VISIT TO JAMIE SNOWDENíS FOLLY HOUSE STABLES
TO SEE OUR REWARD AND PRIDE OF PEMBERLEY
SATURDAY 12 AUGUST 2017
Pride Of Pemberley is hosed down
having returned from the gallops
Pride Of Pemberley poses for photographs;
but he wasnít keen to stand still!
Our Reward poses for photographs
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This would be my third stable visit of the summer, having already attended a visit to Robin Dickinís Warwickshire yard, and Noel Williamsí yard in Oxfordshire; although Iíd missed the planned opportunity to visit Graeme McPhersonís yard having picked up a stomach bug virus the previous day.
Anyway, having checked back through my diaries to see what time I needed to leave home in order to arrive at Jamie Snowdonís yard by 10:00 at the latest, I decided to set my alarm for 06:00 with the aim of leaving home at around 08:15.† According to Googlemaps, on a Saturday morning the journey should take 1 hour and 30 minutes, the distance being 79 miles; most of this is driven via two motorways Ė the M25 and M4.† It takes around the same amount of time to get to Noelís yard, being 70 miles away, but the latter stages of my favoured route to Blewbury are driven across country.
After having a shower, including washing and drying my hair, I applied my make-up and ate a breakfast of two croissants and two slices of plain white toast too.† I was ready and left home on the dot of 08:15 as hoped; according to the clock in my car that is.††
My outfit today was a purple M&S vest, mauve (being a lighter shade of purple) Wallis gypsy-style top, bright purple fleece, electric blue jeggings, and brown M & S Footglove ankle boots; Iíll soon need a replacement pair, as these brown ones are nearing the end of their life because I work to and from work in them on a very regular basis.† I also took my black M & S snow-boots, just in case, plus my moccasins, should I want to change into them for the drive home.† The coat I chose was my light blue BHS raincoat.† I was still using my capacious black and white graphics-pattern Kipling handbag for stable visits.††
My route took me around the ring-road and down to the London Colney roundabout.† I then headed down the dual carriageway to a further roundabout, before driving across a bridge over the M25 and turning right at yet another roundabout.† I headed a short distance along Bell Lane and took the right hand fork at a final roundabout; this is the slip-road onto the motorway.† Arsenal FCís football training ground is situated along Bell Lane, just a little bit further on.
Having joined the motorway, I headed along the anti-clockwise carriageway to junction 15; traffic was running smoothly all the way and I followed Newmarket trainer Michael Bellís pale blue horsebox for a while, between Junctions 20 and 18, Kings Langley to Chorleywood, before overtaking it.† Michael is ITV racing presenter Oli Bellís uncle and he trained this yearís Ascot Gold Cup winner, Big Orange.† Heís even got a personalised number plate on his horsebox, well almost Ö heís got two middle names according to the signage on the horsebox but, of course, only three initials can be used in the plate format.† A glimpse in the daily paper informs me that Michaelís Graceland was competing at Ascot today, taking part in the Shergar Cup.
I found myself stuck behind a slow-moving people-carrier on the approach to the M4 slip-road, hoping that it would turn towards London, rather than westwards like me, upon reaching said junction.† However, instead of doing either of these, the driver suddenly realised they were in the wrong lane and subsequently moved out to continue upon the M25!† Oh well, thereís always one Ö if not more!
Having been Ďhamperedí by the people-carrier, I ended up following a lorry along the slip-road onto the westbound carriageway of the M4; a vehicle which Iíd earlier overtaken.† I continued westwards along said motorway; today I noticed the battlements of Windsor Castle peeping above the tree line as I drove over the bridge at the Langley turning.† Itís much harder to see in summer, when the trees are full of leaf.† I continued west, slowing briefly on the stretch just prior to Junction 10, Reading East; this was a result of the continuing road-works on the A329(M) slip-road and a safety limit of 50mph was in place.† Further on, a driver nearly missed his turning at the Reading Central junction, pulling quickly from the outside lane to the inside lane before exiting at this point.
The road-works which have recently been taking place on the motorway beyond Junction 12, Reading West, appeared to have been suspended, as there was no 50mph restriction beyond this point Ö or at least I didnít see any warning signs and the people speeding along in the outside lane obviously didnít notice anything either!† Later on, there was a warning notice about the inside lane being closed; this appeared to be the result of a minor accident having occurred, but the vehicles involved had already pulled onto the hard-shoulder.† I have a recollection that there were cones along the perimeter of the motorway at this point so, presumably, the road-works arenít completed yet.
