Hell of Hogtrough

Sunday 22 Mar 2015

Today’s ride was mainly a route check for next Sunday. Four of us met at Norman Park and as we prepared to leave we discovered why I had so few riders today (apart from the fact that it was posted quite late) Jane Davis from Lewisham Cyclists came through with her ride containing quite a few of our riders. I’m not sure where Jane was off to but she had 15 or so followers and they looked like they were enjoying themselves. We called hellos accused them of treachery and wished them good luck. Then another rider came past on his way to Panagua to join Adam’s Ride. I was beginning to think conspiracy by this time.

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We were a little late getting under way awaiting the arrival of a rider making his way from Rochester. So it was nearer 1015 when we got the show on the road. Passing Panagua we waved to Adam and his riders who were preparing to start their ride. And with that we were into the lanes. We toiled up Nash and then drew breath at the Metropolitan Police Dog School. The door entry system there was making a most irritating noise and it looked like there were some folk locked within the grounds.

On my way to RV point I had noted a strong cold easterly wind which I thought would be an issue, but it seemed to have dropped now and it was very pleasant cycling under high grey clouds. Instead of taking Blackman’s Lane we took the alternative Sustrans Route. It is passable but there is now only about a foot of metalled surface showing where this was once a full width road. It is desperate need of some TLC. At the far end there is deep mud clearly churned by horses which really needs a bit of a sort out too. Come on Sustrans!

We stopped at the top of Titsey Hill to look at the entrance to the Titsey Park. There appears to be a route through here for a cyclist which can’t be worse than the infamous Titsey Hill. We may check this out on the Edenbridge PitStop Ride.

Titsey Hill is a gruesome ascent, you would think somehow that going down must be better, exhilarating even. You would be so wrong. The surface of this road is a disgrace. The actual surface is worn through from top to bottom. But worse still, the underlying foundations have never been properly levelled so the bicycle becomes a bone-shaker. Hanging onto our brakes we rattled down to the junction with Pilgrim’s Lane where we turned to ride east under edge of the ridge, and suddenly once again the wind was a factor: strong, easterly and cold, it was soon cutting through our clothing like a knife. Pilgrims Lane is like a circus merry-go-round, up and down and down and up making no attempt to follow contours. Then after a couple of miles we finally reached the beast in whose honour the ride is named: Hogtrough. This depraved climb, spawned in the pit by the beast, is the stuff of horror stories. Most hills provide you some warning of their malevolence, sort of taunt you on the approach. But not Hogtrough. No you turn left onto the hill and it is instantly full. You have no warning whatsoever, if you haven’t selected the right gear beforehand you are immediately defeated and have to step out of the pedals. Is it worse than Vigo? Probably not; not as steep perhaps, but longer and more merciless. We toiled to the top where we regrouped. We had got cold on Pilgrims Lane and even the climb did little warm us as the biting wind leached away our body heat. We were pleased to arrive at the Tally-Ho for our lunch break just a short distance further on.

We locked up in the garden and ventured indoors. The pub was quiet and we were soon served. Unfortunately there was a problem in the kitchen which meant that there was only limited bar snack menu. We made our selections and retired to a table. A wood burning stove blazed happily in the fire-place against the far wall. There was a somewhat eclectic mix of ornaments and paraphernalia dotted around the bar. I had chosen tea to drink and this was served at the table in a pot, it was hot and flavoursome. We were soon served our meal selections, and set about clearing our plates whilst discussing the merits of the pub and deciding whether it would be recommended as our Pub of the Month. You will need to check back to see if the Tally-Ho is Bromley Cyclists pub of the month for March.

After lunch we remounted the bikes and headed off for the final section of the ride. The wind bit to the bone so much so that one rider departed the ride for home after Halsted. Three of us continued towards Cudham where we had eventually managed to warm up again. At Port Hill the landscape had altered quite radically where there is a major clean up of the Fairtrough Stud Farm clearly in progress. It looks much tidier already.

Cudham Lane towards Christmas Tree Farm is always hard work and it was no different today. At Downe Village there was a large crowd of protesters all bizarrely dressed in bright colours. Most unexpected. I noted that one placard read ‘farmers against fascism.’ Presumably they were registering their antipathy towards UKIP leader Mr Nigel Farage who is reputed to use the nearby George and Dragon pub, anyway there was no sign of him and the protesters seemed cheery and non-confrontational and we passed without mishap.

Update 23/3/2015: spotted this story on the BBC. Apparently all the action was in the Queens Head!

And so to the ride end. One rider peeled away at Hayes and the other at Bromley South. I was indoors around 3 pm which actually seems quite respectable considering the topography of the ride.

Total time out 4¾ hrs ish
Pedalling time: 3½ hrs
Distance 35.06 (incl journey home)
Speed 10 mph J
Fastest speed 32 mph

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