Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Assault on Portchester Castle

Following the epic (and prolonged!) TCA adventure the previous week in Chichester, for various legitimate and some questionable excuses, i.e. Billy Bob nursing a swollen knee and “Man Flu”, Al off in Scotland and Jon wanting to meet up with a sailor (to be confirmed). It was left up to the most junior of the TCA members to keep the fighting spirit going.

So “Wrong” John contacted a neighbor who had previously expressed a wish to ride with this fine bunch of elite athletes. John, clearly had to vet and interview this perspective new member to ensure that he had the required attributes and attitude required. Steve firstly explained that he would not take the rides too seriously and liked his beer, oh and by the way was a successful and dedicated tri-athlete and Navy diver, so he passed the test.

Steve with a view of Portsmouth harbour in background

With Steve’s skills and knowledge, perhaps the vacant position of TCA Physical Training Instructor, (not sure it has ever been filled?) but more importantly the new tradition of the TCA regard for initialisms could be fulfilled, so Steve could be a TCAPTI, and with his extensive experience on a bike could help advise TCA members on TTF’s (see boys weekend in Scotland blog for explanation)

So the duo decided to head out from Fareham and to follow the bridleway and Solent path route around the Fareham creek to Portchester Castle and then when at the castle deciding to follow the Grand Old Duke of York tradition of ascent and descent of a hill (Portsdown Hill) returning for suitable refreshment in the Castle in the Air pub.

Outside the Royal Armouries Portsdown Hill

The great British summer was still evident, with temperatures around 23c, so with a brisk but reasonable pace it was not long before a few beads of sweet adorned Johns head, Steve lead the way and the duo followed the route mainly consisting of good single track paths interspersed with some roads and open grassland.

John enjoying a pint of Green King Sun Dance,
and Steve an extra cold Guinness.

It did not take too long before first blood was drawn, with a number of overgrown brambles and tree branches taking toll on the exposed flesh of the two intrepid riders. Around an hour and a half later with no punctures! The Castle in the Air provided the prerequisite TCA requirement for good beer.

Pub Map
(Posted by: John)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Chichester Challenge 2008

After a night spent at Meadow Barn Farm Ed, Ad, Jules and Charlie-man turned up at Oaklands Park dead on 9pm ready for the day ahead. Making their way over with Billy-Bob and Stef they met the rest of the group – Jerry, Jon, John and Gill - who were queuing to confirm registration. Al had spent the night shivering under the duvet, suffering as he was from a mystery illness which confined him to bed. He issued a sicknote at the last minute and was gutted to withdraw from what would have been his fifth Chichester Challenge.

The next problem of the day was the two queues - one to register and one to confirm registration. We obviously queued at the latter. The organisers had however failed to calculate the number of riders who would just turn up and register on the day due to the great weather. As a result, the start was delayed to just after 10am, a depature from the published start of 9.30 am. However this enabled the usual showing of bikes and gear (or lack of it in the case of Billy-Bob) to each other. In the case of John and Jerry they both found that they had the same tastes in kit in that they both had chosen matching white Commencal bikes - they looked like two embarrassed ladies with matching dresses at a wedding!

Left to right: Charlie, Jon, Stef (!), Billy-Bob,
Ad, Ju, Ed, John, Jerry

So after a late start due to a record number of participants the crew soon spread out along Broyle Road – Ed taking the lead, followed by Ad, Jerry and Charlie-man, the two Jo(h)ns then Jules, Gill and Billy-Bob bringing up the rear. The first hill proved to be a bad boy, a killer with Charlie-man being forced to stop part way up for a ‘moment’ before wisely deciding to complete the 30km route instead. Gill had ‘cold shivers’ in the 29 degree heat after two nights out on the trot but ploughed on regardless. Jon rode up in one go losing John, who was later found to pushing his bike up in a "walk of Shame" pose (above). However down the other side of this all riders negotiated a steep rutted flinty track down towards the second hill known as ‘Charcoal Burner’ on account of large wood burning stoves and at this point the leaders headed up in top form, AD and Jerry catching the man in the yellow jersey – Ed – to power on toward the first check point. It was at this point John was struggling with the heat but despite this kept up with Jon, with Julie and Gill leap-frogging them every so often.

