Three of us cycled out from Chichester Cross at 9.10am on Bank Holiday Sunday, Sam, Robert and Michael. Paul was cycling from Land’s End to John O’ Groats (good man!!!) and Bob was enjoying the Festival in Edinburgh.
Michael led Sam and Robert along Clay Lane and Watery Lane to Funtington and on to Walderton, past Chris Chattoway’s House, arriving at Compton Village Store and Cafe at 10.20am. We spent a good 30 minutes sitting under the gazebo and discussing Sam’s forthcoming holiday plans cycling from Cork to Castletown and all of the Covid related paperwork he had to complete to travel to the Republic of Ireland; and Robert indulged us in his holiday plans for a trip to the Vendee region in western France, once a Royalist hotbed and famed for its cognac, the sandy beaches of the Ile de Re, and the Huguenots defence of La Rochelle. After morning coffee, we ascended the hill and past Uppark where Lady Emma Hamilton once danced naked on the dining room table; and quickly descended into the village of South Harting and past the White Hart Inn and then we followed the lower road through Didling and onto Bepton. We cycled past Bepton Church, with its Black Death plague pit and the grave of the former German PoW.
Sam pointed out the route of the Roman road from Chichester to Cirencester which snakes its way over the Downs, and the ‘haunted’ cottage by the side of the road. We arrived at the Blue Bell Inn in Cocking at 11.50am and we were joined by Jeff who had cycled up from Chichester to join us for lunch.
Over the course of the morning, Sam kept us highly entertained with his stories and anecdotes about meeting the Duke of Edinburgh at a polo match at Cowdray Park; Edward James’s twilight swims in his private pool at West Dean; helping a certain toff from Stansted House whose car had broken down at the foot of Cocking Hill; and how the Canadian Army billeted at Locksash prior to D Day had virtually trashed the manor house – burning door frames to keep warm. Following lunch, Jeff led us to the Cocking’s History Column which lists local historical events from the Bronze Age to the present day.
Then we cycled up and over Cocking Hill and descended to Singleton. Ploughman’s lunches and cream teas are served at Singleton Village Hall throughout August; and Jeff and Sam were tempted to stay on, leaving Michael and Robert to cycle up Knight’s Hill (Charlton Hill) and down into East Lavant and onto Bersted via Tangmere Airfield. The total distance from Chichester Cross was 36 miles.