Thursday, July 05, 2007

Restaurant with Rooms?! The Selsey Lobster Disappoints (Again)

With John (with an 'h') enjoying a cosy night with the missus in their new camper van at the forest of Dean, it was left to the old guard to keep the dream alive: Arriving early at Jon (without a 'h')'s for customary 'cuppas' and chocolate shortcake [Jon has recently been in the habit of buying a pack of three cakes from Sainsbury's to provide essential pre-ride carbohydrate; I'm sure 'John's slice', shared equally between the pair, tasted best on this occasion, Ed.] it was with a sense of shame that Jon and Al realised that it had been over a year since The Association last tackled the 'Long Chichester Route'. This is one of our classic rides, responsible for numerous TCA epic adventures and mishaps, for a lengthy period the mainstay of our pre-blog activities.

For the record the route can be categorised in several distinct phases:
  1. The Approach to East Lavant - by road and Goodwood perimeter track
  2. East Lavant to West Dean - up and over the trundle on solid rocky terrain
  3. West Dean to West Dean Woods - gentle ascent followed by sharp descent on road
  4. The climb to the South Downs Way - wooded section on often boggy bridle paths
  5. Along the South Downs Way - exposed ridge-ride followed by break-neck descent on well worn track
  6. Hooksway to Chilgrove - often very boggy badly rutted bridal path
  7. Chilgrove to Kingley Vale - endless ascent on woodland track and bridle path
  8. Kingley Vale to West Stoke - Fast long and windy descent on smooth track
  9. The long slog home by road
It was with a sense of foreboding that we fettled our machines in the murk; miserable weather was probably to be expected, it was the second week of Wimbledon after all. It had been raining solidly since about 16:00 but had eased off to leave low cloud and drizzle coupled with a stiff breeze from the south west: Perfect weather to test out TCA bikes, equipment and of course our unquestionable abilities ahead of the following week's marathon Chichester Challenge. At the back of our minds however, we also knew that warm, welcoming refreshment stops at established local hostelries were on the route so it wasn't all that bad. We made an unusually early start at around 18:15 and soon encountered the sodden and rutted Stocks Lane that skirts around Goodwood motor circuit (phase 1). It became obvious this was going to be a wet ride as it was impossible to avoid riding through some of the deep puddles along the track; we wondered momentarily whether a cosy night of sudoku (or whatever one does of an evening) in a camper van might have been the wise choice.

Jon bulleted up the Chalk Pit Lane to the base of the Trundle (phase 2) again putting allegations of drug taking at the top of the agenda. The view from the unusually deserted car park was of mist; the weather reminiscent of autumn rather than the first week of July. Dogging weather it was not Jon assured Al. We both hypothesised that we must be getting weather normally bound for Shetland and the Artic as the jet stream had either stopped, slowed down or changed course. Our way down a muddy, skiddy downhill through Calhourns Plantation and towards West Dean was tougher than usual, maximum concentration required to ensure the front wheel was in a straight line as it skidded randomly on the slick surface.

Guerrillas in the Mist

Crossing the A286 at West dean (phase 3), we picked up a minor road that gradually meandered up towards Colworth Down. It is deceptively steep towards the end before a good straight downhill. Al made up for lagging behind Jon on the ascent by screaming past him as we made our way back down towards West Dean Woods.

The track through Colworth Down (phase 4) is flinty to start with and normally has a great view across the rolling Sussex Countryside. It's also good for sightings of Turtle Dove and Warblers, but not today. The track entered Westdean Woods proper and we went past the familiar charcoal burning stoves and then up to Venus Wood on a steep ascent. We briefly stopped at the top, both well on the way to getting absolutely soaked. However the uninitiated might question our sanity, for umpteenth time in TCA history, we agreed with the old TCA addage that "it was much better then watching Eastenders" (or playing Sudoku in a camper van for that matter). The evocative smell of wet vegetation was powerful [Thanks Tortoiseshell, Ed.]; everything was overgrown, dripping with water and some of the tracks appeared not to have been used for centuries such was the lushness of the undergrowth. No doubt we would have been distracted by all this and got lost had Billy-Bob been in tow we thought. No chance these days though and we enjoyed a great bit of technical riding and “bumping” over fallen trunks of trees. It was around this point that Al even complemented Jon on how his technical ability had improved beyond measure since the early days, at which point Jon got too cocky, sprawling in a heap of bike and legs at the next obstacle.

The highest point of this ride is the South Downs Way proper (phase 5) which we found was more challenging than usual with a vicious, buffeting cross-wind and heavy rain; the exposed sections comprised ruts interspersed by high tufts of overgrown grass so that cycling in a straight line was difficult. We battled across Cocking Down, following it until we got to Phillis Wood where we leave the long-distance path for the descent to the Royal Oak at Hooksway, where the wooded section of the route provide welcome respite. Even the normally noisy guinea fowl were quiet in this inclement weather. We finally entered 'Bone-Shaker Alley'and reached the bottom of the descent looking for the welcoming lights of The Royal Oak. Of course there were none since the Free House was all closed up as usual; this is an excellent watering hole but the opening hours are somewhat erratic.

