A hot Saturday, bikes all cleaned, I thought a trip out and up in the breeze of the South Downs. I hadn’t been on Rachael’s mountain bike for a long time and thought it would like a bit of a ride, I thought the same about Tom too and so managed to convince him he fancied an off road bike trip. I had cleaned and changed the saddle on the mountain bike, played with the chain to sort it out slipping. I couldn’t actually get it to skip so I thought a ride out might just remind me when and how it did it.
The gears on the Dawes mountain bike are wired up backwards to every other bike, something that Dawes seemed to do a bit but no-one else. It’s not a problem, you pull and push the gears in the opposite direction as you would normally, it just takes a small moment to get used to. The whole “chain slipping” problem would no doubt be solved by shortening the chain, something I must do before I do any long off road adventures.
Today was not going to be long, but it would be an adventure. The South Downs I normally try to go around, but there are so many paths, bridleways, byways that criss-cross the hill that it is a different and unknown world when you venture up there. We have the benefit of living within walking distance of the South Downs Way and so you can end up in the middle of the countryside high up on a hill but still be just a moment away from home.
To get to the top, the only way to do it is to go up a steep hill. We just happen to have that steep hill almost at the end of the road (if you turn right first). We loaded both our bikes up with water, pocket tools and spare tube and set off for the hill. Mid afternoon, sun high up and not many clouds, it was not long until we were walking and pushing bikes upwards.
Our first planned stop would be Lancing Ring. Sitting way above Lancing, the views from the top take you all the way over to Brighton, a long history of settlements and the “A27 of Neolithic times” as a main road from Beachy Head to the Chanctonbury and Cissbury rings (which are all quite close neighbours – you would see the night fires on a summer evening). More recent times, a windmill and a dew pond were built. The mill has long gone, but the dew pond has been restored by a local group and the whole area is quite a nice (and local) nature reserve. We stopped at a bench, while watching over the south coast and the view of the sea, we drank water and eat left over cold sausages we had packed for just this moment.
A quick look on the map and we headed off, through the woods and continued slightly upwards and into the depths of the Downs. At the top, the sun was still beating down onto us, but the breeze was much more, pleasant and cooling. We went at a slow pace, we stopped very often and took in the views. Only miles away from home but we could have been on a cycling holiday. A mixture of slight ups and downs along grass tracks, a million miles from cars. We soon could hear the sound of a small engine and it seemed to be coming from the sky. Someone in a micro-lite maybe I thought, but in fact we had bumped into the local model airplane club on a flying day. So we sat and watched the planes flying overhead for a little while before we set off back home.
To get home we would do a circle down to Botolph and back along the old railway into Shoreham and along back into Lancing. The scenery continued to give visual delight, views over Steyning and over the Weald and as far as the North Downs clear in the distance. We met the South Downs Way and made our way through the pig farm at the top of the hill. Plenty of stops to look and talk to the pigs, plus many puddles of suspicious looking water. It didn’t stop us closing our mouths (well I made sure I closed mine!) and going through, making sure our bikes did look like they had been out on an adventure!
Down a massive hill and back onto roads for just a small moment until we met where the South Downs Way and Downslink cross over each other. The South Downs Way would continue on, crossing the main road before going back up the Downs and on its way to Ditchling Beacon. We would follow the flat and car-less Downs Link back into Shoreham. Having been resurfaced over the winter, the track is now flat and quite nice to ride on, whereas before it was a bumpy ride all the way back.
Tom was feeling it now, his feet, hands, backside, legs, and head were all hurting we was happy to tell me. I encouraged him on and we soon got to Shoreham, crossed the river and made our way back home along the pavement cyclepath on the edge of the A27. Upon reaching home, Tom quickly jumped into the shower to clean off the small spots of pig puddle water/mud – probably a wise idea.
Total miles: 10
Total steep hills: many
Total sausages eat: 2 each
Total radio controlled planes spotted: 3
Total number of pigs: loads, oink oink.