Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

Home Travel StoriesLedbury Easter 2016

Soaking Ride South

By Ren Withnell

The Easter break typically means the start of the biking season, and the holiday season. Sharon and I wanted to take advantage of the 4 day holiday but fearing campsites filled to the brim I thought it might be prudent to actually book rather than take a chance on finding a pitch. We talked of where we'd like to go and Sharon had heard that Ludlow was nice and as it's not too far from home I started looking for campsites.

I found a site that looked smart and independent reviews seemed positive enough. I confirmed with Sharon and made the booking online thus guaranteeing us at least somewhere to put the tent up. Excellent, job done, happiness. Then 2 days before the trip I noticed something peculiar about the Woodside Lodges campsite. Erm...er...Sharon sweetie...erm...er...well...the campsite it...well...er...it's near Ledbury not Ludlow. Dammit! What are the chances of 2 small towns both not too far apart both beginning with "L"? Quite high really, especially if you are a stupid buffoon like myself. Luckily Sharon was not too displeased and I lived to tell you this tale.

So Ledbury it is then, not Ludlow. As I ride from my house to Sharon's I must tell you more bad news. Yesterday, Good Friday, was a scorcher with crystal clear skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze - ideal biking weather. Today which is Saturday, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday however are forecast to be wet and windy with storm "Katie" rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean. I just know how much Sharon will relish the idea of 2 nights in a cold wet tent between 3 days of riding underpowered and flighty 125s through strong winds and driving rain. I bet she's bubbling with excitement. 

She's not - I can't think why. We consider cancelling but as I've already paid for the pitch online then stuff it, blast it all, let's just go and see what happens. Come on! We're adventurers! Ranulph Fiennes wasn't stopped by losing a few fingers and a bit of snow so we're not going to be stopped by some silly storm called Katie. We depart in fair weather.

The fair weather remains but this headwind is killing my 51,000 miles CBF 125. I suspect in those miles a couple of horses have left the stable. As there were only 11 horses to start with then losing 2 makes a big difference. Top gear is futile, I take to revving the poor engine in 3rd and 4th to try and maintain 45 to 50mph and avoid being run off the road by frustrated car drivers. In fact it's Sharon I feel sorry for as she's behind me and bearing the brunt of the tailgaters. We plough on regardless, I occasionally pull in to let a few folks by.

We take a long break at The Raven truck stop near Whitchurch then return once more to do battle with the wind. It seems an age before we reach Shrewsbury then the rain starts as we approach Ludlow. 

A full English breakfast being consumed by SharonThis is the first of several Full English breakfasts a certain little piggy will eat this coming weekend I'm sure.

It might seem cruel to lead Sharon into Ludlow, almost as though I'm teasing her with "look dear, this is what where we should have been this weekend if your boyfriend knew how to read a map". I am in search of somewhere to stop for another brew and a warm up while we traverse the pretty streets of the town. Ludlow is indeed worthy of further investigation, it seems to be filled with ancient buildings and curiosity shops. As the rain spews forth I can see why we must return here one day to take it in properly. However given the miserable conditions and the lack of immediately obvious cafes with suitable parking I somehow find myself lost on the outskirts of town.

The 2 125 bikes outside Ludlow castle next to an old cannonLudlow certainly looks worthy of exploration even in the rain.

Along a narrow lane I approach the steepest junction known to man. We are heading skywards and facing the hill start from hell, both of us loaded up, both of us on 125s and both of us completely lost. I have to use my front brake to ensure I am in first gear. With all the weight at the back and at such a steep angle there is little pushing the front tyre into the ground. As such I start to slide backwards - back towards Sharon behind me. This...well...this is not a good situation. 

I get the bike under control and shout "Which way?!". I fully understand Sharon has no chance of knowing where she is or which way to turn, but then neither do I so her guess is equally valid as mine. "RIGHT!" With that instruction I give the motor hell and feather the clutch with all my skills. We both emerge successfully. I'm thankful I completed the manoeuvre without making an ass of myself and quietly impressed that Sharon did the same. We weren't in any mortal danger on our little bikes but dropping and breaking them would have rather spoiled the day.

