Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Westerham - 28th August 2016

Following a week of exceptionally hot weather, today is merely temperate, with the threat of possible heavy, if short, showers. I put on a long-sleeved jersey, put my cape in my pocket and decided to risk my new bike not getting wet. And so just in time, on arrival at Forest Row a large, dark grey cloud began to hover. Graham was already there, we grunted a greeting at each other, and privately decided not to mention the wild flower garden this week. Real men. Martha appeared shortly afterwards, and then so did the drizzle. At the top of Wall Hill so did Trex, having recovered from his bout of cellulitis. He was glad to be back out, but informed us that he was ‘as weak as a kitten'. Oh, really? Then at the top end of Shovelstrode Lane, Steve joined us too. Now, Steve has been absent so many times recently that I was expecting several notes from his Mum, but not one. However, his explanation of the diversions which have kept him away were fascinating, and more than enough excuse.

Regrouping at the junction, I noticed that Martha was still wearing an ankle brace, as she had done when she was out last week. Trex, on the other hand showed us the tiny blemish on his ankle, which he swears was infected, and had kept him bed-bound for a fortnight. It was obviously self-inflicted to try to convince us. It didn't work. And no note from his Mum either.

I was pleased to see loads of other groups out, none of whom had self-inflicted excuses, and remembered the days when it was quite usual to see hardly any other cyclists out in the lanes. Isn't it brilliant nowadays?

One of those groups was the Penge CC, or part of it as it turned out, as Trex has gleaned from one of them that there had been nearly 100 of them at their starting point, and they had obviously had to split into groups. Theirs was the slower group. I would have preferred not to know that, as they overtook us and disappeared. 'They do fifty miles non-stop, and are going up Toy's Hill', Trex informed us. Only Toy's, eh? We are going up York's Hill. And just after that, there they were, waiting at a junction. 'I thought you said you didn't stop', one of us shouted. It wasn't me, but I wish it had been. Showed them.

It wasn't long before my Garmin was informing me that we were off course. Strange, I had only downloaded the course from the club website this morning before setting off. Graham insists that I made a mistake, and being the gentle chap that I am, I shall refrain from pointing out that, whilst a madman may entertain the slight possibility that I, John Aitken, may have become distracted whilst carrying out this task, any reasonable person, ie. everyone else in the whole world, would come to the opposite, and correct conclusion. I say no more.

Guess what? A bit misguided I know, but I'd always thought that Trex was a straightforward type of chap. But having repeatedly asked if this route was pretty flat, and having told us that he was as weak as a kitten, he seemed to be a bit like his old self, bashing towards every hill in sight until he had nothing left at the end of the day. Well, this day, as we were nearing York's Hill, a young, wirily fit woman zoomed past us all, and hurtled out of sight towards the monster incline. The closer we got, I lost sight of Trex, then Graham. Steve overtook me and disappeared, and Martha was on my tail. I had begun to feel sick as I approached the top, and was a bit chuffed to see Graham and Steve, but no Trex. I must have made a mistake, and he was behind me. Of course. I felt a rather large gloat coming on, just as Trex re-appeared from around a corner, obviously well in front of me and not in the least out of breath. Kitten, eh? The gloat instantly retreated, to be replaced by the sick feeling again. I felt no better as he explained to me that he had only managed the climb as he had grabbed hold of wiry woman's knicker elastic. Men.

D'you know, there's another thing I don't like about Trex. Well, several actually. But one of them is this. I can't remember it now, but I told him a really funny joke. When I'd stopped laughing, he said that somewhere, perhaps in deepest, darkest Africa, there was probably some poor unsighted gentleman who hadn't seen that punch line coming. See what I mean?

Something did occur just afterwards to cheer me up. We had just whizzed down from the top of the Downs into Sundridge. Steve didn't quite make it before the traffic lights went red, so we pulled into the kerb to wait, and happily I found two pound coins right next to my foot. Result. The whole day had been worth it after all.

