Thursday, June 14, 2007

God Save the Queen

As a child I always used to feel frustrated when the producers of Scooby Doo tried to save some money by cobbling together a tenuous story-line to accompany a montage of clips from previous episodes. I feel similarly cheated now when they re-hash material from The Simpsons in the same fashion. However, I feel that this evening’s nostalgic ride might offer a similar opportunity, particularly since I again neglected to pack the camera.

With Jon away on his annual trip to
24 Heures du Mans John and I met up at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a change: There are a couple of designated mountain biking routes around the park itself but John proposed a circular route taking in part of the park routes and the South Downs way towards Harting. The route included a beer stop in Buriton which, with it’s several decent watering holes, was enough incentive for me to second the proposal.

Having followed John out of the visitor’s centre car park to the south and picking up a trail which skirted the park I soon realised we were on Chalton Lane, which I’d only previously cycled on the tandem (below). We passed tantalizingly close to the pub at Chalton as we tackled the short sharp ascent through the village. It had been raining all day and, although the evening had cleared nicely, it was warm and muggy. John had reverted to long trousers and a waterproof top but I felt I had made the right choice with shorts and t-shirt as we caught our breath at the top, sweating profusely.

On the way to the West Dean Chilli Festival

There followed a fast descent which crossed over the railway line and then picked up Huckswood Lane, a track which was familiar from the Chichester Challenge. Passing through Barnett Copse the track then turns into Cowdown Lane and then joins another familiar-looking road: We had entered 'Matthews territory' – picking up part of our regular Nyewood-West Marden route around West Harting Down, albeit in reverse, as we joined the bridle path at Huckshot farm.

Jon and Scott on West Harting Down

At forty acre lane we rode a section of the South Downs way which has already been very well-ridden (and trodden) by the TCA in various guises (below). For instance, I remembered walking this part of the route loaded down with an unfeasible amount of equipment for a one-night hike to Heyshot with Billy-Bob in the pre-blog days.

Al & Tee on their South Downs Walk

Al & Jon take a break in the same place
on the Chichester Challenge

Having arrived at the road between Sunwood Farm and North Lodge John introduced me to the Milky Way, a track I was unfamiliar with which leads steeply down to Buriton from the South Downs Way. We stopped at the Five Bells, one of my personal favourites, for a pint reminiscent of the time Jon and I waited for Sloppy Porridge Maker a few weeks ago (below).

I tried a pint of River Cottage Stinger, a seasonal (nettle-based!) beer brewed by Hall & Woodhouse (Badger). John opted for the more ‘common & garden’ Badger Best. The blurb read “a grassy herbal aroma with subtle gooseberry and lemon citrus notes that build up towards the end of the glass. It is finished with a slightly spicy after taste that lingers beautifully” I would simply say that the Stinger was the best beer I have sampled in a good long while. We toasted absent friends, many of whom I know would have relished a Stinger themselves.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage says,
"I'll stick to cooking, the TCA's too tough for me"

It might have been my imagination but I’m sure we took a little longer to drink our beers than usual; we both knew that we had the infamous climb back up to the QE park ahead of us (these climbs are always worse straight after a beer when it feels as if you’re only firing on three cylinders)!

Eventually arriving at the top end of the Country Park we picked up the ‘purple’ (novice) route which wended it’s way gently through the trees and eventually back to the car park where we began. One more step towards full TCA membership for John as he had successfully passed the test to devise a suitable new route for the ride. We returned to Hambledon for a celebratory curry as we watched ‘Britain’s got Talent’ - can reality TV descend any lower, we asked?

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile:

Speed Profile:

(Posted by: Al)

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At 12:19 pm, June 16, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

Nice ride. I must get down to sample some of the Stinger sometime.

At 6:50 am, June 18, 2007, Blogger simon said...

very cool tandem indeed.. looks a little like Maalies!

At 4:36 pm, June 18, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

I haven't got a tandem! No sheila to share it with!

At 10:37 pm, June 19, 2007, Blogger simon said...

no i did not mean YOU had a tandem! I mean it looks the same brand, with the same mudguards and gears n your Giant!

At 9:18 am, June 20, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Britains Got Talent?! - looks truly awful! sadly only a matter of time until the format gets rejigged and shown in NZ !

Stinger! now that would be a welcome import.


At 10:19 am, June 20, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

They have brought in "Deal or no deal" here in NZ. :-(

I like the montage TCA. It's a little different and like a walk through the history books. It's a great rsourceful save considering the lack of a camera.

Re: the reality TV - as long as you keep watching it, they'll keep doing it ;-)


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