Last weekend Martyn, Luna and I layered up and headed out to explore the countryside. We started our adventure in a car park on the west side of the A286 on the South Downs Way near the village of Cocking.
From the car park, we turned west along the South Downs Way (SDW), on a wide surfaced track. As we climbed steadily pass Hill Top Farm, another 400m further and we were nearly at the top of the slope with sheep fields surrounding us, we turned left, leaving the SDW, passing a large chalk ball (one of several in this area made by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy).
We couldn’t see much because of the drizzle, but on a good day you can clearly see Goodwood racecourse over to your left. Turning back around to survey where we came from the view over varied farmland was stunning, even in the drizzle. Walking into magical woodland we followed our directions “turning left at the next the three finger post turn left onto a wide chalky path.”
We walked further into the wood staying on the main track. The wood was alive with nature from various bird species, squirrels and deer. Luna was quite disgruntled not being allowed to pursue the deer.
Gradually the forest enclosed with tall spruce trees, after about 800m we reached an open area with hunter’s hideouts, not so hidden in the tree canopies.
Heading down a steep bank the path was covered in leaves and we were not sure we were on track, Luna seemed to know where she was going and soon enough there was a blue sign which indicated we were on track, well done Luna!
With our bellies rumbling we were now near our half way stop at Singleton and the Partridge Inn.
With beautiful beech trees to our left, spruce on our right it felt like something out of the Faraway Tree Books I read as a child. We kept wandering through the trees until our path popped out into vast views of farmers’ fields as far as our eyes could see. We took the path to the left down the farmers track towards a lonely isolated house.
Our path ran through Colworth Farm and then took a left back up through varied fields full of crops. We could see Singleton below and were excited about our lunch stop at The Partridge Inn. We followed the path down the right-hand side of a meadow, the path was steep and at the next stile Luna had to be carried by Martyn, as she was too big to go under the stile and too much of a wimp to go over it!
A steady march through the mud over the disused railway bridge, through cow fields until our last gate brought us out in Singleton. Finally the pub stop!
This dog friendly pub was a great find. With a big roaring fire and delicious sandwiches in front of us the idea of going outside to finish our walk was not
We left the pub around 3.15pm with only 45 minutes of light left we would probably be finishing in the dark… little did we know the adventure that was about to unfold.
Walking down the little lane to the side of the pub, just after a river crossing and before the school, we turned left at a signpost on a wide track, passing a cemetery it was very muddy!
The path steeply climbed an open grassy field until we reached another wooden gate. This new open field had a wood to the right so we headed towards it and through another stile where sheep were grazing, with a Levin Down information panel on our left we were sure we were in the right place…
Our path descended down through black thorn bushes, as we reached the bottom we had a niggling feeling we had gone wrong, but where? Our instructions had stopped making sense and so we back tracked up the hill and took a different path, this turned out to be the off-piste route through scrub land and prickly bushes, a dead end.
Time ticking on we continued into a field with ponies grazing through a new gate and over a large grassy pasture the light was dusky and we couldn’t find a way out. Reaching the far side, google maps was needed to get us back on track! Martyn’s excellent map reading skills we found our path, a sign post showed the direction to each neighboring village which helped get us back on track. As a double check, the path had a wire fence on the left and a hedge on the right, which was mentioned in our instructions. Heading towards the dark and mysterious forest with only 30% battery left we waited until in the pitch black before turning on the torch to light our way.
Counting my steps Martyn and I walked silently through the trees aware of the silence and stillness around us apart from the odd cracking tree branch, what was lurking in the pitch black? After 700m we entered a clearing and the eerie light from the moon cast shadows and made the trees look very spooky indeed. Looking back from where we had come was like looking into a well. Crossing the chalky path and on into the dark woodlands Luna was on high alert watching the darkness, ears pricked and aware of every sound and smell around her, she stuck close to my leg as if she could sense my nerves.
We kept going until we reached the South Downs Way; from here we could not go wrong. Knowing this section well from biking the views are incredible in every direction. In the dark we just enjoyed the peacefulness of walking through the countryside just the three of us, our road lit by torch.
This mini adventure right on our door step, was a cheap and fun day out spending time with the people I love in the fresh air and stunning South Downs. I would highly recommend a trip to the South Downs.
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Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. The leaves are slowly changing, flushing with reds and oranges before making the leap to the forest floor. Each time I go out walking with Luna the landscape has changed. The forest becomes lighter as the leaves fall and reveal the cloudy sky above. The conifers stand smug keeping their needles and lush colour whilst the trees stand exposed to the elements.
Last weekend I had the privilege of spending a day outdoors with some fantastic people. Whole Earth Foods and Sophie Radcliffe invited me on an adventure along the South Downs. Starting at Harting Down we walked along a section of the South Downs way, before heading to the magical Adhurst Yurts where we went exploring the vast forest full of different types of trees some with and some without their leaves. It was like stepping into a fairy tale as we collected firewood from the dense forest ready to build our camp fire.
As Jayne and I built the fire Sophie, Katie and Chep cooked in a Safari kitchen outdoors. Dinner was served as the sun disappeared from view a heart and soul warming bowl of butternut squash and chick pea curry with a special dash of peanut butter, you must try it!
A camp fire would not be complete without marshmallows and we were in for a treat as Sophie shared her favourite camping snack of sliced apple and peanut butter s’mores it was like a sticky warming hug with a zing of fresh apple and lashings of peanut butter, what a great way to end the day, it had been an awesome adventure in the woods.
Here are a few photos from the trip.
Thank you Whole Earth and Sophie for inviting me.
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It is now the middle of May and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It feels like only a few weeks ago I was peeling on the layers and charging up light batteries ready for training in the dark.
