This ride was pure luxury; short but not too short, warm but not too warm, it was sunny, sociable, happy, relaxing. It was one of those rides that generates comments such as were made by Henry V on St Crispin’s day:
“And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here.”
(And knowing Shakespeare I’m sure he meant women too!!)
If you weren’t with us on this ride for goodness sake make sure you don’t miss the next one!!
As I cycled to Orpington for the 10 am meeting to catch the train it was one of those liquid gold mornings when the late summer sun is drizzled across the landscape like a coating of golden yellow syrup. It was a day to be alive. I set off from home early just so I could get out into that glorious warmth and enjoy just a few extra moments of what must be one of the last days of the season.
I guess it must have been the same for Eve and Rob because they were both waiting at the station. Several cyclists rolled up the hill and seemed to be coming to join us before veering off to join the CTC alternative ride which was also mustering. If they had half the day we did they too will have had a good time.
The three of us boarded the 10.16 to Tonbridge and settled into the train for the short journey. We had managed to get a super saver so the return trip was just a fiver each. Pretty good value I’d say. Having bought a coffee on the platform at Tonbridge we slowly idled round to the swimming pool car park for the second rendezvous. It was heaving with people; perhaps there was an event on, perhaps it was just the weather but all the parking spaces were taken; there were cyclists and pedestrians everywhere.
We were plenty early so we loitered in the pleasant warmth and waited. First to join us was Jawid with his family: Ayesha, Irfan and Sannah. It was really good to see them. Whilst they went off to find a parking space we were delighted to be joined by two newcomers: Pete and Sue; relatively new to the borough and out on their first ride with Bromley Cyclists. They too went off to find parking and lo and behold along comes Linda. So we were ten which was probably just the right number bearing in mind that we had two youngsters with us.
A little later than planned Eve gave her final briefing, in particular emphasising that this would be a steady ride so we could take in the scenery and generally enjoy the beautiful day. We took some pictures and headed off along a rough but firm path through Haysden Park and towards Barden Lake. Eve kept us to a very good pace and so although unhurried we made good progress. Barden Lake looked very pretty in the sunshine. We paused for some pictures and a quick drink before heading off again, following the well marked path alongside rivers and brooks forming the head of the Medway River. We rode under the very busy A21 and soon found ourselves at the gates to Penshurst Place Park. It was a fairly steep ride up through the estate with neat, ripe fields on either side of the track. The sun was high and hot and we were ready for some shade and some lunch. Arriving at the walls to the manor house we parked the bikes and flopped on the neatly cut grass in the shade of a large tree to eat and share our picnics. It was a lovely setting and we stayed a while before Eve urged us to our bikes for the next treat; a ride into Penshurst Village for a treasure hunt.
We set up treasure hunt HQ in the garden of the Leicester Arms pub and quickly formed into teams. Eve handed out the questions, some of which were hard. “Back in an hour” said Eve as she settled down with a rather comfortable and refreshing lager.
We all rushed around the village seeking out answers to some quite cryptic clues. It gave us a good excuse to have a really good look around a beautiful rural village. An hour later we regrouped and checked our answers. None of us had got everything right. Pete and Sue had got 23/24 so they got a prize and Jawid, Ayesha and the children got the other prize. It was a lovely treasure hunt with real tricky questions so well done and, once again thanks to Eve.
By now we were well into the afternoon and decided it was probably time to set off for home. The ride back to Tonbridge was quicker than the outward journey but still very sedate. We stopped for an ice cream at the Haysden Park visitor centre. If the park had been busy in the morning, how much more so in the afternoon, it was like Brighton Beach on a bank holiday there were people flying kites, playing sports, playing games, picnicking, sun-bathing, riding on the miniature train. The place was just alive with happy people. We split at the swimming pool car park, calling our good byes as we headed for our various homes. Pete and Sue were off to a barbeque, Eve to do some gardening and me to write this. Personally I could have turned around and done the whole thing over. It was just one of those magical days.
Thanks to Eve; a really lovely day.
I forgot my cycle computer today so I don’t have the usual ride stats. But it was roughly 14 glorious miles. Bliss!!
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