Having reached Junction 14, for Hungerford, I exited the motorway, turning right at the roundabout beneath it in order to head a short distance along the A338 Wantage Road before turning left.† I headed through Woodlands St Mary and Lambourn Woodlands before turning right and heading down the steep hill into Lambourn; Iíd now entered the Valley of the Racehorse.††††††
At the bottom of the hill, just before the main street, I turned left and headed past Windsor House stables, home of Harry Dunlop and formerly the yard of Nicky Henderson, before I turned right at the T-junction and left at the next one.† I drove a short distance along the B4000 before being held up briefly, behind a tractor, as we waited for a racehorse and rider to pass by on the other side of the road.†
I pulled into the car park adjacent to the cricket ground at 09:45; 90 minutes pillar to post as expected.† A couple of the regular yard attendees were parked up already, I have since discovered the ladyís name is Wendy.† I waved hello before parking facing the field and getting out of my car; I put on my raincoat, although Iíd probably not need it today.† It was intermittently sunny, although not as warm as would be expected for mid-August. There had been a slight suggestion of a spit spot of rain as I was nearing the end of my motorway journey, but certainly nothing to worry about.†
Wendy and her partner decided that theyíd go park in the driveway of Folly House instead, in order to be one of the vehicles which would drive to the gallops; they did offer to take me to the house also, but itís just a short walk away, the driveway to the stable yard being opposite the car park.† Mind you, I did ask them not to run me over en route!
Thus I crossed the road and headed up the driveway to the yard itself; a member of staff said good morning to me as I neared the entrance to stabling area. I continued across the gravel and through the gate in order to reach the house; I went inside.† There werenít too many in attendance today, far fewer than during last Augustís packed visit when around 30 EPDS Racing members had turned up.† But maybe that is because Jamie only has two of their syndicate horses currently; with one of them, Our Reward, on the side-lines due to a suspensory injury and thus unable to go to the gallops.
Jamie Snowden was in the kitchen to welcome visitors, his wife Lucy too.† He greeted the majority of lady visitors with a kiss on each cheek, including me. J† Tea, coffee and biscuits were on offer, I passed on these, including the Custard Creams and the Bourbon biscuits.† I never partake in the refreshments because Iíve got to the stage where I canít go too many hours before needing to spend a penny; although, of course, there was a loo available within the house.† Iíd drunk half a cup of tea just before I left home, and had taken a bottle of water with me too.† The trainerís two pointer dogs also enjoyed being fussed over by their visitors; one is named Alder I recall.
It was soon time to head outside to see a number of the horses being led out of their stables ahead of Jamie legging up the lads and lasses.††††
They included a grey 3-year-old named Cloud Hopper, the chestnut Kapgarde King, Fine Jewellery, Hoganís Height, Shockingtimes, Dr Waluigi, Kalahari Queen and, of course, Pride Of Pemberley.† There was another one, which I think may have been Adrrastos Ö but itís always difficult to identify horses which donít have any white distinguishing markings!† Pride Of Pemberley seemed surprised to see us, and he shied away on a couple of occasions as he walked by.† Kalahari Queen is young and highly strung too, so she wasnít mounted until the horses set off from the yard.
Jamie said heíd missed a demonstration of the new automated training machine, which is based at Kingswood Stud in Lambourn; John Francome had attended and, not surprisingly, wasnít impressed.† John reckons that in a few yearsí time someone will come up with a bright new idea Ö how about riding the horses?† The new system is supposed to be solely for use with youngsters which are still developing and, as such, may benefit from not having to carry the weight of a rider during their initial training.
If youíve not already seen the Ďmachineí on the internet:
With the number of attendees being fewer than usual, only four or five vehicles were needed to transport everyone to the Mandown gallops.† Unfortunately, today, I wasnít quite quick enough to get a lift in Jamieís 4x4.† However, there was a spare space in the car driven Wendyís partner, so that was me sorted, fortunately.† I wouldnít fancy my chances of surviving the trip to the gallops in my little Fiesta.††
We headed out onto the main road, turning left as we did so.† One car joined the convoy via the driveway leading out of the yard.† We had to wait for a set of temporary traffic lights to change to green; they were situated just a short distance along the road, at the junction with the lane which leads to Uplands; thatís Warren Greatrexís yard.
