Chris Tomkins, the leader of the longer ride, writes:

14 riders started from Eastleigh’s Pavilion on the Park some of whom had already had to cycle through a flood on Stoneham Lane before the start! From there we headed to Winchester via Boyatt Lane and NCN 23 over the Hockley Viaduct (amazingly Simon said he’d never been down there – has to be the first time I’ve cycled somewhere Simon hasn’t!).

Shortly afterwards Cyrilyn mentioned her pedals were wobbling and so we took a diversion to Halfords where her bike was given a terminal diagnosis of a broken crank and so she had to bail – chance though for the Stoneham submariners (Julian and Davina) to get replacement socks! Meanwhile the “coffee crew” had snuck into Costa and got a drink so the rest of us continued with the intention of meeting up at our planned coffee stop. A faster group formed and went off ahead along the planned route while the rest of us continued down the valley, where Joanne was nearly impaled by some Highland cattle as we came through Avington Park (ok not that near).

Shortly before Alresford the “coffee crew” caught us up and we continued to the Long Barn where Gordon (due to have an op on his hand after a recent fall from his bike) managed to fall off again just outside the garden centre – thankfully he was ok. Shortly after arriving the fast group arrived, just as I had planned šŸ˜œ

Fed and watered, 6 of us continued through the 8 minutes of rain (thanks for that info Julian) while the others headed back. The network of country roads led uphill to the Ā Treehouse Cafe where there was a great selection of food, including a long list of soups for Sam – thanks for the recommendation Bob. We’ll definitely be back.

The route home was predominantly downhill, down some pretty but dirty country roads (definitely need to revisit in the summer), with a few short but punchy climbs. The predicted rain started around 45 mins from the end, getting us pretty wet but home ahead of the worst of the rain.

Finished off with a hot bath followed by a hot chocolate and piece of yule log.

All in all an eventful but enjoyable ride.

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