Ride to Amberley 2nd May 2021

Today’s ride was to Amberley via the off-road route known as the ‘Khyber Pass’. Well, that was what the leader and rides organiser Jeff had in mind, but Sam Bob and Paul had other ideas-NO OFFROAD as they had skinny tyres. They were to later regret that, however they were in the majority and the leader aims to please.

A few back streets navigated gave an almost traffic free ride to Edgecumbe’s for their superb coffee &sustenance and we were off by 10.30 to Arundel. We avoided the busy A27 roundabout by using the river path then up Parson’s hill to the Catholic Cathedral (more attractive inside) then down to the A284 for the climb to Whiteways. A bank holiday combined with lockdown staycation gave us a horrid ride with fast traffic passing too close for comfort. A choice had to be made whether to go outside the edge raised cat eyes and risk getting hit by a Maserati or inside and risk falling off the tarmac. I did a bit of both and came up last relieved I had made it.  A fast descent on the Houghton Hill running with recent rain and overtaking traffic was just as unnerving as the uphill but with less effort.  As we arrived at the Bridge Inn 30 mins before opening, tried the café across the busy road only to be told (very nicely and apologetically) they were full, so back across the busy road to the pub by which time it was near noon. 

The pub garden was pleasant, but I had had enough of bank holiday traffic and I headed to Amberley Station and Bob agreed to lead back. Bob takes up the story …

Jeff Lander

Long ride to Amberley, episode 2.

Jeff had guided us to his choice of lunch destination in The Bridge Inn at Amberley despite being miffed that we became revolting over his planned route over the Khyber, but as a result of taking the quicker road route we were early at 11.30. He thought we might go to the cafe instead, but they were fully booked. He had found out that the garden tables at the Bridge were not bookable, but first-come-first-served. Well we were certainly first come, and the very friendly staff let us sit at a table and took our order, even though they couldn’t serve us till 12. At this point Jeff cheerfully announced he wasn’t staying for lunch but catching the 11.59. We pointed out that he could catch the 12.59, and that we were noted in the county as being Jolly Nice People, but despite agreeing with this he was adamant and scarpered. This placed me in a Conundrum of Principle. I had agreed with Jeff that I would lead the ride back so he could catch the train, but not that I would lead the ride over lunchtime, as I assumed our Official Leader would shoulder that responsibility. So under the terms of my contract I resolutely refused to offer any guidance over lunch, leaving Sam and Paul all at sea, and in consequence they chose silly things like ham and cheese baguettes, whereas I chose the Grown Up option of a prawn baguette and got covered from head to toe in pink sauce. I was satisfied that I had Made My Point, as I pushed a snorkel up through the pink tide to snatch a breath and dug a channel to take the rose coloured condiment down to the river which is now six inches deeper with a suspiciously blushing hue. This didn’t stop our Learned and Philosophical Discourse over lunch: even before Jeff skedaddled we had an argument about being Woke (Paul and I proud, Sam sniping and Jeff being tactful, possibly so he could make his getaway unimpeded), but Paul came up with a joke about knowing a transvestite who had a Wigan address (wig-and-a-dress; yes it was just as bad live), and we concluded our deliberations by discussing the route back. We had thought of returning along the bottom of the Downs past Bignor and going up Duncton, but this was revised to going further west to return up Cocking, which gave us a longer ride and a choice of tea stops; Graffham or the Post Office at Cocking, or even possibly Bignor where they do very nice ice cream.

Setting off back up to Houghton we were passed by Chris going the other way so he turned round to join us, just in time to hear a not very interesting tale about Galsworthy’s house at Bury (apparently built by the family of my work colleague, after someone burnt down the thatched cottage that had previously stood there by throwing a fag out of an upstairs window. Ooops.) Passing Bignor Villa the gates were still firmly shut, so we clearly weren’t going to be offered any Roman ice cream. Chris was only intending to ride with us a short way before turning back to go home, and he in fact left us at Sutton before we went down the steep hill as he sensibly thought climbing back up would be a Bad Plan, but it was nice to see him briefly.

We meanwhile continued to Barlavington, where we noted heavy looking rainclouds in the offing. We turned right at the hill, went down to the turning towards Seaford College, and started to get wet. We waited under a tree at the college for a bit,

but it seemed to be getting worse, and fairly tipped down as we tried for Graffham. We chose to stop there as at least they do have the covered veranda, and partook of tea and coffee with temperatures having plunged to 4 degrees, Paul in his shorts shivering like a …. thing that shivers. We contented ourselves with the thought that however bad the conditions, we were better off than Geraint Thomas after his crash in the Tour de Provence. But we viewed the obvious torrential rain over both Duncton and Cocking with a mixture of trepidation and heroic determination, steeling ourselves for the ordeal ahead, grimly resolved to face the onslaught with true British Grit.

“We’re going outside and we may be some time” we said to a lady drinking her tea.

“Pardon dear?”

But on we went, and I took us down the road directly opposite the shop as I wanted to see the VR postbox again. I’ve mentioned before that I have a postcard sent to my great aunt in 1912 that was probably posted there, but it really is a most interesting box. It was made by Smith and Hawkes of Birmingham, which dates it to before 1881, but the firm introduced a Number 2 (small) Improved design in 1861, with a door pull and the crown and cipher at the top. This box has no door pull, and the crown and cipher lower down than usual, leaving me to wonder whether it is one of the earliest rural wall boxes, thus possibly dated between 1858 and 1861.

