A few events over the past few weeks. Starting with a brilliant Horizons Unlimited get-together in Hampshire.
Small and perfectly formed, about eighteen of us there.
Wide open spaces. Some sun at last.
We were at a Hampshire golf club, but well away from the fairways and greens.
Steve arranged a green-lane ride out for the Saturday morning. Not a high demand for that, just Steve and me.
At the tea stop, a few road bikes stopped by as well.
A moment for a breather, a photo, and to check out the next bit.
Taking on water.
On the Saturday evening we took over the 19th Hole where the catering team laid on a magnificent curry.
Followed by two presentations by HU travellers.
The first was by Tim Cullis, the world's expert on travelling in Morocco on 2 wheels.
There's hardly anywhere in the country he's not been and he gave us a good look at it all.
He was followed by Belle and Nadine, who had recently returned from riding Honda C90s all the way to Mongolia and China.
A trip they started just a couple of months after riding similar bikes to The Gambia in W. Africa earlier this year.
First slide of their show.
I had a camera problem at this point - it developed a leak.
Letters were falling out of the pictures. Probably you can see.
Anyway, the sun shone even more strongly the next morning, for our journey home.
This balloon passed gently by but wasn't giving any lifts.
I found the missing letters from Belle and Nadine's opening slide!
Moving on, a couple of postings back I gave a prediction about the weather and getting my Aprilia MOT'ed.
Well, about a month ago, there was a dry day. A good while after Wimbledon, as predicted. So I set off for the MOT shop.
The tank was near empty after the bike's three-year lay-up, so I stopped to fill up.
Returning from the cash desk I spied my brand new petrol pouring straight back out of the tank and onto the hot exhaust pipe. Where half of it turned into a huge cloud of vapour and the rest formed a lake on the forecourt.
That was a bit surprising. Thoughts of an MOT suddenly disappeared, and a call to the breakdown people was the only thing I could think of.
A brilliant mechanic arrived and together we determined that inside the Aprilia petrol tank are two flexible tubes, one providing the air vent to the tank, the other the overflow from the filler cap area.
And the air vent pipe had broken inside the tank, allowing the fuel to drain straight out. Probably a side-effect of it lying idle for three years.
Luckily, the breakdown man was able to set up a temporary fix so I could continue to the test centre where, after all the drama, it passed.
So we're back on the road at last.
With a permanent repair done, I set off on the Aprilia to the estuary of the River Blackwater in Essex for a Pre-65 motocross meeting. Where my friend Geoff was racing.
Just beyond my bike, Geoff starts up his BSA scrambler for the next race.
And gets into the action. (No. 444)
And away round the course.
Lunch break. Geoff snaps the evidence that I can still reach handlebars and footrests at the same time.
The track gets pretty crowded in the afternoon races.
The following weekend the weather continued to hold for another HU camping weekend, in the Mendip Hills this time.
Early-ish Friday afternoon and the signing on area is filling nicely.
The Saturday ride-out was a bit crowded compared to Hampshire two weeks earlier - 14 of us.
Filling up before the off.
There was lots of hilly scenery in the Mendips
The steeper hills gave us a chance of a break as we re-grouped.
Here, an amazing 1950s Harley Davidson, no rear suspension, no mudguards and with road tyres, reaches the summit.
The lane was narrow as well. Lots of bikes came up with bits of hedge wrapped around handlebars.
The last lane was the steepest of the lot.
And all lumpy limestone - wet and slippery.
And narrow too. As soon as someone got into difficulties, the following riders found their way blocked until he was helped on his way. Except, that is, a couple of real experts who seemed to be able to ride right up the embankments, wall-of-death style, defying gravity, to skirt round the stuck rider.
It took a while for riders to gather at the top. Steve here arriving after helping those stuck further down.
Nearly all safely gathered in.
Sunday morning was rainy, misty and damp. A dull scene of packing up for home.
I'm using a new camera now, my last one suddenly stopped working a few months ago.
