As I left my driveway Sunday morning it was foggy in Berkshire.
Not an unusual occurrence for this time of year as my home is 280ft above sea level. So usually by the time I’ve descended a hundred feet, or so off the hill it’s clear, but not today. The patchy fog persisted down to Farnham, down to Liphook and I was beginning to think it might be a damp foggy ride to Hayling’s coast. Miraculously about ten miles outside Havant I drove out of the wall of fog into glorious sunshine and blue skies, even the temperature shot up from a foggy 12°C to a very comfortable 17°C.
I arrived at Havant Station car park to find various members of the club trying to decipher the ridiculously complicated phone app to pay for the day’s parking. I went to the station and paid, because those apps drive me nuts!
And so Sunday’s band of merry cyclists were: Tracy Caudle, Trevor Kite, Dave Rapson, Bill Martin, Ash Kesvani, Dave Clarke, Sean Slammon, my brother-in-law John Trollope, and myself leading.
Bro in law and me – finally we managed to get a ride in together this year!
We rolled out of the back of the car park, which sixty years ago was the bay platform for the train to Hayling Island and straight onto the old trackbed path away from any cars, lovely!
Same place sixty years apart.
The pace was steady and we soon had our first glimpses of the sea as the trees cleared and the path turned into an embankment that in the past carried the train over the sea on a timber built bridge. Alas that structure is long gone, and so the cycle route uses the modern road bridge to cross to the island. If you look carefully you can still spot the odd clue that a train had once chuffed by.
The path once on the island skirts the west shore with great views of the bay and Portsmouth on the other side.
The old railway line path is only five miles long, so it wasn’t very long before we arrived at the site of Hayling Island Station and turned east to follow a loop of quiet residential roads and bridleways taking us to Eastoke and our first views of the sea.
At this point Tracy got a recommendation for an elevenses stop at: ‘The brick building, that’s a cafe second car park down.’ This recommendation came from Tracy’s friend Judith whom she’s known since she was fifteen and they went to Kung fu classes together. A serendipitous meeting event that couldn’t possibly be ignored, especially as the two ladies were both trained in Kung fu! So we peddled down to the cafe and stopped for refuelling and a chance for the two to catch up.
Whilst munching, Dave Clarke got all excited at a passing ‘Choo, choo!’
After he’d calmed down we remounted our trusty steeds and continued to head west along the beach path towards Langstone Harbour. On the way an attempt was made by some to use a shingle path that I’d discounted on my previous research ride; they all came back and we used the road to the ferry!
Some tried, but all failed!
Along the road I pointed out the old WW2 landing craft that had been converted into homes and the broken – backed Phoenix Mulberry Harbour section in the bay.
By the skin of our teeth we made the 11:45hrs ferry across to Southsea, in fact the crew were kind enough to drop the ramp upon seeing nine cyclists rushing down the pier. The crossing only takes a few minutes, but the currents are furious through this stretch of water and even the strongest swimmer would likely drown.
On the other side we trundled our way west through the tinkling of steel cables slapping aluminium boat masts in the marina. The tour was turning out to be a lovely day, the sun was shining, the sky and sea were a brilliant blue, and the breeze was from the south west at a very agreeable 7mph.
Soon we were on Southsea sea front heading towards the pier. The traffic was light and our own designated cycle path made the pace easy. Up at the D-Day museum we stopped for photos and a look at the last surviving D-Day tank landing craft.
It was around 12:30hrs that people started getting a craving for fish and chips, I can’t imagine why, but nevertheless a plan was hatched between Ash and myself to feed their cravings down at the Spice Island Inn. This pub is as close the the harbour as you can get without getting wet and the scenery is top notch.
Appetites satiated, a couple of the group expressed a wish for a quick tour around the town of Portsmouth and Ash volunteered to lead as he’d lived and worked in Portsmouth in the past. So our group of nine set off for a trundle around, and looked at some of the sites.
H.M.S Warrior, the Navy’s first ‘Iron Clad’ battle ship was the first quick stop and then it was an ‘iggy wiggy’ tour of the busy streets of Portsmouth, including a ride through Victoria Park and around the back of Fratton before heading back to the sea. I then took the lead back from Ash for the return trip to Havant.
We negotiated a couple more back streets and cycle paths before ending up back on the shore of the bay.
Once away from the busy Portsmouth roads, we were back onto a relaxing path with excellent views. We headed north, back up the bay encountering this lovely Peoples’ Memorial along the way:
Alas after this peaceful area we did have to follow a cycle path along the main road and across the bridge to the M27 due to sea wall reconstruction blocking the scenic route. The cycle path east back towards Havant is then sandwiched between beauty on the right, being the sea shore bay, and the hideous, noisy, chaotic M27 motorway on the left. Fortunately after two miles we diverted right following the bay and the rat race noise of the motorway disappeared and the tranquil sounds of the sea were once again in charge.
The next little challenge was a part of the path that turned to beach shingle for around 200 yards, some of it was rideable – just – and some wasn’t!
Bill decided to use his off road vehicle, but couldn’t get it started, muttering something about water in the carb!
The final couple of miles were on deserted side roads and a path that cut diagonally right through a quiet residential area. This final path dropped us back onto the railway path for the last mile retracing the outbound route from this morning.
A lovely day out, and much fun was had by all.
Excellent ride, with excellent company, on a most excellent day.
31.5 miles of excellence.