Five of us met at the Cross on Sunday 21st for a midsummer’s Long Ride to Hayling Island, there to meet up with the Short Ride starting an hour later. Sam was leading, with myself (Bob), Mike, Russell and Harvey. Rain had stopped, and cloud was beginning to dissipate.
Off we went down West Street and over the Fishbourne bridge to take the Clay Lane route to Rowlands Castle, and up through Finchdean and Idsworth, and we stopped just over the railway bridge to take the air and flapjacks, plus coping with the remnants of Lockdown by piddling in the fields, in a Socially Distant manner. We fairly stormed up towards Buriton, but in the dip in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Forest we had to splash through a deeply flooded bit which is often boggy, but hasn’t been flooded before to my memory, or at least not that deep. The result was Near Catastrophe, in that my socks got wet, but I Steadfastly Carried On, determined to keep a Stiff Upper Lip, and in doing so Nobly Hide this calamity from the others, bravely and modestly brushing it aside as if it were of no account at all.
“My socks got wet” I said as we stopped at the top of the hill, but the others brushed it aside as if it were of no account at all, preferring to talk about the route ahead, and other trivia. I reflected philosophically that it was ever thus; pioneers rarely receive the honour that is their due in their lifetime. So I willingly accepted the role of Silent Martyr with Slightly Damp Feet, and we shot down the hill and thus to Petersfield Market Square. There we encountered a massive queue for the Laura Ashley closing down sale, and had to squeeze past, in a Socially Distant kind of way, to get a coffee at the Cloisters, where the courtyard was also getting quite crowded with coffee drinkers, which combined with the Laura Ashley queue made me feel a bit crowded and led me to fear an imminent Drone Strike.
Over coffee we formed a committee to reflect on the management of the pandemic. This involved various phrases such as “pig’s ear”, ‘government” etc, while Sam looked at the sky, but even he was heard to mutter “We’re dooomed” into his coffee. As before Russell took the chair, and said we should be worried about India and meat processing plants mean instant death. This reminded me that a major employer in Petersfield is the local abattoir, and as we were surrounded by the good denizens of the aforementioned metropolis we immediately formed a defensive ring and threw our empty coffee cups at them, Sam wired his batteries up to a generator, giving us 3,000 volts to throw laser beams, Harvey produced a pitchfork and lunged at the enemy with bloodcurdling cries of “Garden services available at very reasonable cost”, while I threatened to make them smell my slightly damp socks.
Luckily this Sterling Action allowed a graceful retreat down Sheep Street, at the bottom of which Sam saw the signs for the Shipwrights Way, and had the Bright Idea of using that route. I had used the Shipwrights Way the previous week, albeit near Liphook rather than Petersfield, had ended up pushing the bike for about a mile, and reflecting that last night’s rain would have made it even worse, I felt the proposition before us, while interesting and superficially sound, contained a flawed premise of which my cycling companion may not have been aware, so I contributed a reasoned counter argument to the Discourse on the matter by shouting “NOOOOOOOOOO”, in a measured kind of way. So instead we went up past Butser Quarry to the Hampshire Hog, and down through Charlton. Sam took us up Netherley Down instead of the usual route to Finchdean, stopping for a widdle while we climbed. Catching me up we conversed:
Sam: “Do you come here often?”
Me: “Only when some git with a battery forces me to”
But in fact it is a nice hill and he did have a good excuse, cutting out Rowlands Castle and Horndean. Russell left us at the top of Netherley Down, as the rest of us took the Havant road in an attempt to get to Hayling Island by 12.30. Much of the route was off road, especially nice as the bits that weren’t made me yearn greatly for the Blessed Days of Lockdown. The last of the off road bits was the Billy Way, and then the horrific Armageddon known as the Hayling Island bridge, partially blocked by a family trying to cross who got shirty about us using the pavement (which we obviously did on a selfish whim as a result of having one of those strange “not feeling suicidal” moments). It was about 12.45 when we got onto the island, where we met the Short Ride led by Arthur, with Lynn, Graham and Gill, coming away. They had apparently been there since 11.45, so I suppose our Dash from Petersfield at least meant we had a couple of minutes chat with them before they Braved the Bridge.
We went on to the Salt Shack Café anyway, where they were very organised to provide a good takeaway service. I must admit the Short Ride had done well to last an hour; we had to perch on some boat trolleys which wasn’t over comfortable, and the scenery was….lots of boats. This provided several seconds’ conversation (“There’s a big boat. And there’s a small one.”). but we eventually returned to the Bridge of Death to come back via the direct route through Westbourne.
Lovely ride, even though the Meet Up with the Short Ride bit wasn’t overly successful. About 50 miles I think, back to Chi.