Forest Row Bike Club
Hurst Green to Lullingstone & Eynsford: 5 August
What do they say about never volunteering? Well, I volunteered my idea for an away ride to Lullingstone Castle and Eynsford. It was a ride I had done last year with a friend, and I thought that with a slight deviation it would make a good away day ride for the club. Ron took the bait so to speak and it was added to the rides schedule, together with my name a leader. Something I hadn’t reckoned on.
So it was that ten of us assembled at the car park by Hurst Green railway station on a very fine morning. Don & Doug had got there by train, Tony, Val, Zoe and I had gone by car and Ron, Martha, Steve and John, had cycled from Forest Row, Hartfield and East Grinstead.
A bit of a mix up insomuch that I didn’t realise there are two railway car parks. Zoe and I were waiting in one, the time for departure came and went and we were still there on our own. A call from Ron from the top of the station bridge, persuading me that I was in the wrong car park, because there were eight other club members in his car park.
The forecast was for a glorious sunny day, with light winds. We set off about fifteen minutes late, and within about 100 yards I took the wrong turning. I didn’t say anything and followed my nose to get back on the right route, which I did. It thereby took a good half-mile to cover about 100 yards of our journey. I don’t think anybody realised. Turning right we hit our first climb up through Limpsfield.
A lot of down hill over the busy A25, then under the M25 and then the start of Titsey Hill. Just where it started to get steep, we turned off onto the Pilgrims Way, a very pleasant, undulating lane along the side of the North Downs for about five miles.
Then a left turn, straight up the side of the Downs. That was some hill. One climbs 100 metres in a mile, that’s an average of about a 6% climb, but for about half a mile it’s 1 in 6. Within a hundred yards, four of us were pushing our bikes. I think Steve was trying to bolster our morale, because when we arrived at the top, where he and the others were waiting, he said that everyone had had to get off and push their bikes. True?
From the top it was easy going with lots of down hill to the restaurant near Lullingstone Castle. So despite taking the wrong turning another twice, we arrived spot on 12 o’clock, which is what I had predicted. But with the hot weather, an earlier stop would have been favourable, especially for those who had cycled to Hurst Green.
Unfortunately, the full menu was unavailable and we had to do with sandwiches and cakes. We virtually took over the outside sitting area, and most of us had our lunch under the welcoming parasols.
Doug had been suffering a bit on the ride, and it was decided that his saddle needed some adjustments. So before setting off, Steve, with mobile tool chest, was able to undertake this task.
The next quarter mile of the ride had to be walked. Not, this time, because of some stonking hill, but because it was a footpath alongside a lovely clear stream, with lots of overhanging trees, (no cycling allowed). We emerged at Lullingstone Castle, which is now renowned for it “World Garden”, created within the last few years. We didn’t go in, but tried to get a sneak view over the wall and through a side gate. Nothing doing. So on about another half mile to the remains of a Roman villa, now under cover, where most took advantage of ices and a quick shufty at the Roman remains.
Then the last mile, still alongside the stream, past “Eagle Heights” and onto Eynsford, very pleasant in the sunshine, with lots of kids paddling and fishing in the stream. This was the end of the outward part of the ride, and we turned right onto a busy road towards home.
About a mile on this busy road, all slightly uphill, we turned off back towards the restaurant and the climb towards Shoreham. On the way out, signs had been see advertising cream teas at the church in Shoreham, and we were looking forward to these. Somehow, we cycled right through Shoreham without seeing the church or the cream teas. After a vote it was decided to carry on without the tea break.
From here it was a steady climb for about two miles to cross the M25, down the busy A224 for about a half-mile, luckily with a cycle reservation alongside, then onto minor roads back to the Pilgrim’s Way. A few miles along the Pilgrim’s Way, then south to Westerham and the ever popular “Café on the Green”, where loads of tea was consumed, together with great slices of cake.
I hadn’t realised how bad Doug was suffering from the ride, and Ron had phoned his wife to come out to Westerham with the van and collect Doug. This would save Doug from climbing up and over Crockham Hill. It wasn’t until we reached the top of the hill that I discovered Ron had also jumped on the van.
So half way down the southern side of the hill, we said goodbye to Steve and Martha who would cycle all the way back to Hartfield & Forest Row. Now we were six, and cycled on to Hurst Green. With nearly an hour to wait for a train, Don and John decided to cycle back to East Grinstead, whilst Tony, Val, Zoe and I got in our cars and headed home. Ending, what I thought was a very pleasant 35-mile ride.
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