A Report by Julie Hodgkin
Arriving at the meeting point we could see the other participants. What is it about cyclists? It was not yet 8 am on a Sunday morning but there was laughter and banter, energy and good humour from the men, women and children gathered. While most people were still bleary eyed in bed we were assembling in our respective groups to cycle the 50+ miles to Brighton.
Our group was somewhat unique in that it included several family units; two sisters, an aunt and niece and a husband and wife. There should have been two pairs of husband and wife, but one wife, having originally persuaded her husband to sign up for the training, had just remembered that she had to attend a lively hen weekend in Portsmouth that weekend, so her husband was riding alone (all together now, ‘Ahhh’). As a group, we had previously decided that in John we had the best ride leader in the world, and with a little ceremony we presented him with the appropriate garment. Now, not only is he the best ride leader in the world, he now has the tee-shirt to prove it!
We set off behind John, enjoying the early morning quiet, smelling the hawthorn blossom and delighting in the bluebells carpeting the local woods. Shortly into our ride we started to notice blood stains on the road. These, we later found out, were the result of a hit and run accident involving a horse and rider. Though we sometimes see inconsiderate driving, never before have we heard of, or been witness to, contact between vehicle and human or horse. It is to be hoped that the driver is identified and appropriate action taken as this was a dreadful incident. Luckily it is also a rare occurrence and cycling around our beautiful countryside is normally a peaceful and uneventful occupation. For those of you who would like to know, the horse, though initially seriously injured, is now on the mend, though both rider and horse are still in shock.
As we cycled on, John, ever the democratic leader, gave us several route options to cycle. We decided to go ‘off-piste’ on a couple of occasions, and both decisions turned out to be the correct ones. While all the other groups pedalled along the busy Halliloo Valley Road, we, the maverick group, navigated the rather more rugged terrain that led us up onto the hillside overlooking the golf course. Oh, the view from there was breath-taking. We could see the beautiful Halliloo Valley in all its abundant spring glory. And it was so peaceful. No noisy cars or smelly fumes. Just birdsong and the quiet crunch of tyre over stone. This had to be the best alternative route ever! Having soaked up the sight of the verdant abundance we turned to navigate the rather steep decline. The mountain bikes and hybrid bikes are built for such inclines, but some of the road bikes found the terrain challenging. However, the group successfully negotiated the hill and we regrouped outside the golf club.
Cycling on, most the journey was uneventful. We had an unscheduled and unrehearsed dismount by one our group (he fell off his bike!) and some careless driving by a Sunday driver caused another member of our team to make a strategic decision and take temporary refuge on a grass verge. In spite of these events, the only injuries suffered the whole day was a scraped knee and some loss of male pride!
By mid-afternoon the rain started and fatigue began to show in some members of the group. As we donned the appropriate gear to deal with the precipitation, it was decided that the climb up Devil’s Dyke, combined with the wind and rain, may not be the best route for tired legs, so we took another of the alternative routes that had been discussed – our secret shortcut! It should be mentioned that a few minutes earlier we had just been overtaken by one of the children’s groups (oh, the ignominy of being overtaken by eight year olds!) and as we took our ‘secret shortcut’ we thought of those little bodies being blown about at the top of that high hill. We hoped they didn’t get too cold and wet up there!
We finally pedalled into Brighton at 5pm. The rain had stopped and we had dried off so were in good spirits. We took an interesting route through Brighton to get to the seafront and finally arrived at the meeting point ten minutes later. As we settled down to enjoy a nice cup of hot tea by the seaside who should arrive but the group with the intrepid children. And while we were resting our weary legs and feeling rather smug about our achievement, the children, after over 50 miles of cycling, and the long slog up Devil’s Dyke, proceeded to clatter, bounce and leap down to the water for a paddle and games. Where do they get the energy from?
All members of our group arrived safe and sound after a day of hard work and achievement. We were smiling and happy. We had interacted as a group and supported each other during the ride. And as we agreed as we travelled back to Bromley by train, it was a day to remember.
Cycling time: 6:02:00
Total time: 10 hrs
Distance: 54 miles
Average speed: 9.00 mph
Ride leader: John Wood