Nia James writes of an Ajax trip across the border for culinary delights. They’ll be another chance to ride 100 miles and eat cake on 6 October…..
To the uninformed or uninitiated the prospect of a 100 mile ride to a village called Hill might not be particularly appealing.
Fear not. The route from Maindy to Hill, near Berkelely in Gloucestershire (and back) offers one of the most benign century rides you’ll get in these parts. Rolling, with no major climbs and a total elevation of around 1000m, it’s a great route and one I’d highly recommend to anyone wanting to pop their century ride cherry.
And talking of cherries, these will most definitely be on offer when you get there as the lure of Hill, when ridden on the first Sunday of the month during the Summer, means The Most Amazing Cafe Stop Ever, in the form of the Hill Cream Tea in the Village Hall.
The teas, run by the local WI group, have turned Hill into a Mecca for local cyclists. On the appointed day of the month expect to see several large groups heading to, or from, the fantastic refreshments.
The cakes are, quite simply, awesome ! Set out on a series of trestle tables which stretch from one end of the hall to the next, the choice of home baked delights is endless. It’s impossible to decide between the lemon drizzle, Victoria sponge, banana loaf, ginger cake, tiffin, fruit cake, all manner of shortbread based delights, pavlova, cherry Bakewells, treacle tarts, flapjacks, and so on ! I defy anyone to walk out with a single slice.
Those with a more savoury tooth can enjoy a delicious homemade sausage roll and/or Scotch Egg. All washed down with a tea of your choice or a cooling glass of squash.
The facilities at the Village Hall are super. There are a couple of (spotless) toilets at the back, a drinking water tap and (I hope you never need it) a defibrillator which a number of us have helped fund through the buying of raffle tickets on a previous trip!
Our trip to Hill on Sunday 1 September was thoroughly enjoyable. Twelve of us set off from Maindy at 0900. Our route took us down the flats, through Newport and across the Gwent Levels. A quick stop at the Co-op in Magor it was then on to Chepstow via Portskewett which makes for a welcome variation on a ride to Chepstow but without denying anyone the joys the descent towards the garden centre.
We took a right turn into Mathren and up the most challenging, but short, climb of the day. Past G’s wedding venue, St Tewdric’s House, it was then across the old Severn Bridge and into England. There’s a cycle path on both sides of the M48 bridge which makes for a fun ride and spectacular views of the Severn Estuary. Once in England, it’s less than 10 miles to Hill via some easy to navigate lanes. We travelled just over 50 miles on the outward leg.
The Hill Cream Tea is is very well set up for large groups of cyclists: there’s plenty of bike parking and lots of seating in the field opposite, and, in case you need a bit of shelter, in the bus stop ! When we were there a large group from Newport Social Cycling was just leaving. We passed groups from Bristol and Swindon clubs too. (Not sure who the chap I saw sucking on a gel was riding with or whether that was before or after his entry into the hall…. ?!)
After an enjoyable exchange of cake reviews sitting in the sun we head to Berkeley, around 5 miles away, before turning for home (and resisting the lure of seconds at the Village Hall !).
A strong headwind meant for a tough crossing of the Severn Bridge on our return leg. But we were thankful it was in block form with no gusts or crosswinds which can make the Bridge quite frightening when you need to lean into the wind to stop your bike becoming a kite. Been there. Hated it !
Mathren. Five Lanes. Magor (and a final stop at the Co-op). Steelworks road and back to Cardiff by 1700 having clocked an average of almost 15mph, despite the wind.
A delicious day out with a sweet group!
Marie-Antoinette would have approved our outing so we’re off again: weather permitting, the next Ajax Cream Tea Pilgrimage will be on 6 October. Cakes cost £1 each. Please ensure you bring cash. Further details about the ride to follow.
You can find out more about Hill Village Hall by consulting their FB page. And if consuming more calories than you expend is your thing, look out for the LVIS Audaxes for 2020. Entry usually opens on NYE for these popular routes which include a stop at Hill and several similar cake laden locations along the way !
Let them eat cake, indeed.