The Female contingent: Ju & Gill

Jon rode up to the first check point first amongst this group seeing Ad and Jerry just leave here. It was from here along the South Downs Way stretch from Cocking to Harting that Jerry and Ed left Ad for dust at several points as they sped along with scant regard for personal safety! Meanwhile at this first check point Jon waited for John and whilst waiting saw Julie and Gill arrive chattering away as normal. John arrived and the two Jo(h)n set off after Julie and Gill with the leaders, amongst them, Ade, Jerry and Ed, well ahead by now. At this point I think we had forgotten about Billy-Bob - what friends are we!

Julie reaches Checkpoint 1

Following on behind Julie and Gill and the leaders along the South Downs Way stretch from Cocking to Harting, along Cocking Down, and the Devils Jumps, the Jo(h)ns made good progress especially down "Boneshaker Alley" towards Hooksway, mind you the pub was closed as usual ! It was particularly pleasing to see many cyclists hauled up at the sides of this "alley" with punctures and equipment failures of some sort or another - surely not something that would befall TCA riders! Jules and Gill had thoroughly enjoyed the number of fast down hill sections on it, one of which Jules almost had an ‘off’ when confronted with a particularly deep water gauge but just managed to recover in time... she was probably chattering to Gill thought Jon. The two girls made it to the top of South Harting Down in time to meet Keith (trusty father-in-law with the video camera) to be clocked a mere 15 mins behind the lead riders Ad and Jerry.

John - pre-puncture - tearing up the trail

Further uphill ascents ensured up Beacon Hill saw Jon overtake Julie and Gill but he waited with the two girls for his fellow rider John at check point 2. Jules, Gill, and the two Johns met up again and decided to track down the missing members of the crew: It was quickly established that Charlie-man was on his way round the shorter course and would meet us at the end. It was also discovered that Billy-Bob had completed a superman manoeuvre (most commonly seen in MBUK mags) and had flown over the handle bars down Bone Shaker alley, twisted his handle bars and injured both knees. With superhuman effort he was part way up South Harting Down when contacted - battered and bruised but otherwise fine. John discovered he had problems with his spindle and after a fight over who got to wait for Paul it was decided that as John had to fix his bike then he and Jonny P would gallantly cycle with their wounded comrade.

Billy-Bob demonstrates some
international sign language

Thus we were split it three groups – the Namibian dust-badgers (Ad & Ed) and Jerry (legs of steel) Anstey in the lead, Gill and Jules in the middle followed by the core TCA members. Spurred on by the sight of his father and sporting a huge home-advantage, Ad used the slip stream of some crazy Tandem riders to push on up the hill on the new section of steep Forestry Commission tracks. Jules and Gill, after almost getting lost at this point, proved their prowess (must be the practise in Afan) by beating 4 guys up the hill! The best moment being when the phrase ‘that’s not fair – being beaten by girls!’ was heard as they sped on past on a steep up hill track. With head down and bum up Ad continued through to Checkpoint 3 (Stoughton) where he hopped off the bike to plough through some cereal/fruit bars and Lucozade drink! He then got beaten on a short but steep uphill section out of Walderton having to take to two feet, through the gate (Gill and Jules also getting caught out here some time later). Through the long, fast, sweeping downhill section that followed, Ad picked up a rear blow-out (scaring the 4 picnic’ers in the adjacent field) and fully expected his team buddies to fly past!

Meanwhile, somewhere behind, Jules, who had ridden the course the year before, was offering Gill false hope by mistakenly referring to the third-to-last hill as the final one. After much effort, hot, uphill climbing and overtaking they reached the top of the final hill they took a breather to take in the sights. They were not to be disappointed as the Isle of Wight was clearly visible along the coastline and even the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth could be made out, surreal in the distant haze.

