A flaming June it has not been. Heavy rain and gale force winds have been a feature of this year’s summer!
During the school half term holiday, my fellow pilgrims and I decided to cycle down to Portsmouth to recce the route. This was to see how long it would take, and to ensure that we didn’t get lost on our way to catch the ferry to Spain in July. Also, on what would be a very long ride, to find out where we could find the very necessary food and cups of tea! Enquiring with Southern Railways I found that we could get an evening train back to East Croydon at the reduced price of only £4 each. An offer not to be missed!
So it was all systems go. Except for the weather!
On the Thursday, the chosen day for our ride, it was the worst recorded weather in June for many a year. Torrential rain and gale force winds so we had to cancel. By Saturday the weather had improved, mainly sun but still very windy. Being a weekend there were no cheap train tickets so we decided to cycle only part of our intended route to Portsmouth and cycle back. We took our bikes by car to Billingshurst, cycled as far as Goodwood on the intended Portsmouth route, then cut off to head up to Midhurst, and back to Billingshurst via Petworth. Using Via Michelin to suggest a good cycling route along mainly country lanes, it came up with this:
Somewhere between numbers 3 and 4 on the above map, as we were approaching West Chiltington, we came across signs marking the route of a Wiggle Sportive. For much of our ride for the rest of the day, our Michelin route followed an identical one to that of the Sportive. The route turned out to indeed be a very scenic route. Top marks for Michelin!
A short diversion. Two years ago Tom and I cycled down to Midhurst (by a different route). Stopping at a village shop for some bottled water, Gina suddenly appeared from a turning opposite! On that occasion she was riding in a sportive, and probably the same one that we were now mirroring. There were two options for this Wiggle ride, the Epic at 91 miles and the Standard at 60 miles, which were to be ridden on the following day, Sunday 10 June. These rides start/finish at Pulborough, which is between nos. 9 and 10 on the map above.
Just before Fittleworth (No. 10 on the map) we crossed over the River Arun on an old pack horse bridge. A picture post card setting as can be seen in this photo.
And shortly after crossing the Arun we passed a nursery which had a tea room, although we didn’t stop to try it. Following the Wiggle signs we missed a left turn but were rewarded by a the views over the mill pond and the old Buxton water mill. This was chosen as a Wiggle refuelling stop. Making slow progress due to the very strong head wind we also stopped and refuelled. My calorie intake being half a banana and a hand full of peanuts.
From here the Wiggle routes divided, our route followed the more challenging Epic Ride, up and over Duncton Beacon, a high point along the South Downs ridge (half way between Nos 13/14). A few miles further on we branched off at East Dean for another climb, whilst the Wiggle riders took an easier and shorter route to Midhurst. Our route took us past the famous Goodwood race course (No. 16 on the map), and still with no tea room in sight it was time for the second half of my banana and another handful of peanuts!
At this point we cut short the route to Portsmouth and headed north. The ride from Glorious Goodwood provided us with a glorious, long and fast down hill ride to join the main, A286 back towards to Midhurst. It was at Cocking, on the A286 south of Midhurst, that Tom and I had met Gina in 2010.
Midhurst is a lovely old market town with many historic buildings. Well worth a visit, but not to the tea room that we chose for our lunch stop! Very expensive, so whilst Tom had a bit of cake, Ricky and I confined our “lunch” to the first and only cuppas of the day.
Blue sky over the old market square at Midhurst where I enjoyed banana number 2!
Heading east along the A272 to Petworth we now had a much easier ride with the 20 mph wind behind us. After Petworth the road narrows so we turned off along some wooded country lanes to Kirdford and Wisborough Green (with more Wiggle route markers), before rejoining the A 272 for a short distance back to Billingshurst. This country lane diversion was one that I remembered from last year, used by Jeremy on an Anerley Away Day, Sunday Ride. The following photo, taken at Wisborough Green, will remind the day trippers of that occasion.
The recce ride showed us a number of things. First, that cycling from Purley to Portsmouth for the afternoon ferry would require a VERY early start! Second, that after a breakfast stop at Horsham (we have found an early opening workmans cafe) we will be lucky to find a lunch stop cafe, even if we have time to stop! And third, the route provides a very interesting, scenic and challenging ride, especially when we will be fully loaded with all our luggage! And for a second opinion, this ad for the Wiggle ride says it all: