Six of us gathered at the Cross on Sunday, especially nice to see Edwin again, but he had cycled to us on a Peddler Distribution Expedition and didn’t yet feel ready for a longer ride. The rest were there for that longer ride led by Harvey, Singleton bound but by a circumlocutory route: myself, Sam, Michael and Alan were poised for this odyssey, Sam with his tractor, a bike with tyres so fat they would make the average Zeppelin look shamefaced.
So down to Fishbourne, Clay Lane and Westbourne, heading for coffee at Compton via Rowlands Castle, with a fairly westerly wind that was terrific, so I was glad that Harvey had chosen a westerly direction, hoping that we would have a tail wind to look forward to later. Occasionally someone would point out a pothole, and Sam would shout “Pah! That means nothing to me”, hurling his tractor into it and bouncing off the bottom. We had warnings from other cyclists as we went down Woodberry Lane, though we already knew the road was closed due to the ford flooding, and so it proved. In fact they’d blocked it off more effectively since a couple of days previously, which made me wonder of some reckless driver had attempted it anyway. So we had to use the path over the culverts, which were quite impressively pouring forth water.
Harvey and I took a picture and admired the Flooding Ford, which completely b*gg***d his plan for Coffee at Compton as the others had made themselves comfortable at the Bumblebee cafe by the time we got there, Harvey’s protestations that this wasn’t The Plan being met with the kind of helpful response a customer in Sainsbury’s gives to the shop assistant saying “there really is plenty of soap and pasta to go round, you know”. So we had a rather long drawn out coffee stop, with two sittings effectively, Sam who was part of the First Sitting agitating to leave before Harvey had even got his victuals. But I must say the cup cake I had, with white chocolate and buttercream made the imminent threat of extinction seem no more significant than a pothole to a Sam Balloon Tyre, the threat to my arteries entirely negated by the addition of nearly four blueberries and a sliver of strawberry, noted by Harvey as approximately two of my Five-a-Day.
Anyway, we did eventually get going along the road to Deanlane End. This was also fairly wet but only to the extent of a big puddle at the side of the road. This was getting wearing for Sam, who had had nothing but potholes and puddles to demonstrate his Caterpillar Tread Prowess; even the Flooded Ford was so bad he had had to use the pathway instead. So he cycled meanderingly up and down over the kerbstones to show off, leaving the rest of us to just cycle past the puddles. There was much shouting of “Right!” “Left!” “Right!” by Certain Members intent on extending the Coffee Confusion into a Bike Muddle as we approached the junction, but I was ahead and had already conducted high level consultations at Ministerial level with Harvey thereby knowing of his intention to take the Forestside road to West Marden, which also avoided further flooding near Idsworth, probably to the chagrin of Sam who could likely have floated over it.
The Electric Bikes plus Superpower Legged Michael shot off to the top of the hill above West Marden, with myself and Harvey catching up in a more dignified and restrained manner and pace. We then all took the steep hill in a Responsible Fashion by using,… y’know,…. brakes, except Sam who shot past us presumably secure in his in the belief in the cushioning effect of fat tyres. We then turned up to Compton where we Didn’t Stop For Coffee, and turned right to go up Apple Down, and on to East Marden Down where two supermarket delivery vans passed us full of soap and pasta. Wooshing down Chilgrove Hill we turned off to Colworth Down, stopping at the top of the hill for a photo op:
Then hurtled down to West Dean, where at my request we crossed the road to go into the village as I was intrigued to see the Lavant, pushing the top of the arches:
It was just starting to rain as we pulled in to The Weald and Downland Museum. We had actually only done 25 miles by then, but with the hills and stiff wind it felt like a lot more, and a lovely ride. I was especially pleased to scoff a beef and ale pie, home made apparently from Goodwood cows, so obviously knocked up by the duke in his kitchen. We formed a committee to sort out the urgent problem of sledgehammers, their use and misuse, and agreed that the right technique was an essential but sadly rare attribute of the Competent Sledgehammerist, and lamented the lack of attention given to this deficiency in The World Today.
After lunch we argued about routes back, but ended up climbing Knight’s Hill from Charlton to the racecourse, despite the usual frequent interruptions by Stupid Motorists using it as a short cut from the Fox Goes Free, and wanting to be Useful to the World I enhanced their Education and Self Awareness by muttering what a bunch of gits they were. Sam wanted to go to the airfield for tea, but at the top Harvey, Michael and Alan went left after the racecourse to go along the top of the hill, and so Sam and I went down Kennel Hill and turned right to Lavant, where Sam returned via Centurion Way and I went straight on back to Chi. A lovely invigorating ride, and more demanding than the mileage of 33 I recorded.