Three Dustbadgers: Charlie, Ad, Ed
enjoy a cuddle at the finish

The riders all pushed through to the balloon clad finish line to nurse sore muscles and replenish lost liquids and nutrients (with coke & burgers) and were greeted by their support crew - Al, T and baby Jimmy! They had had their own fun and games: Ill, but not wishing to miss out, Al had filled his cool box with ice-cold drinks, chocolate bars and energy gel and had driven to the Buriton check-point for 11.30am. In all previous years this had been the furthest check point before the turn for home, when energy levels were at a low ebb. This year however a last-minute route change left the car-park desserted except for a few dog-walkers. Not a fluorescent jacket in sight! Therefore, after driving round the fringes of West Sussex for almost an hour without seeing hide nor hair of a mountain biker, the three decided to cut their losses and head for the finish. Jimmy seemed to enjoy it most - the musicians, balloons and other infants provided ample entertainment until the TCA riders arrived to give a little of their attention.

The support crew were amazed when Charlie crossed the line first. No offence to the guy but he had the likes of Jerry and Ad to contend with, whose cyling prowess is legendary on this event! Charlie explained that he had overdone the start and, exacerbated by the heat, had decided to follow the 30km route rather than hack round the longer 55km route feeling grim. Ad was some 60mins later, looking as if he had been out for a Sunday afternoon stroll (only the moaning and rolling around on the floor gave away the real story), Jerry next, then the girls at about 15.00.

Al, Jimmy & Tee
enjoying their day out as spectators

A selection of refreshments were available from the Scout's tent (the WI cake stand and beer tent again conspicuous by the absence) but, much to Ad's dismay the ice-cream had run out - [Note to the organisers - you need more that 28L of ice cream when the temperature's over 30 degrees C! Ed.]. Information slowly dribbled in regarding the fate of the other three missing riders but the accuracy of the reports that they were "15 minutes behind" could not be relied on. Besides which, Al, Tee and Jimmy had eaten their fill of burgers, cups of tea, cans of coke and pureed vegetables and, Jimmy in particular, was getting restless. They could wait no longer - they packed up at 3.30 bound for home.

Bikes are discarded after the race
at the hospitality tent

Meanwhile…. somewhere way back in the forests on route to Checkpoint 3 which seemed to take forever to reach were the dogged TCA contingent, the Jo(h)ns regularly stopping to wait for their injured colleague in true Band of Brothers fashion. Billy-Bob, hoping to shake off his earlier injury, was forever cursing every bump and rutt as he bounced down the new route on Forestry Commission tracks (damn those event organisers!), and blaming his first generation coil sprung forks and dodgy knee joint. Grimacing every time he caught back up with the TCA advance party only to find yet again John had upended his bike and was yet again replacing another supposedly puncture-less inner tube.

For what seem to be turning into a true TCA epic on one of the hottest days of the year, the pain continued with yet more punctures and dwindling water supply leading John to complain about heat exhaustion. Billybob even considered an abort after checkpoint 3, knowing full well to continue up the final few hills may well see a premature end to his cycling career. In the spirit of the TCA he circumnavigated the last hilly section before the final check point by taking a cheeky unofficial road route which allowed him to rendezvous, for once ahead of the Jo(h)ns, who had announced they had used up the last spare on Jon’s fourth puncture of the day!

As the sun was setting and the event organisers were packing up their tents and event cards the intrepid trio were greeted on the final run in and escorted to the finish line by Ade and Jules who had patiently hung around to see them finish, fair play to them. Were we last? Possibly, who cares - we finished. Close, but no cigar this year and, more importantly, no coke and burgers!

Another eventful Chichester Challenge in the blistering conditions which seem to inevitably accompany the occasion. Thrills, spills, laughs and burgers (for some) - roll on 2009!

(Posted by: Ad, Paul, Al & Jon)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two Lions (and a Vine)

The name of the game for this week was a gentle spin to keep the legs limbered up before the onslaught of the weekend's Chichester Challenge. With Jon and John out of action it was decided that the tandem would again be the weapon of choice for a relaxing summertime cycle. What's more Al had suggested the prospect of a new TCA pub, so this was an adventure of sorts - a pub exploration. It was the warmest day of the year so far therefore nothing particularly strenuous was at the forefront of either rider's mind.

