Thursday, March 06, 2008

Canal Dreams

Jon was surprised to see John, who had parked up his camper van in the drive, and Al, having readied both his own bike and his spare road bike for Billy-Bob, idling away the time as he pulled into his street at 5.30pm. Impressive stuff - he had expected a late start – Matt’s arrival soon after signaled the time for kettle boiling, tea making, and opening packets of buns. Small talk was made as we waited for Billy-Bob. The final associate bowled in just before 18.00, resplendent in suit and shiny, pointy shoes – standard attire for those on the ‘dark side’ – having recently accepted a position at a private planning consultancy: A far cry from the scruffy days in local government. It was good to see though that his old eating habits had not deserted him as he attempted to scoff the last two remaining buns. No chance! Thanks to a quick intervention from Jon he only managed to snaffle one.

After our last foray south of the A27 around Chichester resulted in a wholly unsatisfactory ride we had vowed never to attempt the same thing again. However, Jon was keen to devise a new route and the flatlands around the marina would provide the easy, sociable ride he was looking for to ease Billy-Bob into the new routine and also tempt Matt out. Buns and tea out of the way the boys set to gearing up, and all-but-one were soon ready. Jon seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time faffing around, apparently getting the meal on, feeding the cats, sorting out lights and the 101 things that seemed critical at the time.

Eventually we set off through the streets of south Chichester aiming to pick up the canal path leading to the marina. Jon led the way as we encountered a dodgy-looking character hanging around under the arches who was clearly not expecting a convoy of TCA riders. The towpath ends abruptly at Hunston where the party turned left along the road following the signposted cycle path. Not absolutely sure we were on the correct bearing rallying cries of "this looks right!" spurred us all on. Alas, having reached a dead end and our local guide Jon having consulted a map, it was concluded that we should have turned a sharp right angle. We turned our bikes round in a frankly embarrassing fashion, with Jon receiving the brunt of the ensuing abuse . He proffered feeble excuses such as “It all looked so different in the daylight when I last did this route”. Eventually, after another couple of about turns, and at one stage only narrowly avoiding going directly back the way we came, Jon found the route.

Burning up the canal towpath

Finally we were speeding along the canal again in the direction of Selsey, eventually entering Chichester Marina. Crossing over the mouth of the marina we picked up a bridleway along Fishbourne Creek. Al whizzed off in the lead while the majority of the group sauntered along at WI pace, catching up with Billy-Bob’s antics over the last couple of weeks. Al (in his capacity as official photographer) took the opportunity to speed ahead and take some action shots. Eventually cries of "get a move on!" were definitely heard from the leading rider whose patience was obviously waning. Picking up Dell Quay Road we turned left towards Dell Quay and arrived at the Crown & Anchor.

Checking out the Marina

John was keen to buy the round but had neglected to bring enough money to cover the order. With Billy-Bob skint, and Matt and Al reluctant to break into high denomination notes to settle the few pence outstanding, he scrounged some money off Jon (thus breaking an unwritten TCA rule by allowing the host to pay for beer) to settle the tab. Jon wondered, as he studies the map yet again, whether this was the moral bankruptcy of the dark side rearing it’s ugly head... However, the matter was soon forgotten as we duly drank our pints of Charles Wells Bombadier (Jon/John), Young’s Special (Al/Billy-Bob) and, without any sense of shame, pissy lager (Matt). Billy-Bob remarked that we seemed to be going to posher pubs these days... Jon wondered if our prodigal rider just had better glasses these days.

Toast to Absent Friends The Hope & Anchor
(Left to Right: Al, Billy-Bob; John, Matt, Jon)

The next stage of the plan was to get up to Fishbourne avoiding the A27. Unfortunately Jon was bamboozled for a second time that evening by an underpass which he claimed was not shown on the map. Changing the route plan on the fly he missed the turning onto Centurion Way (a cycle path leading up to East Lavant) on the first attempt. Matt, who was brining up the rear, was screaming to the others that we should turn left by the entrance of the school - frankly Matt tends to get over-excited at the thought of young girls in uniform and we have become accustomed to ignoring his outbursts every time the route passes close to a school. On this occasion Matt had however correctly identified the path we were aiming for; we were soon on our way down the tarmacked cycleway which Billy-Bob found was much better atuned to current fitness levels. In fact Al and Billy-Bob lagged behind wittering about weaning, nappies and baby apparel… or whatever. Arriving at East Lavant we got back onto the A286 for a short stretch to the familiar Earl of March.

Lounge Lizards, The Earl of March

Matt, loaded with beer money, was straight to the bar for a round consisting of Ringwood Best Bitter and more miserable lager for himself. We managed to bag a cozy corner and some comfy chairs - perhaps Billy-Bob had a point about the pubs after all! With time pressing, and some of our more grumpy associates expressing their dislike of the normal bridleway route around Goodwood Motor Circuit, we took a minor road and bridleway alongside a stream before heading home through the northern outskirts of Chichester. Al had a close call with a ford which appeared suddenly and was more raging torrent than shallow crossing. Jon insisted that he had issued adequate warning, but some people will never listen.

Dinner was the TCA staple of chilli, expertly slow-cooked to perfection as ever.

Route Map (click to enlarge):
(Posted by: Jon)

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At 8:27 am, March 12, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

You lot sound a squabblesome bunch, don't you? Glad you had a good ride and weren't blown off course into the canal!

At 1:04 am, March 14, 2008, Blogger simon said...

Yes! they all have become grumpy old men in this episode!
And the HOST paying for beer! whatever next!

At 8:05 pm, March 15, 2008, Blogger Magpie Val said...

Patrick is impressed that you cycled part of the Chichester Canal! Unfortunately it gave him an excuse to get his canal history books down.
I approve of all the real ale drinking (but not Matt's lager drinking - disgraceful!)

At 11:56 am, March 20, 2008, Blogger Shrinky said...

Ha! This motley crew reminds me of my own bunch of hairy bikers who squat in our "shed" for a week each year. They pretend to be here for the bikes, but I know it's the beer that really calls them.

At 9:48 pm, March 26, 2008, Blogger simon said...

I am not riding nearly enough because my knee is suddenly "shot".. in fact I have an x-ray in the next few days on it.

At 10:53 pm, March 26, 2008, Blogger TCA said...


You poor bugger - you're faling to bits!



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