A Cycle Trip in the Chiltern Hills

A weekend cycling trip from London in the summer sunshine.

This weekend I took it upon myself to cycle up some very steep hills, just for fun.  Max has a speedy road bike and lots of cycle gear (although he’s not a MAMIL, no lycra in sight), and I have a ‘silly’ pale blue hybrid bike and a purple helmet which would look more appropriate on a 12 year old skate boarder.  But we weren’t planning on going THAT far, and a weekend adventure is always fun.

The idea was to get the train from Marylebone to Great Missenden, then cycle down to Watlington via Hambleden. On Sunday we would then cycle back north to Princes Risborough and hit Cycle Highway 57 which would take us all the way to Oxford in time to see the America’s Cool Modernism exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum.

The first stretch (a casual 40 minute warm up), was to cycle from Wandsworth to Marylebone. This was actually rather pleasant, the roads for once were very quiet and we had a leisurely cycle through Hyde Park.

Our first problem struck at Marylebone Station where we had to queue for an age to pick up our train tickets whilst the world bought their tickets to Bicester Village. On such a beautiful sunny morning it seemed mad that all these people wanted to do was go shopping, but each to their own, and after not too long we (and our bikes) were heading out of London.

40 minutes later we arrived at Great Missenden, which is a lovely village, with a traditional feel and the perfect place to start. I will admit that in my current virtuous non-phone using phase, we did completely rely on Google Maps to get us where we needed to be. The nice lady pointed us in the right direction at the right time, and it was pretty smooth running, apart from a couple of wrong turns, and curses from Max.

Saturday

After about 15 minutes cycling (and one hill), we arrived at the Wild Strawberry Café for brunch. I have been meaning to make the expedition here for a long time.  Part of Peterley Manor Farm, the main café is in a yurt, with a super outside area dotted about with picnic benches. The best part is that it has a delectable menu, created by owner Katy Brill, of all things you might want on a Saturday morning (brunch is served until 3.30pm). I went for the Eggs Florentine, and Max had the Salt Beef Hash and we both opted for coffee, mine iced with a dash of maple syrup. It was so lovely to catch up with Katy, and sit in the sun, and we also popped into the farm shop after to buy some cherries – I can’t wait to come back!

First stop!
Very happy with drinks
And even more so with food

Having fed and watered ourselves it was time to do some actual cycling. So we left behind the Saturday morning brunchers, and cycled off into the hills.  And it was absolutely beautiful. The roads weren’t too busy, and the views were amazing.  We stuck to mainly country lanes, passing a village cricket match near Bradenham, and then on through the beautiful town of West Wycombe. There were a number of hills that ominously appeared around corners, some slow burners and others immediate inclines including some really quite challenging ones, and me and my little bike did struggle. I would like to say that I only once got off and walked up a particularly steep hill, and the rest of the time we made it happily, if rather hotly to the top.

Hambleden next, where there is a lovely long downhill into the village, and then we made a slight U-turn and conquered our last big hill (what goes down, must come up), passing Fawley and Turville Heath all the way to Christmas Common.  It is such a beautiful area, so quiet and so rural, for having not long left London.

Made it to Hambleden

We stayed with friends in Watlington (showers and an excellent BBQ greatly appreciated!) and the next morning Olly very kindly drove us and our bikes back to Christmas Common to start the second part of our journey (it is a very very steep hill, one we decided not worth attacking at the very beginning of our second day – the MAMILs were doing an excellent job of it, so we left them to it).

Sunday

The idea today was to cycle back north east and then to join the Cycle Highway 57. The morning was fairly smooth running, and very pleasant (with one disagreeable hill somewhere near Radnage, and a moment when we cycled to the bottom of Beacon’s Bottom to realise that really we still needed to be at the top of the bottom, not the bottom of the bottom – so back up we went again). And we actually cut off a small part of the route, opting to cycle straight to Horsenden missing out Princes Risborough.  Now at Horsenden we encountered our only problem – the start of the cycle highway is all gravel and rough tracks, not suitable for a delicate road bike. So we sadly left this track and took a more main road to Thame – a long, fairly straight flat road, with too much Sunday traffic whizzing past.

Up we go, slowly, slowly

At Thame we ate a well deserved lunch (we were feeling rather virtuous!). We chose The Six Bells pub as they have a good outside area and the food was just what we wanted (classic pub grub), but there are all sorts of pubs in this old market town, lots and lots of options. I slightly regretted giving into hunger, as when we reached Shabbington about 10 minutes outside of Thame, the Old Fisherman pub sitting right on the river looked incredibly inviting.

From Thame we joined the 57 Highway and followed it the whole way into Oxford, via Wheatley, enjoying a rather fun view over the city from the top of the hill at Horspath. I was a bit nervous we might hit city traffic, but it was an incredibly easy ride, and it wasn’t until Cowley that I felt we were re-joining the throngs of city life. We cycled happily through Oxford in the sunshine, past Magdalen College, the Bodleian Library and Sheldonian Theatre to finish very contentedly (if a little hot) at the Ashmolean Museum at exactly 3.30pm.

We nipped in to see the exhibition – I was particularly keen to see the Hopper paintings and drawings, and then treated ourselves to an ice cream at George & Davis, mine was blackcurrant flavour and was delicious, just what was needed! Then it was the Oxford Tube all the way back to London Victoria (they will only take two bicycles at a time, so you need to get on at the terminal) – it was slow, so slow, so much traffic – but I fell asleep until we got to Hammersmith so didn’t mind too much.

Hopper found

What a wonderful weekend, and so easy to do from London. In fact we could easily have just done a day trip and hopped on the train home if pushed for time. If you would like any more details or the maps, I’d be very happy to send them to you 😊

Alice xxx

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