This ride would take us in a southerly direction following the quiet country lanes towards Southwick, a villiage occupied entirely by tenants of the Southwick Estate, with no private ownership, which overall gives the place a rather 'Wicker Man' feel to it. The off-road bug did go to the rider's heads at one stage, but they thought better of a short-cut through Creech Woods after the well-maintained track turned into a ill-defined, heavily rutted wooodland path after a few hundred yards.

Two reasonable pints of Bateman's Combined Harvest were enjoyed at the Golden Lion, Southwick, whose beer garden is orientated perfectly to completely miss any of the remaining sunshine on a glorious evening. We were soon back on bikes and, after a lucky trip around the Southwick Brewery building adjacent to the pub (or was it Billy-Bob's dodgy steering?) we were off again, through Newtown and on to the Bold Forester.

A Toast to Absent Friends at the
Golden Lion, Southwick

The tandem made steady progress despite the easy pace and (after keeping their heads down for an injection of pace past Billy-Bob's boss's house) soon delivered the riders to a pub only visited occasionally by the TCA. However, it was Fish & Chip Van night at the 'Forester, which had attracted a horde of self-indulgent biking types, clogging the carpark with their chrome-coated monstrosities, choking the air with the exhaust fumes and shattering the tranquil summer evening with the roar of their engines. This was clearly not for the TCA so we set the controls for the the heart of Soberton.

The Bold Forester on Fish & Chip night

Having parked up outside the pub, paid our respects to the locals and ordered our beers we sat on the benches outside the pub enjoying the last few rays of the setting summer sun as it sank over the village green. The church bells chimed gently on practice night to add to the idyll. Some delightful local children asked insightful and educated questions about our contraption before being whisked off in their parents quiet, economical Lexus. We finished our drinks satisfied with that our local knowledge had spared us the monosyllabic conversations we would have had to endure at our scheduled stop.

Al gives a sunset seminar on the
vagaries of tandem technology to
local children at the White Lion, Soberton

We turned for home but decided on a more unorthodox route to Hambledon, turning North from Soberton as opposed to retracing our step, or a straight up-and-over option. The main advantage of this choice was that our ride would now take us straight past the door of local pub the Vine in Hambledon. Temptation was too much to resist on such a balmy evening.

En Route to the Vine, Hambledon

The short hop home followed and supper of ...not just any curry, this is M&S chicken jalfrazi! We were ready for the Chichester challenge.

Route Map (click to enlarge):

(Posted by: Al)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Walk of Shame

After much route choice deliberation Jon insisted on taking the infamous route up to the East Dean and through Goodwood Estate. The last ride was in May with John and before that in November with Al; but were largely unsatisfactory so hopefully this would be third time lucky, dispite the punctured tyres and mud, which tupically befalls Jon . The omens were not good as Jon discovering that he had a flat tyre before he and Billy-Bob set off. Billy-Bob had yet to 'enjoy' this route and after scoffing his iced Belgian Buns (no French Fancies for us again! ) would have agreed to anything anyway.

Billy-Bob on the Trundle

Following the delayed start the pair cycled fast around the Goodwood racing circuit, through East Lavant through a back street not previously discovered and then Chalkpit Lane up to the Trundle. Billy-Bob found the pace hard and was heard to shout after Jon "I'll see you at the top". Nevertheless the pair met three quarters of the way to the summit, admiring the scenery and the wild flowers (lots of Pyramid Orchids), and to take some photos. The ride skirted around the side of the Trundle, past some obstinate sheep along the way. There was also a slight delay due to difficulties in working out how to chain up the gate: Billy-Bob would not fare well in a Krypton Factor Test.

As usual we cut through part of the grounds of Goodwood racing circuit and onto the road towards the end of race track. At this point, we took a deep breath and hauled our bikes over the gate marking the beginning of a footpath down towards East Dean. Known as 'puncture alley' we rode carefully down the path avoiding any fallen hawthorn branches or fence posts, and being ever watchful of horse muck (which had so afflicted John last time). Being a sensible chap, Billy-Bob insisted on Jon taking the lead as a little bit of limbo was required to get bikes and riders under a electric fences, the pair eventually got the road and recuperated in the Star and Garter, although bikes or riders suffered electric shocks.

