Six met at the Cross on a dull but warm morning for the long ride scheduled to the Hawkley Inn, Hawkley near Steep.Long ride regulars Sam, Paul and Bob were joined by Alan and Chris, with myself leading. The forecast was dull and windy all day, with the added bonus of a high risk of heavy rain around 1pm. With this in mind I had a Plan B route ready, which would lunch at Garthowen Garden centre in Four Marks, where it would be much easier to get out of the rain.
The outward route saw us go via Rowlands Castle, Horndean, Hinton Manor, Hambledon, Mercury Park ( my offer to stop for coffee at the Sustainability centre voted down) before finally stopping for elevenses at Cupacheeno , West Meon. We arrived just in time , being allotted a vacant table in the still quiet courtyard. As usual the food and service was very good and the cafes popularity reflected in the 30 or so cyclists that turned up soon after us!
Post coffee we continued on a winding route on minor lanes towards Ropley Dean before heading to Ropley on a road even Sam hadn’t used before. At this point Chris (our tame bell ringer) regaled us with tales of bellringing in the vicinity and the sad demise of the church at Ropley, burnt down but not yet rebuilt. Luckily Bob (our tame ‘interesting’ post box collector) didn’t know the area, so no ‘you really must see this victorian post box’ diversions prevented us from arriving at the Garden Centre ahead of the forecast rain.
It was quite busy in the cafe, so we opted to sit outside at tables under the parasols. At almost precisely 1pm the heavens opened, so unsurprisingly we were the only ones outside. Lunch was generally pretty good, the soup of the day was excellent as we stretched lunch out to 2pm when the rain was forecast to stop. And it did – these rain radar apps really are useful!
Return was on small country lanes through to Newton Valence , Hawkley (which paid us back with a puncture for Alan), Steep Marsh and a quick stop in Petersfield for afternoon coffee. It was then Buriton, Rowlands Castle, Westbourne back to Chichester, enlivened by another puncture ( Paul this time)
A very enjoyable day out. Total 70 miles with 4500ft ascent.