Wednesday, November 29, 2006

South Chichester Exploration

If the truth be told Jon and Al weren't really 'up for it' tonight. With so much rain in recent days the thought of slogging up the Trundle and getting our freshly cleaned bike all s**t-up (as they say in Leicester) was too much. It had been a long week. The route was well worn. The pubs were getting pretty predictable - the lights didn't have the range in the winter to make the Royal Oak. Perhaps there were more rewarding routes elsewhere... There was no excuse. But in the old days it wasn't like this. It wasn't shameful to take a week 'off'. And so it was decreed that tonight would be a Poof's Ride. Once the words were uttered, in some sort of mutual, disgraceful pact, Jon and Al visibly appeared to relax.

In days of old (when Billy-Bob had a casting vote), a 'Poof's Ride' often meant a night on the couch in front of the TV with a curry; With 'General Ade' barking the orders the TCA regime seems to have got a lot more harsh. We decided that there was no need for too much guilt tonight; we were at least kitting up and getting on our bikes! Our plan was to check out the barren, flat, bridlepathless area to the south of Chichester as opposed to heading north onto the downs. Jon knew the pubs were there, it was just a matter of finding a reasonable route.

The first section of the ride had a surreal quality to it as we hammered down the pedestrianised centre of Chichester in search of a cashpoint. Cash in hand we then picked up the old towpath out of town towards Sidlesham where Jon explained there was a 'cracking boozer'.

[There's no point embellishing the route, it was dull. Mainly road-based, look at the maps, there's no need to bore you with the details, Ed.]

The Crab & Lobster, Sidlesham: "the 300 year old Crab & Lobster is in a superb location on the banks of Pagham harbour close to the nature reserve". Sounds nice, eh? Often we have joked "...closed for refurbishment" as we have neared a pub after a long slog, desperate for a pint. But this time all our nightmares came true. Of course Jon took the stick, this was on his watch after all! Dead as a Dodo.

Crab & Lobster, Sidlesham - what it could have looked like

Perhaps we should have flogged up the trundle - at least the pubs to the north are in no need of a refurb? Anyway, pressing on we headed towards Birdham Marina where there was another mug-shaped icon on the O/S map. Checking the map regularly we made it over the bridge and found ourselves cycling between the expensive yachts. The 'pub' was in fact a nasty Butlin's-style bar complex, wholly unsuitable for the TCA... even if it had been open.

Never fear, one last chance for a pint, the Crown' at Dell Quay. Picking our way through the yachts again and picking up the Salterns Way, a rare 'off-road' section of the evening, we headed north.

Crown & Anchor, Dell Quay - salvation!

Joseph, Mary and sweet baby Jesus the Crown was open! And they served a cracking pint of Charles Wells Bombardier. The evening was saved, much to Jon's relief.

Suitably refreshed we picked up the Chichester Ship Canal tow path back towards town. The reassuring feel of tyres-on-mud and the sight of shite-on-goggles made the boys at last feel at home on the rough track. We soon had to pick up the tarmac again though until the Southern Leisure Centre where, with lack of beer affecting our navigational skills, we got disorientated in a caravan park.

On the whole an unsatisfactory evening, despite a nice beer, and with 20.4 miles on the clock this was hardly a Poof's Ride! As suspected the area south of Chichester holds little for the intrepid off-road biker. We have learnt our lesson - the trundle it is next time.. or a night on the couch with a curry; there's no shame in being a willy-woofter once-in-a-while!

Route Maps:

(Posted by: Al)

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Revenge of the Railway Embankment

With Ade and Julie sitting out their November 1-match ban for failing to write up blogs in October, and everyone else rendered lightless or mud-shy the Old Guard set off on the route now known to all as Hambledon #1. The evening started well since the forecast had consistently predicted stormy weather all week; the afternoon's rain and wind had blown over leaving us a mild, cloudless night.

The relatively short trip over to Soberton was uneventful, despite the conditions being a little sticky due to all the rain over the previous few days, although the first downhill of the route, through Shere Copse, provided Jon with the first opportunity to use his new disc brakes in anger. The Driftway track, usually a hard-packed, level and fast route across the fields to Soberton was perhaps our first indication of what we were in for - it had turned into a sticky, slippery mud bath since we rode it last - we were ready for our pints of Palmers after the slog to the White Lion (below).

A Toast to Absent Members -White Lion, Soberton

It had been weeks since Jon and Al had been on a ride together and there seemed plenty to chat about: birds of Australia, birds of Scotland, disc brakes, cricket (little were we to know...), the paradox that we were the only people in the saloon bar when the 'quiet' bar was packed with revellers, etc. With pints downxed though it was lights on, back on the bikes and off down the disused railway line in good spirits towards Kingsmead. We usually fly down the well-kept railway line, often two abreast having a good chat as we enjoy the easiest part of the route. Tonight it was drudgery - the rain had turned the route to mush, but the overlying leaf-fall made the surface look deceptively even. We arrived at the dreaded railway embankment like two monsters from the black lagoon, worn out from the sludgy slog.

The Railway Embankment Challenge returned to form in these conditions, each of our three mandatory runs ending in failure due in in part to the wet conditions but compounded by leaves on the track, to coin a Railtrack excuse. Heavy hearted we climbed the hill through the Forest of Bere to take our frustration out on the downhill section to the southeast, the real perk of this route. However, even this ended in failure as Jon took a heavy fall on the early section of the descent, which had been carved away by the rain. The whole descent was heavily rutted and had to be treated with a modicum more respect that usual.

After the customary hosing-down of bikes, then fighting our way through the hordes of astonished (on account of our appearance) players in the usual bar, which was hosting a darts evening, we regrouped in the Travellers Rest lounge bar over a pint of Green King's Abbott Ale. However, the continuation of our discussion was rudely curtailed by a lone motorcyclist from the local vintage Norton owners club who had got the wrong night. He seemed insistent on talking at us about all manner of subjects which were of little interest. His Southampton Football Club jacket made matters worse - his inane drivell would have been difficult enough to endure without it coming from a 'Scummer' (the un-affectionate Portsmouth term for supporters of their most deadly rivals).

We headed back to Hambledon by the usual country lanes for home-made lamb curry and apple crumble with custard (thanks Tee!). On reflection we had the distinct feeling that, after several months of gentle rides and leisurely pints, the route had finally had the last laugh; we had earnt our beers tonight.

Hambledon #1 has not been plotted before therefore the appropriate cartography appears below for the first time:

Route maps:

Map 1

Map 2

Map 3

Map 4

Map 5

(Posted by: Al)

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