After the usual odd stares from a well-heeled clientele at the Star and Garter, the welcoming landlord served up two pints of Arundel Castle from the barrel. The landlord recognised Jon from previous visitations so we must have made an impact before. After due warning about the hill up to Dubholts and East Dean, we made slow and painful progress up to the wood. Jon just failed to make the top by pedal power but sadly Billy-Bob took the walk of shame, having found the uphill deceptively difficult over uneven track gullies and trees roots.

Walk of shame

At the top Jon was determined not to get lost as they had last time and so he guided the pair slowly to the right hand turn to cross over Selhurst Park Road.

More Shame

Riding through the edge of Goodwood Estate we got a decent speed up despite the rutted nature of the track and the extensive mud pools intermitted located along the route. At the end we chatted to a local, gardening, who was obviously surprised to see two professional bikers making such a fine job of riding along this track. He suggested a drink at the Anglessey Arms which we turned down on account of the famishing pangs we were now encountering. We got home, inner-tubes intact and enjoyed a hot chilli trying to find suitable TCA viewing. We plumbed for Harley Street (modeled on Hotel Babylon) but were sadly disappointed. However we were rudely interrupted by one of Jons cats using a bike tyre as a scratching post. The resulting loud rush of noise, like a jet engine, jolted resting riders out of theire seats, and the cats out of the cat flap, and ensured that this route has again lived up to its reputation as harbinger of punctured tyres.

(Posted by: Jon)

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Enjoying the Great British Summer

It had been wet all day: Not the 'scattered showers with sunny intervals' forecast by the BBC but proper, heavy, persistent rain. All day! John even phoned to confirm that the evening's ride from Hambledon was still on, or whether there should be a modification of the route due to the inclement weather. We would however press on and the sky had even started to brighten as ride time approached.

Billy-Bob was enjoying a cozy night in on account of his wedding anniversary so it was left to Jon, Al and John to screw some enjoyment out of this grotty summer's day. Tea and cake lightened the mood and all were in good spirits as they set of for Exton, a route requested by John.

After a short road-ride through Hambledon the trio turned off to follow a bridle path through crops. Soon bikes were clogged with mud, Al suffering in particular due to his adoption of his rigid bike with v-brakes, the mud clinging stubbornly to the brake blocks. The mud had also seized the rear derailiers and bikes were washed down in the deep puddles formed on the road to Chidden.

As we turned off the road to follow the track towards the South Downs and Old Winchester Hill there followed a bizarre mix-up which would keep Al perplexed for days. A week into his two-week holiday excess, and a lunchtime glass of wine for the worse, Al lagged behind as the ascent started. Leaving the wooded section however, with a view ahead up the valley of at least 1/4 of a mile, he could not believe how out of shape he had become - there was no sign of the leading couple. He only realised something was amiss as he reached the ridge, expecting to find the other two waiting impatiently; there was no sign of life but the rain started as he inverted his bike to investigate his jammed jockey wheels.

Jon surveys the gloom from the
summit of Old Winchester Hill

It was five minutes or so before Jon and then John appeared over the horizon and explained that, with Wrong John in the lead, the turning into the woods had been overlooked. With the rain falling steadily the reunited riders made off along the ridge road towards Old Winchester Hill.

The usual debate surfaced at the summit as the correct route by bike is not obviously apparent. John and Jon favoured a nettle-infested overgrown track while Al took the rather more rebellious route straight over the top. Regrouping briefly there was then a long, steep grassy descent to the foot of the hill which soon strung the three out again.

The next section of the ride follows a tributary of the river Meon. Literally, as the river bed is an easier ride than the narrow, winding, muddy, root-infested footpath on the bank. This section is the reason why John had requested this ride as it forms his favorite part of our regular route. The recent rainfall had swollen the stream somewhat but it was still just about navigable.

John tackles the Meon River

The route emerges at Exton and the Shoe Inn was reached just as Al realised he had a puncture in his rear wheel. A pint of Wadworth Horizon was enjoyed in the rain as Al struggled with his slippery tyre. Jon remarked at the contrast in the prevailing conditions and those afforded to the Billy-Bob's wedding one scorching Saturday three years ago.

