Starting from Moreton-on-Marsh today’s route heads out to the north-east using quiet backroads and country lanes to dart from one village to the next. It is a fairly hilly day with frequent undulations; at times the hills appear to tower over you but a few minutes later you are on top of them and gaze out over a vast plain of patchwork fields with small villages laying nestled in the crevices of the valley, almost entirely hidden except for the church steeple. The delightful backdrop for these fields and villages is always another row of hills (that you quite possibly have to cycle over!).
Most of the villages have a long history and can be found in the Domesday Book dating from 1066. The Brailes are mentioned, and derive from the word ‘Wood’, presumably indicating that the surrounding hills were once blanketed with forest. Today you will see a few big trees and small wooded sections, though the land has mostly been cleared and you will pedal beside grassy fields where lambs leap and beside golden fields of rapeseed or farmers harvesting wheat.
This route take place mostly on rural roads, and drivers are generally used to seeing cyclists so are courteous, passing slowly and giving plenty of room. Be sure that your cycling is predictable with no erratic motions, and whenever you are changing roads, communicate that with hand signals.
There are some testing uphills and thrilling descents today, where it is tempting to let loose of the brakes and fly down; on these country roads however, it is important to cycle expecting the unexpected and adjust your speed appropriately, so whether there is a pothole, or an escaping sheep, you have enough time to slow down.
There are a few sections on busier roads but these are always fairly short. Before turning onto a busy road, it is advisable to consult the map and read the turn-by-turn directions, so you know where you are turning off and don’t have to stop on the edge of the road to check.
Today there is a river ford at the bottom of a downhill; be sure to check the depth of the water and the speed before crossing slowly and carefully through it. If the conditions don’t look suitable, or you don’t feel comfortable, there is a footbridge that you can walk your bike over.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Today you will pass right beside the Cotswold Distillery which specialises in Gin and Single Malt Whisky. They run tours 7 days a week, with every tour finishing in the tasting room to sample a range of their spirits.
More information available here: https://www.cotswoldsdistillery.com/pages/tour
There is lots to explore at Whichford Pottery which you will pass right beside today. There are 30 potters who work here producing an exquisite selection of pots. You can stroll through the gardens, eat and drink homemade goodies in the café, watch the potters in action in the workshop, and look through the huge variety of pots created.
More information available here: https://www.whichfordpottery.com/visiting-us
Just 1 mile outside Moreton-on-Marsh, Batsford Arboretum is the largest private collection of trees and shrubs in England, spreading itself across a 56 acre swathe of land. The interest is year-round and depending on which season you visit, different plants will be flowering and stealing the limelight; maybe it will be the snowdrops, or maybe the Japanese cherry trees, or perhaps the handkerchief tree!
More information available here: http://www.batsarb.co.uk/
Food and Drink
You pass lots of small villages today but opportunities for food and drink are limited with most lacking a pub, café or shop. There is a tea garden in Cherington and a pub in Whichford where you can stop for drinks, snacks or lunch, but Moreton-on-Marsh has the best selection of places to eat and drink, or buy food to bring with you.
All normal cycle equipment and outdoor gear is required, including a helmet, gloves and a wind-break layer. Even if it doesn’t appear necessary ensure you bring enough warm and waterproof clothes as weather conditions can change quickly.
Padded shorts are recommended, as saddle pain takes the fun away very quickly!
This route is mostly on rural roads so be sure to bring a bottle of water and a snack in case you find yourself a long way from the shops.