Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Westerham, 17th February, 2008

Right, Andrew Chadwick, I'm sorry you were not up to coming out on Sunday, but you would get more sympathy if I hadn't turned on my computer to send your dad the report of last week's ride which I had slaved over, only to find that you'd already done one. And really good yours was too, but it won't stop me trying to take full advantage of your lay-off when we chase each other up the next hill. So there.

Hilary before the rideI was eating my banana in the bus shelter across the road, enjoying the sun, when I got shouted at by a stranger on a bike and an old bloke with a dog. Blimey, it was Hilary out for a change, and Ron dressed in his civvies as he had an appointment elsewhere for the day. I shook Hilary's hand and kissed Ron, just before the arrival of Peter, Graham, Tony and then Martin, who had just zoomed all the way down Priory Lane without the aid of a warm-up. The freezing air hadn't had a chance to benefit from the sun yet. Nor had the freezing Martin. Hilary had turned up, she explained, as she was scared of not being fit enough for the club holiday in France. Her cough didn't help her much. The indescribable hat lent to her by Graham and Kate, however, would no doubt keep her head toasty.

Pleasantries exchanged, Ron departed with his dog and Peter left to go to Crawley for his own nefarious purposes. (No, I don't know what nefarious means either). I can't remember why I was last to set off, but arriving at the bottom of Wall Hill, I could see Martin and Tony well ahead. Despite my new bike out for its second trip, I found the going hard, having not yet got over a good ride the day before. Surprisingly I did catch them, and was relieved to hear that they were both feeling their age too. Not Graham, though, who as usual stormed ahead. Hilary had left in advance, and was going to meet Kate at the top, but neither were there, and Graham's phone couldn't locate them. Domestic situation ensued. Now in my house this would have involved carving knives at five paces and an awful lot of swearing, followed by solicitors letters, but the Chadwicks' altercation went something like - "Where were you, darling?". "Er, I left before you got there, sorry". "Oh, OK then". What bliss! We then met up with Don, Christa and Gordon too, and that made us nine.

Single file along the Tunbridge Wells Road, turn left, a whizz down and then short climb up saw us in that lovely lane that goes past Basings Farm where they sell the goats milk ice cream. Not the day for that today though, as we had to dismount and gingerly edge our way over sheets of ice across the road, just as we had done the week before. The lake at the far end was frozen over, of course, and there in a tiny circle of cracked ice miserably floated three swans. Martin said that they were frozen in position, but I hoped he had been joking as the guilt got to me when we had left the lake behind. Once through Cowden, we went straight on, and up an incline that seemed, shall we say, a trifle long. How much further? I heard someone mutter, and not for the first time that day. Eventually, almost at the top, we turned into Cow Lane, Martin Kate and Hilary turning into Cow Lanea lovely lane with lovely views. The rest of the ride seems to have melted into a haze of ups and downs, pleasant conversation, laughs, sunshine, chilly air, and the tongue gradually hanging further out in the expectation of tea and food. A long zoom down into Sundridge preceeded a short stop at a junction. A choice of a short-cut through a muddy, pot-holed lane, or a long-cut on dry, clean roads split us up. I and my admirers took the mud, whilst the also-rans preferred cleanliness. Hils and I swapped bikes for a short while. I realised how hard she had to work on hers, as it is a good bit heavier than mine, and she couldn't stop worrying about falling off mine as it hasn't got a scratch on it ------yet! 'There's the junction. We'll stop and wait for the others when we get there.' But before we do, they all arrive there first, without a speck of dirt on any of them. Quel surprise! And we are all filthy. The bounders.

At length, we expectantly arrived at the Tudor Rose café on the green at Westerham, only to be met with the sight of a short queue awaiting tables. Bugger. No matter, Food For Thought, another café across the green welcomed us as long as we didn't mind sitting at the tables outside. Gordon wonders who threw his bike on the ground'Course we didn't. It was so warm, we took some, but not all of our clothes off, and were cheerily served with plenty of lovely food with lashings of tea and coffee by smiling nubile lasses young enough to get me arrested, but it would have been worth it.

Don and Christa quickly ate up and had to leave to be elsewhere. A little later, after the rest of us paying up and leaving too, and me wishing I had been 40 years younger, I marvelled at the thought that we had sat in the sun, half clothed moments ago, and already we passed frozen ice still in the gutters.

The return journey turned into a nature trail. In a short space of time we happened upon a young woman leading along the road probably the most beautiful horse I have seen. It was a sort of pale, honey colour, with a strikingly long blonde tail. The young woman told me that if she didn't cut it, it would drag along the ground. I remember when the same applied to my own hair. Shortly afterwards, we stopped to regroup, and we all saw a goldcrest no more than 3 feet away from us in a bush. For those philistines who don't know, the goldcrest, along with its cousin the firecrest, is the smallest British bird, not the wren as commonly believed. What a treat! And just along the lane, I think it was Kate who pointed out a field with llamas grazing. And just a bit further, Martin and I watched either a weasel or stoat or ferret (we don't know which), busily exploring its way around the railway lines. Which lines? Dunno. But maybe it did.

Not long later, I once again heard the lament, "How much longer?" as we climbed the long drag up from Lingfield. Gordon had sensibly left us at the bottom to make his lone way home. We, however, persisted, and finally dropped down the private lane and over the vicious speed humps past Surrey Manor, a magnificent period mansion where, I am pleased to relate, our own Tony was born. I won't repeat the question that some wag asked him about how this happened. At the top, Kate decided to go home the short way, and who can blame her? It had been a long day. Only the dip down Shovelstrode Lane, the climb back up to Ashurst Wood and the mad race back down Wall Hill separated those who were left from a welcome drink at Java and Jazz in Forest Row.

As usual, I was amazed at the speed that Graham got past me on the descent. Martin punctured at speed on the way down, avoiding certain death by the skin of his teeth. And how Hilary had made it with not much practice, I don't know. It was all forgotten over coffee as, together with Tony's Val who had joined us, we sat and enjoyed together the glow that comes from yet another fine day's riding.


If you took part in a ride, why not write a report? The more florid the language, the more inflated the hyperbole, the more tumescent the innuendo, the greater your chance of winning the FRBC Prize for Original Plagiarism.

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