Al fixes his bike
while John looks on

We planned to tackle the rest of the route by road but in the end decided to use the faithfully disused railway line to get to Soberton. This may however have been ill advised - it was like a quagmire. Al and Jon led the way, plastering themselves in crud and emerged looking like creatures from the proverbial Black Lagoon. John took it a little more slowly and consequently was almost recognisable when the three reached the White Lion! We all enjoyed a pint of Hallelujah from Alton's Triple fff brewery as the rain finally eased off.

A rather soggy toast to absent friends
at The White Lion

The White Lion is a highly prized pit-stop on a ride like this on account that it is one of the few pubs on the route with easy access to a hose. Although primarily intended for watering the pub window boxes it adequately doubles as a bike wash. Jon and John paid particular attention to their new forks (left). While they have both recently fitted RockShox REBA forks, there is some debate regarding the comparative merits of the 'Team' model opted for by John and the 'Race' version used by Jon. The 100g handicap sacrificed by Jon would seem to easily be accounted for by John's liberal abuse of business dinners! Both however are highly satisfied with their choice.

All that was left was for the three to tackle the short trip by road up-and-over from Soberton to Hambledon Awaiting our arrival was the Beef in Black Sheep Ale that Al had spent the day constructing, and a delicious apple and blackberry crumble made by Tee in the confines of the warm, dry house while the lads were out: A warming casserole and comforting pudding ideal for a summer's evening in the saddle!

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile:

(Posted by: Al)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Haslemere to Hambledon Humdinger


Jon turned up just before 6:30pm for the Haslemere run, or so he thought, until Billy-Bob announced that it was a ‘new route’ and they were heading to Hambledon, Jon suddenly went pale then realised it was Hambledon, Surrey not the traditional training circuit containing many a favourite route of Blogs gone by. ‘Hurry up!’ Billy-Bob announced the timing tonight was now even more critical, as you shall see later. Jon quickly wolfed down some of Mrs Billy-Bob’s home made fancies, monitored closely by Billy-Bob.

The intrepid duo once again began the Haslemere route, without the rest of the squad who had given their excuses the week before. They sped off just before
6:45; timing was already playing on Billy-Bob’s mind therefore the original 'Blackdeath Valley' route was circumvented in favour of the road route up to Blackdown, characterised by the verdant Tennyson's Lane.

The secluded sunken lane that runs from Haslemere past
Aldworth is named Tennyson's Lane in memory of the poet. It is little changed from Arthur Paterson's description in 1905: "Trees meet overhead, copsewood surrounds it, and later, it is hedged by high sandy banks thickly overgrown with plant and scrub; squirrels and rabbits, and all other small woodland creatures, disport themselves over it. It twists and turns, and to the stranger appears to lead nowhere in particular". Tennyson purchased Blackdown, and built Aldworth in 1869 (Wilkipedia).

With no small woodland creatures in sight this time the pair made haste on what was turning out to be a splendid summer evening after a rainy day. Once at Blackdown the traditional off road route would normally take TCA riders to the highest point in the Sussex Weald -
Temple of the Winds - after which the riders would descend off the back of the downs southward towards regular watering hole, the Noah’s Ark in Lurgashall. Tonight however the pair were heading north into previously unnavigated territory. The pair descended immediately at the Car Park past Aldworth House; sadly no poetry was uttered in the rather steep, rutted and knarly descent.

Billy-Bob cleans his bike at last

The route followed the Sussex Border Path onto Jays Lane followed by a sharp left off road just prior to Jays Farm which picked up the Bridle Path north towards Petworth Road. This new route was deliberately chosen by Billy-Bob because it was marked on the forthcoming BHF Haslemere ride, and also because the TCA had not travelled up this way before. This section was reasonably tame, flat in part with the odd twisty tree roots and a small stream that crossed the path on route. After crossing Petworth Road an executive decision was made to take the footpath rather than the bridleway for a short section, it did after all mean we would be at the pub quicker.

