Archive for the ‘2021 posts’ Category

Monarch’s Way ride – Friday update from Mr Roche to the school

Friday, May 28th, 2021
Thanks for your email and we are glad that you have enjoyed these updates to our and King Charles’ stories. By the time you read this we hope to have visited you all at school today and talked to you about our adventures. This message is just to continue telling our story from yesterday.
On Wednesday night we stayed in a village called Rowlands Castle, but on his last night in Hampshire King Charles II stayed near Hambledon – where you may remember we discovered that the game of English cricket was established almost exactly 100 years after Charles had been there.
Charles was desperate to get to France to escape capture, imprisonment or worse at the hands of his enemy Oliver Cromwell. Charles and his party, in heavy disguise, proceeded through Rowlands Castle and crossed the border into our own county of West Sussex. They continued on horseback passing many fine houses of the ‘local landed gentry’ going on to Goodwood and then Bignor Hill.
You might know this hill or perhaps the nearby village of Bignor where there is still a Roman Villa. We learned on Tuesday that the Romans built a network of roads; the remains of many of these can still be seen and used today. The Roman road from London to Chichester, known as Stane Street, runs past the villa, up the hill and on to Chichester. It would have been possible for Charles to take this path if he thought that he had the chance of getting a ship from near there as Chichester was also a port. He did not do this, presumably because his pursuers, the Parliamentarian army, would have strongholds there.
As at Winchester Old Hill there is also a hill fort at Bignor which can be seen from our own hill fort of Cissbuty Ring. If you visit Cissbury at any time be sure to look west where you will see in the distance two distinct masts that are used for radio communication and for mobile phones; this is Bignor Hill with which communication has been possible for hundreds of years, long before mobile phones existed.
We said yesterday that “travel breeds adventure”. Whilst Charles crossed the ancient Stane Street path and carried on past Bignor Hill we could not bring ourselves to do so just yet. When we got there we found a stray lamb had escaped from an adjoining field and was in distress because it could not get back to its mother. There followed a comic scene where a number of brightly coloured cyclists could be seen herding this lost sheep back into its home field.
This duly done we headed on to the next adventure. Now the really great thing about Bignor Hill is that it is very high, which means that once up there you can whizz downhill for miles on a bike – really great fun. Eventually Whiteways lodge is reached and from there Charles (and we too) descended into a village called Houghton. You might know this place too if you have ever been to the nearby Amberley Chalk Pits Museum.
Charles was now so desperate for time that whilst he took refreshments at the pub in Houghton his party did not even get off of their horses! The pub is called The George and Dragon and to this day a sign over the door confirms the royal presence in 1651, please see the picture below.
Charles then took a path along the River Arun to Arundel but Cromwell’s soldiers were still in hot pursuit. Wandering around Arundel Charles almost bumped into the Governor of Arundel castle and later nearly passed Parliamentarian agents in the main street. Luckily Charles spotted the danger in good time and quickly scurried away down a side street. Next time you visit Arundel think about Charles and imagine the anxiety he must have felt walking about amongst Cromwell’s followers.
Arundel used to be a sea port too but there was no chance of a boat here either! The party left Arundel continuing through Angmering Park Woods to reach Findon, passing what is today called Tolmare Farm. He rode around Church Hill, past the church that you all visit from time to time and down into Findon. He travelled up Steep Lane and across Nepcote Green. The next time you visit Nepcote Green do look for the tiny Monarch’s Way emblems on the signposts.  And the next time that we all go up to church let’s imagine Charles taking a little shelter there – and maybe sipping a glass of the communion wine ?
Yesterday our own party left Arundel too as we had faithfully followed Charles’ route so far. Not all of our party made it home from there: as Mr. Mead pedaled hard to get away there was a bang from the bottom gears on his bike as the mechanism shattered spectacularly. He came home by car thanks to a kind Mrs. Mead, but he will continue onwards today with a new bike.
Charles passed quite quickly through Findon. His party would ride 40 miles on horseback that day – an incredible journey given that it has taken us twice that time on fast bikes. Charles was still not sure where he would find his ship and continued as far as what is now called Brighton. Here he was again disappointed to not secure a passage to France. However, his luck was about to change. Word reached the party that a ship,  manned by loyal supporters of the King, would sail from nearby Shoreham very soon. So Charles had to race back to Shoreham harbour ……  would he make it in time?
Today our ride starts from outside Findon church and when we leave school we will follow exactly Charles’ route from Findon to Shoreham, so that means cycling to Brighton and then back to Shoreham harbour. Will we make it in time? Well who knows, but rather than make you wait the whole week to hear what happened to Charles we will tell you now: he did indeed make it in time, he escaped successfully to France where he lived for a number of years. But he had previously been deposed from his old job as King of England and that seemed unfair. Oliver Cromwell was ruling in his place but after a few years he too was deposed. The people decided that they wanted Charles back as King and so he was invited to return from his exile and take the crown, which he duly did in a move which is called the “restoration of the monarchy”.
The rest is history and we still have a monarch today. For now our monarch is Queen Elizabeth; when she finishes being queen she will be replaced by her son who is also called Charles, so he will be King Charles III. What will happen to him? As Mr. Mead told you before we set out on this adventure things didn’t end well for Charles the first and as we have seen here that the life of Charles II was in danger for quite a long time!
You might have to wait until after half-term to find out how we got on. So far we have suffered one tyre puncture, one nearly exploding tyre, two broken chains and poor Mr. Mead’s shattered gears. A few of us have fallen off our bikes a few times – only to lay down covered with mud – but so far no injuries. We’ll send Mr. Cumming a picture of what happens today so maybe you’ll hear later.
Thanks again to you all for showing such a kind interest in our adventures and those of the Monarch  Charles II. We wish you all an enjoyable half-term holiday.

