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Gravellin' with ya mates

Gravellin' with ya mates

Well, you might ask what to do on a day off when ex Kinesis ambassador and Upgrade colleague Rory Hitchens has a route he wants to show you… jump in the car with him and head over to Chichester. This route was originally shared with Markus Stitz for the book Great British Gravel Rides that came out in July 2022. It’s a great book and there are a few details of rides and where to buy on the following link here.

Now, I’m not that much of a fan of driving somewhere to ride as I’d rather ride out to the route, but with time constraints and Rory needing the car at the end of the journey we headed West out of Hove and along the A27 to Chichester. The book has the ride starting at the train station, making the ride accessible with public transport and you can park there, but just around the corner we found a cheeky spot that allowed us to park for free and get straight on to the Centurion Way. 

Story and photos by Rupert Robinson

 

Up, up and away

The Centurion Way is a 9km (5.5 mile) path that runs between Chichester, Lavant and
West Dean following the old dismantled Chichester to Midhurst railway line, which closed in 1991. It connects with the South Coast Cycle Route at Fishbourne, where cyclists can continue westwards to visit Fishbourne Roman Palace and Bosham.

Northwards, the route continues to West Dean House and Gardens and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton. We headed up to West Dean where we took the stairs towards West Dean stores and the first climb of the day. Rory said he’d started the ride this way so there was a warmup for the first ascent.

The Bottle

The first ascent took us up towards The Trundle at 206m, a steady one topping off around at 8%. The surface was moist but not too slippy as we headed over and up the left side of the river. There is a car park near The Trundle at the bottom of St Roche’s Hill where you can park and walk up. Our route took us through a gate to the right and around the off camber of the hill and away from any possible clash with walkers. The view was cool from up here and we could see out over Chichester and Goodwood Aerodrome towards Selsey.

After a wooded off camber decent we popped out at Goodwood Racecourse where the route took us up Selhurst Park Road and then left down a bumpy decent towards Charlton for a couple of kilometres. I certainly felt it on my GX Race but Rory was rocking his Ritchey with Lauf forks and a USE suspension seat post so was able to stop easy when my bottle came out of the cage. Probably more a descent for a mountain bike I thought but we’re giving it a go.

Crusty T-Shirts

From Charlton there was a small road section passing Crusty Tree T-shirt printers where we stopped to chat with the owner. Rory had done the same that day he rode with Markus and it was good for him to catch up with the owner who was sat outside.

Graffham Down

Through East Dean and up the side of Court Hill, this section would take up us 4km to join the South Downs Way. It was a mixture of wooded single track, soft with leaves that then opened onto a gravel forestry road.

By the time we got to the top to meet the SDW this was the highest part of the route at 213m and the steady ride up was absolutely peaceful. We saw no one and nothing at all. A hidden gem not accessible with a public vehicle which hugs the path near Graffham Down.

South Downs way

Onto familiar territory, well the only part of the route I’d ridden before and that’s the South Down Way – The SDW is part of The South Downs National Park, which has a vast array of wildlife and scenery from rolling hills to sea views and woodlands. The South Downs Way is 100 miles long running from Winchester to Eastbourne and takes anywhere from 2 to 4 days for most cyclists, although we know that some of the fitter riders have done it in a day! You can find more info here.

We were only on the SDW for approx. 10km which consisted of some sticky clay riding and a lovely descent towards Glatting Beacon.

But First... Lemme Take a Selfie

With virtually all the climbing done we starting to head back towards Chichester past Upwaltham Hill and onto the Selhurst Park Road where we’d turned off earlier in the day. We would retrace our steps and then head around the opposite side of The Trundle to exit at the car park mentioned earlier. Luckily for us since our earlier pass, a small horse box coffee shop had opened and here we grabbed a drink and cake to digest what we’d just achieved.

A dry decent into Chichester, just past Lavant and a little bit of street riding would bring us back to where we had parked. The ride was approx. 40km and we took a steady 4 hours to complete. The specific route can be found here 20 Not the South Downs Way! - Rory Hitchens | gravel ride | Komoot number 20 in Markus’ book.

I left Rory to do what he needed to, and I rode back to Hove, a further 50km of pan flatness and cycle paths that luckily for me had a slight tail wind. Bonus! Full route is here - Gravel Ride with Rory | gravel ride | Komoot.

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