Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Westerham in the sun - 17th February 2008

In Westerham, in the sun. In the sun, sitting outside a café, by a table on which rested a pot of tea, scones, butter, and jam. Yes, you've guessed. We were on our Sunday bike ride. A Sunday ride with a difference. At 0900, the time when a Forest Row Bike Club member, is preparing to leave the house, it was cold. A well-prepared biker was a well-covered one. No shorts, you understand.

Still, for some of us, as we awaited the main body, there was time to notice East Court, the Town offices, as it stood in the sunlight. A house, just as well sited on the rise, must have been enveloped in sunshine. And the large pig who came to the fence, and whose nose was tickled by one of us, also seemed to be at ease in the sun. Sunshine, bright light, bare trees, and a penetrating cold as we rolled down the first of the hills - John finally finds someone who'll listenwe were on the way which would lead, eventually, to that time in the sun in Westerham.

Besides the cold, we had the ice to worry about. Once or twice, it made sense to walk carefully where it would have been impossible to ride carefully. Still, the swans on the lake seemed to be at ease with the lake. For a moment, it was possible to believe that the three of them had been caught in the ice, that they were waiting for the sun to bring them back to life.

Along familiar and unfamiliar lanes and narrow roads somewhere in Surrey, then in East Sussex, and then in Kent - a Three Counties ride. Easy riding, in the sun, the initial coldness having given away to a comfortable warmth, whilst moving. A horse was ahead, with a groomed tail that almost reached the ground. What a fine animal. Along the road by a reservoir. Bird-watchers on either side. One elderly man walked along with a large tripod and telescope; he was followed by an elderly woman - an evident pair - with the binoculars. The herons, meanwhile, just got on with whatever they were doing.

Gordon John Hilary and Martin outside the cafeA T-junction. Doleful choices: Ide Hill to the left, a steep hill; York hill to the right, a steeper hill. Of course, our way was to the right. There was a long lead to the hill itself. We climbed about 100 metres, with the bulk of the rise being concentrated in a short horizontal distance. A large cog on the back wheel enabled one elderly rider to climb slowly to the point where the top was visible; from there, the only way really was up for to hesitate, to falter was to fall into the road.

To Westerham, to take our places, in the sun, outside the café. Churchill sat before us. He was 65 when he became Prime Minister (and Minister of Defence) in May 1940. Two years later, in late 1942, he was flown from London to Alexandria in a bomber, from there to Teheran, and on to Moscow. And back again. Long, noisy journeys for a man in his late 60s, but he carried them off well. He also had a 15-hour flight in a flying boat, an altogether different flying experience. He insisted, by the way, on being served his meals according to his 'stomach time'. outside the cafe WesterhamBeyond him, with his back to us, General Wolfe faced the oncoming traffic with a sword held high in the air. For the French, the loss of Quebec, in 1759, was a decisive event in the destruction of the French empire in North America. (The Peace Treaty, 1763, allowed the French to keep two small islands off Newfoundland, two islands which remain French to this day.)

For two of the group, the return journey began with a climb up Crockham Hill, then the vibrant swoop down the other side. To Edenbridge, to Marsh Green, to Dormansland, and the sharp climb up to East Grinstead. Forty one good miles, 65 km. What another fine ride we were lead into. Many thanks to our leader.


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