Sunday, July 03, 2022

Route and menu for B Group (6th July)

This is a 'public' copy of Steph's route (includes cue sheets):

This is our menu for the Five Bells:

~ Tim C

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Invitation to B ride Wed 6th July

 The ride will run from Cobham to Harmondsworth via the River Crane and return to Richmond Park via a short section of Grand Union.  The pub will take pre orders (menu on the blog).  27 miles to lunch but flat after the climb back up from Cobham.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Invitation for A Group Ride on 6 July.

Meet in the British Legion in Cobham.

Lunch at The Sussex Oak in Warnham.

Route all on-road via Shere, Peaslake and Ewhurst to Warnham. (23 miles)

Return via Rusper to tea at Hillier's Garden Centre on the A25 in Dorking. (15 miles)

Please book in to me before 7pm on Monday. 

Groups, start time, and gpx to be provided on Tuesday.

Report for B Group - 29th June

Eight B riders had a drizzly ride to Leatherhead for the start of the ride to Tanhouse farm, but fortunately it had stopped by the time we departed. Whilst passing by the Priory in Norbury Park our way forward was blocked by the Massive Mollusc of Mickleham which, after a photo session, was removed to a place of safety by Steph.

We were then able to proceed via lots of quiet lanes to Tanhouse Farm for a lovely lunch. The two resident donkeys and the farm dog Harvey all seemed very interested in our lunch too. One of the donkeys even tried to consume Steph’s jacket.

After lunch we made our way to Burford Bridge whereupon we went our separate ways. A most enjoyable little ride.

~ Pete

Thursday, June 30, 2022

NCN 47 - The High Level Route

 Last Summer, when I rode to Whitesands Bay, I crossed Carmarthenshire on NCN 47.  It was a very attractive ride, very quiet, in some remote and beautiful countryside.  It was also very hilly, but I didn't mind that.

During the Winter I had another look at NCN 47 - has quite a nice description of it - and I earmarked the High Level Route for a Summer ride.  Last week Maggie had a social event in Swansea, so it was easy enough to tack the ride on to this.

I started at Pontypridd, a little market town at the confluence of the Rhondda, Cynon and Taff rivers.  My route started in the High Street, crossed the river on a shiny new cycle and pedestrian bridge, and picked up the cycle route in the park opposite.  This is the Taff Trail, Cardiff to Brecon, and, like many other cycle routes in the area the standard was very high.  A few miles north of the town I turned on to the Lady Windsor Trail, another good quality cycleway, which is also NCN 47.  Easily at first, then steady climbing past Ynysybwl, then in to the forest on the way to Llanwonno. Steeper here, and mostly on gravel.

I was pleased to visit Llanwonno, a tiny place, the home of Guto Nyth Brân, of whom my mother spoke when I was a boy.  Guto was an athlete, a runner, and a figure of legend.  According to my mother Guto's mother would send him down to the market in Pontypridd to buy butter while the kettle boiled for tea.  Having just ridden up from Pontypridd I found this unlikely, unless it was a very large kettle on a very small stove.  For some reason I believed for some time that Guto was a contemporary of my mother, perhaps a relative, and it was a bit of a surprise to learn that he died in 1737.  He is buried at Llanwonno Church, and the annual Nos Galan race still celebrates his achievements.

The other notable feature of Llanwonno is the Brynfynnon Hotel, a tiny pub that is the only source of sustenance on the entire route.  I was too early to take advantage of it, but it's worth knowing that it is there, and that it is the only one.

Up again from here (the first part of the route is mostly up), and in to the St Gywnno Forest, on gravel forestry trails.  Pleasant riding, a lot of trees, with views of the Brecon Beacons from time to time.

A few miles through the forest, then across the A4233, a mountain road with a well-considered cycle crossing (and no traffic anyway), and the beginning of the next set of gravel trackways.

Here you are leaving the forestry world, although there are still trees around, and entering the world of the wind turbines.  I had always considered these to be a blot on the landscape, but my opinion has changed recently ...