Monarch’s Way ride – Thursday update from Mr Roche

Thursday, May 27th, 2021
Yesterday we started cycling from Winchester heading east. You will remember that we arrived at Winchester (once the ancient capital city of England), from Salisbury following the path taken by King Charles II on the trek that he made on his way to France. He wanted to escape pursuit and capture by the armies of Oliver Cromwell, the man who had taken away his role as the King of England.
We know that Charles eventually finished his journey in Shoreham, a town close to where we all live. The best route from Winchester to Shoreham is via the South Downs Way, an ancient track that follows the tops of the South Downs and would have been ideal for Charles’ purpose. So why did he not go this way? Well, at this time Charles did not actually know that he wanted to go from Shoreham. All he wanted to do was to leave from somewhere …… anywhere …. along the south coast to get away from Cromwells army who knew of his whereabouts and were slowly closing in on him.
From his secret hideout in Winchester he would first have sent parties of loyal followers due south to check if he could get on a ship from Southampton or Portsmouth. In those days there were no car ferries as we have today day, just a basic Navy fleet who were already committed to serving Oliver Cromwell. So he had no luck there. But maybe there might be a chance of securing a boat at one of the smaller ports: perhaps Emsworth or Chichester? But again no luck there either as it was soon found that these towns too were under the control of Cromwell’s men!
And so Charles’ route (and ours yesterday), went south and then east from Winchester. He crossed the beautiful Hampshire countryside as it undulates – which means it rises and falls in height usually quite gently but there are still some steep hills – please see the photo below. The great thing about this sort of open countryside is that once you have reached the top of a hill you can coast gently downhill for miles and miles without pedalling. There’s a great expression that says that “travel brings adventure” and this sort of riding is certainly that, it is like being on a great big long roller-coaster fare ground ride that lasts for ages and ages.
Similarly, when you travel long distances you often accidentally find things that you didn’t expect to see. For example – and this is nothing to do with Charles II – as we cycled close to a village called Hambledon we happened to find a memorial stone, located on a village cricket green opposite a pub called “The Bat and Ball’. But this is not any old cricket green or any old pub: rather, it is the very place where the modern day game of cricket was devised,100 years or so after Charles passed here.
The view in the photo below shows the outlook from the highest point on our ride of yesterday. This place is called Old Winchester Hill  which itself is a bit odd because whilst it certainly is a hill and it is very old, it is a long way from Winchester. From up here Charles, like us, would have been able to see clearly right across to the English Channel. The hills that you can just see in the far distance are actually the Downs on The Isle of Wight. This view is very similar fo that which Charles would have seen in his time, indeed it is known that Stone and Iron Age people lived up here because this place has a hill fort almost almost identical to our own Cissbury Ring near Findon. The Roman’s would also have stationed themselves up here to keep watch out to sea in case their enemies approached!
From these forts people could send messages using beacons (made of small fires) to flash news to the next fort and from there on to London or down to the coast. It certainly would have been possible for someone standing on this hill to send and receive coded messages with someone on Cissbury Ring. Perhaps Charles’ party managed to receive messages from Findon to tell them that they could safely proceed there, as we intend to do today.
What King Charles would not have seen are the tall chimneys seen distantly on the right of our picture as these are part of a modern day oil refinery near Southampton; similarly he would not see the tall pillar in the middle distance as this is the recently completed Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.
We are now staying in a village called Rowlands Castle and from here we plan to ride to Findon arriving at your school tomorrow morning. We hope to see you then.

