The winter gloves were back out as five met at a distinctly chilly Chichester Cross for today’s ride to East Meon. I, as ride leader, was joined by Paul, Mike, Michael and Alan. Chris was to meet up with us for lunch, making six in total. (Top temperature was 11c but only feeling like 6c in the wind chill).
We used a direct route, riding into a gusty northerly wind, to Compton, intending to have elevenses at the village café. However on arrival there were approximately 30 cyclists, all wearing Sportive jerseys, milling around the café. Michael popped inside to “” ask how long the wait was going to be “15-20 minutes”, but on further enquiry we found out that around another 70 cyclists doing the Sportive were expected anytime soon. So it was on to Plan B, into Petersfield for a coffee stop.
Once on the road again, Plan B soon mutated into Plan C and we (I) decided to add a loop into the ride to East Meon, which would give Chris a chance to catch us for lunch but would mean missing out the morning stop. The cycle through the Buriton valley was glorious, definite signs of summer in the trees. The sky was a vivid blue and you could easily have thought it was summer bar for the fact that fingers and toes were decidedly cold! It was then onto Frogmore and our first sighting of the lunch destination before starting the climb to Chidden and the ridge road. This climb is quite steep and goes on a bit and there were the first murmurings of mutiny in the ranks, that maybe the additional loop wasn’t such a good idea!
The effort of the climb was rewarded by fantastic views out to the Isle of Wight and the Solent. Also the road along the ridge has been resurfaced and is wonderfully smooth, at least for a while. We continued climbing to the top of Old Winchester Hill before descending into West Meon on a painfully poor road surface – obviously no money for this section! We soon viewed the pub for the second time in the day and settled down for lunch and Chris’s arrival about 20 minutes later.
Heavy clouds rolled in during lunch, dropping the already none too balmy temperature a few more degrees. Our return route using the Petersfield to QE park cycle path and then Chalton and into Rowlands Castle was wind assisted, resulting in a very healthy pace and an early afternoon coffee stop at Bumblebee’s Café. Alan’s e-bike had no issues keeping up, a very impressive piece of kit.
The new owners of the café really excel in the cake department and we all enjoyed a leisurely cake and coffee stop. I can’t help thinking though that the salted caramel slices that Michael and myself enjoyed should have some sort of addiction health warning – they are truly delicious mega calorie treats, just perfect after a day in the saddle!
The final ten miles back to Chichester were knocked off in good fashion, again benefiting from tailwinds. For the route see map
Distance for the round trip to the Cross was 57 miles but with everyone riding to and from the start, total mileage for the riders was nearer 75-90 miles for the day.
Report by Russell with pictures from Michael