King Alfred Way Day 3 Report
This is the third and final instalment on my King Alfred’s Way cycle report. I finished day 2 just outside Farnham in my bivi bag, sheltered from the elements by an A-Frame hut that was by chance in some woods nearby.
I am happy to report, and ultimately surprised, that the loosely fitted hut did the job in protecting me from the rain. There were a few splashes throughout the night that creeped through, but it wasn’t until I got out and started to sort my bike, did I realise what a great job it was doing. It must have protected me enough as I didn’t emerge until 0830! This is a longer lie in than I would get at home in a bed.
With myself and my belongings largely dry, I set off in damp drizzly conditions for the final day of riding back to Winchester.
The morning riding took me through the sandy Frensham Common and Thursley National Nature Reserve. The morning was hard work. I’m not it’s because I was fatigued from the two days prior, or if a combination of the tough conditions and huge hill made it a tough slow slog.
By the time I got to the breakfast stop, which was a National Trust café by the entrance to the park, I had only travelled 20km in 2 hours 50 minutes. I did some filming in that time, but for the majority it was just tough going. The views of the park were ace, even with the grey cloud cover. But sand is obviously a slow surface to ride on, and the rocky uphill narrow tracks made it even tougher. I felt pretty deflated at the progress here, and it wasn’t until much later in the day, that I realised how much of a hill I had ridden up at the start of the day. The climbing was deceptive as I was under canopy for large parts of it compared to the previous days where you were exposed on a ridge, so I didn’t realise how much elevation I was gaining.
The contrast of the pre-breakfast section to the post-breakfast couldn’t be more different if it tried. Flying through Ludshott Common and Woolmer Forest was some of the best riding of the trip. No views so to speak of, but incredibly fun tracks. Compact mud in the woods that allowed for fast riding and fun cornering. If this was my local playground I would be very happy indeed.
The route from Woolmer towards Queen Elizabeth Country Park was on quiet country roads and wooded bridle paths, which was all very pleasant. Into Queen Elizabeth park I enjoyed a great descent before being spat out at the base of Butser Hill. I have walked up Butser Hill in the past so was aware of it’s vertical-ness, and with Si Richardson having to walk his bike up the hill on his GCN documentary, I didn’t hold much hope.
By some stroke of luck in Queen Elizabeth Park I tagged along to a couple of guys who were also doing the route. Whilst I was faffing at the base of the hill doing some filming they were making their way up. I could see one walking up and one managing to cycle all the way. It was possible!
This was all the inspiration I needed. I paced myself going nice and slow, not to burn my matches too soon. With a lot of grimacing and grinding I managed to get all the way up! I could not believe it and I was so happy. I hadn’t had much fire power in the legs today so to make it up made me extremely happy.
The Butser Hill climb signals the start of the South Downs Way element of the route as well. I traversed along the top of the Way until my very late lunch spot at the Sustainability Centre. Even though I only had 35km left until the finish I knew that the South Downs was going to make me work for every kilometre there was left to go.
It was glorious sunshine which always helps, but the final afternoon with views over the South Coast of England was truly special. It rivalled the Ridgeway for beautiful views and even though I was tired, I loved every second of it. The track followed the South Downs all the way into Winchester. It was rocky and chalky and made you concentrate on your wheel placement.
I was treated on one of the final tracks leading back to Winchester to a site that no words or photos can do justice. Sunset in the background, field full of colour, the spire of Winchester Cathedral sitting proud, and it was downhill! A quick swing past St. Catherine’s Hill, a meander through the back streets of Winchester before I was reunited with the King Alfred statue I had departed from 3 days ago.
It felt like an age ago when I was last here. I felt like I had seen so much, ridden so far and been on a true adventure. All of this excitement within such a small area in England.
I was so elated to have come through unscathed but at the same time truly shattered from the 3 days of riding.
Final day stats were 101 km with 1,662m of climbing.
If you are tempted by the King Alfred Way I cannot recommend it enough. It is a great route where you see some amazing sights and get challenged by some awesome tracks.
A future post on full kit breakdown will be released soon, and if you have any questions at all on the route please ask away.