Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Sunday, over a week ago, I had the absolute pleasure of a tour around Cherhill. It was a proper XC loop, with wide bridleways, gorgeous sweeping Wiltshire plains and a fair amount of sunshine. I wish I had written this blog sooner, for the fine details have been lost a little with the passing of time, but the great company of Tony, Stewart and Bruce will not be forgotten.

We had a great guide in Stewart, who grew up in the area and gave us a proper tourist excursion. It is always fabulous to hear details of an area and put context to buildings with stories. Tales of zebra-striped white horses, being lowered down a well and his childhood made us all smile.

Flowering grasses danced in the wind as yellowhammers fluttered in hedges singing their strange 'a-little-bit-of-bread-with-no-cheeeeeese' ditty. There is always something spellbinding about the Wiltshire rolling hills.

Maybe that's why there are so many spiritual sites. Having never heard of Avebury, I was shocked to find it such a majestic place, with huge standing stones dominating the village. Even with the weekend tourists buzzing the area, it was quite magical to walk amongst the stones and feel their surface. Geologist and National Trust volunteer Bruce was a great fountain of knowledge. We will return soon, to take much more time here.

It was also great to bump into my morris-dancing friend Phil and his side (I think that's the correct terminology), watching them entertain the crowds outside the cafe as they keep a small part of folk tradition alive.

The sheep were mostly non-plussed by tourists, cameras or, well, anything, as they chilled in the shelter of the stones.

The trails were a mix of woodland climbs, gravel byways, some singletrack and grassy meadows. 

Wild geraniums accentuated the field edges, the verges spilling over into the monoculture of crops and grazing pasture.

There are a high density of tracks in the locality, the Ordnance Survey mapping criss-crossed with long dashed lines, so different to home. Everywhere we went it seemed blue bridleway markers were evident. With so much open space and permissive riding, there seems little trail conflict, with plenty of room for bikes, walkers and horses. 

The skies began to darken toward the end of the ride, as we crested the Down, the wind rolling around the hillsides and rippling the grass as we looked back over the route we had ridden.

There was one final descent left, a fun steep grassy trail, past the Cherhill White Horse and down to the gravel road, and an optional drop, at the bottom. 

It had been a magical day's riding, and I can't wait to get back under the big skies in this open space, maybe on a multiday trip, travelling South and taking in a tour of the military roads of Imber when they are next open to the public.