Travellers’ Tales: Queens of Wessex

The riders travelled light – their husbands did luggage transfers
Swapping road bikes for mountain bikes, Jane John and three friends rode King Alfred’s Way

It was Karen’s fault: she suggested it to Yvonne and me in the first place. “How about cycling King Alfred’s Way?” Yikes. We are all road cyclists but have varying levels of experience cycling off road. The fourth member of our team, Nicole, is the most technically able of the group (and has the best bike!).

I borrowed a mountain bike and we started our training rides. We split the route into six legs, starting and finishing above Wantage, and booked accommodation. Our lovely husbands would do a luggage transfer each, and by adding two taxis we were covered and could travel light.

We set off from Wantage early on a Sunday morning, at the start of what turned out to be the hottest week of 2021. Despite this it was the most fantastic, joyful journey. Cycling UK has plotted a wonderful route through beautiful countryside with some really tough climbs – such as Butser Hill.

Combined with the deeply rutted tracks and incredible heat, it certainly felt like a proper challenge. Keeping our Camelbaks and bottles topped up was a constant preoccupation.

Along the way we compared notes with a few other KAW cyclists and chatted to people who seemed intrigued by our group of four women – maybe due to our combined age of 229?

My overriding memory of the week is the laughter. At the top of a lung- and leg-punishing hill, collapsing in hysterics seemed to be the only option.

After six days with no mechanicals, no punctures, and all still speaking to each other, we felt justifiably proud of ourselves as we rode to the finish above Wantage, to be greeted by our transport team holding glasses of champagne. What next? The West Kernow Way?