As we proceeded, Martha seemed to be asking me a question. She began by saying how her legs were hurting when she sat on the toilet. The woman's delirious, I thought, until she asked if I thought it was because the saddle on her new bike was too low. Well, I've been married before, so I have no idea how women's minds work, if they work at all. I neatly side-stepped the situation, and left it to someone else to explain the science of leg lengths, saddle heights and toilet training.

A little bit later, having begun to ride along the Pilgrims' Way, which nearly always is a delightful lane along the base of the North Downs, (where I once saw Adam Faith driving a primrose yellow Rolls Royce, incidentally), Graham alerted me that a car was coming towards us in the opposite direction. Good job he did, thanks Graham, because the driver was one of those selfless, impatient pigs who believe in their right to hog the road at any speed they like, etc., etc. Someone shouted out to him, and the next thing I knew was that he had stopped and was hurling obscenities at all of us, including another couple of cyclists behind us. I must confess to informing him that he was an unpleasant person, and I wasn't alone in inviting him to get out of his car and explain his behaviour. He exhibited his bravery to the seven or eight of us by accelerating into the distance. Some people.

For the next half a mile, strewn along either side of this lovely lane, were assorted fridges, freezers, televisions and computer monitors with smashed screens, together with other detritus, obviously dumped by another righteous citizen with the intention of avoiding the recycling fee at the council dump.

However, this was soon behind us, and we could all return to chiding Martha for wanting to take her rain cape off because she was too hot, or put it back on because she was too hot, or take it off or on or whatever next? Attention seeking, I call it.

Arriving in Westerham, there was a fete being held on the green. The smell of barbecued sausages was enticing, but we resisted and went into our cafe where we all ate heartily. The food there is lovely, the lady who served us has been there for years and is always very friendly and happy. I thought nothing could make me feel better at that moment, until I espied one of several young well-built women on the green in front of us, working out with weights in time to music. How is a man to concentrate on his soup? I had also ordered a side dish of chips, and awoke from my reverie to discover four sets of lips being licked, and a near-empty bowl. Thanks guys.

Feeling flush with my newly-found two pounds, I was just about to order more drinks all round, when the aforementioned lovely lady who was serving us arrived with free top-ups. Thus, before leaving, I magnanimously tossed one of the said pounds onto the counter when paying up. I have kept the other.

I quickly nipped into the loo, and on leaving I noticed in the corridor a photo taken inside the café, of the seats in which we had just been sitting. It showed a happy bunch of cyclists from the Redhill CC. Having mentioned this to Graham, he informed me that it has been hanging there for as long as he can remember. Well, I can't remember ever seeing it before, so either Graham's memory span isn't very long, or mine isn't. I know which of these options I prefer to believe is correct. I think.

Another of the showers having ceased, we went outside where Graham unlocked our bikes, and we began our journey home. It took us ages to exit from the green onto the main road, and Steve reminded me that this was because of the recent accident on the M20. Of course, a couple of days ago, a heavy goods vehicle carrying a pair of bulldozers had collided with a pedestrian bridge, bringing half of it crashing down onto the motorway. Luckily no-one had received life-threatening injuries, but this was continuing to cause havoc for miles of the M20, M25 and M26. Hence all the traffic on surrounding local roads. We were soon out of it, however, and enjoying more lanes free of traffic, road hogs and discarded fridges.

We descended Pains Hill, which is well-named if travelling the other way, and soon passed over a railway bridge. Steve mentioned that the work in progress looked like it would soon be finished. This looks like it should be true, but I'm not so sure. I often cross this bridge, and it has been being refurbished for ages. What looks like brickwork is actually a facing which looks like brickwork, and I have seen some of it being removed only to be replaced later. There is still some work to be done. Railway workers. Railway shirkers, I call them. They should all be sacked. Err.....

Soon we turned into St. Piers Lane. I recalled to Steve a time that I stopped there not so long ago to take photos of how the flooded road was like a fast-flowing river. He had seen it in that condition too. Now it was bone dry, despite the heavy showers we had had today.

I took my leave of everyone at the far end of the lane, aimed my bike towards home a mile away, and had a smile on my face because of the lovely day. It is still stuck there.

John


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