A group of over 20 riders found their way to the start point of the ride at the home of Linda and Zeffy Maayan in central Winchester. A good selection of bikes were turned out, including a mix of NS, AMs, APB, fx8, four Bromptons and a Dahon Speed D7. Most interesting was yet another handcrafted, different, Arthur Smith creation in the form of a most elegant painted Moulton F Frame Mark 3, but reconfigured with AM front and back ends. Arthur had cleverly built this one up from an old AM that had been bought with a crushed frame, which he used for spares, and the Mark 3 frame. The end result, finished in what was almost the polychromatic blue of 1960s F -Frames (but actually a Renault current paint colour), was a fabulous looking bike, combining the best of old and new technology.
The first part of the ride was around Winchester city area, passing through what was formerly the inaccessible-to-the-public Victorian Peninsula Barracks, now quit by the Army for service use, and converted to housing and a military museum. It has very imposing restored architecture, and worth a look if in this one time capital of England. Riding out of the southern end of the former barracks site, we came to ancient Winchester College and the impressive Winchester Cathedral, construction of which first started in 1079, and now reputed to be the second longest cathedral in Europe.
Our coffee stop was in the Cathedral restaurant building, where we settled in the attached marquee used for functions to consume our drinks and pastries.
Leaving bustling Winchester, it was immediately out into the quiet narrow country lanes of the upper Itchen valley, where the patchwork of rolling downland fields were either being harvested, or were already cleared of crops and dark brown from recent ploughing. It was more a case of looking out for massive tractors and harvesters than cars.
The road took us through the small village of Avington with its pretty cottages and a drink stop was made outside the very fine 18th century church. This lies on the route formerly used by pilgrims traveling between Winchester and Canterbury, and an inscribed stone outside the church shows the names of the two destinations.
Onward alongside the river Itchen then involved a turn north, passing through a couple of lightly flowing fords before reaching the road to New Alresford. Pedalling along the B road, a small roadside shop in a hut was selling fresh water cress plucked from the water cress surrounding it. At New Alresford, we parked and enjoyed our pub lunch time stopover and chat before continuing out of the village north west towards East Stratton. A long incline, which split the group between those with the lightest bikes and lowest gearing and those who were on heavier bikes, or were slightly less strong riders, led to the top of a ridge. Here, a look back south east commanded a fine view for many miles.
The return to Winchester was uneventful, and we were pleased to reach the home of Bob and Sue West, our ride leaders, who were to provide tea with some delicious cakes. After a relaxing time in their lovely sunny garden, it was time to head for home, and those who arrived by car returned to the nearby Maayan’s house to load up their bikes and depart.