Wednesday, November 23, 2011

South Downs Way & Winchester

I parked just outside of Winchester this morning to get on the South Downs Way for a portion of it just to get out & enjoy the thinly clouded day. The route runs east from Winchester a hundred miles to Eastbourne on bridleways & some road - I imagine it's very popular in the summer, but I only saw a couple of walkers & one other rider while I was out.

The first couple of miles were climbing on narrow roads, before getting to the east end of an MOD firing range & heading off the seal & starting to cross the fields on the top of the down. With all the hedgerows & green fields it was pleasantly English & the views improved as I climbed a little (there wasn't really much climbing in the part I did). I was pleased to not get very muddy at all, I was expected the chalk soil would have different ideas - but it was mostly just damp & not wet, sloppy mud.

Back towards Winchester

It's a little odd riding these sorts of trails in England - you never feel very far away from anywhere. That's sort of nice when you're by yourself. It was also very strange riding through some farmer's fields & then suddenly being turfed in to the middle of a farm's working buildings. There were dozens of pheasants scrambling out of the hedges & undergrowth, which was amusing.

I had a nice long descent down to the village of Exton, pity a lot of it had been rerouted a while ago (the signs said temporary, but they looked old) on to the road. Some nice big manor houses & deprecatingly named 'cottages' around here to look at while I snacked before turning around & heading back up the hill. Apart from the first part of the return, the riding was a lot easier than I expected - the GPS confirms I was very gradually climbing for a lot of the way out.

The River Meon flowing through backyards in Exton

I probably would have fitted, if my Sat Nav had have sent me down here.
All in all a pleasant two & half hours & forty kilometres spent; nothing exciting as far as singletrack goes, but I imagine this will be a great route to bikepack during the summer. I must remember & come back & see if I can ride to Eastbourne.

Since I had parked at the Park & Ride lot, I could hardly not take the bus in to Winchester to see this historic town.  A cathedral town, it was once the capital of England & the seat of King Alfred the Great.  Lots of nice rambling streets & buildings doing their best to stay upright, it was pleasant strolling around.  

Winchester Cathedral - Jane Austen is buried here

This 18ft diameter, 1 ton piece was originally a (round) table & depicts Arthur & his twenty-two knights.

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