The forestry gravel had been good enough, but the wind farm companies had done an outstanding job, and had taken very great care to take account of other users of the tracks.  No 'Cyclists Dismount' signs, instead the signs warned the plant drivers to give way to cyclists, and, if they saw a horse rider, to stop entirely and turn off their engine.  That said, despite the huge wind farms that I rode through, I saw no vehicles and no-one working on the machinery.

The windmills are very 
large, and surprisingly noisy.  The make a sort of 'whoop whoop whoop' noise while they are working, and whirr and clatter as they adjust themselves.  Not ideal for the garden, but then, the ones that I was passing were apparently taller than The Shard, so not many people have a suitable garden anyway.

Near the top of the hill I was pleased to find the NCN Millennium Milepost.  This one is at 1968 feet, and, as far as I have been able to discover, is the highest in the country.  From here, the tracks first of all crossed a high plateau and then began to descend.  The weather was turning a bit, which was a pity, as there were some very good views.  At one point you could see Mumbles Head, for example, about twenty miles away.

After a few miles NCN 47 turned off the gravel trackways on to Cefn Ffordd, an ancient trackway across the open mountainside.  There was a little gate, nicely signposted NCN 47, British Horse Society Golden Dragon Ride and Rhondda Cynon Taff Bridleway.  Someone had chained it shut.  Ah.

It looked as if my luck was in, as, ascending the track at some speed, was a fell runner.  About ten miles back I had seen four gravel riders going in the other direction, other than that no-one on the whole ride.  So I was glad to see him, and hailed him to ask for help.  This seemed to startle him, and he cast about a bit, apparently seeking to pass without approaching me.  No luck, the only way was over the gate, so as he came up to it I hoisted the bike over and said 'Here, take this for me'.  With the greatest reluctance he did so, no eye contact, no conversation.  Then he skipped over the gate and scuttled off up the road.  I was reminded of Gollum.

Anyway, I was now on the right side of the gate and rode down Cefn Ffordd.  This was the most technical part of the ride, quite steep, about 15%, rock slabs, stones, grass and several rock steps.  It would have been much harder going up and it wasn't too easy going down.

After about a mile I came to a wind farm track, and there was another NCN 47 signpost at the junction. Someone had uprooted it and thrown it in a ditch.  I was reminded of Muddy Lane, near Send, and I wondered about Gollum.  Just wondered...

Much easier now, wind farm track, then forestry track through the Pelenna Forest, some open heathland and then the Garmin said 'Fairyland Road', which it sort of was after twenty five miles or so of high level gravel.  Down to Tonna where the Whittington Arms provided hydration and refuelling facilities, then traffic free cycleway all the way home, with fine views over the bay.

So, a very good ride.  The Horse for the Course was the Jolly Green Giant, built for the job.  45mm tyres, which did well, Shimano GRX, a strong Yamaha ebike motor and a 500 watt battery.  I didn't bother with a range extender and had plenty of battery to spare.  It's made for this.

I'd recommend the ride, it's a proper little adventure, but it would be prudent to keep an eye on the weather, as it's pretty wild and there are not many people up there.  On the plus side there is cell-phone coverage all the way, for the wind farms I suppose, and you could summon help in an emergency and it could get to you, so the risks are managed.

Some of the best gravel in the UK, in my opinion.


Leatherhead - Horley - Leatherhead A group ride 29 June

After the miles and hills of the Trivets and Dieppe rides I decided that an easier, flatter ride was needed and, as I was away in Dieppe, with a pub that required no pre-booking or ordering. A ride we did to Horley several years ago fitted the bill.

I had 2 new volunteer sub-leaders, Andy H and Sue C, so many thanks to them for stepping up to this. Sue in particular who had no navigation device and had made copious notes on her recce. I'd lent Sue a spare Garmin a couple of weeks beforehand and I'm sure that those who use them know that when they work they're amazing; however, they do take a bit of time to familiarise yourself with especially as each model works slightly differently.

