If you’ve been to Pierreponts on a Saturday morning, chances are you’ll have spotted a stack of bikes outside and inside two tables full of chattering people with rosy cheeks – one lot top to toe in lycra, the other in muddy walking boots. They are the weekend walkers and cyclists, and they are just as much a part of Pierreponts as the cakes.
Goring residents Paul and Mark have been Pierreponts customers since the cafe opened back in 2008. Every Saturday morning, they meet their fellow cyclists in the Catherine Wheel car park at 8am then set off on a two-and-a-half-hour bike ride which always ends for them at Pierreponts.
‘It’s our spiritual home,’ Paul explains. The two men have cycled together for around 20 years, first on mountain bikes but now on road bikes. They enthuse about how wonderful the area is for cycling – quiet country lanes, some challenging hills and glorious views aplenty.
Over two decades, they have seen a huge increase in the number of cyclists on the roads in Oxfordshire. ‘We used to ride to Henley and not see another rider,’ Paul recalls. ‘Now we’ll see around a hundred or so.’
They describe their Saturday morning jaunt as a social ride, and it certainly is with around half a dozen of them usually ending up in Pierreponts for breakfast. And what’s their post-ride breakfast of choice? ‘Bacon sandwich,’ Paul responds in a heartbeat. ‘And coffee.’ For Mark it’s a bacon sandwich too. ‘And sometimes a doughnut,’ he smiles.
As the cyclists are unclipping their pedals and taking off their helmets, another merry band is arriving to refuel – the walkers. I squeeze onto a table with Joëlle, John, Judy, Bernard, Ernst, Liz and Jo, who are all keen ramblers as well as friends for longer than any of them dares to remember.
The seven friends met through a shared love of exploring the countryside on foot. They get together every Saturday morning at 9am for a circular walk around Goring, starting and finishing at the Rectory Garden. Whatever the weather, they complete four-or-five-mile route (‘which always includes a hill,’ Joëlle adds) before descending on Pierreponts 90 minutes later for breakfast and a lot of chatter. This lot like to walk but they really like to talk!
Their enthusiasm for Pierreponts is huge, and they are all regulars – not just on Saturday mornings but throughout the week too. They particularly like coming for an early supper on a Friday evening before heading out to one of the Goring Jazz events.
The Saturday-morning walk is just one of nine which take place each week under the banner of Goring Gap Health Walks. There are walks to suit everyone, with different levels of difficulty and distance. The weekend walks tend to attract around 20 walkers but during the week there can be as many as 40.
The benefits of walking in a group are huge – it’s sociable, great for your physical and mental health, and it’s free too. Each walk is led by a trained leader so you can rest assured that you’re in safe hands.
Back at Pierreponts it’s time for breakfast, and the walkers feast on kippers, porridge, granola and French toast. ‘I was ill recently,’ Jo tells me, ‘and I had to miss the walks. But I really missed the breakfasts!’
For more information about the walking group, visit www.goringgapwalks.co.uk