We continued past Charlie Mannís yard, also that of Michael Blanshard, Mark Usher and Stan Moore, before taking a turning to the right and driving past Jamie Osborneís main yard too.† At the subsequent t-junction we turned left, then took the first right into Maddle Road.† Having turned the next corner, Jamie stopped his vehicle outside the yard where the water treadmill is based.† The other vehicles all followed suit.†
Currently undergoing treatment was one of Jamieís horses named Havisham.† The 5-year-old was formerly trained by Andrew Balding and had been off the racecourse since finishing last in Royal Ascotís Queen Alexandra Stakes last year.† Heíd suffered a serious injury to a hind-leg tendon since that time, hence the period spent on the water treadmill; previously a talented horse, Jamie was hopeful the horse would make it back to the track.† Although he did mention that injuries to hind-leg tendons are less responsive to treatment; and I understand in this instance it wasnít the result of a strain.† Just before we got back into the vehicles, Jamieís string came by.† Shockingtimes was ahead of the others; Jamie said the horse likes to do his own thing.† Heís quirky.†
Having got back into the vehicles, we set off past Ed Walkerís yard and then passed by Jamieís string before heading up the hill to the top of the Mandown gallop.† The horses would have continued along Maddle Road before heading up the hill towards us.† Shockingtimes headed up first, alone.
Shockingtimes has been on the sidelines since January 2016 and Jamie explained that he is a very difficult horse to win with; he has to be Ďdeliveredí on the line.† Once, in a chase at Stratford, he had been left with a 4-length lead when a Dan Skelton runner had fallen at the last but failed to hang on despite the short run-in at that particular track.†
Fine Jewellery came up the gallops next, accompanied by the one which was, possibly, Adrrastos.† Kapgarde King followed these, with Cloud Hopper next, then Pride Of Pemberley at the canter; heís not yet in fast work after his summer holiday.† Jamie mentioned that he was pleased with the latterís low head carriage, because it meant the horse was looking where he was going.† He said the EPDS horse also possessed the ability to change legs easily, which meant heíd also be able to measure his fences well.
There was a suggestion at this point that perhaps a mid-week visit would be arranged by EPDS, so that we can see Pride Of Pemberley schooling over a number of hurdles on the training ground.† Although I donít fancy my chances of reaching Lambourn via the M25 and M4 during a weekday rush-hour!
The final group consisted of Hoganís Height, Dr Waluigi and Kalahari Queen; the latter is young and inexperienced and she had a good look at our group as she sailed by.† All bar Kalahari Queen headed back down to the beginning of the gallop, via the adjacent track; the filly returned to the yard instead.†
Jamie also spoke about one of his recent acquisitions, namely Dr Waluigi; he came from the Irish point-to-point field but, having been bought and trained in Ireland following a win in that sphere, he failed to live up to expectations and eventually ended up at the sales and was purchased by Jamie.† His trainer is hopeful that he will fulfil some of the early promise, as the horses which ran and were placed during his winning point-to-point have all won since.† Heís a heavy topped horse, carrying weight around his middle Ö a bit like me in fact!† Today he was ridden by ex-jockey Rodney Farrant, whoíd won the 1997 Queen Mother Champion Chase aboard Marthaís Son.†††
The remaining horses having completed their second run up the gallop, they too headed back to the yard.† The horses kept to the left-hand side of the track so that our vehicles could accompany them briefly and we were able to take photos as we did so.† We stopped briefly, a little further down, whilst the tail-enders of the string continued down the hill before entering a track to our left.† The vehicles now continued down the hill to Maddle Road.† Heading in the opposite direction was a lone racehorse and rider Ö I recognised him, I believe Ö it was Grand National winning jockey, now trainer, Ben De Haan; as we passed he thanked us for slowly down.†††
Having subsequently reached Maddle Road, we turned left and retraced our route back to the B4000.† The convoy turned left at the T-junction to head back towards Lambourn village.† We encountered the temporary traffic lights once more; someone later suggested that our vehicles had driven through on a red signal, with both directions being red.† I would have presumed that it was triple-phased and showing green for any traffic exiting the side-turning from the direction of Uplands.