And having found those letters missing from the photo of the Hampshire weekend presentation, I thought I'd have a close look at that old broken camera.
Its the one I used all the way through Africa.
Well, once again I found some strange things.
Back in the postings about my time in Namibia are these two photos:
I wrote in those postings, maybe there's a letter or two missing.
And there they were, when I looked inside that old camera!
Who'd have thought it!
It's a well-established bit of advice. The best exercise to minimise any after-effects of prostate treatment - radiotherapy or surgery - is walking.
So I do quite a bit now.
Which takes up a lot of time, so other things have to take second place.
A while ago I happened upon a map of local footpaths and bridleways and made an interesting discovery.
I can walk all the way from home to one of the best pubs around almost entirely on footpaths, and almost in a straight line. Making it a much shorter distance than going by road.
And only about 200 yards of tarmac in four and a half miles, plus half a mile through Whyteleafe to reach the start.
That's a ten mile round trip. Which with lunch takes up most of the day.
Other things have to take second place....
I made this discovery sometime in the spring and have had quite a few good lunches since.
Including yesterday, when I took my camera. So here's a 'journey in pictures'.
Down the hill into Whyteleafe.
Here we see the effect of this route being a 'straight line' to the pub. As there are lots of valleys hereabouts, the straight line makes it pretty steep. The next few bits of path take us right to the top of the scenery in this photo. The top of the trees to the right.
The path on the right is a steep staircase with huge steps which lead to the top of the 'Dobbin', and then:
To the start of the next part of the climb,
opening out here. This is roughly at the top of the tree-line in pic.1
And I realise the bag of carrots is still in the fridge. Well, I'm not going back....
Well out of Whyteleafe now, a bit of tarmac leads to the sports field and the path carries on beyond.
This tunnel of trees continues the 'dead straight' theme.
Followed by the next valley to cross.
A straight path straight down.
Another straight up, with Mystery Crop Squares along the way.
And a bit of tarmac to cross.
The traffic here is pretty sedate these days. It wasn't always thus. In the 80s my XBR Honda would get close to a hundred along here (I wasn't the only one) and a steady reduction in the speed limit to the present 40mph has seen the end of those days.
One of thousands of casualties of the Great Hurricane of 1987, left to decay where it fell.
The path long since diverted around it, and out between the trees on the left, to:
A farmer hereabouts likes to do the Wembley Stadium thing on his crop fields.
Or perhaps he's Irish. From the air this field looks like an Irish Harp, and these are the strings.
Beyond the far side of the harp field there's a hellishly complicated crossroads.
The Spaghetti Junction of footpaths. With arms missing from the sign, to boot.
I remember now - keep going in a straight line.
It's the one through the wooden barrier, right of picture.
The narrow onward path between dense woods and a fence skirts round a Victorian psychiatric hospital. Now transformed into a smart estate, with some old buildings preserved, including the clock tower.
Quarter to twelve and all's well.
The woods open up a bit from being impenetrably dense.
And we find the only off-road vehicle (or on-road for that matter) to be seen on this trip.
Been here since the last century I think. (That sounds a long time ago!) What's more, this little wood is known as The Gripes - where Gripe Water comes from....
The final valley to cross, and almost the steepest.
Looking up the path coming down.
And the start of the climb up the other side.
Almost 5 miles and the pub's up there somewhere....
Very appropriately, this is called High Hill Road. A long time since it's been a road, but it's still definitely a high hill.
Beyond the warning signs.....
Beyond the sign for the sixteenth century hamlet of Fickleshole....
(Two farms, one pub, horse population about the same as human population)
Can you imagine it, a couple of hundred years ago most of the cottages in Fickleshole were turned into this pub....
Ambling homeward, some straight-as-a-ruler cloud formation.
And on the long descent back down into Whyteleafe, there's a big barbeque somewhere, sending smoke through the sunbeams.
Or something more serious? Hope the village is still there.....
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