Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Up the Downs, and Down to Westerham - 20th February 2011

By general consent, it was a bad day for cycling. The day was colder than we expected, and it was damp. But the day was not so cold nor so damp that it would have beeen honourable to remain indoors. So we assembled. Five took the direct route to Shovelstrode Lane, where they were joined by those who had cycled from Forest Row. Like an orchestra, we awaited our leader. He came; we set off.

A broken chain (and thus a return home), potholes in and water on the back road by the lakes, and cars on that back road - we were on our way. To Cowden, where on a country road between parked cars the front person faced an oncoming wide, wide four-wheeled vehicle. No, the vehicle didn't stop but did turn thereby providing a way for the cyclist. Some drivers, you understand, just do not empathise with cyclists; where the drivers should stop and wait - and some do - they continue. Cyclists, of course, on two thin wheels are not as stable, neither are they as shielded, as drivers.

Up the hill to a favourite view-point (shrouded in mist), past Annie's the pub where no lager is sold nor children admitted, to Markbeech, then down to Hever, past the castle onward to the Westerham road. The road though was the one to Crookham Hill. Low gear, steady pedalling, just steady pedalling. To the top of the rise, to the road through the trees on the North Downs. Up the Downs with a petrol tanker behind and stationary cars on the other side. Don't look back. Just pedal.

To the top of the Downs, on a misty morning, and be ready to enjoy the ride down to Westerham. We came out opposite Quebec House, the childhood home of General James Wolfe. He, remember, commanded the British forces at the 20 minutes or so of battle outside Quebec in 1959. Quebec, the premier city in French Canada was captured, and, four years later, a treaty transferred what had been French Canada to the British Crown. However, the French were granted two islands so that their fishing crews could rest and make repairs before returning to France. (The two islands are still French. Visitors must conform to French Customs requirements.)

Oh, the joy of exchanging the pain of the cold for the pleasure of a warm and companionable café; oh, the pain of leaving the café for the cold air outside, air which felt even colder. The first ones to leave were those who stamped the ground and blew on their gloves as the following ones seemed to be taking all the time in the world to organise themselves. Away we went to the left-hand turn towards the Downs - ah, you remember the Downs, do you? - that is, towards the climb up this side of the Downs. Head down, keep pedalling, find the right road and thus be ready for the pleasures of rolling down Pains Hill. Nothing left now save a steady, familiar run back to East Grinstead.

A good ride to have completed. Some climbs, some descents, sufficiently cold to prompt a cyclist to keep pedalling, a warm café, congenial leading, and lots of good company. A ride to savour, in the warmth .


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