Five brave souls: Adam, Bob, Alan, Maureen and Michael ventured out from Chichester Cross at 9.00am today and cycled out of the City along Centurion Way and on through Lavant and Binderton, to enjoy the Autumn sunshine and the mellow fruitfulness. We were all struck by the autumnal shades of the leaves in the trees above West Dean; the College itself is no longer shrouded in scaffolding and we could enjoy views of the largest flint-built structure in Britain. The American philanthropist who bought the West Dean Estate in the early years of the twentieth century ensured that the road from Chichester to Midhurst was moved away from his house – out of sight, out of mind. Michael led the hardy group up over Cocking Hill and on through the country lanes covered with sweet chestnuts to Graffham Village Store, for morning coffee and bakewell tart.
The main topic for conversation at Graffham was the face that nobody appeared to collect anything anymore. Stamp collecting (philately) is no longer seen as a noble hobby – penny blacks and first day issues have flooded the market and are worthless. Bob told us that he could not sell a Family bible that dated to the year 1577 as nobody was interested in buying it. The curators of Amberley Museum have stopped accepting antique woodworking tools as they have been overwhelmed and have no space to accommodate any more. Modern houses are being built with only limited storage space and people have nowhere to store collectables these days; and we appear to live in a ‘throwaway society’.
After the coffee break we headed out at a leisurely pace along the lanes that run through Ambersham, Heyshott and Graffham Commons. The sun came out and the country lanes were bathed in sunshine. We cycled past the ranks of birdwatchers at Burton Pond and Burton Mill, where flour has started to be produced again; and on past Burton Park, the former home of the Courthauld Family which has been converted into apartments for retired City Folk with Bentleys, Aston Martins and E-type Jaguars. Adam spotted a deer spralled out across a trackway 200 metres away and we all saw buzzards circling in the skies overhead.
Before long, we arrived at The Labouring Man in Coldwaltham for a hearty lunch of sausage and onion sandwiches, fresh salmon and cream cheese sandwiches and chips. The staff at The Labouring Man were absolutely charming with us and they were keen to tell us that they had spent Covid-19 Lockdown transforming the backyard into the delightful pub garden, which also functioned as a sun trap.
The lunchtime discussion was a masterclass in furniture making led by Bob and Alan, both of whom are keen and active furniture makers. Bob confessed to owning and using a plane that was made by J Symes of London between 1780 and 1805; and that his favourite piece of furniture is a table made of Elm which had a life of its own for 12 months when it was drying in the garden and would warp when the weather changed. We could have stayed at The Labouring Man all afternoon, but decided to ride on through Rackham and along the outskirts of Parham House Estate and on to Amberley, which was full of people enjoying the October sunshine.
We parted company with Bob at the banks of the River Arun in Houghton as he resolved to ascend the Khyber Pass and make his way home to Chichester via Burpham and Arundel. Michael led Alan, Maureen and Adam up Houghton Hill and down the country lanes through Madehurst and on to Slinden and Walberton. We parted company with Adam at Walberton and carried on home via Barnham, Westergate and Colworth.
The average speed on today’s ride was 11.9 miles an hour, we gained 2,551 feet in height and our maximum speed (down Cocking Hill) was 41.6 miles per hour. From door to door we covered 52 miles.