The Last Tints of Autumn
I haven't managed to go on many Autumn Tints' mainland rides this year. On several occasions the weather has been so foul that the ride has been cancelled and on a couple of rare occasions when the sun did shine, I had things that I needed to do. November's ride would be the last mainland outing until spring. For once the weather was fairly kind, a cold north wind, but dry at last. The destination was Singleton, in Sussex, an area I had never visited by bike so I was doubly keen to go.
There are 2 ferries from the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth. It suits me better to catch the fastcat from Ryde but I was the only cyclist on it. I did have a map just in case but I was fairly confident that the rest would turn up on the car ferry from Wootton. Off the ferry and onto the appointed meeting place but there was still no sign of them so I set off cycling towards the car ferry terminal. Sure enough I could see the others riding towards me so I did a quick U turn (which wasn't quite so quick as I had to wait for all the cars from the ferry to pass) and set off after them.
Car traffic leaves Portsmouth by the M275 but the cyclists' route follows quieter streets then shared pavements to the Continental Ferry Port and then a fine cycle track by the water's edge towards the outskirts. Traffic began to thin out as we left Havant and headed towards Bedhampton where we had a lengthy wait at a level crossing. The leaders' GPS showed a cycle route through what looked like a pedestrian precinct. We hadn't gone far when an angry voice shouted
'Can't you lot read the signs? No cycling!'
Once through there we were out into open countryside heading roughly in the direction of Chichester. I've only visited this area by train so it seemed quite exciting to be doing it by bike. Cycling on the Isle of Wight I tend to miss that liberating feeling of just how far from home a bike can take you. And with no petrol or tickets to buy either! A Roe Deer ran across the road just in front of us. More excitement – there are no deer on the Island.
Heading north towards Goodwood we almost came to grief. John stopped to admire a fine chalk stream flowing fast and deep beside the road. It was a lovely stream and I stopped too. Unfortunately Steve was too busy admiring the stream as he rode down the hill and only noticed that we had stopped at the very last moment. There was a strained shout, a blow from behind and the sound of bicycle parts hitting the road! Fortunately it had only been a glancing blow to my saddle bag that had broken the plastic clip on my extra rear light. Both bikes were fine and my main rear light on my rack was fine too. Steve apologised profusely, I apologised too as I had stopped quite far out in the road and John apologised for stopping in the first place! We continued on our way the best of friends!
It was quite a long climb up past the famous racecourse at Goodwood before we dropped down into Singleton for lunch. John and Steve headed for the pub. The log burner was very tempting but I resisted and joined Dick in the churchyard with my sandwiches. I'd been perfectly warm cycling but it wasn't long before we were slapping our legs and blowing on our hands to try to keep warm. We decided to chivy them out of the pub before they got too comfortable and we froze to death!
We soon got our revenge! A steep climb was just the thing for warming frozen limbs but not so good after a couple of pints! As we rode through a wood people stood at the side of the road waving flags. We seemed to be heading through the middle of a pheasant shoot but fortunately the gunfire didn't seem too close. It wasn't much after 3 o'clock but the light was already fading. I was rather surprised when everyone voted to forego the tea stop at Rowland's Castle in order to try to get back to Portsmouth before it got completely dark but it certainly seemed like a good idea. I did find the last few miles into Portsmouth a bit scary, a bewildering mix of noise, cars and lights. When it comes to 'dancing with traffic' I've got 2 left feet! I was just glad to hang onto the wheel in front of me. We made it back to the harbour just as the fastcat was pulling out. Oh well, you can't win them all!
A most enjoyable day.