Forest Row Bike Club
Tenterden Awayday: 30 April 2006
Well, a bit cold as I remember, although as I’d arrived at the shop in my car and still had only my shorts and T-shirt on, I had to do a fairly good acting job to retain my credibility as the club hard man. Ron, Don, Steve, Zoë, Tony and Val, Jane and Martha with her map book all had a very pleasant drive down to Tenterden, although I somehow lost the convoy in Tunbridge Wells. Never mind, I mosied down on my own, and remembering to make a mobile call on the way, I had to stop in a country lane when I was rebuked by the person who answered. All of a sudden, Don appeared from the other direction. How on earth did he do that? Then he was gone. Call over, and a few more pleasant miles through Kent, and I was nearly in Tenterden. Ah! a public loo. I got out of my car and there was Don. How does he do it? I came out of the loo to find myself alone, so finished the journey into Tenterden, drove into the car park to find no-one there except – yes you’ve guessed it, Mr. Boomerang. (Keeps coming back, geddit?).
Steve had spied us from across the road in the car park where we were supposed to be, so we all gradually congregated there. “Are you the Forest Way lot?” enquired a fast looking bearded bloke on a fast looking bike. It turned out to be Martha’s brother-in-law, Geoff, with her sister Sarah close behind. Blimey, what a resemblance. No, not Martha and Geoff, dear reader. Although, come to mention it………..
What? Eight quid for the car park? No way. We all departed in search of a cheaper one, except Steve and I drove our cars towards the edge of town, but hadn’t gone more than a couple of hundred yards before finding two free spaces. Tee hee!
The sun was out now, and it was pleasantly warm, so it was not too long before the odd layer began coming off as we meandered through some very pleasant countryside. Sarah was riding a rather old style bike, but it was recently re-sprayed, quite light in weight, and she fairly nipped up the hills. Geoff didn’t look as if he was trying at all. He usually keeps up a much higher pace with his pals than we were doing, but he soon settled in to just dawdling along the roads with us and enjoying the views.
I could hear a continuous whining from somewhere, and I was just wondering if it was Martha’s un-oiled chain, when I realised it was Tony announcing that his old knee injury was playing up and he’d have to turn back. Joking aside, he’d done well to try it out, but it was wiser to go back before getting too far from his car. Val decided to press on a bit further with us, and I swear I caught the traces of a smile on Tony’s face as he departed alone towards the pub we’d passed along the way.
We ambled along at a sedate pace, enjoying ourselves immensely. Well I was anyway, I had some new people to talk at. The weather was getting better still. Just for a bit of variety, Martha consulted her map book, turned left and then headed us off down a lane, which narrowed, then petered out into gravel , then mud, then down past a putrid sewage farm, and further down ‘til we all were doing cyclo-cross. Next we had to dismount and some negotiated a very narrow wooden bridge while the rest hoisted their bikes onto their shoulders and leap-frogged over a brook. Just then, when we were all muddied and feeling full of derring-do, Martha turned her map book the right way up and declared “Ahem, about turn everybody, I meant to take the one after the sewage farm”. The second noseful was worth it after all, because the next on the left lead us through Sissinghurst Gardens and on through some open fields with some fine views of the Weald of Kent. Val gamely battled on despite her chain giving her a lot of grief. And finally we arrived at the very nice town of Headcorn where Martha had arranged for us to stop for lunch. One kindly old gent with his dog politely offered us his seat at the table in the sun at the front of the pub so we could all sit together. “Mind your own business, old man” exclaimed Ron, and suggested we all go to the al fresco dining area at the back of the pub. No wonder Ron has got no mates. So, with the old gent shaking his head in bewilderment and thinking of friendlier times, we all trooped out the back to the sunny, walled garden.
'Smart Clothes Only’ sternly proclaimed the sign on the door, but the landlord was much more friendly than Ron, (easy), and took our orders gladly. Back in the garden again, two stunning young birds had arrived, and I wished I was loads of years younger, while Ron sat dribbling. They turned out to be Geoff and Sarah’s daughters, Lucy and Fay, who’d come to cadge a meal from their ‘Pops’, and Sarah came over all protective as I tried to get their phone numbers. In my dreams. As I sat there in unrequited reverie, a huge sandwich and a tasty pint of beer arrived, and I began to feel better again. Tony emerged from the pub carrying some liquid, having been informed where we would be having lunch.
Full and happy, we emerged with our bikes to the front of the pub, sun still shining, the old man still shaking his head sorrowfully, and his dog growling at Ron, and we followed Martha up the road as she kept turning the map book all different ways.
The roads were lovely and flat, the villages were picturesque and all was right with the world. Geoff warned us of The Hill At Pluckley, and we all waited for it to emerge. In the event, it wasn’t too bad at all, and we were soon closing in once more on Tenterden, and the end of our ride. Ron sniffed out a tea room, and some of the others followed him. Unfortunately, I had the washing up to do and the bed to make before my wife came home from work, so I had to deprive everyone’s ears of a further bashing.
However, I’d had a lovely day, and practised for the next week by talking to myself all the way home. Thank you, Martha, for arranging such a lovely awayday.
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