Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whitchurch Off Road Trail

Trying to beat off the general lethargy that has set in as I wait for my shoulder operation on Tuesday, I set off north an hour on Saturday for this ride around Whitchurch. I'm not sure why the recommended start point & therefore parking spot is a turnout on the side of a road - I'd be inclined to leave my car in one of the smaller villages on the ride. As I set off in the fair weather, my ride was very nearly thwarted early on as the bridge over the railway into Whitchurch is out for construction - eventually I found the temporary footbridge just to the east.

Out of the village I was soon on bridleways heading north & then over the A34 - quite a bit of this ride is too close to this busy road for my liking. There's the odd route marker, but intelligent guessing while referring to the map has one picking the correct route around the edges of fields & through farmyards. The views started to open up a bit & early on there are a couple of cute little villages to roll through. I was becoming apparent that I was well over-dressed as the sky began to clear - but it's a little too much hassle to remove leggings mid-ride & I only had the stifling winter gloves with me.

I shared this ride with the usual array of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, hawks & various livestock. Shortly after I got on to Wayfarer's Walk & found this strange building in the woods. It appears to be someone's house now, with no clue as to why it was built. It's on the Highclere Estate - if I had have been later in the year I could have popped down to Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey apparently. There was a nice, relatively, long downhill back down to the A34.

With a little detour to find the underpass, I was soon climbing back up on to the top of the downs over a big rabbit warren. This was hardly surprising as I made a small detour to go & look out over Watership Down - the setting of that delightful little book of the same name (Richard Adams still lives in Whitchurch).

I was lucky not to ride into a bunny living room, as I was reminded of man's ability to generate electricity

Watership Down - it was much more exciting in the book
The short descent off Watership Down back to the loop I was supposed to be riding was the best bit of singletrack all day - which isn't saying a lot, but it was good fun. I was soon on Caesar's Way - which was predictable straight, before going through the last village, Litchfield, & back to the car. Litchfield disappointingly didn't have a pub - I thought every village had a pub in this country - so it was some time before I got lunch. But that was mostly my fault as I enjoyed a pleasant drive home down little country lanes avoiding highways & motorways.  A nice day out exploring in the sun bringing temperatures in the mid to high teens.

Today my bike was cleaned & put into hibernation, before I headed out in more sun to the New Forest Wildlife Park.  This was mostly so I could get some some idea of what my housemate, Gary, is talking about when he comes home from work - he's a keeper there.  And partly because they have a lot of otters there & after Yellowstone, I quite like otters (although Giant Otters, it turns out, make quite the obnoxious sound).  Amongst other things they have some Scottish Wildcat (slightly bigger than a domestic cat, which seems to think it's a tiger), lynx (very hard to spot), a lot of owls (including a Morepork), some big wild boar (with rather cute boarlets) & five wolves.

Boarlets - like striped furry piglets, reminded me somewhat of baby warthogs (warthoglets?)

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