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The Longest Day (South Downs Way In A Day)

Mike Anton writes…

Doug Fox of Crawley Wheelers had mooted a 3rd outing on the South Downs Way earlier in the year and I immediately agreed.

We’d first done the trip in 2004 and then again in 2006 so I knew what to expect. I even had good intentions of getting in some longer off road rides to polish my (woeful) bike handling skills but that never happened.

As before, we had a mixed bag of clubs represented with George Higgs of Brighton Excel also on his 3rd outing, the Pauls Byford and Carruthers of GS Stella, Andy Taylor also of the Wheelers and George’s friend Richard.

Saturday dawned with a steady drizzle and decent SW wind and the drive down to Chilcomb didn’t bode well for a pleasant trip.

Meeting up with the others at the start saw some good natured grumbling at the folly of the ride and hopes for a dry trip. Unfortunately the first 1.5 hours had a steady drizzle which made the trails pretty wet but not total bogfests.

I always struggle to remember the route on the Hampshire stretch but the 40mph freewheel descent of Butser Hill arrived sooner than expected. The puncture fairies made their first visit near Harting but we only suffered a further five casualties on the rest of the trip which was pretty good.

The climbs out of Cocking and Lavington really took their toll on Andy though it was not helped by the fact that he was using road pedals, and Doug’s MTB which was probably 2” too small. He plugged on to Whiteways where we stopped for lunch at the bikers cafe, eschewing the riverside café at Amberley for something more reasonably priced.

The climb out of Amberley came as a shock as I really don’t remember it being that steep. A decent blast along over Storrington had us then hit the bar chewing grovel that is the climb up from Washington Bostal.

Another flattish run over Chanctonbury ring saw us arrive in probably the most familiar section between Steyning and Jack and Jill. Having gamely soldiered for sometime Andy gratefully baled at the ‘pit stop’ in the car park by Jill windmill where we adjourned for some much appreciated ‘teatime’ nosh and fluids.

Swapping Andy for Helen Bullimore and Kevin James of the Wheelers parish and we were off again at a decent clip towards Lewes. The rain came back for the big U shaped climb up round Kingston and it didn’t bode well for the final couple of hours. Fortunately it stopped in time for the trudge up Itford hill and its famously magnetic grass.

Back on the top and another wind assisted run to Alfreston. I knew we had two more decent climbs past the Long Man at Wilmington and out of Jevington but I had a sneaking suspicion there was another one in there somewhere. There was but it was the shortish wooded leg up to the Wilmington road and my last energy gel certainly did the trick.

The vista of Eastbourne and the view to Hastings at the top of the final hill was certainly very welcome, especially as the setting sun made a final appearance. All that remained was the blast across the golf course and the run down the A259 in to Eastbourne where nobody exceeded the 40mph speed limit on the descent at all officer……

A swift pint at the pub by the station (or more for some) and then on the train for a well deserved shower and bed.

We were out on course for 12:45 overall but my speedo had 9:35 for the actual trip. Mileage was approx 95 for the ride. Climbs, too many. Descents, not enough.

Until the next time??

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