We met at the Cheesefoot Head car park on the A272 early on Sunday morning. three other brave souls ventured out for a ride taking in chalk downs to East of Winchester.
Despite a car park full of walkers we managed to fit in and head off on what was going to be a bit of a mystery tour for the others. A narrow descent through a nettle bed , on soft , slimy mud was to be our first indication of what was to come. The showers for the previous 3 days had left the ground very wet, and provided a boost for the local nettle population.
Bullets flying from treaded tyres meant 10 metre spacing was neccessary for our gentle trundle off the downs, south, towards Twyford. A quick little stop at the gate for a re -group then off down another narrow slippery track, with some more nettles for good measure.
Care was needed as the ground was unpredictable at best, across the Colden Common Road, and a little climb up a narrow road brought us to the Monarch’s Way. A surprise was in store for the visitors, as after waiting for jackets to be shed, and glasses cleaned we dived off into a small opening in the trees for some heavenly fast singletrack. It’s got enough fall to make it quick, but tight enough corners to regulate the speed, and a few downed trees that require clearing.
Out into the open and a narrow climb up out alongside the gallops, and Hockley Golf club. The rolling nature was, for us, nowhere near its potential, as the climbs were a little draggy, and the descents had to be taken with great care, similar to driving on icy roads.
A small road section across the back of Twyford village, and another short climb saw us out on a hill heading toward Marwell Zoo. Due to the proximity of Winchester, and the density of population meant there were some road sections to cover. However, a tiny, twisty, ribbon of singletrack, over logs and under low trees soon had everyone smiling again.
Marwell Zoo has a new fence, and alongside some nice trails, these do get used by a lot of horses, so another detour to a void a swamp, then onto a setion of singletrack through some woodland and out then heading east toward Bishops Waltham. A little road section, then a short sharp climb brought us out onto the Monarchs way, then through rolling farmland, up a nettle infested bridleway to the Kings Way. This is normally a good fast descent, but was slow rolling due to dampness of the soil.
Here a choice was made to add another hour or so to the route, so we turned through 90 degress and wound our way through some woodland then up some bridleways across open feilds. The reward for the climb was a long steepening descent, with the now all too familiar nettles waiting for us at the end. Grins on faces a hop up a lane popped us out onto the SDW, then a couple of miles helped a by 2 female runners opening gates, saw us back at Cheesefoot head car park. 4 hours and 24 miles of riding, with no punctures and mechanicals. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, and the beer sampling that followed.