The day dawned rainy but with the prospect of it clearing up by 10ish, in the event it was more like 11ish. A few dropped out due to the early rain and also because they were still recovering from sickness from Dieppe.

Sue's group headed out first and here's her report.

Offering to sub lead this week, kindly Janice lent me her spare Garmin, programmed and ready to go……although the route wasn’t showing as we departed?

Myself, Dave F, Gina, Keith and Peter S. set off along familiar roads towards Pixham Lane where Keith punctured. This gave an opportunity for another Garmin set up lesson when Janice’s group caught us up. 
On our way again assisted by Dave W, Garmin still wasn’t happy flashing a large angry blue arrow, instructing a u turn. I managed to keep us on route partly from memory, but mostly through helpful shouts of instruction from behind.
We had a good lunch at Weatherspoons Horley, Garmin was reset and thankfully behaved for the homeward journey. 
A very enjoyable day, good company and my thanks to all the patient assistant sub leaders with loud voices. Mainly to Janice for her help, encouragement and a lovely route.

Due to last minute changes, my group merged with Andy's and comprised Neil W and his son Jon, Dave B, John B, Andy, Patrick, Brian, Steve W and myself. 

Soon after we set off we met Sue's group on Pixhams Lane where we had a go at sorting her Garmin woes (it had somehow settled on indoor mode so wasn't picking up GPS) and left them sorting out Keith's puncture. The rain had more or less stopped (but started again the moment anyone dared to remove a rain jacket). We took a long route via Leigh and towards Smallfield on lesser used roads, looping around Horley to return to it via Copthorne. Lunch was at Wetherspoons where we were able to sit outside even though it was cool.

After lunch we took a more direct route into a headwind via Charlwood, Russ Hill and Parkgate, back to Leatherhead for coffee and cake at Lucios in the High Street. 

A good day out and the weather improved as we went on.

Thank you to Sue for her first sub lead and to Dave B for back marking my group. 

Leatherhead to Leatherhead was 47 miles and 1,625ft.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Orders for Club kit

I am in the process of gathering items of club kit to order, should anybody wish to order something, please contact me.

Jennie Jackson


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Dieppe Raid 2022 - Photo Special

This year's edition of the annual Dieppe Raid cycling tour was certainly memorable, not entirely in a good way.   A total of 34 Sou'westers were registered to take part, but several were unable to go due to illness, mainly Covid, and several might be wishing they had not attended, due to a mystery bug (not Covid this time).

We all made our way to Dieppe at various times last week, individually or in smaller groups, braving train strikes and heavy downpours, some riding down to Newhaven on Friday.  The ferry had been painted in Sou'Westers colours for the event.   Fewer Sou'Westers than usual (maybe 15) stayed in the Hotel de la Plage, which is under new management but was still very familiar to people who had been before, still very welcoming and I think we would all recommend it.  Others stayed in a gite, AirBnBs, campervans, camping sheds or possibly other hotels.

New events for 2022

In addition to the usual 60km, 100km and 140km Sunday rides, there were extra events this year.   The Five Yard Dash was completed several times by five unwilling participants who contracted an very nasty tummy bug at various times throughout the weekend, and were extremely poorly.   Thankfully it was quite short-lived and they are all now recovering, but most were unable to do their planned ride on Sunday.   It was a bit like a murder mystery - at intervals through the weekend we would get news that another person had succumbed, and one of the earlier victims would emerge, ashen faced and exhausted, after a day or so.  We wish you all a speedy recovery.

Janice's hire bike
A further unwelcome event was the Nine Mile Walk, completed by Janice on Saturday after her rear derailleur was damaged beyond repair on the ferry.  Janice spent the day walking with her bike, between bike shops at the bottom or top of Dieppe's hills, to try to get it fixed (unsuccessfully in the end) and eventually (another walk) to collect a hire bike.   It was impressive to see the good humour and fortitude with which she managed this, despite not having packed her walking boots.   Using this hire bike, Janice was able to complete the 140km ride on Sunday, before returning the hire bike, in the rain, to the hire shop at the top of the hill.


