Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Gordon's Awayday, East Hoathly, 13th.April, 2008.

Now, let me try and remember. Oh yes, Kate had asked me if I could possibly take Hilary in my car, as she couldn't fit another bod. and bike in her car. No bother, so up at the crack of dawn, I was outside fitting my bike rack on the back of my little Peugeot, listening to the birds singing in the stillness of the sunny morning. Nobody about. Good job really, as I was still in my rather fetching dressing gown, which I like to flatter myself makes me look quite like one of those debonair 50's film stars. I am easily flattered. That done, and bike attached, I pulled on my cycling shorts, (amazing really, when it was only last week that we had the most snow in one day for nearly twenty years), stuffed the rest of my gear in a bag and headed off for H's place in Forest Row. The previous evening when I'd arranged to pick her up at 0745, the shriek in my right ear instantly reminded me that I meant to say 0845. And so it was that by 9am. with both bikes tied on, we set off. As we went past the bike shop, there was Ron, waiting to see if anyone else would turn up. I chatted at him for a while, and seeing as no-one else turned up, off we went, Ron in the lead.

Half an hour later, Hilary and I were sitting in the car park alone, something I suppose neither of us has done since our youth, and wondering where everyone was. A phone call from Ron quickly established that he was in a different car park by a sports centre. Now, how is it that a village as small as East Hoathly, (and nowhere near West Hoathly, incidentally), not only has two car parks, but a sports centre too, when they've closed down half the playing fields in England? Beats me. Anyway, by the miracle of the mobile, we were soon re-united, soon afterwards to be followed by Graham, who had ridden down on his own.

Kate drove in a while later, with Andrew and Gordon in her car too. What time do you call this, Gordon, you're our leader? Blame the driver, he gallantly suggested. So Kate, you are now christened 'Late'. And no, there is no excuse. If you have a lot to do, you just have to get up earlier. So there! (I'm quite good at being smug).

Martin appeared in his car and set about pumping his tyres up and getting ready. Suddenly a loud bang echoed round the village, and in an instant, Martin's front tyre was flat. Not only that, but he had a substantial split in the tyre wall as well. "Don't chance it, Martin", I said with absolute authority, "it'll be too dangerous to ride on that now". So Gordon got something out of his saddle bag and fixed it in a jiffy. I slunk away.

Hilary, Val, Tony and Graham at East HothlyThen Tony and Val appeared too, and we were ten. With Martin's front tyre only half pumped up for safety, we were soon pedalling through some lovely countryside, at a very pleasant, leisurely pace. The sun was shining between the clouds, the bluebells were out, the rapeseed was halfway there in acres of yellow, and most of the trees were sprouting their leaves. There was a fairly brisk headwind, but no matter, the day was a treat. The village of Horam appeared, and Gordon announced the first tea stop would be taken here, for the benefit of those who had cycled out from home. Admirable suggestion, although by my reckoning we had covered exactly 4.5 miles. I must admit, though, that on entering the café, the aroma of sizzling bacon had me tempted to order a baguette full of it. Don't eat anything here, wait for lunch, instructed Ron. It was only after I had complied, and sat down with just a cup of coffee that Ron appeared at the table with a large slice of chocolate cake. The cad. Anyway, Gordon said it was only 17 miles to lunch at Alfriston, so I supposed I could wait. What a nice stop it had been, but in no time we left for the lanes of Sussex.

Cowbeech came and went, as did Hailsham, and we passed close by Upper Dicker. It was inescapable that with a typically English sense of humour, someone recounted how they had gone to school in Upper Dicker, and the head teacher had been known by all (except him) as 'Head Dick'. Other way round, I would have thought, or maybe that was the point.

Val, Kate and Hilary en-routeSoon, signs for Wilmington loomed, and I seemed to remember that there was carved out on the face of the South Downs, the figure of an enormous man with an equally enormous, er, appendage. On arrival, however, although the figure seemed to be that of a man, there was an obvious lack of vital detail. Why then, I wonder, did practically everyone ask me why I had modelled for the part, as they thought that the figure resembled me exactly? Bloody cheek! Mind you, there was an extraordinary ressemblance, except there was no moustache. ......"Over that hill, be careful on the descent", said Gordon, and Hilary and Val sneaked away. By the time everyone else had sorted themselves out, it was decided that Alfriston was a bit far for lunchtime, and by a miracle, there was a superb tea shop just across the green from where we were. Once again, mobile phones were brought into action, and so the two ladies came back down once more, with vehement denials that they had just been trying to get a closer look.

The tea shop was, indeed, very good, and we all consumed as much as we wanted, before dragging ourselves back out onto the bikes.

Dunno if it was then, or just a bit earlier, but one of Graham's gear cables snapped, and although he tightened the rear mech. limit stops as much as they would go, he could only eliminate the smallest rear cog. Luckily, he's got three chainrings on the front, and so could still get into a reasonable range of gears. However, this was my opportunity to show him up a few times on the hills. Martin's bike too, had developed a knocking noise from, he thought, his front wheel bearing. Would his bike and dodgy tyre get him round?

I engaged Tony in conversation as we meandered through the beautiful countryside. You will know if you have met him what a polite chap Tony is. His father must have told him to look at someone when they're speaking to you. Not a good thing when you're riding a bike and your interlocutor is a certain JA, so it was no surprise that when Hilary came to a halt in front of Tony, Tony didn't. Luckily we weren't going any faster, and only pride was injured. Mind you, Hilary may have been a bit shaken, 'cos a little later she did one of her 'riding off the road over a grass verge for no apparent reason' stunts.

Do you remember a few weeks ago we were treated to the sight of a beautiful champagne-coloured horse with an exceedingly long tail? Well, as we crested a slight hill, a young woman stood holding a stunningly shiny dark-brown horse which was obviously very well groomed, and equally eye-catching. As it stood there in the sun, one of our number remarked that it looked as if it had been varnished, and so it did.

John - en-routeIf you weren't out on this ride, and you have the opportunity one day, go down through some of the lanes around the village of Ripe, where we then made our way. Completely different to the North Downs, the area around the South Downs has its own charm. For a reason I don't now remember, or care, we all stopped at a country lane junction against a brick wall surrounding a majestic house and garden. One of the taller of us had the curiosity to stand on tiptoes to peek over the wall, and was treated to the sight of a full-sized statue of a naked lady sitting on a bench reading a little book. I'm glad he told me too, because when I snuck a look, I instantly understood what art is for. The setting, the surroundings, the sensitivity of the sculptor, and all the rest. Say no more.

Back to reality, we set off northwards again, and not long afterwards, Martin was missing for a while, long enough to go back to see where he was. "Found out what that noise was", he said, and pointed out the earlier split he had had in his tyre which had now grown into a bulge and had been knocking on his front forks. He'd had to let even more air out of the tyre and would have to limp home.

Not far to go now, and Graham seemed to be gradually increasing his speed rather a lot. Got it! He's going for the village sign at East Hoathly. I had to go all out to catch him, and sped to within striking distance of him. I knew he hadn't got a top gear, so this would be my moment. Round a bend, no sign. Must be soon. Round another, it will be in view any second now. He's tiring, I'll beat him this time. All too soon the houses begin, Graham sits up and laughs. The bounder. He tells me that he'd ridden out this morning along this road and knew that there was no sign at all. He had just sped off to get me going, and succeeded. Will I never learn?

So, laughing, chatting, puffed out or smiling, we each arrived back in the car park having had another very enjoyable day, in v.e. weather, countryside and company.

And Gordon, thank you very much for that.


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