Monarch’s Way ride – Wednesday update from Mr Roche to the school

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021
Now where were we with our story? Ah yes …. our monarch, King Charles the second, was fleeing to France pursued by his old enemy Oliver Cromwell, who had at his command the parliamentarian army….. and our modern day collection of cyclists are following in the King’s footsteps (or those of his horse). By the way this latter party of modern day trail followers consists of riders who all have a connection with your school – they are either Governors, ex-governors, the husbands of one of these two options, or they are parents of past children of your school – and some are more than one of these. For instance Mr. Mead  is a Governor, a parent of former pupils and is also one of your teachers. We are doing all this to raise funds for our PTA and this is also going very well.
So, the journey of Charles II (and ours yesterday) from Salisbury to Winchester was a little bit easier than the day before. For us the weather was better and for both us and King Charles the pathway was easier. This is all thanks to the Romans who 1200 years before Charles had constructed a network of roads around Britain to enable them to march their troops about. Luckily for all of us all they had built a road that joined Salisbury and Winchester and Charles (and us) were able to travel this same track nearly 1600  years after the Roman’s first laid it out (or in our case nearly 2000 years later).
When the Romans built roads they built them well and they made them straight – see picture below. Where ever possible they ensured that there weren’t too many climbs up to the top, (something that we reaĺly appreciated too), that they could see for miles around – in case their enemy’s were coming – and that they could be sure of safe passage without being ambushed by bad people. All of this was ideal for King Charles too because he could never know when he might meet one of Cromwell’s followers. King Charles now needed to make a speedy journey because his enemies were hot on his trail and the pressure was getting greater! Oliver Cromwell’s people were everywhere and they were closing in!
Let’s consider his situation. Much like our queen today Charles was of royal birth. Just like Queen Elizabeth he travelled with a group of supporters where ever he went and it would not have been hard to notice them. How easy would it have been for one of Cromwell’s spies to spot the party and quickly gather soldiers to arrest them? How would Charles have got around this problem? Those of you who have watched ‘Horrible Histories’ will know that he managed this by hiding out and by clever disguise. There are many stories of when the party encountered people along the way who could have reported them to Cromwell’s army; for Charles that would have been the end!
On one occasion we know that he hid from his enemies in an oak tree. Today this is remembered readily because many English pubs bear the name The Royal Oak to commemorate this event. On other occasions we know that he dressed as a peasnt to ensure that he could proceed without being noticed. He nearly came to a sticky end one day when delivering his horse to a blacksmith for new shoes. Charles handed over his horse and whilst idly chatting the blacksmith said to Charles, “you’d better watch out, the King’s party are about in this area……. I hope they catch the blighters soon”. Thank goodness Charles was well disguised.
So Charles’ journey was going well, but his pursuers were closing in. He was reliant on kind and faithful followers to keep him hidden, keep the party fed and watered and keep him disguised as a common day peasant worker, all whilst speeding his passage. He (and we), left Salisbury and are now in Winchester; both cities had and still have today, large cathedrals. Salisbury Cathedral is still the tallest in England and Winchester cathedral would be the place where Charles would now head to say prayers for his safe onward passage. Here lurked danger too: a congregation that might consist of either his own supporters or those of Oliver Cromwell, who you will probably know had replaced him as England’s head of state.
Charles dare not let on that others sharing communion in this now protestant cathedral were in the presence of royalty.
Over the last two days and during tomorrow (we hope), we will have cycled across 100+ miles of open countryside, seeing attractive and constantly varying scenery. Like Charles we have avoided main roads and towns, not because we are afraid of being seen by enemy forces – thankfully these no longer exist – but because we want to enjoy off-road cycling.
We would thoroughly recommend to you all taking up this hobby and sport. Perhaps you might want to form your own club – but don’t forget to include some adults too. If any of you take this up we hope that you will find it a pleasurable experience to travel long distances untroubled by anything except perhaps the odd steep hill – hard work to climb up but great fun to whizz down once you have done all the work of ascending to the top and enjoying the views. All you need to enjoy all this is a bike, safely equipped with good gears and all-important brakes, and for a few years hence a grown-up to accompany you (and carry your picnic lunch). You will also need to be the sort of young person who loves getting as wet and muddy as we are today.
We look forward to meeting you all on Friday morning and will try and write to you again tomorrow.

