West Berkshire Cycle Forum (January 2018)

West Berkshire Council arranged a special meeting of the Cycle Forum to discuss the situation with the Kennet and Avon towpath.  We were delighted to be joined by Mark Evans from the Canal and River Trust and Peter Challis of Sustrans. We highlighted what a valued resource the towpath is and how well-used it is by cyclists, not just for leisure trips, but also to get to places, particularly within Newbury. However, the current condition of the towpath has deteriorated to such an extent in places that it is now hazardous for cyclists.

Mark Evans acknowledged the problems and admitted that the focus until now had largely been on maintaining the canal for boaters. He also recognised that wash from passing boats was causing erosion and that mooring pegs could cause splits in the bank, leading to localised issues. All parties recognised the scale of the problems facing the towpath, which are further complicated by environmental constraints, including the desire to maintain the historic feel of the canal and protect endangered wildlife that lives in the canal banks, such as water voles.

The good news is that the Trust is in the process of restructuring and will be placing a much greater emphasis on promotion of health and well-being in future. As a consequence, there will be a much greater focus on the towpath and its users.

There was some discussion about what standard we would like to achieve for the towpath, including widths and surfacing materials.  The original Sustrans construction was a crushed limestone surface, but it was recognised that this does not hold up well and needs regular maintenance. Alternatives are available, such as resin-bound surfacing, which can last up to 25 years, but this is much more expensive. What quickly became clear is that it will cost millions of pounds to achieve the ideal facility and that some degree of prioritisation will be required.

Key actions from the meeting were:

  • To complete the work on the local audit including the eastern section from Woolhampton to Calcot
  • Identify safety-critical points where there is a particular risk due to holes/bank erosion
  • Identify the top three priority sections where the path surface should be upgraded

Another meeting has been arranged for 20 February in order to maintain momentum.

The minutes for the January meeting of the Cycle Forum (and minutes of previous meetings) can be found on the About Us section of the Spokes website.

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Social bike rides for 2017

We have been busy over the winter months putting together our programme of led bike rides for 2017. Our fun, friendly, social rides take place on the first and third Saturdays of each month from March through to October. Led by volunteers, our rides take in some of the most beautiful scenery in West Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

The routes on the first Saturday of each month are shorter (11 to 17 miles) and we tend to go at a gentle pace of 9-11 mph. As such, they are ideal for new / returning cyclists, or people who just want a more relaxed ride.

If you would like a longer, more challenging ride, then take a look at the second of our rides each month.  These have routes ranging from 27 to 38 miles and we generally go at a slightly faster pace of around 12-14 mph. These are intended for more regular riders who are reasonably fit and don’t mind a bit of the hilly stuff.  If you want a real challenge, then why not sign up for ‘William’s Big Wheel’ – a 57 mile epic into deepest, darkest Hampshire.

All rides start and finish in West Mills, Newbury. We meet by the war memorial between Lloyds bank and St Nicholas’ Church. Our start time is usually 9.30 am, with the exception of ‘William’s Big Wheel’ which sets off at 9 am sharp.

We try to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time on our rides. For example, hills can be taken at your own pace and we don’t rush off once the last person reaches the summit. Unfortunately, punctures can and do happen, so we ask all riders to bring a spare inner tube. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to change a tyre – we can help / advise as necessary.

Please note that places are limited to 12 people on each ride, so we do ask that you book your place in advance at letsride.co.uk to avoid disappointment. It also helps us to know who to expect so we don’t set off without you. Also, any under 16s must be accompanied by an adult who is able to take responsibility for them.

If you want any further information about our rides, then please do get in touch. We look forward to seeing you and hope you enjoy the rides!

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Spokes launches 2016 programme of led bike rides in Newbury

West Berkshire Spokes Bike Rides

Winter weather means that cycling can be hard work. It always seems to be cold or wet and it gets dark way too early! However, Spring is just around the corner, and so we have been working hard to plan our programme of led bike rides for 2016 to tempt you back out on two wheels to discover the beautiful countryside in and around West Berkshire.

We will be running at least two bike rides each month from March right through to October. Rides on the first Saturday of the month are shorter, slower rides that are aimed at occasional cyclists, or those who are looking to get back into cycling after a break. Rides on the third Saturday of the month are a bit longer and faster and are aimed at more experienced cyclists. If you’re feeling really brave, then why not sign up for ‘William’s Big Wheel’ – a 57 mile jaunt deep into Hampshire!

All rides start and finish in Newbury and our meeting point is at the side of Lloyds Bank in the centre of town. Details of the rides can be found on the calendar page of our website. For safety reasons, we limit rides to a maximum of 20 places. To book your place, please visit: www.goskyride.com.

If you want to find out more about our rides and whether or not they are right for you, then please do get in touch. We hope to see you soon!

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Got the post-TdF blues? Roll on the ToB

The 2014 Tour de France was memorable in so many ways. There were the unprecedented crowds that turned out to line the route of ‘Le Grand Depart’ in Yorkshire, as the tour made a once in a generation trip across Le Manche. Then there was the crushing disappointment as we watched Chris Froome crash out on stage five. And we can’t forget the spectacular sprint finish on the Champs-Elysées.

With the tour now over, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit flat. However, the good news is that we have less than six weeks to wait until the start of the Tour of Britain. Even better news is that the tour will be coming to West Berkshire for the first time since 2008.

The race begins on 7 September, with eight stages taking place over eight consecutive days, taking the riders from Liverpool to London. On Friday, 12 September, stage six of the tour will see the riders race from Bath to Hemel Hempstead, with nearly 30 kilometres of the route passing through West Berkshire!

Riders are expected to arrive in Hungerford at around 12:24 pm. They will ride down the High Street before turning right along the A4 towards Halfway. They will then turn north towards Hoe Benham, Boxford and Leckhampstead, before leaving the district via the B4494 Wantage Road.

It promises to be a thrilling race. Nine teams have confirmed that they will be taking part, including the Great Britain national team, Team Sky and Omega Pharma Quick-Step. More announcements about teams and riders are expected towards the end of July with provisional rider announcements throughout August.

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