Forest Row Bike Club
Balcombe & Haywards Heath: 23 April 2006
Eyes open at the crack of dawn. Oh! no, itís the early morning start. Well, Iíve decided that I donít want to do that any more as I turned up a few times to find a small number there, and once no-one was there, and the one whose idea it was never was there. So there!
Ron told me on the phone that he would be coming through East Grinstead about 10 to 10, so I clipped off towards the start of the Forest Way, passing a collection of old buses and a small bus enthusiastsí market in the town. I even had time to stop and inspect the fine old buildings along the south side of the High Street. Although Iíve lived here for just over three years, I still find them fascinating, so absorbing in fact, that I didnít notice it had started to drizzle. I just had time to read the information board at the start of the Way, noting that the reason some of the trees had been thinned out was to let light in for the wild flowers, when I saw a bobbing head above a yellow jacket fighting its way up that last short but fierce hill. I immediately received some abuse by way of a greeting, and I knew Ron had arrived. He was followed by Steve, and then Jane, after a longish absence Ďcos sheís not been well. It was good to see her after all this time, and she is so much better, she allowed me to tickle her cheek with the beard she saw for the first time. And finally, Hilary Mitchell, who works with Christa and who is building up to the Belgian holiday in June, appeared at the top of the hill on a new, space-age machine. Blimey, Iíve never seen anything like it, but more of that later.
Greetings having been made, we zoomed down through the town, down past Sainsburyís, and down again to the bottom of West Hill. Of course, Ron would have avoided all that if he possibly could, but soon his face perked up when we had to get the legs working up Turners Hill Road. Note the middle word in that name. After a very brief stop at the top to get our breath, and wonder if the wet brows were caused by the rain or the exertion, we headed off past Kingscote Station and up and up and up. Each time we stopped for a breather, Steve and I inspected a bit more of Hilaryís bike, and then with serious expressions, started to discuss the heat sinks on her drum brakes, the combination hub and derailleur gears, the ratchet gear shifters and the telescopic spring loaded seat pin. I donít know about Steve, but I didnít have a clue what I was talking about. It didnít matter though, I was rewarded by a look of admiration from Hilary as she wondered how a bloke could be so good looking and know so much whilst still being so modest. OK, Iím entitled to my daydreams, arenít I?
On we ploughed, the drizzle becoming more persistent, until another short stop was required for the donning of wet gear, which included the most amazing cape produced by Jane. I havenít seen one like that in some while, in fact ever, and I certainly havenít seen any sort of cape for sale for many years. It was so all-covering, with such a huge hood, that Jane was so snug that it had stopped raining for almost an hour before she realised. She must have been very snug indeed, because at one stage, there was a lot of rummaging about under there as Jane was loosening various items. I made an unwise enquiry from Jane and received a swift rebuke. Ron, however, was so overcome by curiosity that he tried to climb in under it to investigate. He received a kick in the shin for his lack of chivalry. Jane is made of stern stuff!
Off we went once again, this time by way of a short cut to Balcombe Tea Rooms, as Ron was now sulking. I decided to talk to Hilary, offering her advice from my wealth of cycling experience until her eyes began to glaze over and she started to yawn. Still, she will pay attention when she receives my invoice for all that information, even if she doesnít remember it.
Balcombe Tea Rooms is a treat, and we all walked into the dry to a fine welcome, hot tea and coffee, and toasted tea cakes. Scrum. Steve mentioned that he intended to make an apple crumble that afternoon, and Jane added that she had only the previous day made one of the upside down variety. There followed the recipe, and my mouth for one, was watering. Nothing lasts forever, though, except perhaps, some of my stories, and before long we emerged into the fresh air and meandered back home via, of course, some more hills.
Hilary unwisely mentioned that she had a sore bum, and after a sideways glance at each other, Ron and I silently decided that on account of my bruised ego, and his bruised shin, we wouldnít offer any assistance in that department this time.
Ron thought a cuppa wouldnít come amiss as we neared home. Jane had obviously forgiven him by now, because she very kindly invited us all back to her and Mikeís lovely house, where Mike welcomed the bedraggled lot of us, and made us at home while Jane did the honours, adding a bowl each of the very crumble she had been tempting us with at Balcombe. With cream! Yumm. Thank you both very much.
That left only the gradual climb back up to Wych Cross, where we all went our separate ways after another very agreeable day out.
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