Monarch’s Way ride – Tuesday update from Mr Roche

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

On Tuesday  Mr Roche sent the following message to the school.

Yesterday we cycled from Wincanton to Salisbury. What we have learned is that not a lot happened to Charles II on this leg of his journey and we are pleased to say that not a lot happened to us either: no breakdowns or tyre punctures, just lots of rain and mud! Mr Mead got quite wet and at the end of the day was covered in mud (see picture at the bottom of this email), but we all made it it here through the rain. What is interesting is what caused King Charles to take this particular route, on horseback across open country, being chased by his enemies..
You will remember from our story yesterday that Charles II was fleeing from Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarian army. He was trying to escape capture after the battle of Worcester; in doing so he tried to visit various ports along the south coast including Charmouth and Bridport in Dorset to try to make his escape. He had made this last attempts to flee to France earlier on in his journey. He was hiding at a place called Trent in Somerset and had to send his helpers ahead to try and secure a ship in which to sail away. Luckily for Charles there were no agents of his pursuer, Oliver Cromwell hiding in the towns and his passage was clear to proceed to the port.
However when he arrived, whilst he could see his ship moored out at sea, for some strange reason he couldn’t get on it. Was this a trap? Were Cromwell’s spies laying in wait? He waited and waited and waited, but still no boat came to collect him and take him out to his ship. It turns out that at Charles was not to be denied his passage by Cromwell’s men but rather by the stern-faced wife of the captain of the ship! She declared that “no husband of mine is going to risk his life taking the King to France”. To make sure she had locked the captain in his cabin to prevent him from collecting the monarch!
So poor old Charles had to make his way across the south of England, initially on our route of yesterday from Wincanton to Salisbury, via a little village called Hindon. So the next part of our journey from then until we see you on Friday will be from Hindon to Findon!
We have to question how King Charles II knew which route to take. There were no computers, Google internet or satellite maps in those days; no telephones or much means of communication. Any paper maps that existed were quite basic and Charles did not know the area. The answer to our question is that Charles was not alone. He had a lot of loyal, faithful friends who could go on ahead of him and check that Cromwell’s spies and his Army we’re not out looking out for him in the nearby countryside or lurking, waiting to capture him in the towns.  These friends got the help of of local people who were loyal to the King to guide the King’s party secretly to their destination, often hiding in churches like the one shown behind Mr. Mead in the picture at the bottom of this email, even today this church is still loyally flying the flag of St. George of England. Like Mr. Mead, Charles would have been glad to come upon a church: typically, these are usually sited at the top of hills meaning that the climb is over for a while and a whizz downhill is soon to follow.

Monarch’s Way ride update from Mr Roche to the school

Monday, May 24th, 2021

Hello from all of us as we set off on this week’s biking adventure. Today we start our ride from Wincanton in Somerset on our quest to join you all at school on Friday morning (we hope). Yesterday ten of us travelled here by car from Findon to stay overnight before we set off this morning.

