Day 2 of the KAW involved a tame wild swim, more woodland trails, elevated heaths and sunken lanes, an alcohol-free Devil’s Punchbowl, a pub with an internal border, some bridleway-dodging, and the cradle of first-class cricket.
It was a cool and cloudy day – a relief after yesterday’s heat. Back lanes to Farnham revealed the full splendour of Farnham Castle, which wasn’t very much. We managed to lose each other both there and in the supermarket while shopping for supplies.
I did, however, collect another little gem for the collection ‘Overheard in Waitrose’: ‘No, Joshua, the fairtrade bananas’.
After here it was pleasant woodsy trails, but I fancied getting to the wild swim opportunity promised in the guidebook at Frensham Great Pond. It turned out to be more tame, a sort of freshwater Surrey-on-Sea: a sandy beach around 90 miles inland, very busy with families enjoying a dip and an ice-cream. I had a dip and we enjoyed a snack lunch on the shore.
I hadn’t brought a newspaper like Nigel, but there were plenty of tattoos on show to read instead.
The sandy heathland overlooking the Great Pond is scenic stuff, and I liked cycling over it, but we were keen on shortcutting some of the rough, unpleasant forest tracks and byways suggested on the official route. We devised our own rough, unpleasant alternative tracks and byways instead.
With some quietly expletive-fuelled pushing up yet more unrideable tracks on the official route, we got up the long ascent to overlook the Devil’s Punchbowl at Hindhead.
Long ago, in more innocent times – 2011, I recall – this was the main road over the hills. But then the Hindhead Tunnel was gimletted through the downs, taking away the traffic, and the old tarmac is now a cycle path with some thrilling views down over the Punchbowl and back up London.
I’ve wondered before about why Satan gets to have all the large-scale geography named after him, whereas with Jesus it’s his face appearing on toast or in clouds. Whatever: there was no punch on offer in Hindhead, and it was spitting with rain, so we cashed in our hard-won altitude with a long freewheel down the cycle path alongside the A3.
In search of liquid – and wanting to dodge bridleways of which, frankly, we were getting bored – we took back roads to Rake, where the pub provided drinks. It also provided the novelty of a signed border running through the middle of it, right in front of the bar, between Surrey and Hampshire.
Curiously, I had no internet signal in Surrey, but inches away over the border in Hants, it was there in full strength.
Back on the route, we were soon off it again. We got temporarily lost in Durford Wood, thanks to the unbearable incompleteness of online maps, and went round in circles for half an hour before finding our way back.
Lanes and more dodgy tracks led to the South Downs Way, which we joined just south of South Harting.
I had high hopes for this, fondly imagining there would be views that stopped you in your tracks, with completely plain riding surfaces. Sadly, it was the other way round.
We spent a lot of time pushing over rubble and seeing little but trees and bushes. The grey, cold, breezy weather didn’t help.
So, having been through Queen Elizabeth Park and crossed the A3, we dispensed with the attractions of Butser Hill offroad (which I’ve been up before; can’t say I found it life-changing) and took lanes through Clanfield, south of the official route.
There was good reason in this. Both cricket fans, we wanted to see Broadhalfpenny Down, the cricket ground near Hambledon where the very first first-class cricket match was played in 1772. (Hampshire beat England by 53 runs, largely thanks to a first-innings knock of 78 by John Small.) Cricket sceptics might wonder, after quarter of a millennium, when something interesting is finally going to happen.
The ground is still in use for various village teams, and since those pioneering days teams have been winding down with post-match banter in the pub opposite. The Bat and Ball contains various memorabilia and, more importantly for us, was offering food and beer. (My oxcheek ragout was excellent, and the beer much enjoyed.)
A short climb to the ridge northwards, back on the route, was our accomm for the night: the pleasantly woody and natural cabins of the Sustainability Centre, free muffins and all.
Miles today: 51
Miles since Reading: 84