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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At 9:50 am, November 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm suprised they didn't sling you out of the pub in that state!

At 10:12 am, November 25, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...

The pubs that hint that we are unwelcome are black listed by teh TCA. A good example of this is the Roe Buck which is virtually next to exit from the Railway Embankment: Billy-Bob and I were asked to take our pints outside rather than drip on the carpet. Noone from the TCA has since been back. The White Lion and the Travellers' boht have flag stone floors and encourage patronisation by walkers, cyclists, horse-riders etc. Our pubs are not chosen at random but are carefully selected after the appropriate review and moderation.

At 8:17 am, November 26, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...

ahh..the good olde TCA route #1, perusing the O.S route was like sniffing a favourite jumper. Yes indeed, the TCA pub is only given a star of approval and route placement after many a stern all weather visit (not found in your common garden pub guide).

Does John have disc breaks at last?? blimey his local shop must have run out of break blocks finally.

Good to see the old guard out in November!


At 3:14 am, November 27, 2006, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

I would imagine after a slog like that you boys earned more than beers! To thee I doff my cap. Well I would if I were wearing one!

I am impressed there are pubs in the world who realise that the workers, walkers and riders are the ones who deserve the beer the most and the dirtier you are the more elegible you should be!!!

At 9:41 am, November 28, 2006, Blogger simon said...

I am looking forward to a beer at the Black Dog... hey... if i bring my bike in May.. perhaps we can do a TCA ride???

Gawd!!!! i would do that100%!!!!

At 10:28 am, November 30, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...


Are you coming to the UK in May too, or just doing Spain? I would love to get a ride in with you either way.

Unless you insist on bringing your own bike (how easy is that to do on the plane?) In the UK I'm sure we could sort you out with a loan from the TCA... even if it means commandeering Billy-Bob's bike which Ade is currently loaning.

I'm not sure I will take my bike to Spain (don't fnacy dragging it round in the hire car for 2 weeks) but even if there's the remotest chance of hiring a couple of bikes in the locality we MUST have a go! Will get on the internet and have a look at options.

Either way we WILL get out on a TCA ride when you're in Europe, for sure!



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