This is a write up of last Sunday’s bike ride to Petersfield:
“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there” (Robert Browning).
Six hardy souls set off from Chichester Cross on Easter Sunday with thoughts of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, heading out towards Petersfield. Sam, Bob, Ann, Alan, Robert and Michael pedalled their way through the windchill out along Clay Lane and on to West Ashling and Funtington, passed woodlands full of celandines, wood anemones, wild garlic and daffodils. As this was the first ride out since Christmas and the fact that the village stores and cafes were only providing take outs during this third lockdown, we decided to have limited numbers of stops, to keep our leg muscles warm to ensure we could climb over the South Downs.
On leaving Funtington, we started the gradual ascent towards Compton and the first real climb of the day up Idsworth Hill, with views out towards the lost village of Eckensfield one way and the English Channel the other. We experienced cloudless skies at the top of Idsworth and free wheeled down the hill towards St Hubert’s, but we didn’t have time to see the priceless wall paintings in the Church, we were all on a mission to ascend Buriton Hill. The Buriton Valley is a glorious place to ride through with the sun breaking through the Beech woods; and the climb to the Country Park is relatively gentle. We all made it to the top of Buriton Hill in good order and the descent was fast and furious, but the gravel and potholes at the bottom were deadly!
When we arrived at Petersfield, Bob was the first to break rank as he ventured out to seek a sandwich at the Cloisters Cafe, and he was quickly followed by Sam who was on the scent of a coffee at Caffe Nero. Michael thought – if we stop now, we will never climb over Ditcham Hill! The ascent of Ditcham starts as a hairpin bend, but soon levels off as you reach the farmhouse and begin to climb up to the lodge at Ditcham Park School. At the top of Ditcham we met clusters of jolly cyclists who were about to descend in different directions; and the metal detectorists were busy scanning the ploughed fields for treasure. On ascending Ditcham, we feasted on cereal bars, sandwiches and cookies before the thrilling descent.
Boys will be boys and at the foot of Ditcham we turned right …..! Chalton Hill is not one for the faint hearted, it is a short horror of a hill, but Ann kept up and showed the boys her mettle. We could not cycle into Rowlands Castle without climbing one more hill, the one with the trees on! We almost free wheeled into Netto at Rowlands Castle where Alan stocked up on mars bars; then we cycled back through Westbourne, Woodmancote, West Ashling, West Stoke, Lavant and on to Tangmere Airfield, and finishing at the Blue Brew pop up cafe on the Royal Oak car park in Bersted for Americanos, Chai Lattes and Hot Chocolates. Sheer bliss!