Six of us turned out for the Appetite Improvement Ride before Christmas dinner at the Walnut Tree today. At the Cross at 8.45 were myself leading, Sam, Rosemary, Jason, Michael and Recently Published Author (of a letter in this month’s Cycle magazine) Maureen. Weather was pretty cold, but clear, dry and sunny.
So off we went down West Street, Compton bound. I had thought it would be nice to change from the usual route down Centurion Way and through West Stoke, and I’ve developed an aversion to Centurion Way until the leaves have all decomposed. Instead I was determined to Seek Out New Roads and Boldly Go Where No CTC Ride has Gone Before. But actually there aren’t any new roads so I just went a slightly different way, down Clay Lane to turn right at Southbrook Road and up to West Ashling, then Watery Lane to Funtingdon, where we couldn’t help but notice a suspicious lack of any alien life at all. After that we were back on the usual route anyway, my adventurous spirit exhausted, so we continued through West Marden etc to Compton.
The weather was so sunny by this time that we comfortably sat outside. Well, reasonably comfortably, the lady gave us some blankets to hold off the worst of the ice and snow, and I don’t think anyone lost more than a few fingers to frostbite. Over coffee I was pleased to excite the company with news of my Amazing New Hearing Aids and demonstrated their superbness by being able to hear Sam taking the piss. Mostly.
After coffee, my Spirit of Adventure rekindled, we reboarded the Enterprise and shot off to Little Green, and thence up and down hills towards Idsworth. Up to there an unwary observer may have been lulled into thinking we were taking the same boring route as usual to Rowlands Castle, but I had another trick up my sleeve. In a swashbuckling act of audacity I turned left instead of right after Finchdean, and we climbed up the long hill to Forestside, where Maureen and Rosemary spotted a pair of Red Kites apparently attacking another, smaller, bird of prey. The brains of the men in the party hadn’t been active enough to do more than watch Sam having a fag, but after the women pointed the birds out we were able to see them wheeling round each other, though they had stopped fighting by then, presumably miffed that we hadn’t been taking any notice. Don’t blame them.
So we turned right and had the Reward of All Our Efforts after hill climbing whizzing down the long straight hill past Stansted, then up again and down Monks Hill to Westbourne, and back through Woodmancote. The party began to fragment going into Chichester; we turned off at St. Bartholomew’s to go through the college, but Rosemary and Jason went back into Chichester for their cars to drive to the Walnut Tree. The rest of us went down Kingsham and Quarry Lane to go over the bridge. As we were in good time I thought we would go the longer route down the cycle path along the Bognor Road to Marsh Lane to avoid the traffic on Vinnetrow Road, and despite Sam’s exasperated cries of “THE PUB’S ABOUT 2 MILES THAT WAY” we did that, Maureen leaving us as she didn’t want any dinner.
And dinner was jolly good, at least mine was. Seemed to be lots of us, not sure how many exactly. (Edwin reports 21) Highlights for me, apart from the good conversation and company, were: my sea bass, perfectly cooked; the successful summoning of the United Nations as a mediator when I realised my name wasn’t on the Pudding List, but Dave obviously dealt with this by telepathy because I grabbed one anyway and then there was still one to spare, which we scoffed between us; me putting Sam right about his Mistaken Political Opinions (though apparently his granddaughter agrees with me so I must congratulate Sam on his grandparenting skills), and Michael shouting from the other end of the table to Sam about next week’s ride, which Sam couldn’t hear but I COULD due to my Amazing New Hearing Aids, so I was able to patronise someone else about their hearing, which was even more delicious than the pudding.
In fact I think it was after 3 we left, so the dinner was well over 2 1/2 hours. The three of us who had eventually arrived together (me, Michael and Sam) left together, going at first down to Marsh Lane again which Sam was now reconciled to, and then he wanted to go on a detour, so in further Spirit of Discovery we turned right instead of left on the Bognor Road. Michael left us to continue back to Bognor, and Sam and I went down Colworth Lane and Woodhorn Lane. The light in the now setting sun was just beautiful, a thrilling golden lambency, making a rural peacefulness luminous and joyful.
Sam pointed out various parts of the old Tangmere Airfield in the arable fields; a place where engines were tested, and where boundaries and old roads had changed. We crossed to go behind Oving and giggling, sneaked up on the Gribble from behind to shake it up a bit, scurrying away before we were caught.
And from there back. My computer seemed to have gone wrong, I think I must have reset it by accident half way through, but Sam reckoned we had done 33 miles up to the Walnut Tree, so I think about 40 in total, not bad for a half day ride and with a jolly good lunch and jolly good company in the middle.
Pictures in order from Michael, Edwin and Bob