The Newent Loop is a 45km cycle route, starting and ending in Newent (funny that).
We discovered its existence when we spotted a few signs on a previous ride, so for last weekend's Sunday evening ride, we went and rode the full loop in an anticlockwise direction. The big car park in the town centre has a large map on the side of the toilet building, but the entire route is very well signposted - we didn't need to stop and check directions at all. There's also a signposted shortcut that splits the route into two smaller loops.
note to self: try and hold phone still until it's actually taken the photo
The roads were quiet with generally good quality surfaces although it did get a bit 'countryside' in places with mud and plants growing up the middle! There aren't any major hills, which was good for me as it turns out going uphill is annoyingly slow when your front derailleur has decided it doesn't like the middle ring and you end up granny gearing it (yes, I ride a triple).
The only non ideal part of the route: as you come back into Newent the "cycle" path gained some "cyclists dismount" signs and we had to walk for a short distance. Boo. Having looked at a map afterwards, I now realised this could have been easily avoided by turning onto Gloucester road, but I guess the route doesn't do that because it gets busier with traffic in the daytime? Certainly something to remember if I find myself riding this again!
Obligatory 'bikes leaning against something' photo - in this case Newent market hall
If you wanted to stop along the way and visit any places of interest (churches, chapels, maybe even a detour to Hartpury bee shelter), or for a picnic and general enjoyment of the surrounding countryside I think this would make a nice half day out. I'd certainly have stopped to take more photos if I'd been riding by myself.
Camping in July with the usual gang of friends from uni. That'll be nice - most likely warm(ish) and hopefully dry.
Or not. After a ridiculously slow drive (thanks M5 roadworks and 'start of school holidays' traffic) I arrived at a very wet Ruehill campsite to find Jo having a major tent disaster - she'd left the flysheet at home! I quickly popped my tent up, then retreated to the car to wait for the others to arrive while she went and bought an emergency new tent from a local halfords. (Fun fact: 'showerproof' £10 tents very definitely can't cope with rainy Staffordshire moorlands. Fun fact #2: when we moved her original tent the next morning, it turned out the flysheet was underneath it all along....!)
The rain was clearly not planning on stopping so we drove to a local fish and chip shop, ate in the cars then drove to the pub just down the road.
Thankfully, Saturday was much drier. At about 11am, we got the firepit going - as we obviously hadn't been able to the night before - and toasted far too many marshmallows.
Me playing with fire. Photo by Lucy
We thought about finding a local attraction to visit, or going for a walk, or even just finding somewhere for tea and cake, but in the end it was just nice to sit around the fire catching up. In the afternoon we wandered down the road to Yewstock music and beer festival, where I drank too much cider too quickly for that early on in the day!
We headed back to the other pub for dinner, once again taking shelter from the rain.
On Sunday morning tents were packed up, and most of us stopped off for a lovely breakfast at the Cottage Kitchen, before heading our separate ways back to families, dogs, children, etc.
As I drove over to Moreton-in-Marsh, the rain got heavier and heavier... to the point where I was almost considering turning round and going home. I usually avoid cycling in the rain, and it was looking very much like my first sportive was going to be Type 2 Fun.
Luckily by the time I arrived the weather had upgraded to 'light drizzle'. I optimistically stuffed my waterproof into a jersey pocket, where it stayed for at least 20 minutes before I caved in and put it on.
At the food stop I stuffed myself with flapjack and banana, refilled my water and grabbed a large handful of sweets for future hills. The rain jacket went back into my pocket at this point, and stayed there until the end. Phew.
The hill out of Chipping Campden (on the B4081) seemed to go on forever, but I made it all the way up without getting off and walking, and even overtook some people. I guess I'm finally getting better at hills, yay. A marshall at the A44 road crossing: "are you enjoying the hill?" me: "urgh, is it over yet?" "no! enjoy!". And he was right, it kept going up towards Snowshill. I stopped at the top for a well earned drinks break.
Apparently soon afterwards I cycled right past a trig point without noticing it - how does that even happen?! I'm a bit annoyed about this and am considering logging it anyway... However I did stop to take photos of lavender fields, along with several other riders.
not the lavender fields
I managed to use my full range of gears on this ride - from crawling up the never ending hill to swooshing down a lovely descent - which I'd probably have gone quicker on if it had been drier, but that's ok.
I crossed the finish line at around 3hr15, having done the 'short' 60km route. I'd hoped for closer to three hours and think I'd probably have managed if it had been dry.
Treated myself to a short sports massage afterwards, as my shoulders and upper left arm were feeling rather tight. I'd lasted about 2.5hrs before my fingers started tingling, which is an improvement on earlier rides
Despite my whinging about the rain, I really enjoyed my first sportive and will definitely be signing up for more in future! I'm determined to build up to longer distances too.