Having entered the driveway to Folly House via the electric gates and parked up, it was then time for a tour of the yard.† It began in the upper yard, the first horse being Fact Of The Matter who currently occupied the end, dual-aspect box.† Next to him was Capsy De Mee, then the mare Buche De Noel.† Lord Topper, Scorpion Sid, Between The Waters and the filly Oscar Star lived in the next run of boxes.† Next to them was Socks Ė on loan from AP McCoy apparently Ė heís currently Harry Snowdenís pony; Jamieís middle child.†
Another childís pony, a mare named Bindy, occupied the box next to him and she belongs to Jamieís daughter Lettie, also Harry and youngest son Arthur.† The next few boxes were empty, so everyone headed around the corner and through the gate into the main yard; I was lagging behind slightly, because I was taking photos of each horse Ö and pony.† Midnight Chill was visited next, then Filemon, before we headed through the archway into the rear yard.†
Starting from the left-hand corner, the mare Midnight Silver occupied the first box and next to her was Double Treasure.† We then saw Our Three Sons, Havisham who had now returned from the water treadmill and, next to him was the grey Right Enough.† The latter, a 12-year-old, is now the familyís hunter following injury.
The boxes adjacent to the barn where occupied by Grange Ranger and the filly Flow From Devon respectively.† We entered the aforementioned barn and saw Lunar Flow and Monbeg Theatre in boxes to the left, with Future Gilded and Lostnfound on the right; there were one or two more, but I didnít get to them before everyone headed back out again and returned through the archway once more.† One of the horses from the barn had been saddled and his/her work-rider led them through behind us.
Blue Bullet occupied the box immediately to the left, and Pride Of Pemberley was being hosed down by the corner box.† We headed across to see Three Ways and Dr Waluigi.† At this point Rodney Farrant came over the say goodbye to his boss; Jamie told everyone about the ex-jockeyís high-profile win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.† We subsequently headed around to the final run of boxes, heading towards Folly House; currently housed here were the fillies Queens Cloak and Presenting Pearl.† Kalahari Queen occupied the next box, then Dans Le Vent, EPDS Racingís Our Reward (aka Rodders) and Cloud Hopper.
That was the end of the tour, so Jamie asked for Pride Of Pemberley to be led out so that we could take photos, etc.† If any fault can be found in his confirmation, Jamie described the chestnut as being slightly long in the body, and his shoulders a little straight.† The latter will result in him striking the ground harder with his front legs than some, so ground with the description of soft within would be the most suitable.† Richard Johnson rode him in his first race, a bumper at Ffos Las, and said that Colin or Pop as he is known, is a galloping and staying type and the jockey wished heíd rode him with more intent because, at the end of the race, heíd had difficulty in pulling him up!
Pride Of Pemberley isnít a fan of standing still, so it took a little time for Jamie to get him to pose for photos.† With Colin now led back to his stable on the far side of the main yard, it was Our Rewardís turn to be shown off to his visitors; as mentioned earlier, the horse was currently on the sidelines due to a suspensory injury.† Unlike Colin, who will be a winter horse, Our Reward is a spring and autumn-ground horse.
Amongst the questions asked by the visitors, was which horse would Jamie like to train if he could choose any in racing?† Thatís easy he said, it had to be Altior.† Of the horses which he does train, he thought Dans Le Vent had the best chance of being a Cheltenham Festival horse having finished 6th in last seasonís Champion Bumper.† Heís also looking forward to Pride Of Pemberley commencing his hurdling career, probably over 2Ĺ miles, before moving up to 3 miles.† Heís hopeful too, that Midnight Chill will prove to be one of his stars.
John told everyone that Wildehearted Woman (aka Wilma) is progressing well, following her career-ending injury.† She currently lives in a yard quite close to Junction 12 of the M4, along with Menace and others; one or two of the southern-based horses spend their summer holidays there too.† Wilma is very gentle and has made friends with Johnís 2-year-old son Alfie; she whickers when he arrives at the yard and loves to be fed carrots too.† Thoroughbreds are wonderful creatures, so intelligent and versatile, with many very gentle too; they know how to behave around children.
John wishes for a Mount Nelson-sired horse; the horse used to stand at the Newsells Park Stud, but was sold to the Broadsmill Stud in County Meath in Ireland Ö making it more expensive to send a mare to him, if that is what he has in mind.† EPDS currently has three brood mares, or prospective brood mares Ė Shilpa (by Medicean), Money Maid (by Blueprint) and Wilma (by Oscar).† I understand that both Shilpa and Money Maid are currently in foal.
