Six of us met at the Chichester Cross on Sunday 12th for the long ride to Southwater: myself (Bob) leading, with Sam, Paul, Maureen, Alan and Michael. Weather was good, especially as the high winds of late had abated.
We started about ten minutes early, one advantage of the booking system to limit numbers being we knew who was coming and that we were all there. I set off down East Street and St. Pancras, realised I’d gone wrong, so we did an elegant, perfectly synchronised U turn which must have been a pleasure to watch and went down The Hornet and Oving Road instead to go via Walberton and up to Madehurst. The number of bikers at the Whiteways café was extraordinary, phalanxes of them, packed shoulder and revving their engines. I thought of popping down and saying “You do know about social distancing, don’t you?”, but then I thought I’d like to live a bit longer so didn’t. Instead we zoomed (that is, we rode quickly, we didn’t peer at each other on little boxes on a computer screen) down Houghton Hill and stopped for coffee at the Riverside café, as Wiggonholt was still closed and I hadn’t been able to confirm the Amberley Tea Rooms hours. They had plenty of room and found a gap for us amid palm trees and the like
There was some talk of collecting one person’s contact number in a group, which seemed a good arrangement, but as we went to go no-one seemed to have asked for one. Turned out we should have written it on the menu, so we weren’t much better organised than last week, though without the hokey-cokey.
We in fact passed the Amberley tea rooms which was open, but we sped up past Wiggonholt, turned off to go through West Chiltington, turned off to go through Broomers Corner, past the Countryman pub near Shipley, and then straight up to Southwater Country Park.
I’d tried the route out during the previous week and found the park horribly crowded, with long queues for the café and loos, so had emailed everyone suggesting they bring sandwiches. In fact, though it was Sunday and the weather was better, for some reason there were no crowds and no queues at all. This was obviously a plot to embarrass me; I thought of hunting down the actors who had posed as crowds, queues etc on Tuesday but decided they might have made their getaway by now, being as half a week had passed, so I contented myself with glaring at everyone suspiciously while we ate our lunch.
However Maureen had recklessly left it to buy lunch at the cafe anyway, a plan which turned out to be annoyingly feasible. However when we left and started back down the main road we had a minor crisis in that Maureen thought she had lost her credit card. Fortunately she found it again. Being a gentleman I decided it was best not to mention in the blog which item of clothing she had stuck her card in, as it was her bra, but she did vouchsafe later that it was also a good place to stick jelly babies when she went for a run. This sartorial advice was obviously born of much experience, and I think we should, as a club, explore the possibilities. We already know from pioneering research of the digital payment and confectionary carrying potential of lingerie, but why stop there when the transportation possibilities are so auspicious? Tyre levers, bits of string, bottle tops, small frogs, batteries, ornaments, miniature turnips, candle ends, model carpet sweepers, and gorgonzola fragments all come to mind as essential equipment the carriage of which would be greatly facilitated by the wearing of underwear often marketed under the label “Maureen’s banking and energy supply carriers”. A New Dawn beckons, threatening the very existence of saddle bags.
The excitement of this occasion did not prevent us from continuing on our way through Kirsty’s Wood and Barnes Green to Summers Place. I had intended to go down the pavement for the few hundred yards of the A29 we have to endure before taking the Okehurst Lane turning. But when we got there the road was almost empty! Lockdown had returned! I joyfully led us down the unoccupied road therefore, and immediately the traffic lights from road works that had been holding the cars back changed and unleashed Armageddon on us.
We fortunately got off the A29 safely despite this, and wound our way down to Wisborough Green. I had said we could stop for tea there if we were late and so likely to miss the shop at Kirdford, and Sam had moaned as he didn’t want to stop there. But we got to Wisborough Green in very good time, so I didn’t stop there, and Sam moaned that we weren’t doing so when I’d promised we would. So we continued to Kirdford anyway, but on the way passed a very nice couple who had suffered a puncture but had no repair means. We stopped, and Paul kindly supplied an inner tube for said restoration purposes. They were perfectly prepared with the equipment to do the repair themselves, but Sam of course repaired it for them anyway, the gentleman whose tyre had been punctured looking bewildered as he’d thought up to that point that it was his bike, not realising that Sam is the Comptroller General of every bike on the planet.
It was a pleasing thing, that the couple had just been to (I think) Kirdford shop for some groceries, a journey they had often made previously by car, but now cycled. And when we got to Kirdford the chap giving out coffee in their new coffee van said they had noticed a marked increase in cycling during The Plague, which hadn’t seemed to abate at all as restrictions eased, which is good news. After a cuppa we continued back over Duncton and the Midhurst road, the group fragmenting as Maureen left us at the turning to East Dean, Sam and Paul at Two Barns Lane, Alan and Michael at East Lavant, leaving me Heroically Alone to Finish the Job into Chichester.
A lovely ride, 75 miles (120 kilometres) on my clock.