We were almost immediately onto a stony track rather than tarmac, and this slowed us down, but we were all still as fresh as can be expected after one of the party had had to spend a few minutes the night before keeping the wall outside the restaurant upright, and another had been too fragile to face bacon for breakfast.
Re-joining the road a little later we sorted ourselves out into the normal cycling order of Barney first with the map, Stella on her bike-with-working-gears (a vast improvement over last year) Lori and Graham alternating around in the middle, and Leo and Sam at the back, usually a couple of hundred yards behind, rolling at a steady pace slightly below that of the others as Sam continued to get used to gears, cleats, drop handlebars, disc brakes and STI levers. She’s not one to fear change apparently.
We carried on towards Barrowden on lightly travelled lanes with beautiful views of rolling countryside to each side. We decided to have a stop every 10 miles to regroup, re-hydrate and refresh, so just outside Wakerley we pulled over into a grassy entrance with a shady tree and took on some rations. Lori swapped tops so we were all wearing orange, and we continued on to Harringworth. Sam lost her balance on the right turn off the Wakerley road; she got one shoe out of the cleat, but was leaning the other way. The result was a bruised elbow, scraped knee, a hardly sympathetic laugh from Leo, and membership of the “I-use-cleats-so-I’ve-fallen-off-my-bike” club. Everybody who uses cleats is a member. Yes, everyone.
Carrying on past Thorpe by Water, Lyddington and Stoke Dry via a couple of surprising hills we arrived at Uppingham for our second rest stop just after midday, not making as much progress as Barney really wanted. We took a 10 minute break anyway, sitting beside the road just up the way from a Harley Davidson dealership which was doing a roaring trade while we were there, and then we carried on towards Brooke. The published route goes through the middle of Oakham at this point before turning onto the lump of land that juts out into the middle of Rutland Water, but Barney spotted a cycle track that took a virtually straight line from Brooke to Egleton, along the edge of a couple of fields, up and over a hill, and down to the railway lines. We recommend you don’t try this if you’re wanting to get there quickly. It’s a short cut in distance, but definitely not in time. Sam fell off again, this time into mud so no further tissue damage, but after the uphill push through the sheep field we had an “interesting” long downhill through some high grass and then around the edge of a barley field with a lot of ruts, stones, lumps and gullies. Slower than the road overall, but definitely character forming. Graham wasn’t impressed.
We were all fairly hungry by now as it was approaching 1430, so cycling out onto the Hambleton peninsula didn’t appeal. We stopped at the pub in Upper Hambleton, but they were even busier than the Harley Davidson shop and couldn’t even take an order for three quarters of an hour, so an alternative was sought. We decided to cut out most of the peninsula, heading down to the waterside directly from the village, around a small section of lakeside to keep Lori happy, and then go back into Oakham to try and find sustenance there before everywhere that sells food shut for the afternoon. There is a pub on Mill St in Oakham with an uninspiring frontage called the Mill Street Pub and Kitchen. Go there. The food is good.
After a leisurely lunch, and having covered 35 miles so far, we set off again for the afternoon’s cycling at 1535 with around 25 miles to cover. The morning had been fairly hilly, but the afternoon promised to be smoother, flatter, and most of it was supposed to have a following wind. We went North up the Ashwell road and took stock in Teigh. A possible change to the route would be to take in Edmondthorpe and Wymondham, which would apparently overlap with one of the other circumcycle rides we’ve done, but as time was pressing, legs were failing and the day was getting on we stuck to the posted route and turned East through Market Overton and Thistleton. The road was slightly uphill, and Lori was changing down through the gears, and her chain came off. This caused another interesting moment for Sam following close behind, but on this occasion the result was only a few choice words and no bruises. Perhaps she’s getting used to the cleats.
Just outside Thistleton we took another rest stop at the entrance to a free range chicken farm. We could tell that this was properly free range because there was a massive field the other side of the gate with brown specks dotted around in it which we presume were chickens. It looked like each one had around half an acre to itself. None of this Tesco 40 chickens per square metre for this farmer!
Just around the corner we saw a sign suggesting it was only 11 miles to Stamford, and Sam was upset when told that wasn’t the route we were taking. She cheered up a lot when we passed the turning to Stamford though, because it was the A1. We took the road less travelled, through Clipsham and Pickworth, and decided it was by far the better option for tired cyclists.
After Belmesthorpe we had the usual “nearly there, let’s press on”, from Barney, but less-than-fit Leo decided that he wasn’t going to go without his rest stop, and pulled over just outside a farm gate. Coincidentally there was a flock of sheep on the other side, and we were asked by the farmer if we wouldn’t mind stopping the sheep from going left when she let them out onto the road. Apparently she was moving them from one field to another, something that happened twice a year. Five of the team happily spread their bikes across the road, making a barrier no self-respecting sheep would dream of crossing. The sixth, Barney, was out of sight, pressing on, and missing a fun moment.
Once the sheep came out they all dutifully went right, and we herded the whole flock down the hill to their next field, dawdling down the road behind sheep that wouldn’t be rushed. Great fun, and a memorable moment, but it made the rest stop nearer half an hour instead of the usual 10 minutes. When we eventually caught up with Barney he said he also was well rested, probably because he’d spent the last few minutes counting sheep. Back on the bikes again for the last stretch, we turned up the Uffington road, and then took the direct route back to the B&B up East Street and Recreation Ground Road, arriving just after 1815.
Nobody could say it was a fast ride, but we saw some lovely countryside, had a couple of laughs (mainly at Sam’s expense), good food, and a little gentle exercise. It’s a nice part of the world. You should visit.