Picos Original Riders

Picos Original Riders
Highlights of 2010

Last of the Picos Riders - to Rome Alone!

Our first two charity rides were a huge success - raising over £20,000 for the South East Cancer Help Centre.

The Centre does a fantastic job of supporting patients and carers at the most difficult times of their lives. They make a real difference and you could help them in their work by contributing to our fundraising. Donations can be made via JustGiving.comhttps://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Vaz/ or directly into the Centre. For more details of the Centre and their work see their website at http://www.sechc.org.uk/

After 3 years of rest it seemed time to dust off the old muscles, bones and sinews and do one more spectacular ride in aid of this fabulous charity.

This time I will travel alone for 25 days, mainly following the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome, the Via Francigene, covering a distance of around 1,400 miles.

The route travels through Newhaven - Dieppe - Paris before I eventually reach the Via Francigene in Eastern France. From then on it is pretty simple apart from having to cross the Alps without an elephant!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

El Viento y La Lluvia -The Wind and Rain

A flaming June it has not been. Heavy rain and gale force winds have been a feature of this year's summer!
During the school half term holiday, my fellow pilgrims and I decided to cycle down to Portsmouth to recce the route. This was to see how long it would take, and to ensure that we didn't get lost on our way to catch the ferry to Spain in July. Also, on what would be a very long ride, to find out where we could find the very necessary food and cups of tea!

Enquiring with Southern Railways I found that we could get an evening train back to East Croydon at the reduced price of only £4 each. An offer not to be missed!

So it was all systems go. Except for the weather!

On the Thursday, the chosen day for our ride, it was the worst recorded weather in June for many a year. Torrential rain and gale force winds so we had to cancel. By Saturday the weather had improved, mainly sun but still very windy. Being a weekend there were no cheap train tickets so we decided to cycle only part of our intended route to Portsmouth and then cycle back. We took our bikes by car to Billingshurst, cycled as far as Goodwood on the intended Portsmouth route, then cut off to head up to Midhurst, and back to Billingshurst via Petworth. Using the Via Michelin Route Finder to suggest a good cycling route along mainly country lanes, it came up with this:

The route turned out to indeed be a very scenic route. Top marks for Michelin!

Just before Fittleworth (No. 10 on above the map) we crossed over the River Arun on an old pack horse bridge. A picture post card setting as can be seen in this photo.
And shortly after crossing the Arun we passed a nursery which had a tea room, although we didn't stop to try it. We came to a cross roads at No. 13 on the map and should have turned left, but instead went straight on, our only mistake so far!

However the error was rewarded by the views over the mill pond and the old Buxton water mill. We had been making slow progress due to the very strong head wind and this beautiful setting offered a welcome refuelling stop. My calorie intake being, half a banana and a hand full of peanuts.

From here it was only a short distance to get back on our correct route, at the bottom of the long steep climb at Duncton Beacon, a high point along the South Downs ridge (half way between Nos 13/14). A few miles further on we branched off towards East Dean and after another steep climb we eventually came to the famous Goodwood race course (No. 16 on the map). Still with no tea room in sight it was time for the second half of my banana and another handful of peanuts!

At this point we cut short the route to Portsmouth and headed north. The ride from Glorious Goodwood provided us with a glorious, long and fast down hill ride to join the main, A286 back towards to Midhurst.

Midhurst is a lovely old market town with many historic buildings. Well worth a visit, but not to the tea room that we chose for our lunch stop! Very expensive, so whilst Tom had a bit of cake, Ricky and I confined our "lunch" to the first and only cuppas of the day.
here we are, enjoying the blue sky over the old market square at Midhurst where I enjoyed banana number 2!

From here we headed back to Billingshurst.  The recce ride showed us a number of things.
First, that cycling from Purley to Portsmouth for the afternoon ferry would require a VERY early start! Second, that after a breakfast stop at Horsham (we have found an early opening workmans cafe) we will be lucky to find a lunch stop cafe, even if we have time to stop!
And third, the route provides a very interesting, scenic and challenging ride, especially when we will be fully loaded with all our luggage!

The Picos Riders Meet the Queen

The Jubilee weekend was a bit of a washout, weather wise. The best day was Saturday and Ricky, Tom and I made the most of this best day with an interesting ride down to Ardingly Reservoir. Ricky is the newest recruit to the Picos Riders team.
As the next day was to be the magnificent Jubilee boating event on the Thames. Our first port of call was to visit the lakes on Earlswood Common. No boats but plenty of swans!

Since the time of Queen Elizabeth I the reigning monarch owns all wild swans living in open water, and we were convinced that this was Her Mag viewing some of her swans. Doubts only arose because we could not see any corgies!
Our next stop was for tea at Balcombe where we waited for ages to get served. So long that it became a lunch stop. But we did enjoy the scrambled eggs on toast washed down with a gallon of tea.

From there, down to the reservoir is particularly scenic, down a wooded lane, past the old watermill and mill pond, over the stream and then taking the bridle path alongside the stream to the huge reservoir.
After all the heavy rain of late, it was now looking very full and the sailing fraternity were making the most of the sunny day.
It is a long and steep climb up from the reservoir valley, and after crossing over the B2028 we took another little lane which leads to West Hoathly.

And it was here, outside the old parish church of West Hoathly, that we did meet her Maj, resplendent in regal gown.

And to prove it, Tom took a photo for the Picos Riders’ scrap book.

It is a tradition in the little hamlets of this part of Sussex to have an annual summer festival where a variety of effigies of people are displayed. This year it was royal effigies to mark the Queen's Jubilee. We cycled past Queen Victoria, Princes Albert, Philip, William, Harry, knights in armour and much more. Doesn't it make one proud to be British!