I love an Audax, especially an Audax that counts towards the nicest looking Audax-y badge in the South and possibly the world. The Brevet des Grimpeurs du Sud is a collection of hilly rides, 5 of which will get you a nice shiny badge.
With summer finally making an appearance what better way to spend the day than combining two 100 km Audaxes (and ticking off a couple of rides towards my GdS badge). I’ve planned to ride The Reliable first, starting and finishing in Ringmer, then a short ride across to Barcombe to ride the AAA Milne to complete the double. Both rides are ‘Permanent‘ Audaxes which is a kind of DIY type affair; you purchase an entry and ride it on a date you choose (as opposed to ‘Calendar’ events where you ride with other people on the same day).
The start from Ringmer sees me on roads I know well, slowly making my way towards Crowborough and the edge of my lanes knowledge. Shortly after leaving Crowborough, turning east at the Boars Head inn starts a section of beautiful, quiet roads that roll alongside fields and climb through dark wooded clumbs towards Etchingham. This turns out to be my favourite part of the ride and carries me along the rest of the route south and back towards Ripe.
I linger at the village store in Ripe a bit too long, drawn into village life by friendly locals before heading back to Ringmer to complete the first Audax. A short ride west to Barcombe and I’m at the start of the next Audax.
A large chunk of the AAA Milne Audax is in the Ashdown forest (hence the name) and it is in this direction that I head with heavy legs. The route meanders towards Ardingly and the western edge of Ashdown Forest. The hills start shortly afterwards and by the time I arrive in East Grinstead I’m feeling the effects of the day’s climbing and have to stop to consume some Audax fuel (chocolate milk).
Rolling roads tick off the towns of the northern edge of the forest, Forest Row, Hartfield and Groombridge, where the route turns south and into the forest proper. Despite aching legs I enjoy the long slow climb to the top of the forest. A quick descent to Chuck Hatch followed by another slow climb to Wych Cross and the route heads into the southern part of the forest between the cattle grids at Nutley.
This part of the forest with its downland, gorse and tree clumps is quite peaceful and I stop for a while to watch the cattle and gaze at the distant South Downs.
It’s not far to the finish from here and a lovely downhill stretch combined with a second wind sees me back in Barcombe in no time. The village pub is packed with punters enjoying the evening sun and I can’t resist a pint to round off the day and spice up the ride home.