We set off promptly and headed swiftly north - Staines, Colnbrook and Iver Heath passed swiftly until we reached Fulmer, where we turned our eyes (and our bikes) to the Wild West, with some potholes to match. Farnham Common and Burnham Beeches led us to Cookham, and then it was a push up the hill to the Jolly Farmer at Cookham Dean. 27 miles gone already and we were refuelled quickly: down, up, down as they say in the song, and we were in Marlow, all except Neil who gained a puncture on the final downhill, but it was soon fixed with Geoff's help. We took the Oxford Road out of Marlow - well it seemed a good choice - for what I thought was the best bit of the ride - through Frieth, Fingest and Turville on a heavily wooded steady climb up to Christmas Common, which is about the same height as Leith Hill. We had earned our tea and we were rewarded by the long downhill into Watlington, where we spotted ginger treacle cake and I think most of us had a piece with our tea.
Steve left us at Watlington to ride back home. From there it was flat geographically, but downhill scenically, on a B road which was much busier than on the recce. We avoided about half of it by detouring into nearby villages, but the rest was hard work until Cowley, where things didn't really improve with slow rush hour traffic and, well, Cowley doesn't have the visual attraction of Oxford city centre. Suddenly we were in the centre with less traffic, more bikes and university buildings all around. Despite it being about 6pm, Neil was intent on riding straight home - well it's only a short day for someone who does back to back audax rides on a weekend. The remaining six found ourselves in a 12th century pub, the Turf Tavern (reputed to be the hardest to find in Oxford, but my GPS knew exactly where it was). My extensive research also uncovered the fact that former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a Guinness world record there for drinking a yard of ale in 11 seconds. Mark was staying overnight for more 'sightseeing', and the rest of us caught the train back.
Thank you to all for your most enjoyable company, and especially to Geoff for back marking.