It takes me an hour of narrow country lanes complete with gravel and grass before I find a sign for somewhere I recognise. This ought to be annoying but this is what we both enjoy doing. On these kind of roads (or tracks) it is rare to see other traffic and we can saunter along at 20 to 25mph, our little engines happily strumming along, our narrow tyres picking their way through the mud and stones and grass and gravel, our eyes taking in the feast of fields and trees, farmyards and country cottages. Time is marching on and when I finally find the A49 once more we are south of Ludlow. 

We still need a break though. Just off the A417 I spot The England's Gate Inn. Within we find a warm welcome, a hot brew and a couple of locals curious as to our journey and our battle with the weather today. It's unlike me to stay still for long but knowing our campsite is perhaps 10 or 20 miles away and that we've still got 2 or 3 hours of daylight left I find myself happy to just sit and chill for a while. I think I'm getting old.

Our 2 wet and dirty motorcycles parked outside The England's Gate Inn"Yes dear, they're filthy dirty wet and it's lashing it down. Are we having fun yet?"

The campsite has a most welcome blessing in the form of a "common room". This is nothing more than a 30' by 30' room with a table, 2 chairs and a couple of comfy settees - but when it is cold wet and windy outside this simple space is a haven of warmth and comfort in an otherwise grey and soggy world. 

That evening as the sun presumably sets behind the leaden skies we both hop onto my 125. First stop is the local Tesco for milk and "just add hot water" porridge for breakfast. Next stop a local chippy for our tea. Next stop back to the campsite to eat our food and to drink piping hot tea. We do this in the comfort of the common room, this makes for a relaxing and warm experience, far better than the soggy chill of the tent. 

The tent looks small against the windswept field of the campsiteOur tent (the green one) does not offer much in the way of luxury tonight.

The tent is indeed soggy and chilly. We must sleep between our wet jackets, our squidgy gloves and our moist pants. The rain occasionally rattles the flysheet and the wind shudders the poles. It is dark and cold and I'm wondering if we could get away with sleeping on the settees in the common room. We settle in for the night, as best we can settle given the conditions. I wonder if I'll sleep?

Soaking Ride South Our dubious duo take 2 overloaded 125s to a place they never intended to visit in weather set to get worse. While doing this they get lost and get wet. It's not all bad news though.
Dawdling Around Ledbury Sharon and Ren take a little walk through Ledbury then a genteel and leisurely ride around the area. Later that evening as a tempest rises outside there's a treat in store for Sharon. Lucky girl.
Wobbling Home Our heroic duo manage to survive Storm Katie and now it is time to return home. This leaves Ren feeling a little deflated which doesn't help with the handling on the 125.

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
Ludlow is a lovely town but Ledbury is also very pretty - ISTR a good little local museum up a back street somewhere.

Ludlow's main attraction to me is the wonderful weekly market with loads of local suppliers of meat, cheese etc. It's nearly as good as a typical French one.....

Ludlow is quite a frequent run out for me from Brum. An alternative to what I call "the plum run" which is down to the Vale of Evesham in late summer / early autumn for the wonderful fresh fruit (or earlier in the year for the asparagus). I always imagine I'm T E Lawrence on his Brough Superior, Boanerges, riding out for bacon and eggs.

Read it here: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rbotoole/entry/the_road_motorcycle/
31/3/2016 10:32:35 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Of course, we were in your locale Ian.

There's more to come regarding Ledbury - so hang on to your're horses and I'll get some writing done. Busy weekend though this one, we'll be at the Manchester Bike Show so you'll have to be patient.

That's a fair tale from Mr "of Arabia". A different world too without cars in every junction, speed cameras or health and safety. It reads to my modern eye a peculiar use of English at times.

I can see you riding along those country roads in tweeds and flat cap but the image is rather shattered when I looks down to see the SLR 650. I'll have to imagine you on the vintage Sunbeam instead.
31/3/2016 11:33:21 AM UTC

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