Forest Row Bike Club
Redhill: 15 January
Dreary, but nice and mild after last week. Ron, Martha, Peter and myself congregated outside Future Cycles contemplating Martha’s new mudguards. Unfortunately, Jane is suffering with bad headaches, and couldn’t be there. We wish her very well. We decided it was time to go. We hadn’t even reached the climb up to Ashurst Wood before Martha had started to take the mickey out of Ron and me, likening us to a pair of Max Walls. I hope it was the sight of our rippling leg muscles covered in lurex tights and not the hair styles….. Now, I know Ron has his off days, but I was slightly concerned when he was conspicuously absent at the top of the hill. I needn’t have been, he was only on the phone. We learned that we would have a breather ‘til Christa turned up, and that we would be meeting Don at Lingfield. So far, so good. In the interval I was informed that in last week’s ride report, having just mentioned God and the Devil, I had mis-spelled Christa’s name, dubbing her ‘Christ’. Co-incidence? Well, just then ‘Christ’ came round the corner and drew to a halt. At that precise moment the adjacent church bell began to chime its Sunday call. Spooky!
As we meandered gently past Shovelstrode Manor, across the main road, past Gotwick Manor and on into Dormansland, Christa fired my enthusiasm about opera, a thing I have shamedly never got around to seeing. Martin is apparently a recent convert, and Christa offered me the chance of one of her tickets if she isn’t able to go one time. It sounds great. Can’t wait.
Rounding the corner into Lingfield, there was Don awaiting us, looking uncommonly smug about something. Out with it, Don. Won the lottery? It seems the lucky so-and-so had advertised his old Honda 90 on e-bay. He’d have been happy if someone came and took it away for thirty quid. However, at last count the bidding was £270, and the auction was due to close at just after 2 o’clock. No wonder he looked a bit chipper. The teas are on Don, I thought.
Just then my fantasy of a free cuppa was interrupted by a hiss. Christa had thoughtfully picked up a shard of glass from the road just so no-one would get a puncture from it. Unfortunately she did it with her back tyre. No matter, out with my pristine pinky protectors, it was fixed in little more than a trice, and we were back on our way with decidedly dirtless digits. (Well, Ron said there was a prize for the rubbishiest ride report…)
And so to Crowhurst, where we stopped to take a peek in the church graveyard at what may be the oldest yew tree in England. It has a large hollow in the middle, big enough, it is said, to have once had some people playing cards at a table within it. One of the entrances even has a wooden door. Ron and I agreed that it was probably even older than our combined ages, although as Peter came round the trunk, we thought that it probably wouldn’t apply if we added his age too. The ever happy Peter took that remark with a smile, and doubtless made a mental note to get us back one day.
Not content with just a puncture, we were rounding a particularly muddy corner, and Christa decided to take a rest in the middle of the road. She didn’t half bang her elbow on the way down, though, so snooker is out for a week or so I suppose. By now she was wondering what on earth the third mishap was going to be. Well I know what it was, because the instant Christa hit the ground, the most amazing thing happened – Ron got concussion by telepathy. I know that because he bought me a cup of coffee later in the café!
Gamely, Christa rubbed her bruised elbow and continued the ride, only stopping to bash Don when he was more worried that her bike was alright, although we are all sure it was only a joke. At the top of Tilburstow Hill, I spied Peter flattening a stray tin can and putting it in his saddle bag. He took it home and put it in the recycling bin. What a community spirited gent! Once we were all at the top, we turned into the car park there for a glimpse of the fantastic view over the lowlands, and having done that, Don and Christa took their leave to look at the e-bay results, and removed my hopes of the free cuppa. (I didn’t know then about Ron’s concussion).
Down Rabies Heath Road, up to Bletchingley, down to South Nutfield, I was starting to feel seasick. Pausing only to watch a microlight aircraft taking off from Redhill aerodrome, we pressed on towards Redhill, when Ron announced that we would skirt round there after all, as he knew a splendid café at Horley. Taking no notice of the pleas of hunger and thirst from all others, he kept tempting us with descriptions of the cracking breakfast we would all be eating soon, and dragged us onward. Tongues hanging out we bypassed Salfords by way of a little path where I remembered having laid out in the sun while we waited for someone’s puncture to be mended last summer. Ah! bliss.
Horley came into view, and boy, was this going to be good. Then the café appeared and we fancied we could smell the cooking. What’s this Ron? The café was shut! No problem, says Ron, we’ll go in the one round the corner. What? D’you mean this one round the corner that’s closed too? Thank heavens (at least this time) for the Sunday Trading Laws, ‘cos the Waitrose up the road was open and has a quite passable café where you can stoke up on huge bacon butties or hot soup and gallons of coffee. Not only that, if you are like Peter, you can even fill your saddle bag with a week’s shopping, or like Martha, then with half a stone of Brussels sprouts. Just don’t ask for a push.
Duly stoked up, we made way, with Peter taking his leave for a spot of derring-do elsewhere, leaving just Ron, Martha and myself to take the wiggly cycleway through the residential bit of Horley, on through a wooded park, under the A23 and alongside Gatwick airport (no microlights), past Three Bridges and thus onto the peace of the Worth Way.
Gently twiddling the pedals, I mused upon how the timber yard at Rowfant used to be the site of all the fuel tanks for Gatwick airport years ago, and later, how well the Crawley Down pond had recovered since last year when a burst sewage pipe had killed all its fish. You’d never know now.
I should have remembered not to drop my guard, because whilst I was dreaming away, Ron said ‘John, could I ask you to organise an awayday, please?’. I was quite flattered until I realised he meant just for me….. Then, ‘John, would you mind doing this week’s ride report, please?’ ‘Oh!, and could I remind you to sort out the treasure hunt?’.
That was it. Concussion or no concussion. I took a left turn towards home and let Ron, Martha and the Brussels sprouts find their own way. As I opened the front door I heard the words ‘Oh, I’m glad you’re back, the hoovering needs doing!’………
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