Home is where the heart is.

I like being at home. I enjoy going away but miss home. I miss my garden and walking my dog, Freddie, in our local woods. I went to North Yorkshire for a weeks holiday then spent only 4 days at home before visiting our son in Sussex. I managed a mountain bike ride in Yorkshire, one at home and one in Sussex before our return so was keen to get out locally as soon as possible. I had to do some jobs yesterday so today was my first chance. The weather has continued to be very wet so Healey Nab was the obvious choice.

Whilst I was in Sussex I rode Dylan, our son’s bike. It’s a Trek Fuel EX8 with 29 inch wheels. The bigger wheels roll more easily with less resistance over broken ground but in the Sussex area the ground tends to be much more gentle than it is in our own area. Dylan has hardly ridden in the last year since he’s lived there because of the relative lack of excitement. I planned my ride using a detailed Ordnance Survey map, starting with a few miles of road then bridleways  to the top of a hill of 205 m (672 feet). The route rose from sea level, gently at first, before a sheep pasture with a steep climb then a track through a corn field before the final ascent. Before the sheep pasture a woman with a dog felt she had the right to tell me to acquire a bell to warn of my coming and instruct other riders to do the same. This kind of prickly confrontation would never happen in our area. I had ensured the safety of both dog and pedestrian by giving them a wide berth at a low speed but it obviously wasn’t good enough. Just as well I’d elected to use only totally legal trails.

I got to the top of the hill which is on the Goodwood estate of Lord March. He is a motor sports enthusiast and on his airfield (honestly!) he has a motor racing track. His wife, Lady March, is more of a horse enthusiast so naturally has Goodwood horse race track. Dylan is an apprentice farrier. He has helped to shoe horses at Goodwood which belong to Lady March. Wonder if they have any daughters or grand daughters of a similar age to Dylan?????? The good news is that the estate has plenty of public access for all kinds of outdoor activities. It is nothing like a big area of private land, fiercely protected. It is an asset shared with everyone. Rolls Royce cars are built and tested just to the south and the whole area is popular with classic and sport car enthusiast so I’ve seen some rare treasures being driven around.

I rode down the first section from the top of the hill which was a fairly smooth, fast grassy drop. At the bottom I met 2 riders, one of whom was trying his new gravel bike for the first time. I asked him about the climb he’d just done and he said it would be good on a mountain bike. Gravel bikes are a current trend. The are basically road bikes but have wider tyres and more mud clearance. I’m glad I had a mountain bike for the descent he’d just climbed. To the side of a rutted chalk road was an undulating track which was a bit more exciting. Later I had a rear wheel kick out to the side on a wet bit of chalk. In really wet weather it might be unrideable. I approached 2 women with 2 children and was again told to slow down. I’d slowed anyway and given them all plenty of room. They didn’t need to annoy me and shatter my peace.

I covered around 20 miles but it wasn’t a great ride. I was glad to be home for today’s ride. It was an unremarkable ride doing 10 miles and just over 1,000 feet of ascent on 3 different laps around the hill. I climbed the usual way on my first lap but took some little known routes for variety on my next 2 laps. I mixed the red and black graded downhills and confirmed that I am priviledged to live in a great area for mountain biking. Today’s was a workaday ride but was far better than my ride in Sussex. I can also find better riding locally than my 35 mile ride in Yorkshire. Home is not only where the heart is. It’s where some great riding is, too.

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