Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Hadlow 11th October 2009

I don't know if this is strictly in the remit of a ride report, well I know it isn't, but anyway. Having moved very recently, I straight away fell over the hoover in the first morning's darkness. I thought I was aiming for where the door used to be, but somebody had put an open wardrobe there instead. It is not a good idea to head-butt thin air at any time, and certainly not to follow it up by grasping all your clothes from their hangers and to introduce your ribs at 32 ft/second/second to that sharp bit of wood that goes along the bottom of the opening. Heigh Ho. So having since been out in the pouring rain with Graham last Wednesday, you may be able to appreciate why I was looking forward to today's ride with a mixture of trepidation 'cos of the old breathing, and joy because it was a superb, rainless Autumn morning.

Graham and Ron were chatting nineteen to the dozen, and ignored my cheery 'Morning chaps'. Two seconds later the lovely Jane arrived and this time they couldn't have been more welcoming. Jane this and Jane that. Typical. Soon Martha was there, then Steve and Chris too, and the 7 of us were soon huffing and puffing up Wall Hill. After a brief regroup, we departed for Shovelstrode Lane, when Steve reminded us that Zoë was due to arrive at any second. And suddenly, there she was, having pedalled furiously in bottom gear for miles. I couldn't figure out why her rear mechanism wouldn't work, but that big-headed Graham fixed it in point four of a second, and smugly rode away to the junction with the Tunbridge Wells road where Gordon and Kate were waiting for us all. Now we were complete.

We took our usual left at Hammerwood and then along the lane past Basing Farm and the lakes. Isn't it weird that that great big house on the left at the end is quite a lot lower than the level of the lake just a few feet away on the other side of the lane? Doesn't it ever flood? And so to Cowden, where we were just in time to be greeted by the bells calling more righteous folk to their lovely old church. We had a different agenda this morning, though, and meandered through the sunny lanes to the top of the hill at Chiddingstone. Another treat awaited us there, as three artisans were producing quantities of fresh apple juice for cider brewing. Some of us took the opportunity for a trepass and a nose, and were rewarded first by the sight of a comely maid shovelling apples from large crates into a sort of shredder, from where they were lifted by the bucketful to be spread on special sacking-type cloths which were neatly folded before being topped by another and another. Finally the whole pile was pneumatically pressed, and we were given a glass of the virgin, brownish liquid which we sampled in turn. I loved it, a perfect note of tangy sweetness. You can visit there on a Friday morning if you want to mingle with the commercial buyers and see if you can buy a small amount. Can't wait.

Now you won't believe this, but I was so enthused with the morning, the apple juice, the church bells and the fact that I stole the Cowden sign from under Graham's nose that I began talking and didn't stop 'til we arrived at Hadlow. I've no idea which route we took or at whom I'd been talking, but I was hungry, happy and suddenly found myself being led into a garden centre café, sat in front of a pile of food and told to shut up. Right. OK then. Once we were almost full, doubtless some bounder was sneaking a quick fag in the toilet, because a fire alarm bell began to do what they are designed to do, and we had to leave the rest of our grub for later and congregate in the garden. Blimey, it was cold out there now, and I had to give a certain lady a good wigging for going back into the building to fetch her coat. The old training coming out.

That all over, I was still hungry, but I was beaten to the queue by a number of nimbler people. Blow waiting again, I thought, so I sneakily helped myself to a huge cheese scone while the waitress wasn't looking. I meant to pay for it afterwards, honestly officer. It was only when I started writing this that it dawned on me that I'm a thief. I will go back and pay, I promise. Truly.

Those few moments when you feel quite stiff following a sit down, and haven't yet warmed up passed quite quickly, and we were soon enjoying the different countryside. On the outskirts of Hadlow we passed row upon row of apple trees, unfenced from the road, with zillions of apples laying about under every row. I know its strictly not allowed, but I couldn't resist one large, red-skinned beauty, (no, not Martha this time), and stretched my pocket to slip it in for later. I ate it at work today. It was scrumptious, with the emphasis on scrump.

Not far past the delightfully-named Golden Green, an newish bridge traverses the River Medway, and I stopped to read a plaque placed at its entrance. I expected it to announce the bridge's opening by Mayor So-and-So, but instead it informed those who stopped to read it that on 20th.October, 1853, 30 hop-pickers were drowned in the river near this spot. What must they have been doing? Was it a flash flood? Were they drunk? Were they larking about? 30 of the poor souls! The river looked so tranquil today, it hardly seems possible.

We passed Tudely, Capel and Pembury, where we had to cross the A21 via a footbridge. Eagle-eyed Steve pointed out two magnificent apples high up in a roadside tree, and as I'd already stolen twice today, what had I to lose? I shook the tree 'til they fell earthwards, but I failed to catch them. I was reduced to grovelling around in the brambles beneath the tree to retrieve them, getting muddy and scratched in the process. I stretched my pockets still further, and carried them away. I had to give Steve one of them to implicate him in my guilt, and I'm going to eat the other one at work tomorrow. I hope its at least half as nice as today's one. Yummy.

Soon we were back on familiar territory, and dodging the traffic in Tunbridge Wells before sneaking up that footpath that goes through the woods. We were only mildly rebuked by a group of serious walkers for riding on their path. It had now begun to rain lightly but persistently, and when Martha stopped to go behind a tree for something or other, I took the opportunity to put on my rain cape. We heard a train whistle through the trees, and Graham said that the Spa Valley Railway, which we were to cross a bit later, ran not far away through the woods. I expect that was the train driver hooting at Martha.

Then we were on the Forest Way, and soon Steve, Zoë and Jane left again for the road, a bit later followed by Martha. I followed behind the others with Gordon, and I gazed at his ears. Well, not at his ears exactly, because they were hidden behind a pair of red plastic bespoke covers that he had fashioned to keep the wind off of his hearing aids. Hence he could hear a whole lot better on the bike. Brilliant! He might look a bit daft walking round Sainsbury's though.

Back at Forest Row, Ron turned left for his house, and Graham, Kate, Gordon and Chris continued along the Way to EG and Maidenbower, whilst I tiredly headed up Wall Hill for the second time of the day, en route for my new home in Lingfield. I paused only to admire a super autumn glade in the woods at the top of Shovelstrode Lane. I continued home wondering how a thief could be so lucky………

John.

PS. Spare a thought for Christa after her operation, and for Tony who is in the wars at the moment.


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