Fringe Box



Uphill All The Way – What a Start (Guildford to Stratfield Turgis)

Published on: 25 May, 2014
Updated on: 26 May, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the first report  on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. It follows Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

My bike ride to Edinburgh might not be strictly uphill all the way but there was no doubt the the first mile was going to be. I had to get to the top of the Hog’s Back.

Of course the paparazzi, well my wife and a solitary neighbour, covering my departure, crowded around fussing and wanting to take photos. I was more concerned with making it all the way up Guildown with an additional 30lbs of carefully packed kit on the back.

The bike felt good, and I slipped down the gears in preparation for the climb without a problem. It had been serviced the day before by my friends at Pedal Pushers.

“How far are you going again? asked Bill.

“Over 500 miles,” I replied.

“Well for a start you need a new chain and rear cassette.” The cassette is the set of cogs on the back wheel.

When I returned a couple of hours later most of the bike had been replaced; I only really recognised the frame. This inevitably made the bill higher than I expected but they promised 24/7 cover to tear up the M1 or wherever to attend to any breakdown I might have. At least that is what I understood them to say.

On Green Lane. One mile completed - just 539 to go.

On Green Lane. One mile completed – just 539 to go.

My wife agreed to come with me for the first few miles (four, she has pointed out, and a hellish six mile return journey) of my anticipated 27-mile journey. I think it was for moral support or perhaps it was just to make sure that I was really going.

We said a fond farewell just after we descended the northern side of the Hog’s Back and she told me that if ever I was considering doing anything too risky I was to imagine her shaking her finger.

It seems that most wives don’t really think that their husbands can be trusted to make any sensible decisions without close supervision.

I will miss her. Most, if not all, of my longer bike rides have been with her. But she was certain that she did not want to come along. Longer distances were no longer so comfortable for her and she admitted that cycling nearly every day for three weeks did not appeal.

As I made my way westwards by Flexford I, once again, was struck by how fantastic the countryside was looking. The recent rain and sun was making everything intensely green.

The countryside was looking intensely green.

The countryside was looking intensely green.

I followed the route along to the edge of Tongham up past the Greyhound pub and then turned left to follow a path that would take me eventually to the towpath of the Basingstoke Canal.

With trees on all sides, navigation became a little trickier and I reached a puzzling junction. A youngish walker approached. I asked him which path I should take for the canal. “You want this one,” he said and then, glancing at my panniers, added, “Have you come far?”

“Only from Guildford,” I replied. His eyes widened. “Wow” he replied.

“It’s not that far,” I tried to reassure him. I did not dare tell him my ultimate destination.

I reached the tow path. At first the closeness of suburbia was apparent but apart from the omnipresent traffic noise the route became isolated from any signs of development. The glorious spring weather, blue sky, cotton wool clouds and a perfect temperature for walking or cycling seemed to have put everyone in a good mood. Everyone I met smiled a greeting. It is not true, I believe, that us Southerners are unfriendly, although perhaps we are a little more reserved.

Soon I was aware that I was passing under Queen’s Avenue, Aldershot and my mind flashed back over 40 years to manning the Army Cadet Force tent at the annual Army Show, held there until it moved to Rushmoor Arena.

In those days, those of us selected, had to report in full battledress, complete with collar and tie. It was a very impractical uniform, of Second World War vintage. It was not at all waterproof, not a problem, of course, on that scorching summer day and I recalled that we were allowed to adopt shirt sleeve order soon after arrival. Some comfort but the shirts were thick woollen itchy things, still in use in the 1980s. We got used to them.

Soon I could see Farnborough Airport to my right. The towpath passes close to the end of the runway. Another flashback memory to my childhood in Mytchett. My schoolmates and I, while waiting for he school bus, would watch the rehearsals for the (then) annual Farnborough Airshow, competing to show off our technical knowledge by naming as many of the aircraft as possible.

Farnborough airport visible from the towpath of the Basingstoke canal

Farnborough Airport visible from the towpath of the Basingstoke Canal.

On past Fleet and through the attractive centre of Crookham village, my average speed improving with tarmac under my tyres.

A few miles further and I found myself at Dogmersfield. I was familiar with the name but I could not recall ever being there before. I came across a pretty pub – the Queen’s Head, bought a pint, and munched an excellent ham sandwich my wife had prepared a few hours earlier. Everything seemed to be going too well. Surely the clouds would soon close together to give me the forecast midday shower.

A roe deer hind stares back at me as she crouches in the green corn

A roe deer hind stares back at me as she crouches in the green corn.

Over the A30 just west of Hartley Witney and on to Mattingley. Anyone might think it was some sort of nature reserve. Wildlife abounded. I spotted my second roe deer of the day, a hind crouching in a corn field. Eventually she ran off.

Then two buzzards soaring, a much more common sight these days but still worth stopping for. Around the corner a buzzard, took off from the verge a few yards ahead of me and then two took off from telegraph pole perches. They might have been the same birds I had seen soaring but I felt like I was in buzzard alley.

Then another aerial display caught my attention, a light aircraft was practising a stall turn. it took me back to the worst experience of my working life, my failed attempt to become an Army Air Corps pilot. I had got through selection and undergone 13 hours of flying training in a Chipmunk.

Recovering from a stall was one of the things practised. As I recall, the drill was apply full throttle and then opposite rudder, wait for the joystick to respond and bring the aircraft back to level flight.

I really loved the flying but I got chopped, thankfully early in the course, along with the majority of those who started. It was a very bitter pill at the time.

I knew I must be getting close to my destination. My cycle computer said I had travelled 26 miles but I suspected the actual distance might be a little longer than predicted. This turned out to be the case with the computer indicating I had cycled nearly 30 miles in just over three hours.

Even my resting place The Wellington, is excellent. My room has every comfort. In fact it is quite stylish. And the wi fi works, critical for me of course.

UATW 1-6

What a start to my journey. It had surpassed my expectations, the Hampshire lanes are ideal cycling country, but I cannot expect each stage to be so straightforward nor for the fair weather to continue. The forecast for my 30 mile cycle to Wallingford is not so good and the waterproof jacket perhaps even the cape might have to be deployed.

Please check back tomorrow for my next report.

Cycle computer data:
Distance covered: 29.56 miles (against expected distance of 27 miles).
Average speed: 9.5 miles per hour (slow I know but the route had been mostly off road and pretty rough in places).
Time cycling: 3 hours 5 minutes.




Share This Post

Responses to Uphill All The Way – What a Start (Guildford to Stratfield Turgis)

  1. Victoria Lazarevic Reply

    May 26, 2014 at 8:49 am

    A really enjoyable read Martin. Your B&B picture reminded me of Paul Young’s song: ‘Where Ever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home). Keep pedalling.

  2. David Halpin Reply

    May 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Good fun. Your asking the way by Basingstoke Canal brought Robert Frost to mind – The Road Not Taken

    Your lively account reminds me of a 6 day ride my wife and I did two decades ago to get fit for a Himalayan Trek. By train from Newton Abbot to Pewsey. Then back through Wiltshire and Dorset, to Devon and Combe-in-Teignhead. Where??

    Watch loose road stone on the corners editor. I grazed right down my left side when I skidded.

  3. Mary Bedforth Reply

    May 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I wish to know why these Stanniforth Bros are not accompanying you on the journey. It’s the least they could do for all the free advertising they get on this website. 😉

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *