The Last Ride

15 May 2013

Sunday 12 May 2013 – Barnham to Southbourne

Julian’s Report

Perhaps it was the prospect of a long train journey from Brighton, with a change at Three Bridges, due to the engineering works at Shoreham, combined with rain and icy wind weather forecast, that reduced the group to just four – Jim (leader), Joyce, David and Julian.

We set off north from Barnham station at 10.50 through the village of Walburton and were soon going along the shortest London Road in the UK and then under the A27. At mid-day there was a brief coffee stop at Aldingbourne Country Centre, but with no time to view the Alpacas. Then after seeing the distant hill-top Halnaker Wind Mill (pronounced Hannaker by the locals) we risked a soft track through a wood where the bluebells were a great feature and across the path of snarling 4x4s sliding through squelching mud for a rally.

Bluebells  in Tinwood Lane

The Boxgrove Priory had to be by-passed for lack of time and a long straight ride took us to the Lavants past the Goodwood airfield, with a vast metal-clad old hangar, and the Goodwood House estate hidden by a long high flint wall. After Waterbeach we reached East Lavant at exactly 12.53 as Jim’s timesheet predicted. Soon we biked south down Centurion Way for a short while and onto the Funtington road for a stop before at Wellies Restaurant and Tea Room on West Stoke Road at 13.20 for lunch.

The Centurions on the Centurion Way

The excellent and ample main course helpings stimulated discussions on climate change, over-fishing in the Pacific and the constraints of Health and Safety regulations for employees. The Italian canned fizzy lemonade was memorable, but we had no room left for the tempting desserts which would anyhow have sent us to sleep.

Wellies Restaurant

Once on our way again in the cold air we passed a stretch of stenching road-side mowed garlic and reached Funtington. Going down Watery Lane we passed a female Mallard duck mothering over 15 small ducklings along the narrow clear stream by the road, and it flowed down to a group of white farm geese being fed bread. Then we went by a village pond featuring Tufted and Mallard ducks and a black swan with a red bill.

IMG_2983Black Swan at West Ashling pond

By now it was raining and the icy wind was roaring noisily through our safety helmets. So it was quickly on to the crowded Woodmancote Inn for tea, hot chocolate and cream-laden cake.


Julian raced ahead while Joyce and Jim admired these young pigs near Hambrook

A final rush south was made to Southbourne in the lighter rain to complete the 20 miles. Joyce and Julian unwittingly held up the south-side level crossing gate from being lowered by standing too close, and only just caught the 16.41 train as its doors were shutting. We arrived back to Barnham station at 17.05.


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].


The Next Ride: 4 November 2012: Barnham Circular

28 October 2012

Eastergate – Westergate – Oving – Shopwyke – Westhampnett – Westerton – Waterbeach – Halnaker – Boxgrove – Fontwell – Walberton

This is a hastily-put-together ride to replace the planned  Haywards Heath circular, which has had to be postponed due to non-availability of the lunch venue. Some of the territory may be familiar from previous rides, but I think some of it is new.

The route takes us westwards from Barnham towards the outskirts of Chichester, then back by a different route. We’ll have lunch early in the ride at the Gribble Inn at Oving. The main meals are a bit pricier than I’d have liked, but there are cheaper “light bite” options. After lunch we will have a chance to see the ruins of Boxgrove Priory, and there is a (mandatory) tea stop at the wonderful, cycle-friendly Aldingbourne Country Centre (which also does furniture restoration, although it may be a bit tricky to get a 3-piece suite on your bike!)

Length: 18 miles

Duration: about 5 hours with lunch and tea stops and a short stop at Boxgrove Priory

Terrain: About a mile of Tinwood Lane (classed by OS as “other routes with public access” – green dots – and may be a bit muddy). Otherwise tarmac roads, mostly quiet ones. Short section of A29, on pavement if preferred. NO HILLS.

Start: Barnham Station at 11:50.

Getting there: 10:50 train from Brighton (Chichester train); 10:04 from London Victoria (Bognor train)

Getting home: Trains to Brighton at 16:44 and 17:08 (journey time about 1 hour); to London at 17:05 (about 2 hours)