Oh no, Iíve just discovered that the injury which ended Shilpaís career occurred during the Southwell race in March 2013, in which Our Phylli Vera fell and re-broke Chocís right arm; her injury happened when she was hampered by this incident although she did complete the race in last place.†
A couple of visitors had parked their cars so as to obstruct the sawdust heap, so they were asked to move them, so that the yard staff could continue their daily tasks!†††
With Our Reward returned to his stable, and after everyone having individually thanked Jamie for his time and hospitality, he helped his wife Lucy unload shopping items from her car; she had returned following a trip to the supermarket with their three children.
I headed out of the yard, via the far driveway which exited the main road opposite the cricket-ground car park.† En route I caught up with a couple of other visitors, who asked me how long Iíd been a member of an EPDS syndicate Ė since February 2015; they had recently joined or were thinking of joining.† Having reached the car park we chatted for a while, about horse racing, before saying farewell.†
It was 12:50 by the time I headed out onto the B4000; I turned left to head back into Lambourn village, having waited for a lady cyclist to pass by.† I had no particular plans regarding my homeward route; in fact I had experienced a number of dilemmas regarding it!
I have developed aversions to driving through Watlington (Oxfordshire), also exiting onto the main through-road at Stadhampton (Oxfordshire), and getting stuck in traffic on the northbound carriageway of the A34 or the clockwise carriageway of the M25!† Iím becoming a total wuss in my old age!†
I also donít like joining the eastbound carriageway of the M40 at Junction 4 from the south, preferring to venture instead through Bourne End, Wooburn Green and Beaconsfield; although Iím not the only person who has expressed a dislike for the road layout above Junction 4, I recall that even my friend Mark wasnít keen on it!†
In the end, I continued through Lambourn village, rather than heading back up the hill via my incoming route. Besides, I donít particularly like the almost blind exit beyond Windsor House stables where I would have needed to turn right had I chosen that particular way.††††
Instead, the road narrows to almost single lane traffic for a few metres as it enters the village and I continued straight ahead passing the high street to my right, and the road which runs past Oaksey House to my left.† This meant I was soon heading through Eastbury and East Garston; the River Lambourn meanders through both villages, crossing from one side of the lane to another and then back again.† At one point, a green wheelie bin had been placed in the lane, quite close to the verge; it appeared that someone had been trimming the hedge opposite their cottage!
Further along, on my side of the road, a long line of cars were parked on the lane outside their ownersí respective houses; fortunately I was able to drive past these without meeting any traffic coming in the opposite direction.† Iím not totally unfamiliar with this section of my route to Great Shefford, as itís the lane which I travel down, in the opposite direction, when visiting Nicky Hendersonís yard at the start of the Lambourn Open Day.
However, at the far end, I turned left and headed across a bridge over the River Lambourn; Iíd now entered unfamiliar territory, having never driven along this section of the A338 before.† Being situated either side of the river the village of Great Shefford is located at the bottom of a valley; in fact the extension of the Valley of the Racehorse.† I was now heading in the direction of Wantage.† There is a Murco petrol station situated to the right-hand side of the road then, further along, a sign directed people to the village shop located down a road to the left.† The residential area on this side of the river appeared newer than the housing to the south of it.†
I continued along the road, which began to rise, and rise, and rise, as it travelled over the downs.† During this uphill drive, I noticed a National Welfare Animal Trust centre to the left of the road.† The speed limit was 50 mph but, being unfamiliar with this road, I was travelling slightly slower than that most of the time; this resulted in handful of vehicles queuing up behind me.† Besides, there were two or three corners too, with signs warning drivers to slow down.† However, I did have time to glimpse a number of birds of prey as they soared in the sky overhead; red kites.
As they say, what goes up must come down, and this was indeed the case as the A338 approached Wantage.† Although marked on the map with an arrow which denotes a steep hill, it didnít prove to be too bad, apart from a number of cyclists which I had to pass as I headed down into the town.† There are traffic lights just prior to the main street and I had to wait for the lights to change to green.
However whilst I was waiting, a couple of the aforementioned cyclists decided to bypass these lights by riding along the pavement; as a result they almost ran into a group of people who came around a blind corner and this included a lady pushing a pram.† As you can imagine, the pedestrians were not amused; stupid cyclists.
