Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Westerham - 19th March 2017

This week Graham had a social engagement, and it befell to me to be ride leader. I arrived at the bike shop to find Steve already there, absorbed in watching the building of a feed station for an imminent event. It was a sportive, of such high quality apparently, that one of the guys getting it ready asked Steve and I if we were going to be participants. We pleaded prior commitments. We had a short conversation about whether we would be defying Graham in his absence, choosing a flat ride. Not at all! We would carry on regardless.

Martha was preparing for a visit to the track at the Olympic Park, so wasn’t expected, nor was Sienna as she is currently enjoying India. After what seemed a reasonable amount of leeway, I decided to phone Trex, who claimed to have been waiting for us at the top of Shovelstrode Lane for ages. There were accompanying noises which sounded suspiciously like someone getting out of bed. However, Steve and I made off up Wall Hill, and despite the fairly cool air and the breeze, we soon warmed up on the climb. We arrived in Ashurst Wood just in time to glimpse Trex creeping out of his house. That’s how I’m reporting it, anyway. No matter, the three of us began our journey.

We hadn’t gone much more than a mile when we all espied a squirrel looking for all the world like he was lying back sunbathing in the road. We all agreed that he, for it was very obviously a he, only needed a pair of sunglasses to look very cool indeed. Sadly he had no idea where he was or cared what he looked like any more, and Trex respectfully stopped and placed him in the undergrowth.

Once on the main road, I thought I’d begin by showing who was the boss, and sped past the Hammerwood sign with a good margin of space behind me. Full of smugness, I pedalled along Furness Lane trying not to show it. If you’ve not noticed it before, next time you’re pedalling along that lane towards Cowden, look out for a semi-hidden bench on the left. I happened to mention that whenever I pass that bench, I always think of Gordon telling me about him and his granddaughter sitting there together during a ride out once. It will forever be so for me. When I sat there one day a couple of years ago, whoever had carried out some recent refurbishment had placed a 2 pence piece at either end of the bench, fixed in the cement to indicate the date, I imagine.

I must have been immersed in the reverie of that bench as we approached the Cowden sign, because Trex sped past me, and I must confess that try as I might, I couldn’t catch him. All became clear when he stated that he needed to stop at Cowden village hall to visit the loo, and would we wait for him?

As we waited opposite the church, I reflected on the few times when we had passed there on a Sunday morning, and heard the lovely chimes of the church bells. Just then, a couple walked past, and commented that they hoped they weren’t about to spoil our peace, as they were going in to ring the bells. What fortune! Steve just had time to reminisce about the time when as a youngster, he had caught his arm in a bell rope and had been dragged up into the air, when the bells began to ring, and Trex returned from his ablutions. As we rode away, I listened to the bells with an amateur ear, although Steve was able to point out an otherwise unnoticed musical mistake. Steve knows a lot about a lot of things.

Sort of smarting from losing the Cowden sign, I approached the Mark Cross sign with confidence. Hitherto I had believed that I was superior to Trex in every way. I still find it difficult to doubt, even though he was again able to soundly beat me to it whilst I was trying my best. Drugs are unfair, Trex, don’t you know? We entered Rectory Lane, soon after which Trex suggested a downhill rolling race. I am pleased to report that it was I who demonstrated superior tactics and skill, and that drugs are not required to win fairly. During this part of the ride, we passed fairly near Hever Castle which, although I have passed it many times before, had visited only last Thursday, and very pleasant it was too. If you ever have a spare few hours, ask me to tell you about my visit.

Somewhere round about Chiddingstone, Steve pointed out in the distance the sails of the yachts on Bough Beech reservoir. I had never noticed before that they can be seen from where we were, wherever exactly it was. Am I making myself clear? Soon enough we were cycling past, or in fact across the reservoir, as the road divides a small part of it. It was there that only a couple of years ago I had my first view of a kingfisher, and what a magnificent view it was, as I had binoculars and a telescope with me, and watched it for about 25 minutes, diving for fish and then finally flying away across the water. Fantastic!

It was time to play my trump card. I was this week’s leader, so I could casually drop into the conversation that York’s Hill was not far in the distance. Enough to strike fear into most cyclists. I knew that I had a detour around it planned, and that Trex hadn’t been out all week. But he was phased not at all. He said it was OK by him and he wasn’t bluffing. Definitely steroids. I believe he proved it as we climbed, instead, Ide Hill. Steve and I were going well enough to pass a couple of other decent-looking riders, but Trex was waiting for us near the top, casually taking a drink from his bottle laced with who knows what? My feeling of pique diminished greatly when I noticed a gorgeous lycra-clad young lady nearing the summit, looking for all the world as if she were out for an afternoon spin. She was heading for Star Hill she said, another hard climb, and then another which I couldn’t catch because I was breathing too hard. I know she wasn’t asking for my phone number.

We turned onto the Pilgrim’s Way, and Steve and Trex guessed that there would probably be about 10 old fridges and freezers abandoned along it, just like we had depressingly encountered before. Happily there were none this time. Trex seemed to be pleased about this too, as he went storming off, and I was unable to catch him. He passed our intended left turn, and it was only using all my lung power that I was able to shout loud enough to stop him. The lane into which we then turned was more muddy and potholed than the one we had declined to use a while ago. Trex sulked about this for a while, and then for a longer while after I roared past the Westerham sign about 5 miles in front of him. Without drugs.

Our beloved cafe at Westerham is now in the charge of new management. The manageress had recently had an operation on her shoulder, therefore was wearing a sling. She was instructing a young waitress what was required of her firmly, but kindly, in a manner which reminded me of that programme years ago, called ‘The Victorian Kitchen’. Later the young lady told me that this was her first day. She did extremely well, and should go far. Also, the manageress’s husband was doing his best helping his wife on his day off from being a bigwig in Boots. Well done him.

All too soon we had to leave, and I got the old legs going fast enough to whizz up the road to the Moorhouse sign, which no-one knew was there, except me. They all count. I was so happy at this, that the rest of the ride went by in a blur, until we arrived at the Lingfield end of St.Piers Lane, exactly one mile from my home. I could do no more than abandon Steve and Trex to their leaderless fate, with the knowledge that before they had gone much more than a mile, I would be stretched out on my sofa trying to remember how many signs I had collected today.

John


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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