There are several routes home, but really there is only one way. Riding the South Downs Way on a cyclocross bike is one of those vainglorious things that is on the ‘good intentions’ list (if I had such a thing).

I come from a town in North Hampshire – occasionally I return to visit family and in preparation for a thing in October that my friend Jim has organised (speak to Jim if you would like to know more: STRATUM), I decide to cycle the 90 miles there and then back again by the shortest and most direct route. This involved a big chunk of the South Downs Way, some I know well, other parts I have never seen.

The out-journey was difficult. High winds deafened me and disorientated my fragile determination – I missed the sound of the Skylark and got in the car at the halfway point in Amberley. Pointless and disappointing.

The return-journey was almost a pleasure. A 30 mile stretch of B-roads between Basingstoke and the Downs, the sun was shining by the time I reached Harting Down, the welcome company of Skylarks and insects had returned.

I made steady progress and the time passed tolerably well. However after time I found that the cliché that you learn things about yourself on such solo adventures does not really ring true – I didn’t learn anything special, just the shameful confirmation that I really do despise my own company if left alone too long.

I did consider laying down to die in the centre of Chanctonbury Ring, a self-sacrifice to the Devil, maybe I’d achieve immortality, but my overactive imagination told me that the Devil isn’t interested in my soul and I’d probably be found, by a dog walker, a few days later with the message “I just can’t take any more” scratched in the chalk with reference to my own boring monologue playing out in my head. I carried on of course. The South Downs can be a very isolate place.

I returned home in darkness to welcoming smiles.

I don’t think I will attempt the South Downs Way Double on a ‘cross bike after all.





Further Works:

Jim White – 10 Miles To Go On A 9 Mile Road