Once the lights had changed to green, I continued ahead for a few metres, before turning right; a signpost denoted the road as ĎAll routesí.† Iíd driven along this section of my route before, last October, also on my way back from Jamieís yard.† The road bears around to the left, before reaching a roundabout where I turned right.† I negotiated a second roundabout almost immediately, where I continued straight ahead.† Further along there were two more mini-roundabouts, again a staggered junction, and I remained on the A417 Reading Road.†
The villages to the south of the road include East and West Lockinge, also East and West Hendred. This is retired trainer Henrietta Knightís territory, as she lives on a farm in West Lockinge.† She had been writing a book to be released in March 2018 - The Jumping Game: How Trainers Work and What Makes Them Tick.† That sounds of interest to me, so I pre-ordered it on Amazon.
Further along and close to the turning to East Hendred, a fairly large housing development is springing up to the north side of this A-road.† Many houses appear to be under construction in the Oxfordshire area; I recall more being built close to the A34, near Chilton.† Shortly afterwards, I reached the roundabout within Rowstock where I turned left, hopeful that there wouldnít be any traffic congestion problems on the A34 as there had been the previous Saturday.††††
Having negotiated traffic lights where the B4017 exits to the left to head into Abingdon, I continued down the hill to the following set; these are situated at the entry point to the roundabout below the A34.† Fortunately there was no sign of the slow moving traffic which Iíd seen when returning from Noel Williamsí yard so, once the lights had turned to green, I turned left to head up the slip-road and onto the aforementioned dual carriageway.
For geeks like me, it transpires that the A3400, a small section of which I drove along in Warwickshire on my journey to Robin Dickinís yard, is the re-numbered extension of the A34 and it runs to Birmingham and onwards to Manchester too; the A34 begins in Winchester in Hampshire.††
The viewpoint upon the A34 which Iíd experienced on my journey back from Lambourn in April, is obviously further south than the Didcot junction.† That would make perfect sense, as the road passes over the downs between the M4 and the A4130 turning, so it must be where the escarpment ends and the road plunges down into the Thames Valley.† Also, having driven down the hill into Wantage, upon the A338 which runs parallel to the A34, it now seems rather obvious as to the viewís location! †
And Iíve found it, on Googlemaps ... close to the West Ilsley junction:
I continued along the northbound carriage, heading in the direction of Bicester.† The first period of slow moving traffic was encountered just before the link where the southern Oxford ring-road heads off to the east.† The movement also slowed further on, when the A420 road merged from the left; thatís the road from Swindon.† After that it was almost plain sailing as far as the M40 junction; when it did slow down at one point on this upper section of the A34, I decided to move into the outside lane so as not to get trapped when the inside queue was directed onto the northbound carriageway of the M40.† I wanted to head straight across in order to travel along a short stretch of the A41 to reach Bicester.†
I stayed in the outside lane on this section of the road, because I needed to turn right at the far end.† However, when I reached the next roundabout, it was almost gridlock.† A large lorry, which had been travelling in the inside lane, decided to cut me up on said roundabout; there was also an issue with someone actually backing out of a road lane beyond said roundabout, in order to take a different route.
The problem with Bicester, during busy traffic periods, is that its housing estates have expanded greatly, thereís also traffic trying to reach the Shopping Village and, now, a large Tesco store has also been built at the south-east corner of the main traffic island.† Which idiot planned this?
With the large lorry now in front of me, I couldnít see far ahead.† Also, Iíve only driven in from this direction maybe a couple of times since the road layout was changed.† As a result, I ended up turning into Tescoís!† What a twit! †However, I styled it out by driving to the first roundabout, just outside the entrance to their car park, and doing a 360 degree turn around it before heading back out towards the A41 again; I turned right when the traffic lights turned to green, in order to continue on my intended route.
Because of the traffic holdups, a lady was actually trying to direct the traffic; although you could sense she was fed-up with a number of drivers ignoring her instructions.† As a result, these selfish drivers were blocking what should have been a clear route through the centre of the roundabout, controlled at intervals by traffic lights.† Fortunately I managed to drive through a gap in the oncoming traffic without an issue once the lights had turned to green, but in my rear view mirror I could see that the large lorry which had been to my inside had got stuck due to lack of space.
Phew; it was fingers crossed that the remainder of my journey would go smoothly from here on in.† I also made a mental note to avoid Bicester during the early hours of a Saturday afternoon!† Also, it hadnít been that much easier heading in from the other direction when Iíd returned from the visit to Robin Dickinís yard in early July!
