Saturday, September 01, 2007

Devil's Drop-offs & Directional Disarray

Arriving early Jon enjoyed a customary cuppa at the National Trust Cafe before the others arrived: A few last minute phone calls were all it took to organize a rare weekend outing for him, Charlie, Ade and Julie. The ever popular Hindhead Common and Devil's Punchbowl car park was chocker-block with dog walkers, horse riders, bikers and alike but team TCA eventually found each other among the urban detritus, despite Julie’s inability to tell left from right [although it should be pointed out there is some debate whether Jon's notorious inability to accurately relate instructions was actually at fault, Ed.].

Dodging dog walkers and strollers provided ample entertainment at the start of the ride but the first downhill section was safely negotiated before appearing on the heathland of Hindhead Common. Unfortunately no one scored any points from hits – we wondered if there was anything in the Country Code to prevent one from so doing. We cycled through Highcomb Copse to Ridgeway Farm, tackling a challenging rutted track with drop offs which was narrow and steeply banked on both sides. We had our first stop to look at the map which Jon had brought at the last minute despite assurances from others (Ade) that they knew the way: In typical fashion we realised that we were on a wrong tack and should instead be riding down a rugged bouldered track towards Little Cowdray Farm. This section is a tester of suspension with more seriously tricky downhill drop offs, a test too stern for Julie's aging forks.

Portrait of a Couple in Love, with bikes
(Julie & Adrian)

Having negotiated the descent we chose to cycle through the Ford rather than across the Bridge and started the steep uphill towards the Farm. Ad managed to get to the top without stopping, Charlie nearly, but Jon and Julie crashed unceremoniously into the banks of the track towards the top and pushed the last few meters.

Back on the heath it was thirsty work as we cycled up gritty gravel paths into the sun. Again the realization hit us that we did not know the traditional route devised some years previous and last ridden in April 2006. Using a tried-and-tested TCA emergency procedure however, we agreed to head towards the vehicle noise along the A3 which we knew we had to cross at some stage. The tactic duly worked and we were through onto the other side in no time. It was noted that some riders at this stage appeared to turn for home towards the car park (we had only been riding for a hour and done about 3 miles or so). After a brief talking to, the whole group dropped downhill to the East and into an unknown wooded section. We had one stop to look at the map but gave it up as a bad job - all agreed we did not know where we were - even Charlie’s GPS did not yield any grid references and our concentration was disrupted by some redneck starting up his angle grinder in a shed right next to us [Is that round about way of saying you got lost, again? Ed.].

Ad burns up the trail

Taking the initiative Jon decided to ride where the best looking tracks were in the general direction of the car park. It was evident that some of this was in the Foot and Mouth exclusion zone evident from warning notices and disinfectant maps. Despite protests of "where are you taking us?" and "warn us of what is ahead!", everyone enjoyed some challenging up-and-downs, practicing BMX skills and attempted bunny-hops off the beaten track.

Jon attacks a drop-off

We got back to the car park and had a quick pint at the Devil's Punch Bowl Hotel bar following which Ade and Julie rushed off to do some baby sitting. Charlie and Jon went their separate ways after a while reminiscing about their trip to Afan .

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Altitude Profile:

(Posted by: Jon, Photos & Maps: Charlie)

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At 5:09 pm, September 09, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

A really terrific account which reminds me of the quality of this ride - I fondly remember the Three Horseshoes in Thursley which was our traditional pit-stop. Must tackle the route by night again...

Brilliant action shot of Charlie too - I love the way you've managed to keep the rider in focus while the background is blurred. Really effective technique - best pic that's been posted for ages I reckon.

Thanks for a great read!


At 7:13 pm, September 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What?!!! Me getting confused with left and right Jon I seem to remember you clearly saying 'you'll see my car on the right as you enter the carpark' when in was in fact on the left! I'm getting fed up of being constantly mis-represented in your write ups Jon so its about time for some pay back - wait til my next write up!

Big Sis Ju

As an aside its AD in the action shot and ace photographer Charlie who took it with a specially adjusted shutter speed - good skills Charlie!

At 7:40 pm, September 09, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

ahhh, dam fine effort guys. I agree a top action shot aswell. They need a dedicated mtn bike crossing of the A3 I reckon.

Is that Jon telling porkies again about his directions?


At 11:55 pm, September 09, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Nice work TCA! What a good right up, and some awesome shots too. Jon I must point out at although we might get confused with up and down (we do come from down under after all) our family has never had a problem with left and right. I expect Ju shall have her revenge...

At 7:49 am, September 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Thanks for the rider identification correction - legend has now been amended. Now that I look closer I can clearly see the mighty custom SCOTT with it's awesome forks and powerful discs!

Good effort with the camera Charlie, and a million thanks for the route map and profile too!


At 8:02 am, September 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Ju, There's no need to get too steamed up - anyone who's experienced instructions issued by Jon will completely understand your predicament. You will see that I have now inserted a statement which I trust more accurately reflects the ambiguity of the situation.


At 10:19 am, September 10, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

PS I should also point out that the picture was initially labelled incorrectly after instruction from the author "...picture of Charlie here".

It was not an editorial error.

TCA Editorial Committee


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