Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Four Elms - 1st January 2017

Quite heavy rain was forecast for later in the day. For now, though, it was very overcast, with a slight drizzle as I set off to ride to FR. Although I’d gone to bed early, (party-pooper), I was awoken before midnight by fireworks. Oh! to be young again.

I sat in my bus shelter wondering what the day would bring, closed my eyes and began drifting. “You been there all night?”, was enquired of me by an elderly gentleman walking his dog. Well, I assumed it was him and not the dog. I had my eyes closed you see. It was Ron. What a nice surprise! Happy New Years all round and a nice chat ensued. Graham arrived, and the chat continued for 10 more minutes.

Time to go. We decided that no-one else would be turning up at this time, not even Trex. And then Trex came. It’s good to see that he’s starting off the new year as he means to go on.

We three intrepid chaps moseyed off towards Hartfield where we were to meet Steve, and having whizzed down past the Gallipot, arrived in expectation at the junction where the café used to be before it became a butcher’s. Steve soon appeared, and passed the comment that all four of us were wearing yellow. New club colours? That reminded me of the time when Corinne and I were sitting by the River Thames, and we suddenly became aware of a small boy standing right by us. Enquiring of the little chap who was looking after him, he pointed across the road at a woman. “Mummy’s in lellow, (sic), Daddy’s at work and Grandad’s in Heaven”. Oh! Bless. Anyway, off we went, and turned left towards Blackham.

There’s a short climb a little way along there, and I commented that I was going to take off my rain top, as it had stopped drizzling by now and I didn’t want to get overheated. Trex encouraged me to wait for a bit, lord knows why. And lord knows why I listened to him either, because I soon found myself at the top of the climb, overheated. “Take it off now”, he entreated. I explained to him that he was an oaf, and I was not going to take it off before the drop down the other side and freeze, now was I?

We arrived at the house which used to be The Sussex Oak, and someone suggested we should have a downhill rolling race. Good-oh, I thought, I have a fair chance of winning this, being still full of Xmas pud. Off went Trex, doing a good impression of a Lardy Boy, then I was ushered off too. Going quite nicely, I was amazed when Graham came past me at a lick, but I quickly manoeuvred into his slipstream, such as it is, the skinny chap. I was only gaining on him very slowly, but there was a slight chance that my momentum would eventually carry me through. Trex had come to a halt, and Graham and I, slowing considerably, drifted past him. Graham fought to remain upright, but eventually he put a foot to the floor. Would I make it? 1mph. 1/2 mph. Yes? No? Yes? The answer is No. Three inches short. Well done, Graham, that extra mince pie did the trick for you. Steve was still moving, but fading quickly, and finally came up slightly short of Trex. Fun for all on this dank morning.

Just afterwards we were treated to a bit more zooming ever downwards, and I reminded Trex not to get too comfortable, as Hobbs Hill would shortly be before us. Having rolled over a pimple in the road, Trex opined that he didn’t think it deserved the title ‘hill’. Graham explained to him that he was an oaf, and if he had wanted to listen to drivel like that, he could listen to it at the golf club. Then came Hobbs Hill, which, in truth is not too bad really, but I did stop at last just before it to remove my rain top to prevent overheating.

The three other sterling chaps had stopped for me at the top, and, thanking them, I glided by whilst they sorted themselves out. Sneakily accelerating, I put enough distance between myself and them to stop and wait nonchalantly at the Chiddingstone Hoath sign. Not one of the bounders congratulated me. They just sailed by when they deigned to arrive. Typical!

There’s a pub just round the corner whose name escapes me, but many years ago, whilst living in suburbia, I cycled many miles into the country to have my lunch there, and returned after what was for me a marathon effort. I often recall that day as I pass it nowadays, never venturing inside as it is so near to home. Will do one day, just for the memory.

Once again attempting nonchalance, I gradually increased speed. My intention was to out-smug Graham by reaching the Wellers Town sign before he did, knowing that it was hidden in the ever-thickening hedges. What’s this? The hedge had been given a short back and sides, and the sign stood out for all to see. A quick look over my shoulder told me that Graham was too far behind, but the gloat was wiped off of my face in the last few yards. He is such a cheat! Reminding him of my victory at Chiddingstone Hoath, he rejoindered that in that case, he would remind me of his victories at Coleman’s Hatch, Upper Hartfield, Hartfield, Withyham and Ball’s Green. Well, if it’s that important to him, I hope he’s happy, and that’s all I have to say about that. For now.

At some point around here, I can’t remember exactly, as it’s now Thursday as I write this, I happened to be in front of the group, when a deer leapt out of the trees to the right of us. Seeing us, it shot across the road, whereupon three of its mates followed and lithely pronked (I believe that is the word), across the road in front of us, before leaping into the trees on the other side of the road. They are so agile. I suppose being so nervous of human civilisation is what keeps most of them alive. I’m just glad that I don’t have to live my life like they do, being on tenterhooks all the time. Except when I was married.

Bayley’s Hill followed soon afterwards, and being supremely unfit, I had to let Trex beat me to the top, and for the same reason, let everyone else do the same. At least I had the consolation of reminding Graham that we were turning left at the top, and not right, as he had thought, even though he was the group leader. “I wouldn’t have gone this way”, I eagerly offered, stifling another gloat.

Soon afterwards we were all zooming down from Ide Hill, and arrived at our intended stop at Four Elms. The barn gate outside was locked, and a lady outside it got out of her car. It was Kate! She had been awaiting our arrival, having been unable to contact us by phone.

Graham insisted that he had previously checked that the place was going to be open, even though it was New Year’s Day. I personally would have gone there in advance, and extracted a contract, signed in the proprietor’s blood. Graham obviously couldn’t be bothered.

“I know what”, I suggested, “there’s a café at Waitrose in Edenbridge, a short distance away”. Many brownie points were going to be mine. But Waitrose, too, was closed. However, by then the lovely Kate had gone ahead and discovered that the Costa Coffee in the High Street was open, so that is where we ended up. I’m glad, because I only just fended off asking everyone back to my place with the excuse that I didn’t have any milk, (true), or sugar (almost true, but it’s probably got weavils in it by now). The fact is, my place also could easily be mistaken for the Imberhorne Lane Community Refuse Disposal Facility, only with more refuse.

The four intrepid cyclists and Kate spent a happy while drinking coffee and listening to me speaking for aeons, or as it seemed to me, a few seconds, before we were chucked out. The rain had decided not to hold off any longer, and was falling steadily. Oh no! In that case I shall have to forego the rest of my ride and go straight home, I thought. And I did, thinking how unfortunate the other riders were to be still riding in the rain, as I put my bike in my garage and swiftly went indoors to a steaming coffee without milk or sugar.

John


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