Free of the traffic snarl-up, I continued along the A41 Bicester bypass, and remained upon this route having negotiated the roundabout at the far end thereof.† Road-works were still being carried out a little further along, near the turnings to Ambrosden and Thame.† Despite having driven along here just a few weeks ago I noticed, for the first time, that a factory or warehouse building was under construction to the north of the road.† Bicester is certainly mushrooming at the present time.† I remember, in the olden days, when the main road still passed through the centre of the town!
Anyway, I continued on the A41, slowing down to 50mph just before the railway bridge as directed by the road-signs; four side-roads join at this point.† I speeded up to 65mph along the next stretch; itís an old Roman road, thus straight by design and I had almost caught up with the two cars in front of me by the time we reached the short stretch of dual carriageway just before Kingswood.†
However, knowing how short this overtaking opportunity is, I chose not to overtake, unlike the vehicle in front of me.† Thereís a 40 mph speed limit through this hamlet; a speed camera also. I carried on to the roundabout at the entrance to a rural-based industrial estate; there was now a horsebox at the head of the line of traffic and it made progress slow around this traffic island.
Further on, the car in front of me decided to turn left in order to head to Quainton; whereas I remained on the A41 and soon afterwards headed up the hill into Waddesdon.† Having travelled through the village at the prescribed 30mph speed limit, I continued onwards to Aylesbury; the horsebox having turned off to the left in order to head along the road to Oving and Whitchurch; I have ancestors who used to live in that area!
I headed into Aylesbury, negotiating a number of roundabouts en route, before turning left at one of these in order to continue around their northern ring-road.† There are a couple of speed cameras around said ring-road, so one has to be careful to remain within the 30mph speed limit.† Having arrived at a T-junction, I turned left to continue upon the A41 once more.† I was now heading towards the start of the A41 bypass road; there were ongoing road-works along this section of my route, due to intended traffic lights being installed at the junction with the road to Weston Turville.
Having reached the bypass I sped along it, within reason of course, conscious that my return journey was taking an excessive amount of time.† The only hold up was on the approach to the Hemel Hempstead turning, where a slow moving purple car held me up; I didnít want to overtake it because I was due to exit the carriageway imminently.† As it turned out, the purple car had the same route in mind.
I had to wait for a number of vehicles to pass by before I could head down the hill and into Two Waters Road, before continuing to the Magic Roundabout.† I turned right, then left, then right again.† However, the car to my outside decided to cut me up by swinging wide into my lane, as I entered the dual carriageway which headed out of town.†
Markings on the road, at the Magic Roundabout, clearly instruct traffic that it can go straight ahead or turn right at this point.† I always remain in the left-hand lane, despite turning right, because it allows additional time to make the manoeuvre as traffic coming from the right is heading down the hill and might be travelling slightly above the speed limit at this point.† In other words, it buys me time.†††
Anyway, I continued up the hill, past another speed camera, 40mph being the limit.† A car in front moved in, then out of the inside lane on the approach to the roundabout outside Jarman Retail Park.† Meanwhile I headed along the roundabout bypass slip-road to reach the roundabout beyond it.† Following that, I had to wait slightly longer than usual to move into the outside lane due to weight of traffic; after heading past yet another speed camera, I turned right at the roundabout where Maylands Avenue leads off to the left.†
I thus headed through Leverstock Green, beyond which I was careful to remain with the speed limits as there are two cameras along the roadway before it passes over the M1.† I then headed under a bridge; this now carries the downgraded A414, it used to be the M10.† I continued to a roundabout on the outskirts of St Albans.† I had to wait for almost a dozen vehicles to head out of King Harry Lane before I was able to follow them down Bluehouse Hill; the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre are situated to the right of the road, and I observed a number of visitors heading to and fro close to the pedestrian crossing at this point.
At the next roundabout I continued straight ahead in order to enter Batchwood Drive.† Further along I passed Smiley SID and he did just that.† I passed a couple of cyclists too, prior to reaching a set of traffic lights.† It came as no surprise that these cyclists jumped the queue and, once the lights had changed to green, I had to overtake them again once I was in Beech Road; having to do this always annoys me.
I continued around the ring-road, passing another Smiley SID en route; he smiled too.† I arrived home at 15:20.† My neighbour was just backing out of her drive as pulled up, so I waved and waited for her to head off before I turned into mine.
It had taken me 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete my homebound journey.† I know I like driving through the countryside but that is just plain ridiculous when compared to my outbound journey of 90 minutes!†††††