Due to the weather Sam wanted to avoid the cart track that laughably gets called a road between Heyshott and Cocking, so we joined the Midhurst road further up and toiled up Cocking Hill. We were actually very lucky, it had more or less stopped raining, but they must have had a terrific downpour just before we arrived; Cocking hill was a river, and loads of debris had been washed part way down. At the top the fields surrounding were covered in what Sam called snow, but I think was hailstones that were thick enough to turn the land pretty white.

So the Heroic Trio, having battled freezing temperatures, monsoon like rain and Arctic snow/hail sped down the hill and split up at Lavant. 47 miles.


Sunday 2 May Half Day Short Ride to Edgcumbes

Today there were 4 people out on the long Ride and 6 on the short Ride. Harvey was the leader of the short ride and he was joined at the start at Chichester Cross by Maureen, Jean, Richard Smith a newcomer, myself (Edwin) and Alan.

It was decided at the start to make it a half day ride as the destination was quite close. Despite threats of showers in the forecast and threatening clouds nearby from time to time we steered clear of the rain save for a few spots.

Harvey led us via Westhampnett and the cyclepath cutting across to Tangmere. Then the path across the airfield and backroads to the Oving Straight. Then a minor road  across to Woodgate and after a sort stretch on the A29 we took a path cutting across to the Wilkes Head , Eastergate and Church Lane round to pick up the Barnham Road.

We soon left this rather busy road to turn off onto a private estate to bypass Barnham. We then picked up Lake Lane to Yapton before taking Ford Lane to Edgcumbes Café which is not far from Ford. I got in first and as a crowd moved in I had to wait a while for everyone to join me round the back where it was initially fairly quiet.

We headed back via Yapton towards Middleton where various people peeled off en route. Mileages will have varied a lot but mine was 24 for the day.


Sunday 25th April: Unofficial Ride (Not To West Meon As It Turned Out)

There being more than 6 on the long ride on Sunday we effectively split into two groups, and four of us (Bob, Sam, Paul and Russell) met at The Cross at 8 for an Unofficial Long Ride ride to West Meon, where we might meet the Proper Long Ride.

So we started off with a glorious ride along the A259, pretty empty at 8.00 o a Sunday and the wind completely with us for pretty much the last time that day. We had the vague idea that we would stop briefly for victuals at Rowlands before going on to Petersfield, thence to Steep and down to the Meons from there. We actually didn’t do any of those things except Rowlands, where we stopped for far longer than we intended as the cafe was open (even though we got there before 9), and things like sausage baps avec fried egg were very tempting. Everywhere has got very organised about contact details so once we’d prised Sam’s name, rank and number out of him the service went smoothly. Unlike my back wheel when we went to go as it had sprung out of alignment , but fiddling about with spanners etc sorted it after a while.

And then we sped off to Finchdean, eager to see the VR postbox there, which I had found was made by Smith and Hawkes of Birmingham, who were the earliest manufacturers of wall boxes, making them between 1858 and 1881, so that the box is earlier than the VR box round the corner at Dean Lane End, which was made by W.T.Allen of London, who had the contract from 1881. Once this excitement had passed we continued up to Ditcham. We saw what looked like a buzzard briefly but I mostly missed it due to a combination of being in the middle of a widdle, followed by a rush to dig my binoculars out of my saddle bag, by which time it had vanished, leaving unresolved the question of whether it was a VR buzzard or a more recent model. The discomfort inherent in such a messily suspended intellectual adventure was dissipated only by wooshing down the zig zag road and into the Geographical Anomaly represented by Goose Green and Quebec occurring half a mile from each other. This, of course, created a Space-Time Dislocation resulting in a hitherto unknown coffee stop suddenly materialising in Nyewood. That posed quite a Conundrum for me as I was still full of a sausage and egg bap from Rowlands Castle, but they were offering a Venison Bap, of which I felt obliged to partake as they were clearly only a manifestation of unstable quantum electrical fields, and I might never have the chance of sampling it again. But those unstable quantum fields definitely came up trumps as it was smashing, even on top of aforementioned Beehive Bap, so we can only hope that the multidimensional transience rampant in the Nyewood Area results in a similar abnormality being Beamed Down in the future.

There was discussion over coffee of Next Steps, which I couldn’t quite hear so did the usual deaf thing of nodding along, but I did hear mention of Liss, which made sense as we were on the way to Liss. So we went on through Rogate, but by the time I had struggled up the hill past Roget Common the others were waiting at the turning which is Not To Liss, which confused me. Apparently we were now going to Milland, but close as we were to the recent Space Time Dislocation I thought it could have been much worse. So we whizzed down through Borden and up to Milland with a brief stop at the Community Cafe which allowed time for Russell to reassure us that even with the vaccine we are all doomed anyway due to India. Cheered by this thought we went south down the Roman Road, waved to the Romans waiting at the Roman Station, and somehow (I’m a little bit vague about precisely how this happened) ended up at Cocking.

And thence back to Chi. Nearly 50 miles on my clock, and a lovely ride, even though we went Completely Awry.