As you know we are hoping to cycle a route to Findon which follows the last 100+ miles of an ancient path called the Monarch’s Way, the same route taken by King Charles the Second as he fled to France, pursued by government (Parliamanterian)  troops, ruled over by a man called Oliver Cromwell. On it’s way to nearby Shoreham the Monarch’s Way runs through Findon past our church and very close to your school.
As Mr. Mead has already told you, King Charles II started this journey after the battle of Worcester in 1652. Here he had been defeated by parliament’s soldiers, so he decided to seek shelter in France ….. but first he had to get there!
He first tried to board ships manned by his friends in the west of England (Bristol) but Cromwell’s men were already waiting for him. His journey then took him on a very odd ‘L’ shaped route as he and his party tried to stay one step ahead of their pursuers! Danger lurked at every place they tried as they made their way south to try and escape from various ports along the south coast.
As we know he eventually made his way to France across the English Channel from Shoreham but not before experiencing many adventures on his way, some of which we shall try and tell you about later; hopefully bringing you a few more snippets of the story as this week progresses.
Because the Monarch’s Way uses footpaths for some of the route, on which cycling is not permitted, we shall have to take nearby bridleways, which will make our journey a little bit longer – let’s hope Mr. Mead is up for the challenge!
We start today from Wincanton, which is a small Somerset market town famous for its nearby horse racing course, a destination sought by the riders from Findon’s own horse racing stables. Many of the horses and their jockey riders, that you often see exercising in Findon every day, will have raced here. King Charles set off from near here on horseback and today we intend to follow his course as closey as we can to go to Salisbury in Wiltshire by tonight.
We shall write to you again tomorrow, so let’s  hope Mr Mead’s legs work well (and those of the rest of us too), so that we can bring you some more news of our own adventures and perhaps some more of the story of our forerunner, King Charles II.

May Monarch’s Way ride in aid of Findon school PTA

Friday, March 5th, 2021

FGCC to ride the Monarch’s Way – in aid of Findon St John the Baptist school’s PTA

…for new playground markings and other projects for the children

At the end of May (2021), pandemic allowing, a group of trusty cyclists from the Findon Gentlemen’s Cycling Club, several of whom have close connections to the Governing Body at Findon Primary School, plan to ride 110 miles of the Monarch’s Way to raise some funds for our village school’s PTA.

Locals will know that the Monarch’s Way is a long-distance trail that closely follows the route taken by Charles ll after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Over a period of six weeks, with Parliamentary forces in hot pursuit, Charles tried in vain to make his escape through Wales before turning south across the Cotswolds to try his luck at various coastal ports in the south-west but each time encountering Oliver Cromwell’s troopers. Turning east from Dorset through Wiltshire and Hampshire, Charles then rode along the South Downs, passing through Findon, until he reached Shoreham from where he took a ship for France.

We only plan to ride about a sixth of the length of the 625 miles trail. The four-day ride will be part-educational as the pupils of our school will be encouraged to plot our progress daily and hence sharpen their knowledge of history and geography. The riders will be paying all their own expenses and hope to attract sponsorship from local residents, businesses and parents; all funds will go to the school’s PTA to benefit projects and initiatives for our children.

Given what a tough year everyone has had, particularly for those in school, it will be good to try and achieve something that will help our young pupils whilst they continue with their re-adjustment to normal school life.

Do look-out for the sponsorship appeals that will come from the school PTA and please donate generously to this worthy cause, which you can do via their St John the Baptist school PTA Just Giving page 

John Roche BNTR & CJ

Chairman of Governors St John The Baptist School


See the planned routes: Monarch’s Way ride routes

A total ride of 164 miles and 13,300 feet height to be climbed – can we do it?

2020 Bling award

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Sadly the continuing pandemic has meant that presentation of the 2020 Bling stats could only be carried out virtually rather than in the splendid company of gentlemen of the FGCC in one of our local hostelries.

Our Blingmeister with typical gentlemanly understatement simply transmitted the stats in an unusual format that no one could open other than one member of our youth wing (naturally), failing to mention that it is he that has climbed to the dizzy heights of the top of the table for 2020.

Therefore the Findon Gentlemen’s Cycling Club 2020 Bling winner is hereby announced as Mr Paul Topley FGCC TM BM with just under 1,000 miles clocked and 2.1 Everests climbed.

Studies of the stats reveal that Mr Topley only missed three of the possible 53 Saturday rides for 2020, one being during his only holiday managed in the year, the other two taking place the morning after occasions when celebratory libations may have been taken – morning after Not-gala night and Boxing day.

And so congratulations Paul for a splendid achievement.

2020 Bling stats

2020 Stats Table