Another 1300 feet of climbing

England is not flat, and when you are riding a loaded steel bike, you feel every foot of it.
On Saturday we rode from Oxford to Banbury, and then took a train from Banbury to Coventry, the home town of my oldest brother and his son, where we were to visit and spend the night. I thought was being overly cautious wanting us to take the 16:54 train but we couldn’t get a bike reservation for the one before, so it ended up being the right move, since we arrived in Banbury at around 3:40 (15:40) after a challenging day of riding, 31 miles, 1300 foot of climbing.
We are learning things every day. Yesterday we learned that trains in England have varying levels of bike friendliness, but even with a bike reservation getting your bike on the train is a challenge, and booking a ticket and getting a reservation for your bike can be an annoying Catch 22.
About the ride.
We rode through Oxfordshire and mainly the Cotswolds on a mild but breezy day. The sun went in and out all day but we didn’t get rained on, so we were pretty happy.
For the first part of the ride, we navigated onto the towpath of the Oxford Canal. It was great to see the long canal boats with dogs hanging out on the stern, people negotiating the locks and so on, but I think we will be fine if we don’t have to do that again. The paths are narrow and unpaved and not so easy to negotiate. At one point a large branch got caught in my bike, which I think was responsible for knocking my quick release open so my wheel started wobbling as I rode. A bit scary.
Slightly less worse was the bridle path we rode for several miles. Much of it had been paved at some point but it was pretty overgrown, so we were knocking against the brush a lot of the time (including stinging nettles) and the visible path was often less than a foot wide.
After we got through that section, we emerged on the roads of the Bartons. A short and not too awful hill was before us and we knew, since it seemed too much for Angie, that it was time to stop and refuel as soon as we found a safe spot.
A sports ground came up on the right, so we figured we’d stop there, and found a bench to sit on. It was the Middle Barton Sports & Social Club. There was a bearded man smoking by the front of what looked like the clubhouse, so we went around the side and settled in on a bench by the building and started getting our food out. Pretty soon, a woman came out and called to us. She said she had tea or coffee if we wanted it. It sounded instantly appealing since the wind was quite brisk, so I went in and ordered and had a lovely chat. Among other things, she warned us that we were in a valley, so there was a hefty climb ahead. The tea hit the spot and was a good way of getting our hydration up. Angie and I always love when we stop to picnic in small towns on our drives and rides, and this was another of those good experiences. The climb, when we encountered it, was a short sharp rise that normally would not faze us, but today gave us fits.
The scenery was wonderful, wheatfields, stone houses, narrow streets and roads. We’d stop to check our bearings and look back to see a church nestled in the trees or a spectacular Tudor period (I think) stone manor house. As we got further into the Cotswolds, we saw tons of hawks and grouse.
Navigating out of a city can be hard but the National Cycle Route we took yesterday was extremely well marked. We used the map and GPS for confirmation purposes but on the whole were able to look for markings on posts etc. The most interesting part of that was when we encountered a sign instructing us to turn left at the farm buildings up ahead, since the writing is quite small, so you can’t always just sail by. We learned that when we missed an odd turn onto the Phoenix trail in a downpour on Thursday.


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