Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Ascent of Blackdown

There are several TCA routes in Haslemere and generally all without exception involve a traverse of the National Trust land at Blackdown. Billybob new that any circular route would thus require taking the boy’s back up this mighty intimidating hill. Usually the standard route would have been selected for the first ride in this neck of the woods for 2009 but alas ‘witching hour’ and family logistics meant that the usual start time was pushed back to a 7:15pm departure. A shortened route was called for and in the true pioneering spirit of the TCA Billybob came up trumps with a hastily planned ‘alternative’ route.

After affixing Islay to her new bouncy chair Billybob was hands free to meet and greet the duo of Jon and Al who had arrived for once together and were fettling their bikes with impressive speed. Customary cakes were offered in the form of home cooked brownies, prepared by Mrs BB’s fair hands just hours earlier. The boys consumed these morsels with gratitude while Billybob removed his decorative Christmas lights from his helmet.

The ascent of Blackdown is a relatively straight run from the start although this time the usual route of Tennyson Lane was dropped in favour of Chase Lane, which was the first variation of the evening. This route provides more of an off road ascent into Blackdown via an initially steep ascent up through Black Dog Copse. Jon in almost predictable fashion missed the first path while peddling up hill like a man possessed. Clearly those spinning lessons were paying off.

The trio soon picked up the original route which saw a rather uneventful peaceful crossing of the Blackdown paths with a brief stop at a pre-temple lookout where the boys looked down upon the Southern Weald from what is the highest point in W.Sussex. The visitors soon noted that a new fence had obstructed the earlier phase of the drop off but then a quick and uninterrupted descent followed, which Jon commented was a notably dry run. The usual road route was soon picked up and it was not long before the boys were passing the slightly erry caravan site which lies on the outskirts of Lurgashall. The bridleway which skirts this forlorn TCA landmark was vary muddy and boggy which made the bikes sling mud in all directions on the tarmacadum descent into Lurgashall.

Upon arrival it soon became clear that the ‘Ark’ had been renovated and modernised with a new deeper bar area and an impressively large dining space overlooking the green. Sadly this is a all too familiar sign in many pubs the TCA have frequented over the years and the trio were all in agreement that despite the very fine pint of Cornish Tribute, the surroundings had now become a bit too upmarket for their linking, resulting in that loss of the earthy character of yesteryear and presenting a slight air of unwelcome refinery. The muddy bikers decided after an unnecessarily long debate to take their pints outside for consumption.

The Noah's Arc: Gastropub

With a brief discussion centring on Al’s Credit Crunch tips on how to mine sweep the free tasters from the unsuspecting shelves of certain high street supermarket brands the boys downed their pints and headed off this time in a northerly direction towards Northchapel and what would be a rare event - a new drinking establishment for Al.

The route to Northchapel follows the sunken lanes and single track road via Hillgrove, this was a rather uneventful route and in no time at all the trio had arrived at The Half Moon, a rather antiquated pub, situated on the busy A12 road, but nevertheless appealing to Billybob on account of the cosy open fire interior, slightly suspect photograph behind the bar and all manner of agricultural paraphernalia that hangs from the low ceiling. The chaps having only just left the previous pub sat down to a somewhat unjustified second pint of Palmers and discussed some of the logistical operations for the forthcoming boy’s weekend.

Tractor Trouble at
The Halfmoon Inn

Billybob was quick to dispel the notion that home was just down the road when he knew that funs was just about to begin and there was at least a good hour of virgin return route that lay ahead. Pints were downed and apparel refitted with some murmurs of discontent.

In age old tradition Billybob tested the lads out with an early bit of route discussion when he hesitated on which side of the barns the bridle way was aligned at the start of the route back. Out voted by two to one, he conceded that the ‘other’ route was in fact the correct start of the long climb up Jacobs Hill that lay ahead of them.

Jacobs Lane can best be described as a long tortuous never ending up hill ascent towards Blackdown. All on single track road and sunken lane it is broken only by tantalising glimpses of the top of Blackdown through the hidden trees on an otherwise painful slog towards the junction with Tennyson Lane. Jon and Al pushed ahead clearly benefiting from the enthusiasm of thinking they were nearer the top while BB in his unfit state opted for the conservation of what level of energy he had approach.

It was not long before Billybob caught the intrepid hill climbing duo up, whom he heard cursing his name, the route etc. Certainly it had been awhile since the trio had tackled such a steep ascent which left BB wondering to himself how the eminent former resident of this area Lord Tennyson may have managed on two wheels some years previous

Upon reaching the car park at the start of the Blackdown trails, renewed energy was displayed when all realised it was only 10 minutes back home to the delights of a Mrs BillyBob’s Chilli and home made rhubarb crumble with lashings of double cream.

The boys sat done to a sumptuous feast and traditional TCA movie entertainment catching the end of a 1980’s Kevin Bacon classic – Tremors before turning over to the slightly seedier Lost in Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage.

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile
(click to enlarge):

(Posted by: Paul)

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Canal Basin Convalescence II

Keen to burn off the excesses of Christmas and New Year, but with John now striken with a dose of man flu, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, we revisited the gentle jaunt that has become known as the 'Chichester Canal Ride'. It was John's turn to make the excuses but unlike the previous outing he could at least demonstrate the gravity of his condition by proving he was on a course of antibiotics.

Both Jo(h)ns assembled at the Chichester HQ early and made light work of scoffing their pieces of millionaire's shortbread... they were in the process of dividing the third when Al caught them red handed, delayed on account of car trouble and baby duties. The customary cake ritual complete Al and the Joh(ns) ventured into the Siberian weather.

Once on the canal the boys had a clear run encountering just the one dodgy looking character with a can of Special Brew in one hand - Jon recognised him as one of the regulars in his local pub. Jon led the way setting the pace trying to not let the ill man John lag too much behind. There were a few compliants that Jon was slowing down too much trying to get a few more birds for his year list. Sightings tonight included two swans fighting but truth be told it was difficult to spot many birds given frozen nature of the water and the misty mirk.

It was sufficiently cold that the brackish water at the sluice lock gates next to the sea in Chichester Marina had frozen over! After safely negotiating the narrow footpath platform above the gates, overlooking the frozen depths we cyled though the woods and field to the Crab and Lobster (...actually it was the Crown & Anchor, Ed.) at Dell Quay. Much to Al and Jon's delight they still has Young's Winter Warmer on draft. This was sufficient a temptation to persuade Jon that his achohol abstinance since New Years Day should come to an end. John and Al turned the discussion to logistics regarding the Boys Weekend - amongst the conclusions eventually reached was that Jon and Billy-Bob's responsibilities may well be limited simply to tea making.

We rode back straight to Chi along East and West Street on account of Johns worsening condition, foregoing a further pub stop. The evening was finished off itnslightly bizarre style with with a slow cooked cheesy lasagne, a recipe gleened from Jon's new cook book - a christmas present from John.

A Toast to absent Friends
The Crown & Anchor

(Posted by: Jon)

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