Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Awayday to Birling Gap and Pevensey Bay, 13th. September, 2009.

No sign of a collection yet. Oh well, never mind.

The forecast said it was going to be pretty warm, and as it was still early, I thought I'd put up with the chill for a while, rather than have to shed clothes later, and carry them home. It was to be a mistake.

Graham was looking back up the road from the bike shop towards East Grinstead and impatiently tapping his foot and looking at his watch. "You're late!", he informed me, and checking my super-accurate railway watch, I had to admit that I was indeed 20 seconds late. He's a hard man. (No matter that it later transpired that his cheapo one was 3 minutes fast. Did I receive an apology? Guess.).

Graham and I had arranged to ride the 25 miles to the awayday meeting point at Horam. I haven't been going too well lately, and was a little concerned about that, and the ride back too, but Kate kindly offered to give me a lift home from Horam if I needed it, and at a very competitive rate. So off we went, and it was not long before it dawned on me that Graham intended us to climb Kidd's Hill, and he said that he was going to go hard and time his ascent, and compare it with one of the young lads at the bike shop. He set off at an impressive pace, too fast for me, and I fear a little too fast for him, because it is a long hill, and his reserves were flagging a wee bit by the summit. He didn't give in though, and arrived in 8mins.14secs., somewhat slower than the target time. A sterling effort nonetheless.

We had a good ride there, passing through some lovely lanes, where at one point I glimpsed an out-of-the-ordinary bird do an impressive take-off to escape us. Graham hadn't seen it, but was able to identify it as a green woodpecker from its alarm call. We finally nipped off the road and along a lovely path to the car park at Horam. I'd hoped to creep into the adjacent café for a brew and a warm, but no luck - it was shut. We still had 10 minutes in hand, so we sat outside on a bench.Steve finally flips and takes extreme action to shut John up! I had hardly got a word in on the way down and I thought I would try and remedy that. No sooner had I begun to speak, Graham burst into laughter. "Did you see that?", he interrupted, and I obviously had not. When he told me what had just passed, even someone like me who has seen everything didn't believe him. I went down to the car park where the van in question had stopped. There in full lurid view on its side was a trade name involving something about shackles, with the motto 'Purveyors of High Class Torture Equipment' beneath. It was the accompanying web-site address which really got me, though. 'www.ouchthatreallyhurts.com'! And no, I haven't looked it up. (Yet).

That took up all of the 10 minutes, and here came Kate, with Gordon and Steve in her car, followed by Ron in his. Hallos were said, bikes were got ready, but minus Gordon's handlebar mirror which got knocked off somehow, then we all had a good laugh at the van. Discretion prevents me from saying who I saw sneakily writing down the website address. I began to realise what a mistake I'd made not putting on more clothing, and just then, Tony and Val rang to say that they'd been held up and would be a short while yet. We set off at 10 past 10, with Tony having arranged to go ahead and meet us at the lunch stop in his car.

Gordon had varied the beginning of the route slightly from last year, and it was equally delightful, passing through Vines Cross and Cowbeech to Hellingly where we picked up the Cuckoo Trail to Polegate, and Steve kindly remembered that I had yet again fallen off the last time we passed through there. Filching, Jevington and Friston glided by, followed by East Dean, from where we whizzed along the beautiful road which drops down between newly-harvested corn fields to Birling Gap, aided by a strong wind on our backs. We were greeted by the sight of several dozen cars and coaches crowding the car park and jockeying for spaces, together with a throng of assorted walkers all heading for the hotel door. The only thing for it was to press on to the lunch stop at Pevensey Bay, which considering we were a bit behind schedule was the right thing to do.

We made the long but not-too-steep climb up through the wind-swept fields, past the Belle Tout ex-lighthouse near the cliff edge to our right, and finally round the sharp bends before the café at the summit of Beachy Head, where we re-grouped and cycled past, still with no coffee inside us. The magnificent views all around us made up for that though, and so did the long long sweep down again, round even more tightly curved bends, until we found ourselves pedalling alongside the promenade at Eastbourne, past the pier where the aroma of hot chips and vinegar wafted out and gave my stomach a jolt. Gordon The Tyrant did not relent, and insisted we trudge on and stop complaining. Little did I know how right he was though, as a small amount of miles later we arrived in Pevensey Bay, and entered the planned food stop, a fish and chip restaurant! I am sure I was not alone in being starvaceous.

I informed Ron that as I now had hypothermia, it was his duty to cuddle up to me or I was going to die. Fine chap that he is, he replied that, in that case, I was going to die. Thanks Ron. If it hadn't been for a steaming mug of tea arriving before me just at that moment, someone would be reading out my will now. And Ron, you have just been deleted from it......

Val was still outside, chatting through the open window of a car in the street. Wondering whose car it could be, I had forgotten that Tony was meeting us there, and was waiting outside. He had noticed in the window of the newsagent opposite that the Sunday Times had a free DVD of 'Shawshank Redemption', a super film, and so I shivered my way over the road to buy one, accompanied by Tony who wanted one as well. You need a wheelbarrow to carry a Sunday paper nowadays, don't you? How those poor paper boys and girls get by I don't know. Slave labour.

I'm rather partial to fish and chips, although I hardly ever eat them nowadays. Got to keep down to my racing weight, you know. However, I greedily tucked in to the freshest, tastiest fried fish I've had in a good long while, and I ate every scrap. More steaming tea, (the final gulp of which I used to wash down a huge pink pill that I had been recommended for anyone who has recently suffered a near-fatal accident and has not mentioned it to anyone), and it was time to leave for home. The kindly Steve produced another top for me to put on, which I did, and I stuffed the business section of my paper up the front of it, the property section up the back, and emerged into the wind ready for anything. I asked Tony if he would convey the remainder of my half-a-hundredweight newspaper back to Horam for me in his car. "Of course I will", he readily replied, "and I may as well go and get my money back, 'cos I can read yours then". What a skinflint that man is.

Being unpredictable is what keeps this country's weather so interesting, and no sooner had we left the café than the sun emerged and before long I was boiling in my new attire. C'est la vie, n'est-ce pas? We emerged into the area known as Pevensey Levels, and level it is, but it is like another country, Holland, say, or parts of Belgium. The lanes are really narrow and winding, and the whole area resembles a flood plain with criss-crossing dykes bordered by tall reeds and a sort of bamboo. Sheep and cattle grazed and the wind cut across us relentlessly, and we passed a pair of swans sheltering while they foraged sedately among the water weed.

All too soon we arrived back at the car park, and those who had come in cars began to load up their bikes. I felt good enough to decline Kate's offer of a lift home, preferring, (just), to complete the distance on my bike with Graham. I'm glad I did, because the further I went, the better I felt, until at last I was able to steal a couple of road signs from him, although he insisted that they didn't count due to the fact that he'd noticed me taking drugs back at the café. He was grasping at straws.

And so yet another day's pedalling came to an end, and I must confess that I snuck into my bed early, a happy man.

John


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