The first ride to be started from Hedge End station proved to be a good choice of location when, just before the start time of 10.00am, 2 Moultoneers (Brian Wey and Brian Whapham) from theIsle of Wight arrived on the 9.55 train from Portsmouth, after having caught the ferry from Ryde to the mainland with their AMs.
This resulted in a total of 11 riders for the start, with one 1965 F-Frame “New look”, Arthur Smith on his latest project, a beautifully restored Speed Six, an AM16, two FX8s, one NS and non-Moultons in the form of Chris Eley on his Brompton SP14 speed variant, a Marin mountain bike and something new in the folder world in the shape of a sleek black Dahon Jetstream P8.
So it was at just after 11 that the riders departed by bike, with another 2 travelling by car who were unable to ride for health reasons that day, and would meet us for coffee and lunch.
Off through the country south Hampshire lanes the group rolled, past imposing properties with £3/4 million plus price tags and fields now changed form agriculture to “horseiculture” pony paddocks.
The terrain for the ride had been surveyed to check out suitability for old Moultons like my year 65 F frame and 65 year riders. Just one climb after only a few miles proved too steep for the 4 speed deluxe and Eric Reed had to dismount, whilst 65 year Eric Jones kept on going in low gears on his AM16
A brief water stop on a crests afforded view to the Isle of Wight to south, New Forest to west and South Downs to north and east. A few more miles brought the group to historic Wickham square and a welcome coffee stop. The cosy tea rooms had a discrete hidden rear access way leading to a yard where the cycles could be safely left. After drinks and some tasty home made cake, replenished the group headed north.
Onward via a back lane parallel to the valley of the River Meon, before heading east across a bridge over the river to join the old Meon Valley former railway corridor, but now busy bridleway, for a short distance to pass under the busy A32.
A short break for a photo session was made in Forestry Enterprise managed Wickham Woods, a part of the once great expanse of the Forest of Bere covering this part of the country.
On north through Droxford along a level ridge before a turn due west back across the River Meon and the A32 .
Following a narrow lane unusual in this area for being open with no roadside hedges for a mile or so, the scenery changed to enclosed apple orchards and a vineyard before reaching lunch stop at the Hunter Inn.
After food and convivial chat, the return journey led through Bishops Waltham, once an important local market town in the area, but now with only a few shops, but well preserved .
Passing imposing Bishops Waltham Palace ruins on the edge of the town dating from 12 th century and Abbott`s Pond adjacent , a lake formed by damming one of the tributaries of the river Hamble and now a scenic local beauty spot .
Returning via sunken lanes of Durley, an afternoon stop at the Farmers Home hostelry gave a last chance for more chat out of the saddle before the final leg back to Hedge End station, where the 2 Brian’s` train back to Porrtsmouth was due at 4.30.
The merry ensemble arrived back without incidents or punctures and all agreed it had been a super excursion with an ideal start point – so look out for another ride from Hedge End in September after BOA.