19 Apr 2015 (Pics are at the bottom of the page)
Yesterday, realising I didn’t know this ride as well as I should if I was to successfully lead it I thought I had better at least do a route check. So at a little after 7 am with the route card clutched in cold hands I set off for the downs.
It was a nice day but much marred by a strong North Easterly wind which was coming straight from the North Pole or somewhere very close by. Four hours and forty minutes later I completed the circuit with my legs knowing they had ridden a hard ride.
With this in mind I was a little nervous of how this ride might go today. At 9.45 am there was the usual throng of riders at the Panagua Bike Shop in Hayes Lane. All were trying to sign in or ensure their bikes were in good order or check they had water in their bottles or any one of a dozen pre-ride checks that need to be completed.
Geoff and I had agreed that we would split the 10 miles per hourers into 2 groups and each of us lead a ride. In the event it was just as well we did. We had 25 riders – a great turn-out.
We all waited patiently as the 12 mph group moved to the start point outside the church and then they were led off by Joe, with Linda acting as lantern rouge (those who know Linda will find themselves wondering how she fared in that role, Linda is not a natural LR in fact those who know her well will always think of her as the advance party).
Now it was our turn. Geoff went first and my group followed on a short while later. In the previous Brighton training rides that I have led I tried to keep the pace moderate, but today knowing the distance we had to cover I deliberately set off more quickly and it was immediately clear that my riders were in good shape and ready for a quicker ride. This was very encouraging. Today we joined Layhams Road at Sparrows Den. This seemed to meet with approval, one rider commented that she enjoyed the variation from the usual route up Nash Lane.
We caught Geoff’s group up at the Police Dog School, but only briefly. As we arrived he was just setting off again. I managed to take a photograph of Geoff’s group but one rider commented that she wasn’t keen on having her picture taken. I have respected this and not published the picture but I must say it is a particularly nice picture and if she would like to contact me I will send it to her before I delete it forever.
We paused long enough to let Geoff get a good start before we too pushed on. I did suggest that rather than all follow the official route down and UP Beddlestead Lane, we might consider splitting the ride so that some could choose to avoid the long climb. In the end I had a change of heart and we all went down the very fast, steep and exhilarating hill into the valley and then crawled all the way back up to Clarkes Lane. It was hard, but riders did really well. It is a long hill.
From Clarkes Lane we cycled into and through Tatsfield. The road surface was a bit dodgy here. In fact I think it is fair to say that the road surface has been an issue on today’s ride. Presumably these roads come under Kent County Council and I would suggest that they do not compare well the road surfaces we find on our side of the border (I hasten to add that this is an anecdotal observation and not backed up by actual statistics, but the roads just didn’t feel so good.)
Arriving at the Sampan (Spinning Wheel in old money) we discussed lunch. We had already decided that due to the reception we received at the Fox and Hounds at Toye’s Hill last year we would give the place a miss this time and try to hold out to the Museum Café at Shoreham, where we have always been made welcome.
We passed the top of Hogtrough Hill and I noted a few scornful glances. Memories of the last ride are still quite raw amongst some of us. And so we arrived at The Nower. I am intrigued by this word. What is a nower? What are the origins of this word? I have had a look in Google which tells me about a hill near Dorking called the Nower but I don’t think that is an adequate explanation of this street name. Do you? Any suggestions will be received with gratitude and if I am convinced I will publish the result at the bottom of this report.
Anyway the Nower with its panoramic views across the M25 leads to Brasted Hill. This is a super long downhill ride all the way to Brasted Village, we let go the brakes and just let rip – it’s quite exciting but a bit hairy. On arriving at Brasted we had several riders in need of a comfort break. We enquired at The White Hart Hotel and staff very kindly allowed us in to use the facilities, which we all thought was very considerate bearing in mind we weren’t even customers today. So many thanks to the White Hart Hotel at Brasted.
The A25 passes through Brasted village. What a nightmare this road must be for the poor residents. Whilst we were there we saw an endless stream of speeding motor vehicles in either direction making crossing the road near impossible.
And so begins the assault on Toye’s Hill. Not so much steep, just very very long. I contented myself as I steadily turned over the pedals that the colours of the fresh green foliage catching the light amongst the trees on either side of the road was particularly attractive. There bluebells at ground level, not quite a carpet yet but very pretty. I couldn’t tell whether they were the native English species or the dreaded Spanish invader (I didn’t get close enough to overhear their accents). Once again riders did very well and toiled the 2 miles up to the summit where we turned eastward to join the parallel hill back down to Sundridge. This is another terrific downhill ride on a bike, and took us back to the A25 which we crossed at traffic lights, we then followed a parallel route alongside the M25 towards Dunton Green.
We encountered one particularly impatient car driver along this stretch but apart from this we were without incident and so arrived at the Shoreham Aircraft Museum Café at Shoreham Village where we were once again made very welcome. Doorstep bacon butties washed down with hot strong tea soon revived flagging spirits and after about ¾ of an hour and a group photograph we remounted for the final push back up the downs to Halstead; here begins the long downhill ride to Bromley. Riders were very tired now this had been a long day in the saddle with a lot hill climbing, we were ready for the finish line. The official route is through Farnborough, I don’t like the long climb up Farnborough Hill, so we made a dynamic decision to miss it and stick to the shared use cycle path alongside the A21. We cut through Farnborough Park. This is a useful alternative to the bit of the A21 which does not have a cycle path. And so to Hayes. A number of riders peeled off on the last stretch, it being convenient for them to make their ways home.
The rest of us arrived at Hayes at about 4.20 pm.
My heartfelt thanks to all riders who were great company today, there was some great cycling with riders looking out for each other.
My special thanks to Joe who rode as my lantern rouge. Joe was kept busy at the back, especially as I managed to lose him and about four other riders at Dunton Green. Joe held it together and shepherded his charges safely back to the peloton.
Dist: 36.5 miles
Total time: 6:00:00
Pedalling time: 4:08:33
Max: 31.5 mph