Billy-Bob assuring the most direct route to the boozer

The footpath skirted the edge of a dense copse named Killingshurst, remamed the Killingfields by Billy-Bob, who thought the dense fern like forest was quite eerie and akin to something from a Vietnam movie. He half expected to pick up a puncture from a hidden bamboo trap. Alas, no bamboo trap only a sneaky root that caught Billy-Bob off guard while concentrating on low flying tree branches, his front coil suspension (already suspect), hit the offending root with a thud followed by a crack and sent Billy-Bob off into the undergrowth.

Kilingshurst (Killingfields) Copse

The bridleway joined up onto Mill Lane which Jon recognised as a route that members had previously travelled on foot in days of old, on route to the infamous Chiddingfold Bonfire night. The pair arrived at The Crown at 8pm on the dot to the sounds of the church bells across the green. The pub was frequented by many well-heeled diners, with the exception of a chap in a long rain coat who sat outside laughing while staring into his pint and holding a lottery ticket. A first for the TCA then ensued, the pair removing their mud ridden SPD shoes before entering the bar. It was such a splendid evening however they opted for an outside table so they could enjoy campanology night. Billy-Bob had an splendid pint of Hip Hop Champion Beer, while Jon slurped his pint of Ballards Best. No nuts as they were too expensive.

Campanology at the Crown while toasting absent friends

The boys downed their pints uncharacteristically quickly with no time for small talk on planning issues of the week. It was at this point that Billy-Bob owned up that tonight was a TCA first: in honour of the club motto and its mission ‘to seek out adventure and good beer using environmentally sustainable transportation’, the pair had to catch the train home in order to complete the route. Oh yes! The only downside was that if they missed the 21:42 from London to Portsmouth it would either be a long wait at the station or a very long road ride home to a cold chilli. Thus i was back in the saddle and straight up the A283 towards Hambleon Hurst, the next off-road section that would take them north through woodland and up to Beech Hill, and then into Hambledon and the second pub of the evening.

This part of the route was reasonably quick and the expected gradient turned out to be little more of a slight climb up to a rather picturesque 'creamy England' village green. The route picked up Greensand Way which runs east-west north of Hambledon and if followed over the railway line eventually joins up with previous TCA HindHead route in Thursley.

Merely half an hour since the last sip the pair felt slightly guilty at sinking a few more local ales at the new TCA pub of the Merry Harriers, a delightful pub on the outskirts of Hambledon and situated opposite a handy campsite. In fact, despite the recent inclement weather, the pair commented on several hardy campers who were pitched in the field opposite; Billy-Bob made a mental note of this for future expeditions. With two pints of reasonable Summer Lightning inside them, and a chat to a pair of friendly locals on mountain bike routes in the area, the boys were feeling confident of meeting their rendezvous with Network South East. That was until the locals pointed out that the station in Wormley (Whitley on the timetable) was at least 30 minutes away! The pair had 20 minutes to spare and like Batman and Robin (Only Fools and Horses stylie) mounted their muddy steeds and sped off west on road through Hambledon towards Whitley station.

The Merry Harriers' Moto reads like an alternative to the TCA's very own mission statement!

Fortunately, the road, the additional pint, and the thought of cold chilli meant this dash took less than 10 minutes all in and the pair arrived at the rather deserted station with 10 minutes to spare. The only dillema left was whether to run the gauntlet on paying the rail fare for all of one stop. Surely no one would be around this time and with the thought of saving beer money for future rides an executive decision was made to ‘chance it’. "Evening all", the conductor announced when the train pulled into the station, park your bike in that carriage lads and I will be along to collect your tickets when we get going’. B*gger.

Fare dodger

Resentfully the pair parted with two coins each and would have made a dash down the centre aisle of the train if it were not for the pitiful London commuters just finishing work and the fact that they had their bikes. After a whole 7 minutes the return leg of the ride was complete, and all that remained was the very steep uphill back to base and a still warm Chilli. All in all a top ride which the pair both agreed was worthy of the Haslemere Route II honour. Whilst not as hardcore as Route 1, nevertheless a good mix of road and off road and more importantly pushing the limits of the ride coverage in a sustainable manner whilst meeting culinary deadlines.

(Posted by: Paul, Pictures by Jon)

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