We had a good turnout of around 14 or so riders for the ride to St Mary Bourne. Simon was due to lead the ride but was indisposed and so had asked Jim to lead it instead. Because of the large number of riders, it was thought best to split the group into two; Marcus would lead the first group with Jim taking the second group around three to four minutes later.
We took the main road out of Romsey towards Stockbridge and then picked up the minor road over the river Test and passing Mottisfont and on through Houghton (ignoring Daisy’s Tearoom at Houghton Lodge) to Stockbridge. This was all very familiar to most of the riders, sometimes refreshments are taken in Stockbridge (Lillies being my favourite) but we pressed on northwards though Longstock (ignoring the chance to go to the Waitrose Cafe near Longstock House).
I’ve never ridden beyond Longstock before so I was on unknown territory from here on. Although I’ve done a fair amount of walking in Hampshire, this part seems to have missed my attention. The very pretty villages of Goodworth Clatford, Upper Clatford and Anna Valley came next. At last, we stopped for essential refreshment at the Wyevale Garden Centre close to Anna Valley. Marcus’ group were already enjoying the break. Now – horror of horrors – most of our group somehow missed the display of cakes which were separate from the main counter and obviously on our blind side. I settled for a scone which I found surprisingly better than at the Waitrose cafe at Longtsock that I had endured on my only visit there.
Some of the riders left us at that point and we combined the two groups into one. It was back on the bike again and our journey through Lord Knows Where continued. I recognised Weyhill then on minor roads again with plenty of left and right turns making me lose my sense of direction. Signs such “Clanville” and “Nutbane” meant nothing to me but Jim knew exactly where he was going. On through Hatherden, Little London and Smannell.
Before much longer we had a lovely downhill run to St Mary Bourne, another very pretty village and our lunch stop at the George Inn. Most of us opted for the carvery where there was a choice of beef (and two choices of that – rare or medium), lamb and turkey. I was pleased to see that there was a VEG (Very Elderly Gentleman) option; cheaper than that for “normal” people (i.e. the under 65s) but equally generous with a good helping of meat and as much potato and vegetables as you wanted. I don’t believe anyone had room for a dessert.
Lunch over, we were back on the bikes and I was now familiar with this part of the ride. We headed south and passed the watercress beds. I think it was Kathy who was a bit concerned to see a sign to Newbury as we went through Hurstbourne Priors. We continued through Longparish and passed over the A303, picking up the Test valley again. Wherwell was next and Jim suggested a stop to enjoy a very scenic footbridge over the river. I think it was Steve (or Stuart – he’d not ridden with us before and I’m rubbish with names anyway) who decided to ride through the river at this point much to the amusement of the rest of us. After taking plenty of photos of the delightful spot, we pressed on through Fullerton and close to the water gardens at Leckford. After ignoring the opportunity for afternoon tea at the Waitrose cafe, we soon picked up our outward route.
After crossing the A30 at Stockbridge, we had a very heavy shower which was a slight concern for some of us as we had no jackets but luckily the rain stopped after around 15 minutes or so and the rest of the ride back down the valley to Romsey was fine.
A very enjoyable ride; grateful thanks goes to Jim for coming up with the detailed route at short notice.