100 miles of mountain biking over three days - the South Downs Way provided a perfect long weekend adventure, chosen with the help of the useful interactive map on the National Trails website.
The trail runs from Winchester to Eastbourne, relatively easy to access by train at either end. We met in Winchester on Saturday morning...
Our three man team had a variety of frame bags, rucksacks and bungees to carry our kit. Jonny valiantly carried the 'essential' bladder of cheap red all the way from Winchester to camp one!
After a few wrong turns whilst leaving Winchester we hit the trail proper. It's a pretty well marked route, we didn't have a map and managed well for the most part.
However easy riding it is not. All three of us could push out 100 road miles in a day without too much complaining, but approximately 4,000 metres of vertical ascent over 100 off-road miles made for some exhausted legs by the end.
We rode through a mix of open countryside and farmed land, including plenty of wheat fields which looked ripe for harvesting.
As the sun began to set we found a field to bed down in. It doesn't take long to set up camp with just three bivvy bags and a stove!
Not a bad view for the night...
We made sure of a good night's sleep with a few mugs of red wine and watched the sun sink.
The following morning the amazing weather continued as we followed the trail east. Up / down / up / down...
The trail surface was varied throughout - some steep and bumpy stuff, other sections relatively fast and smooth like in this photo. All great fun when flying downhill!
More wheat fields and rolling hills. It's a beautiful part of the country.
One of our many breaks for water and snacks. We weren't out to break any speed records, which was just as well given that I was told the day after we finished that the return trip record (i.e. 200 miles) is under 18 hours! Mind blowing.
Pausing to take in the view above Eastbourne and the finish, before rolling down the final hill to the train station. The last few hills were hard work on already tired legs, so we were pretty happy to get to this point!
The trip was a success though - a great route through superb scenery just an hour from London. I'm already eyeing up the list of National Trails to decide which to visit next.