The second instalment of Reader’s Ramble comes from rider Andy White, husband of our very own Sarah White! Keeping it local to the Sussex/Surrey area, Andy has a 120km route perfect for your Saturday bunch ride. It’s a little challenging, but very much doable and with lots of café/pub stops on route – perfect if you ask us!
This is a reasonably challenging route, roughly 120km and 1100m of ascent, through the beautiful countryside of West Sussex and Surrey keeping, in the main, to quiet country roads. We begin and end outside the Red Lion in Ashington, with the pub serving as a great location for pre-ride coffees or post ride beers. Either way, there’s plenty of car parking here if you need, although it is worth mentioning that ride could also be easily started from the nearby rural station at Christs Hospital if you’re coming in via train.
Begin by heading North out of Ashington up The London Road, following the route as it winds though the lanes towards Barns Green and Itchingfield. After descending Bashurst Hill take particular care on the slightly busier A264 as you ride over to Five Oaks before turning North again and over to Cranleigh passing Dunsfold Aerodrome, made famous by the BBC’s Top Gear, just a couple of kilometres to the West.
Through the bustling High Street at Cranleigh take a left onto Barhatch Lane and steel yourself for the first in a clutch of the regions finest short, steep climbs. Barhatch starts steadily and a brief, early descent serves as a warning for what’s to come as your legs begin to burn pushing past the golf course on your right. The climb builds and builds so be sure to save both some beans (and gears!?) for the final, brutal, out of the saddle, 21% effort to finish! Enjoy the swoop down into Ewhurst and along to Forest Green where either The Parrot Inn or the farm shop next door offer the perfect opportunity for a quick stop – the farm shop makes a beautiful Espresso!
Out of Forest Green and onto the next classic climb – Leith Hill. Leith Hill has been a stable of local sportive’s for a number of years now, but if you’re not local, you may know it from your winter training on Zwift where the climb has been recently modelled as part of the Surry Hills map. Obviously, the real deal is way better than the virtual pretender and you’ll begin to rise almost immediately as you turn under the trees onto Leith Hill Lane. Whilst Leith is not a particularly steep climb it does continue steadily for just over two kilometres before you reach the summit of the highest point in Surrey (294m above MSL for the geeks!) You’ll cool down quickly on the descent as it twists and winds its way down to meet the A25 – keep your fingers poised on the brakes as some of the corners have the potential to be quite “exciting” should you carry too much speed! As road rises to meet the A25 the route heads briefly west.
After a very brief stint, you’ll turn right off the A25 and proceed Northwards once more, up White Down Lane. The ascent begins immediately and personally, I find this to be a pretty challenging climb despite it short length, coming in at just 800m. White Down is steep and permits nothing in the way of even the slightest respite - although the old WWII vintage pillbox may take your mind off the burn for a moment or two. You’ll also need to pray that you don’t get caught behind a couple of cars trying to pass each other on the narrow tarmac as getting started will not only hurt but ruin that mid ride KOM attempt!
From here it’s a short jaunt East over Ranmore Common, down the hill through Westhumble and over the A24. The final “decent” climb of the day is the venerable Box Hill – famed for its inclusion the Olympic Road Race of 2012 and featuring alpine style, switchback hairpins to make you feel like you’re smashing it up Stelvio – OK, maybe not but it’s entertaining and the surface is as good as the café at the top! Box is a nice steady climb of 2.5 kilometres and, being just 5% on average, doesn’t seem to punish those of us of a more “robust” body shape as much as it otherwise might. Keep pushing and you’ll be over the top in no time, enjoying some of the finest views in the South of England!
The other side of Box Hill is nice steady decline, turning back South about half way down and crossing the A25 at Betchworth. The route from this point on meanders in a Southerly direction offering rolling tree lined lanes skirting Newdigate and Rusper prior to hitting Horsham. Our favourite trick on this fairly flat last third of the road is to turn up the wick, keep the average around 30kph and wring the last bit of performance from those fried quads!
We then head back through the East of Horsham to pick up Kerves Lane across to Southwater where the nasty kicker at the end of Kerves always seems to catch me by surprise! Down the hill at Southwater, over the lights and right up Bonfire Hill and into some proper little country lanes - at this point my legs are pretty much done and I’m counting the clicks down through to the last little push down Hooklands Lane and back into Ashington for a well-earned drink!