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King Alfred's Way: Day 2

Malborough to Reading

I was originally going to get dropped back in Avebury and continue from there, but family logistics and some trepidation from the previous day meant that I skipped the first climb of the day to Barbury Castle. Instead I took the pleasant NCN route 482 along an old railway line from Malborough to Ogbourne St George, which was a nice gentle start that didn’t save me many miles but did save me a lot of elevation. I’ll be back another day for Barbury Castle.

Despite the initial mud at the bottom of the hill, the Ridgeway was an instant breathe of fresh air. Fast rolling surfaces, engaging ups and downs, a favourable enough wind direction, and great views in every direction. This was perfection.

I passed a field that had the most horses I’ve ever seen in one place.

The cafe at Helen Browning’s “Flying Pig” wasn’t open as I’d hoped it would be, possibly because I was too early. However I wasn’t that hungry and the water tap shortly after at Idstone Hill was working. So I filled up my bottle without needing to dip into my reserves and drank some extra while I was there.

I thought I might have missed Wayland’s Smithy when suddenly a signposted copse appeared out of nowhere. It’s a very atmospheric place, especially when you have it to yourself.

Then the large ramparts of Uffington Castle. I missed the Uffington White Horse, which is a little further down the hill. The wind picked up and drizzle started falling as I left, but quickly passed.

The water tap at Sparsholt Firs was also working. It was much harder to spot amongst the vegetation and the dedication plaque even more so. This was about halfway for the day so I knew that I could get away without picking up any more water for the day.

The only negative of the whole day was a short section of compacted chalk (bumpy) and flint (sharp) that kept me on my toes.

I realised that I’d been running quite fast all day, so I stopped for some lunch at the edge of a field.

Then under the A34, some good ups and downs, and a cracking descent into Goring-on-Thames. The water bars make great jumps.

There was only 13 comparatively flat miles left and it was feeling really easy compared to the previous day. I switched into a more leisurely mode and had a long break at Pierreponts Cafe.

Then took it much more slowly towards Reading.

The first indication that I was getting close to Reading was a sign for deliveries to the festival. I’ve read lots of reports about people not enjoying the section through Reading, but for me it was a really interesting contrast to the rest of the route. I also got to see a lot of Reading that I had no idea existed.

I checked into the Premier Inn at Reading Central. It’s not as new as the one in Malborough, but slightly cheaper and still perfectly functional. Once again there was no problem keeping my bike in the room. My wife and kids joined me later for dinner and to stay overnight.

The second day felt like a rest day compared to what I was expecting after the first day. The combination of not having to rush, the great scenery, and engaging terrain had left me feeling much more energised. Based on the distances and elevations for the remaining days I knew that I could probably take it a little bit more leisurely from here on, which was a relief.

Stats for the day:

  • Distance: 49.38mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,671ft
  • Moving Time: 4:27:31
  • Elapsed Time: 6:36:29
  • Average Speed: 11.1mi/h
  • Max Speed: 28.2mi/h