Summary: Inaugural Zafiri Trip at The Swan, Berkshire
Will Ross, January 9, 2018
Over the weekend 5-7th January, the first version of Zafiri Trips was held out of The Swan at Streatley, 40 miles west of London. The basic idea was to get out for a ride and a run in the deep winter, while spending time with friends and enjoying some good food, quality sleep and spa. Including myself, five guests stayed during the weekend, with a local drop-in for the ride on Saturday.
The main theme of Zafiri Trips is for them to be an opportunity to bank some solid training in some excellent terrain without having to take time off work. As for geography, The Swan is located on the River Thames, with the Ridgeway leaping up to the north and south of the property. Flat runs and rides are possible in the wide Thames basin, or else challenging hills can be introduced to a punchy weekend of training.
When it comes to logistics, The Swan at Streatley is conveniently located within 700m of Goring & Streatley station which has regular Friday services from London, now on the new electrified trains from London. For those coming with bikes, local services departing Paddington don’t require a bike reservation.
The most obvious issue with a winter trip involving athletics is the range of levels of fitness. In our case, the four cyclists that headed out for the Saturday morning ride were familiar with cycling with each other, and an excellent route was chosen by James. The route involved some flat riding out to start the day before taking on the marvelous White Horse Hill, dropping into Lambourn for refreshments at Honesty Lambourn, then closing the loop back to Streatley with a four short climbs including Court Hill (header photo). Favourable weather set the temperature just right in the late morning, after rolling out just above freezing at 9am. See the full route on Strava.
Keeping a running group together is always more challenging than a small chain gang. The Ridgeway south of The Swan serves as a fantastic slab of earth for close-knit, out-and-back runs, with the tarmac ending on Rectory Road into the Ridgeway at exactly two miles form the hotel’s reception. We were out for just over 60 minutes, time enough to tackle over 12km with 170m of elevation gain, and take a few snaps along the way. The Ridgeway surface itself was packed hard and completely navigable in road shoes.
The Swan’s facilities are also robust, even though the property is going through a substantial renovation and is without a restaurant. The bar area is a happening scene during the day with locals stopping by for coffee, business meetings and hotdesking. Snacks prepared by nearby Pierreponts cafe are available throughout the day, and a station with carafes of water flavoured with citrus, orange or cucumber make for good watering hole. Read more about The Swan at Streatley.
We ventured beyond into the village the property for a four outings: to The Catherine Wheel for fireside burgers on the Friday night; Pierreponts for post-ride lunch on the Saturday minutes before the kitchen closed at 3pm; The Miller of Mansfield for some fine dining on the Saturday (portions were delicate); The Village Cafe for brunch on the Sunday before the group parted ways.
The setup at The Swan worked very well – I’ll be organising a Spring weekend and notifying London-based subscribers in due course.