Saturday, April 22, 2006

3. TCA away-day: The Downs Link

Ride: April 22nd 2006, Downs Link
Present: Al; John

We met up on the 10:48 train from Petersfield to Guildford to undertake the 36-mile Downs Link, which connects the North Downs way at St. Martha's Hill to the South Downs way north of Shoreham-on-Sea. Fortunately we had choosen what would be the hottest day of the year so far for the ride and, with spring finally upon us, the passing scenary really made the rather tame ride along disused railway lines well worthwhile.

Leaving Guildford railway station the first few miles were a pleasant bimble out of town along the canal before picking up the North Downs Way east and up St. Martha's hill. The climb was just about worth it for the hectic descent into Chilworth before picking up the disused railway line at the old railway station. We stopped at 12:00ish for a beer at the Thurlow Arms (Cranleigh) which looked inviting and sounded very promising in the Surrey County Council route guide: "The pub has it's own brewery, 'The Baynard Brew House'... an excellent snack or lunch top". Sadly the guide is at least 7 years out of date (it has been that long since any beer was produced in the brew house!). We had a rather indifferent pint of forgetable beer having braved the three toothless old men and burley landlady. If your idea of an "excellent snack" is a pack of ready salted crisps, fair enough. The TCA expects better - if a pub does not do food at 12:00 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the spring then they are surely missing a trick..?

Thankfully, at around 13:30 we hit the Bax Castle at Two Mile Ash, a 15th Century freehouse which served a range of hand-pulled beer. We can both recommend the ham, egg and chips too. However, (if we were being fussy, as opposed to half starved) the landlord was the grumpiest old codger we have had the misfortune to meet in a long time (and our eggs were a bit runny). We also took a stop for refreshments in Henfield (or 'Chavsville', as we christened it) but we didn't hang around to patronise any of the nasty-looking cafes, rather grab some chocolate bars and high-energy drinks before pushing on as quickly as possible.

The total distance for the day clocked in at 42 miles to Shoreham station. Train back to Jon's for curry and a beer, and early to bed.

[The next morning we cycled back to Havant to pick up Jon's car, Al carrying on home to Hambledon and a grand total of 65 miles for the weekend].

(Posted by :Al)

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

2. What no crisps?! The Selsey Lobser disappoints

Ride: April 12th 2006, Chichester.
Present: Adrian; Al; Jon.

The evenings had drawn out sufficiently to attempt an early start on the 'long' Chichester route from central Chichester.

The standard 'Chichester Long Route' is as follows: Out of Chichester to the North following Chalkpit Lane to the trig point on The Trundle. We then leave St Roche's Hill to the north west , descending into West Dean amd cross the main A286. Following the minor road through Whitedown Plantation we turn off the road to the right following a bridle path through Colworth Down and Westdean Woods, bearing left through Venus Wood. We join the South Downs Way near the tumulus at Cocking Down and head west. Rather than peeling right to follow the South Downs Way at Philiswood Down we follow the bridle path south west to the Royal Oak at Hooksway (which seems to have a temperamental landlord who opens and closes on a whim). Suffice it to say on this occasion the Royal Oak was closed as usual and we continued down Philiswood Lane (track) to the "Selsey Lobster", which had no hand-pulled beer (!) and no crisps (!). We then cross the B2141 climbing through The Plantation and Blackbush Copse to Blackbush House, and finally reaching the summit at Bow Hill, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding area: Chichester, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight can all be seen on a clear day/night. We descent, initially to the south West over the Devil's Humps before turning south east across Stoke Down and Stoke Clump to join the minor road linking Funtington and Mid Lavant. However, rather than joining the A 286 at Mid Lavant, we generally turn South and follow a more tortuous route of country lanes which leads us to the Summersdale area of Chichester, then hacking across town back to John's. This is about 21 miles and can only really be accomplished comfortably when we leave Chichester with at least a couple of hours daylight before switching to lights.

Al showed very sluggish form on this occasion, bringing up the rear for most of the ride, and suffered a puncture towards the end of the ride. Adrian showed excellent form on his sheila's bike again demonstrating that there's is no need for the latest gear! The going was reasonably heavy despite a sustained period of dry weather, the steady climb from Blachbush House to Bow Hill was particularly energy sapping!

Jon's famous slow-cooked chilli was the perfect tonic, and with a re-run of Emmanuel on the telly who could want for more?

(Posted by: Al)

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

1. Adrian deals with the Devil

A poignant ride this, being the first after the loss of one of our founder members, Paul to pastures new (Hamilton, New Zealand). Determined not to let the TCA die we resolved to make a special effort to keep the faith, and commit our pursuits to a blog.

Al, Jon and 'new boy' Adrian parked up in the pub across the way from the National Trust car park (for fear of getting locked in, not saving the £1 donation to the NT I hasten to add!). Adrian turned up for his first ride with the TCA on his sheila's bike, having extended the seat post to accommodate a more gangly stature (Paul's SCOTT ruled out due to the lack of SPD shoes and my inability to change the pedals - they seem fused due to neglect by the previous owner!). Lights were fitted, although it was light when we left and we descended into the abyss on the Southern side of the 'bowl at 6.30ish... Weather was very fine, milder than previous weeks, although colder than average for the time of year, Adrian the first to brave shorts in 2006!

We knew we were missing someone as we weren't bored to tears by commentary when we reached the old house on the western edge of the 'bowl with the bits of flint in the mortar... Down the kick-start-esque drop to the river. I seem to have invented an equivalent of the 'railway embankment challenge' by getting the the top of the climb from the river without getting off the bike, Adrian at least has this to learn!

Paul will be pleased to hear that all the bar maids have been replaced by sweaty, bearded men in the Three Horseshoes, Thursley (SU902397) but the pint of 'fff' went down very well, pausing of course to toast absent members! Still light we took off back up the east side of the punch bowl (clockwise route), but found a right turn to descend into the centre of the bowl, past the YHA and up to find the trig point with fine views north over guildford, the capital obscured by the evening fog.

We were all rather frustrated that it stayed light for so long we still had no need for lights as we pulled back into the car park at 8pm.. . a few portions of spicy/cheesy chips) and a portion of cheesy garlic bread delivered to our table in error (Billy-Bob eat your heart out!) and a pint of 6X later and we decided to do the initial decent with lights to show our new recruit what it's all REALLY about... I think we have a convert!

Back in the cars at 9.30ish.
(Posted by: Al)

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