Long Family Cycle (24th August 2008)
Glorious weather is less rare in this part of England than our culture would have you believe. Still, it’s true that we try and make the most of it whenever the sky brightens up. This seems to be a hardcoded feature.
This time I convinced my parents to take the other direction along the Basingstoke Canal towpath, though Fleet. Eventually, we ended up riding much of the long route I cycled with Dad earlier this year.
We rode slowly in short sections, stopping at landmarks. There were many groups of ducks and pairs of swans on the canal. Also lots of people on the towpath. We stopped on the left and let them walk past, being thanked courteously by nearly all of them.
Houses line the far bank of the canal. Ranging from modest bungalows to picturesque city houses, many had a dingy or small narrowboat moored on the canal.
A bridge carries Kings Road over the canal and into the Pondtail area of Fleet, with an older bridge beside it. We passed under them and saw a boat turning around in the winding hole. The skipper really gassed up the long-stroke diesel engine to bring it around during the final movement!
This stretch of the canal is very open. I took the lead and rode really slowly so we could admire water lillies and let people pass. After a while, mum got impatient and overtook me!
We had almost caught the narrowboat when we stopped at the overflow. It was’t overflowing. In fact, the water level was several centimetres below the overflow point. There were a couple of leaks in the sluices where water was gushing through at a modest rate.
We trundled around to the pool which acts as a buffer between the overflow and the stream. We watched the water for a while and discussed a route back. Much to my surpise and delight, going back through the woods like dad and I had done was unanimously, if reluctantly, agreed on.
We moved off towards the bridge. I darted ahead to swing left up the huge, steep, root-covered path up the embankment. Managed to get up it in one go, although I was knackered by the top! Looked around and couldn’t see my parents. Had they stopped? Had they taken a wrong turn?
I shouted down "“I MADE IT!” but got no response. Couldn’t hear anyone cycling. After a while I picked my way back down but nobody was there. Now I was getting a bit worried…where were they? Had they tricked me; turned around and gone back home on the towpath? Rode as fast as I could up the towpath to see if they were looking for an alternate way up. Got to the bridge but didn’t see or hear them, so I turned around and races back.
Eventually I figured if they had started home they wouldn’t turn around and come the long way with me, even if I found them. But if they were finding an alternate way up to the road, I might find them by waiting by the road for a while.
So I rode back up the hill, taking a different line which made the upper section a little longer but also a little shallower and smoother. This was an overall gain. Continued through to the road and waited.
After quite some minutes, I eventually heard day shouting “Hello!” He was approaching from the far side of the road, so my gamble had paid off. Mum was following, a little way behind.
Apparently they had looked for an alternate route but not found it. So they climbed a track up the embankment. Mum said there was a shallower route but they should have gone further on, so I guess choosing the earlier path was dad’s idea.
We rode 3-wide along the pavement, over the high bridge. Crossed the road and dropped into the woodland area.
Dad and I pushed mum up the hill a little. Not sure it had much effect but it was quite funny. 3 routes were ahead of us; dad and I had taken the left one before. Since it went a long way, I suggested taking the middle route. I didn’t remember this route before but it seemed to be pointing in a better direction for a shorter route. So that’s what we took.
It immediately led into a long, steepening, downhill, gravel-covered access road with a right-hand corner. One of those corners which is tight enough to make you worried but which tempts you to try taking it at high speed. We all got around it and continued rolling down to where the track flattened.
The flat track went through an open heath, then stopped at the foot of a small hill. We stopped here to cool down and rest. A small formation of fast jets flew overhead, a little way off. I just managed to glimpse 2 of them.
After some debate about which gear to use, Low 3 was what mum and I were already in and we figure that would be fine. We got up the hill easily. In fact, mum accelerated away from dad and I, who were taking it easy.
Mum stopped for us to catch up, just past a gate which leads to The Foresters pub. We decided to go in for an orange juice. Dad led us to the beer garden at the back and, leaving me in charge of the bicycles, went with mum to buy an orange juice for each of us.
They returned with a bag of Kettle Chips which, after tasting one, I asked for as well. Mum offered to get them for me so I sat back down and enjoyed the orange juice.
It’s a lovely garden. Quite adequate in size and with bird feeders which were very effective at attracting a variety of small birds.
We chatted slowly and joked a bit for quite some time. We rarely do that these days (either part).
The journey home is fairly unremarkable. You go through another wooded area, over a cattle grid then it’s a series of long paths and quiet roads back to Basingbourne Park. Cut through the woods (yes, another wooded area!) and you arrive at the bottom of our road.
Mum and I took the longer, shallower route and rode really slow to cool down. Dad bombed it up the steep bit. I used to do that but the discomfort of overheating when back indoors make me favour a slower end. Like walking a horse to help it cool down after a hack through the countryside on holiday.