Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

The ups and downs of life - Balcombe 27th January, 2008.

John, Tony, Val, Gordon and Don. Back Lane nr Balcombe Yesterday evening, the blazing sunset told us what we wanted to know, that today would be a fine day for cycling the familiar back-roads, the downhills, and the uphills to Balcombe and its tea-shop. And so it turned out. The day was bright, sufficiently so to prompt one member to appear at the assembly in shorts (baggy).

And so we cycled, yet one more time, up Priory Road, the familiar road which takes us from the village (Forest Row) to the top of the Forest, a rise of about 120 metres. As the rise occurs in not much more than a kilometre, the climb can be hard on muscles which haven't warmed. At the top, where we rested, there were 13 of us.

Along the crest, the land dipping down on the right to the reservoir and rising to East Grinstead, before we made a customary turn to the left, the beginning of the long ride and glide down to Bluebell railway. The day was bright, the light shone through the trees, the houses, tucked away amidst summer foliage, are revealed in winter bareness.

A turn towards Ardingly, a popular road, a single-file road, as much to be safe as to be courteous. Warmed muscles, steady cycling, Ardingly, preparatory to the steep downhill ride to the reservoir, now full, itself a preparation for the equally-steep ascent the other side. Now we coped not just with the steepness of the ascent but with the car-drivers for whom a slow, careful, and caring, drive up the hill was unthinkable.

Having re-assembled at the top, we cycled along country roads, all familiar, in sharp sunlight, and, at least for one, in the hope that the sun, fully exposed, would get on with its business of warming us. What a pleasure it was to be out on those roads, in company. What a pleasure to swoop down a hill towards the water at the bottom, water in which the line of brick houses, with white window frames, was reflected. The sight was sufficient to prompt two of us to pause. The reflection, the houses themselves, the water's edge, the bridges, the trees. A sanctuary.

The author in the cafe So, in its way, is the tea-shop in Balcombe. The tea comes quickly; warmed, we wait for the food, when we realise that one of our number is missing. A puncture, an ineffectual call to those in front. A repair, a solitary ride, a reunion.

Fortified, we ride freely down the next hill and climb up the other side. We congregate, preparatory (again) to a swoop down a hill and a climb up the other side. All the while, the sun shines, the light remains bright. Yet a further swoop down (from Turners Hill), a following rise to a crest, a concluding swoop down. Balcombe is a cycling term meaning up and down.


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