2-part Cycle (26th September 2008)
After reaching the Pondtail passage I veered off to the right and explored a fire alley.
Damp Track with Post
Can’t remember quite where it led now but there was a damp track with a post in the middle that I followed from it. This led to a clearing.
Another fire alley was on the right. Some way down it I could see the first threads of a very ambitious spider’s web glinting in the sunlight, which was bright but not glaring. I continued along the track a bit further and noticed the left looked out across the prehistoric landscape which the Pondtail passage circumnavigates.
Amongst the trees on the right I noticed a narrow path which I hadn’t ridden before. I like to go exploring along new routes from time to time, so I trundled in to see where it went.
After a while it forked, with the left leading back to the clearing and the right being blocked by a small, fallen Silver Birch trunk. After deliberating for a while I decided to continue exploring by going right.
The track was very narrow and clearly not used very often. It may even have been an animal track but it was worn smooth and clear, more like a little-used human path. After many turns and kinks it exited onto a grassed-over track which was also new to me.
Not sure why but I turned left and this led up a hill, with trees either side. Near the top it opened into the prehistoric clearing. A little further on it joined into a track I recognised. Turning right would take me to a cattle grid on the path which trackes the boundary between Fleet and this forest.
A keen mountain cyclist whizzed past me, heading down the hill. For a moment I wondered whether to ask if I could ride with him. But he was gone before I could get the words out of my mouth. From the pace he was maintaining, I imagine he took cycling a bit too seriously anyway. All the same, I decided to follow his route in case there were interesting areas to the right of where I joined the grassy track.
After passing the exit of the new path, the grassy track forked in two. The route on the left look kind of soggy and lame. I chose to go right as I could also see this led to the clearing. I didn’t want to risk getting lost or getting blocked by a flooded area.
Across the Clearing
Seeing the keen cyclist in the distance, I decided to sprint across the clearing. A closely cropped area of grass ran the whole width of the clearing, which I hadn’t noticed before. By the time I reached the far side the keen cyclist was long gone. But at least I’d found some new routes.
While crossing Basingstoke Canal (using the small, old bridge near Pondtail) I decided to follow the towpath towards Pyestock. So I swooped down and nearly ran over an unsuspecting woman! Good thing I changed my brakes and got them adjusted. I needed all the performance they could offer to stop in time.
This stretch of canal is in the open and had sunshine on it all day, so it was pretty hot. The overflow was leaking and the canal’s water level had visibly dropped several inches.
Managed to get all the way up the big hill that rises from the towpath to the level of the main road. In fact, it seems to exceed that level by quite some way, making it even more daunting.
My gearchange from Medium to Low was rather botched and I lost a lot of speed. But I’d gotten so far up the hill it was level enough to change. But Low 3 was still too high and I had to crunch down to 1 quite brutally.
While riding gently along a smooth, soft track I heart a very faint but constant and extremely high-pitched squeak. It was coming from behind and to my right, so I guessed that the chain had dried out. I think this was near Pyestock
My last ride ended with fording the stream, then a ride along some main roads. The water probably combined with dust and fine dirt from the road to absorb the oil off the bearings.
When I got home, dad’s truck was blocking the driveway. I went inside and he was just leaving, so I didn’t have to wait long before I could get past. Was going to oil the bike up on the top patio but the sun was actually quite hot, since it’s South-facing.
The paved area in front of dad’s home workshop, which was shaded by the tall trees. For some reason, oiling the wheel bearings seemed incredibly awkward. Maybe I’ve gotten so used to standing the bike upside down with the seat and handlebars protected against scrapes by a couple of rags.
Holding the bike over at an angle when giving each bearing a brief squirt of oil definitely helps the lubricant penetrate more deeply. I could hear the dust clumping up and being pushed away by the bearings.
Riding slowly back up the garden path, the difference was instantly noticable. It was like riding a different machine! Suspecting this may just be a placebo effect, I held off my internal celebrations until I’d covered some more mileage.
Straight to Pondtail
This time I didn’t explore. The oiling seemed to be wonderfully smooth, so I just kept going. Used the roads to cut out the towpath, as I was probably even hotter by now. Also, that big hill is really tough!
Did the wiggly embankment track that runs along the perimeter of Pyestock. I took a right where the track forks which takes you past a big hole. The track eventually drops down sharply then rises up, into the fire alley between the woods and the Pyestock fence.
A woman was walking two black dogs. She didn’t react immediately when I said “Excuse me” and seemed surprised when she eventually looked around. The breed of dog seemed too decorative to be assistants.
Rejoining the gravel track took me to the ford. Having only just gotten the bike properly oiled, I took the bridge.
By this time I was totally convinced the oil had transformed the riding experience. The thing just loved to freewheel and pedalling was easy as pie. Plus, the squeaking had gone.
Pondtail to Airport
Returning to along the outskirts of Pondtail, I followed the track all the way back to the canal. Instead of going up the big hill I went under the double bridge, looking for the route up my parents had taken last time. This turned out to be more like a climbing trail than a path, so I rode on further.
Eventually found a route with some steps made out of tree trunks. Seemed impossible to cycle up and difficult to walk the bicycle. But I made it, joining into a car park. I crossed the roads and was back in the woodland. I took the left of the 3 routes instead of the central one we’d taken as a family.
The route turns right to stay inside a main road. But there was a grassy knoll out the outside of the turn with a faint track through it. I took this and it led to a tricky and obviously not human-made track down and across a steep slope. The slope fell towards the main road, so good control was very important.
It joined back into the gravel track and I found the crossing point for the road. Went across and took a more direct route to the airport view. Thought I had blogged about this view before but I can’t find it.
Anyway, it seemed like some commercial pilots were practicising their landings and takeoffs. A couple of other planes landed. One was sat on the taxiway for ages whilst other planes circulated.
After a while, a posh helicopter came in to land. It came in from the left and made a short, curved approach to follow the runway. Then it reduced altitide and actually landed on the runway in the spot planes to! It taxied along and turned off just like a plane did. Is this what normally happens when a helicopter with wheels wants to land at a location with a runway but no helipad?
Must have watched planes for half an hour or so. This part of England has a lot of trees, so being on a hill gives you a rare Big Sky Country feeling. In particular, you suddenly notice how distinctly hemispherical the sky is. The sky was blue with just a hint of white clouds starting to form in a few spots.
After soaking it up, I went back home. I had been out for a couple of hours. It’s a bit lame without company but still relaxes, energises and enthralls me.