The Last Ride – Sunday 4 November: Barnham, Boxgrove & back; over & under the A27.

5 November 2012

Jim’s plan for today was thwarted by the lunch venue being pre-booked by hordes & when the day dawned for revised ride the heavens opened – not just rain, but hail & deluge, unpropitious for cycling. However, forecasts foretold of brighter times to follow – after the 24mph headwinds had subsided, & Clarion is not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, Mick & I voted for the softer option of taking the car to Barnham, rather than the train, arriving at the appointed time.

My phone rang & it was Jim saying Joyce, Sue, Terry & himself were assembled in the cold & awaiting our arrival. All were eager to start & attempt to warm up, so no photo but as swift a wend westward as headwind allowed, to Oving for the early lunch, passing some flooded lanes on the way. Last bit of the trip was along a peaceful lane, with swollen ditches on both sides reminiscent of the Pevensey Levels, but with more trees & sodden autumn leaves.

The Gribble Inn is an attractive, thatched pub with pretty garden & Egon Ronay accolades on the windows. The menu on blackboards & paper looked inviting & we all chose different dishes. The waitress took the first group photo of the day.

Lunch at Gribble Inn-exotic menu;roulade,pheasant, clams & game pud.

My butternut squash soup was too salty, but fishcakes with clam sauce were tasty. Jim’s spinach roulade looked good, as did Terry’s game pud. Mick said his pheasant pasta could just as easily have been a less exotic chicken pasta but, at least, it was interesting. Plenty of interesting dogs in the pub too, including this charming lamb look-a-like shivering outside in the weak November sunshine.

Joyce & Sue admire the lamb-like dog in snshine outside Gribble Inn

As we headed North after lunch it was necessary to cross the busy A27 where the traffic was all exceeding the speed limit as if 80 was the new 70mph.

Dicing with Death on the A27

More leafy lanes & lovely lakes followed as we cycled along by the Goodwood Estate with its lengthy stone walls, lush hotel, golf-course & sculpture park, amid woods with Downs on the horizon & the Halnaker windmill.

Halnaker Mill in the morning

As we climbed a small hill to reach the turn to Mount Noddy Animal Centre I was sad to hear that I had missed the donkeys in the roadside field. There would certainly have been some donkey photos if I’d realised. We visited the Lutyens house & garden & gawped until the gate opened eerily & automatically for us to enter – an offer we refused. In the barn cottage conversion nearby I stopped to photo some deer which Terry & Sue were watching, but they had realised that the deer were suspiciously still & unlikely to be living. [Photo on flickr if interested.]

Boxgrove Priory was a peaceful spot where we spent some time assessing how the ruin could be revived by a Channel 4 type makeover, such as some of us had seen the previous evening with an old water tower & Kevin McCloud in the middle of London. Sheep were safely grazing in the meadows around the ancient stone work & the sun shone for some photos.

A few more lanes led us to the splendid Aldingbourne Country Centre where a fine teatime treat awaited us. Nutty, fruity chocolate cakes, toasted teacakes, & hot drinks were quaffed & I explored the farm animals in search of the pigs I’d remembered from a previous visit. Didn’t find the pigs but saw some white peacocks & a sign advertising their alpaca poo as described on GQT as very suitable for adding to the garden neat. We decided not to take any for our bike baskets, Jim telling Joyce she’d have to return by a different train from him if she succumbed.

Last delights were the discovery of a subway under the lethal A27 as we headed south & the sun setting over the numerous puddles lending a pink sheen to the roads as they reflected the setting sun, the autumnal trees & cyclists’ shadows.

Pink road on the way home

Thanks to Jim we’d enjoyed a November ride in cold, damp conditions but among beautiful trees, traffic-free lanes & explored West Sussex’s heritage of ancient & illustrious buildings, inn, priory, manor house, Country Centre & windmill with ample time for tasty refreshments, heart-warming conversations on Clarion matters & healthy exercise on quiet country roads, immaculately planned by Jim & safely executed [thankfully no-one was executed on the roaring A27].