These frosty encounters have set me up well for the summer, with over 2000miles in my legs since November I am looking forward to dry trails!
Since the Gorrick 100 endurance race I have been back to firing on all cylinders which is a relief after a couple of weeks of no power in my legs and feel pretty rubbish.
Last weekend my long steady rides changed, the focus now is on staying off road and getting use to more resistance under my wheels. I really enjoyed exploring, the now dry, bridleways around where I love, finding some great singletrack gems along the way.
To increase my climbing I headed to the South Downs Way which runs from Winchester to Brighton, it’s a chalky bridleway with some great climbing and stunning views over the South Downs national park. Well worth a visit!
Living below the South Downs national park I am fortunate to make good use of this middle section for training, I headed towards Winchester to climb Harting down which is a steep chalky rutted climb and then on from this Butser Hill a grassy steady climb which gets steeper in the middle before plateauing out. Both had me gasping at the warm summer’s air.
I covered 75 in total at a steady pace, which I am happy with and can build on. My fuelling strategy was a banana at hour one, slated peanuts in hour two, another banana at hour three and then jelly babies and malt loaf in hour four. Considering a banana is roughly 30g carbohydrate I still need to increase my food intake considerably.
As my nutrition has become a vital part of my training i have decided to take on a nutritionist to help me towards my goal of completing the Trans Alp! I will let you know how the new diet goes….
An adventure along a part of the South Downs Way. Stunning scenery and some great single track!
Over the weekend I went on two long endurance rides, on Saturday I had planned a long four hour off road ride along the South Downs Way (SDW). The ride started well working my way through QE Park which is one of my favourite places to train. I crossed the a3 and continued up Butser Hill which is a hard climb on and off road. The view from the top was spectacular across the Meon Valley.
I then followed the SDW along towards Old Winchester Hill, the weather was brilliant but days of rain made it sticky going, when I reached the top of Old Winchester Hill a walker said I wouldn’t go down there it’s very muddy I doubt you will be able to break! I thanked the man and thought how bad can it be!
It turned out breaking was the least of my problems! The cloying mud stuck to my tyres like glue until there was such a thick layer my wheels wouldn’t turn! A new game presented itself, how much mud can I allow to clog up my wheel before I have to find a good stick to pull it all off. Progress was painfully slow and all I kept thinking about was getting to the road. I could hear a road ahead but on asking walkers found out it was around 3 miles to Exton and the escape from the mud! I continued for a while push, get stuck, pull all the mud off. By this time my over-shoes kept coming off my toes because to the build-up of mud and my feet were soaked. Thinking of the positives I was out in the fresh air in the sun what better way to spend a Saturday. I soon met a mountain biker coming in the opposite direction his destination was QE Park, where I had come from all those hours ago! By now I had been riding for 3 hours and riding and walking for around 10 minutes. He said it would be worth carrying my bike the rest of the way, which I decided to do and although my beautiful carbon Silverback is usually as light as a feather today, clogged with mud and unrecognisable it was far from it!
Carrying went okay but in bike shoes with very little grip it was slow going through the group.
I finally made a rideable bridleway and headed towards to sound of the road slowly but surely I made it!
By this time I had been going for nearly four hours had very little water left and had only one decent snack left so I had an energy gel, something I would usually only have in a race. It gave me a little boost which got me to my destination of Corhampton to look at a house Martyn and I are interested in. I then turned round and rode back where I had come from up through a pretty village called Warnford, turning right back towards Old Winchester Hill the climb was slow and with little energy every pedal stroke was tough. I finally made it to the top and decided to follow the road as far as I could to miss out any more climbing! I met my outgoing path in a small village and re-joined the SDW. I was relieved to be going down instead of up Butser Hill, I rode slowly passed people and then let my brakes off and let the bike go it was exhilarating the speed and feeling of freedom as I made very quick work of the hill that took a good 10 minutes to climb!
I crossed the A3 and made my way up the blue section of QE Park towards Buriton and home.
Sunday was a new challenge, a three hour tempo ride these are designed to increase my aerobic capacity and my vo2 max, to do this you have to work in a heart rate zone mine is between 148 – 158. I set out spinning to warm up, my legs were a little tired but generally good, I felt in good form as I made my way out of Petersfield towards South Harting. I had a new nutrition plan, to eat a jelly baby or two every 25 mins this worked well for the first hour and a half I felt good and was able to keep pushing a good pace.
About 20 minutes later I hit the proverbial brick wall, after battling with my legs telling me to slow down and my head telling me to stop I turned for home. I reached into my bag and pulled out my last ration, a USN protein and energy bar, these are great and worked well on Ride London, the problem was I was already too fatigued to recover so instead gritted my teeth and pushed on, every pedal stroke seemed like hard work, but slowly and steadily I won the battle and turned my final corner towards home.
Part of my lack of energy was potentially the after burn from Saturdays ride and depleted glycogen in my muscles which I hadn’t managed to completely replace on Saturday before my Sunday ride. This is a factor to think about and plan for in the future.
Sometime you have to listen to your body and know when to call it a day. Looking at the bigger picture if you’re too wiped out to then train for a couple of days, then you’re actually not progressing in your training. Being a time crunched athlete fitting in a job and business I am aware my recovery and training time is a delicate balance between too much and too little.
Our bodies adapt and improve when we are at rest, being a bit of a training nut it’s important to remember that while you might feel great and strong when your lungs are bursting and your racing up hill, that your body actually adapts to this strain when you’re sitting at work or on the sofa.
So for all those just one more mile and then I’ll go home people out there, have a look at your training and recovery load and take a check on how your fitness is changing.