However, we knew that we could go to the alternative White Horse (or Selsey Lobster, as it is known in TCA circles) at Chilgrove instead after cycling down Philliswood Lane (phase 6). This lane is muddy with deep watery ruts at the best of times, but normally passable nevertheless by riding along the edge next to the higher hedgerowed bank at a steady speed. One can thus generally avoid slipping down into the abyss of deep mud and water. Jon however soon found a moment's hesitation is fatal, leading to a calamitous slide into mud, sludge and water up to his knees (compounding the damage by falling backwards off his bike). This was worse than Glastonbury and very ungainly for such a lanky rider (below). Still there was a pint waiting at the 'Lobster, eh?

We raced at top speed into the car park at the White Horse where we were met by a toffee-nosed snob of a landlord who, after asking what we were after, proudly announced the pub was no more: “We are a restaurant with rooms". After no hesitation at all we got back in the saddle and went straight up the track towards Kingly Vale (phase 7). A ride without pubs seemed a distinct possibility but our falling spirits were soon revived by some Tunnocks Caramel bars produced from Jon's back pack at the pinnacle of the energy-sapping climb. One could say that the ascent along the grassy track was a bit easier than it had been in the depths of winter, but the downhill section through the saddle between the two highest point of this section was treacherous: The rain had changed the clay into thick sludge, caking up tyres which meant we were sliding all over the place; both riders took heavy falls into the hedgerow undergrowth before curbing their speed.

Official Sports Snack of the TCA

Eventually we reached the peak which usually offers excellent views of Chichester and back along the spent route behind us. Although the rain was easing there were no such views today. At least we could enjoy the rapid descent back to the road (phase 8) where we paused for thought to consider where to have our customary, and this evening certainly well-deserved, refreshment. We rode on towards East Lavant and a pint at an old stalwart of previous rides, the Royal Oak. This time there was no 4WD to crash into Jon at the roundabout at the main road, as happened about a month ago on a training ride. We thought the first pints were a little flat and this evening only the best was going to suffice - we rejected pints of River Cottage Stinger that Al was so keen to see for the second time this 'summer' - opting for our more traditional, and the more local, Ballards Best.

With lights blazing for the first time in a good while we hit the road again for home (phase 9). The pair were back at house for about 22:00 and soon tucking into a spaghetti bolognese while watching top-quality TV, “My Big Breasts and I”, part of a 'medical' series on the BBC. With some relief (as it was never very good anyway) The White Horse is henceforth struck from the TCA list of recommended pubs.

Route Map (click to enlarge):
Elevation Profile:
Speed Profile:

(Posted by: Jon)

Labels: , , , ,


At 11:57 am, July 09, 2007, Blogger Ad said...


You guys are my hearoes, I wish I was there - Gutted I not around to partake in landlord scoffing!

Didn't Al want to rip said 'Toff Landlords' head off - I reckon the best course of action was taken, i.e. turn ones back and walk!

Graet effort though guys, roll on the 'Chichester Challenge'... see you then!


At 11:58 am, July 09, 2007, Blogger Ad said...

Sorry about poor spelling - I know how much it'll annoy you Al!
I must try harder!

At 5:18 pm, July 09, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

Wow, you seem to get through a lot of caramel bars! I should get you a couple of gross from my cash'n'carry!
Shame about the mist though.

At 11:41 pm, July 09, 2007, Blogger simon said...

what do you guys use to lubricate your chains? oil or wax? how often to you clean the running gear and with what?

At 8:52 am, July 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Simon, The TCA use FINISH LINE 'Cross Country' synthetic bicycle lubricant "for extreme weather and long distance riding" on chains. We typically use a synthetic PTFE spray lubricant such as GT-85 on everything else. However, riding in clay and mud strips the lubricant off by the end of the ride so frequent application is the key. If weather isn't quite so extreme we will typically de-grease our chains with HALFORDS citrus degreaser. Other products that have been tried and approved and endorsed are 'MUC OFF', an alkaline based, solvent free detergent spray followed by MUC OFF 'Bike Spray', which coats the bike (frame an' all) in a hydrophobic layer which helps repel water and dirt.

we have also found that Aussie beer is good for cleaning bikes and removing oil, we can't think of anything else it's good for...



At 9:45 am, July 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

A superb TCA long distance ride! I was visualizing the whole circuit and I am sure Ad recalls that track! That Hooks Way boozer is always closed! and as for the shameful Selsey Lobster - I fully endorse the decision to strike them off the list, they are a disgrace to all public houses and I bet it is like eating in a River Island outlet..go to Elstead for food far better.

Ad- Good to see you on, TCA NZ branch is returning for a visit at end of August, we should all meet up for a ride.

God Speed TCA for the Chichester Challange, may you stay lubricated for the entire race and may the WI angels be on hand with high carb delicacies after.


At 9:52 am, July 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

P.S. My Big Breasts and I ?? is that coming to NZ too along with Ultimate Force and Hotel Babylon?......can't wait.

Finish Line cross country - can't beat that stuff, quality product, if you mix it with Ausie beer it lasts longer.


At 1:30 am, July 12, 2007, Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

"The distinct and evocative smell of the wet vegetation was powerful..."

Nice writing but take care not to pile on the adverbs and adjectives.

How about....

"The evocative smell of wet vegetation"?

At 3:51 am, July 16, 2007, Blogger simon said...

Thanks TCA!


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