That left 20+ riders who had a more traditional Dieppe experience.   On Saturday, instead of the informal joint Sou'Westers ride of earlier years, several people spent the day in Dieppe as the forecast wasn't brilliant; an A+ group ride went along the coast to St Valery en Caux, and an A group ride went to Quiberville sur Mer before looping back inland, hoping to return before the rain but not quite making it.  Others did their own rides.

Sheltering?  or praying for better weather?

The A+ group were a little too adventurous in their choice of restaurant  for their Saturday evening meal.  Booked using an app, after a bit of head scratching to work out where it was, it emerged that it was 4,474 miles away in Dieppe, Canada!

"Sorry, we could not calculate cycling directions."
Pass the maple syrup.   Hans is already starting to look unwell.

Our hosts, the Cyclo-Club Dieppois, held a reception for the visitors on Saturday evening, at which tables groaned with trophies, and a few speeches thanked the amazing volunteers who organise and mark the routes, man the controls and provide refreshments for us, and also thanked Caroline Street, the UK organiser who manages to juggle website bookings, meal bookings, website and communications for the 300+ UK visitors as well as coordinating with the Dieppe organisers and handling the upheavals due to Covid.

Caroline posing for Madeleine

Rallying the organisers

Caroline is stepping down as organiser after twenty years(!) and deserves our heartfelt thanks for many years of wonderful cycling weekends.   She appealed for someone to come forward and take over the UK organisation of the event, and looking round the room, I thought that several people looked quite interested in their own modest way.

Reception (and trophies to be won)
Sunset between the downpours

Sunday Ride

The main attraction of course (apart from the beautiful town of Dieppe, French cuisine and sparkling company of us Sou'Westers), is the Sunday ride organised by the Dieppe cycling club.  At least 500 riders aged 8 to 80+ were registered to take part.   It is not a mass event like, say, Ride London, and people set off in small groups to ride the routes of different distances, marked by orange arrows on the road, in the peace and quiet of the wonderful French countryside, with wonderful (and scarce) French motorists who always seem to respect cyclists on the road.

Around 10½ Sou'Westers rode 140k, 15 rode 100k, and five rode 60k in beautiful weather.   At the halfway lunch stop all distances converged on an outdoor kiosk at St Aubin-le-Cauf where the Dieppe CC volunteers managed to feed the 500 with baguettes, coffee, cake, bananas, and a small ration of chocolate.   Congratulations to all who rode, and commiserations to those who could not join us.



Mike's wonderful Relive video of the 140k ride is here.




At the finish line

What happens in Dieppe, stays in Dieppe ...


After the ride, the prize-giving.   A few more speeches (well, it is France) and then a lot of trophies were handed out to worthy and rejoicing winners.  We checked our tombola number on our entry form and some were lucky to win a nice prize, some not.   Cidre was consumed, a lot of chat was had, a bit more cidre, and after all this entente cordiale, we went to prepare for the evening meal.

Winners!  (club with the most entrants)

Winner!  (biggest smile)

Dinner at the Casino

The after-ride dinner was at a new venue this year, the Casino, so it was a bit of a gamble.   Luckily Brian Greenwood was in charge of organising the menu and getting everyone seated with their friends, and his arrangements along with those of Caroline, were pretty well perfect.   We had a very enjoyable meal (with a few empty seats left by those who couldn't actually face eating anything).   Thank you Brian!

Judging from everyone's comments, the weekend was a huge success, socially as well as cycling wise.  Just such a shame that it was marred by illness for so many.  It was a lovely opportunity to socialise across the different groups of Sou'Westers and also with other clubs who come back year after year.  Many thanks to those who helped organise large or small parts of the weekend for us to enjoy, and to those who took the photos you see here.