Monday, 21 April 2014

Day eight: to Carshalton to see mum (approximately 12 miles).

Jon in Carshalton Park, 21st April 2014.
It's not yet 0700hrs but already the skies are blue and all is still. I'm about to embark upon my ninth consecutive day of riding and, if I'm honest, I'm in two minds as to where to go: Westerham has crossed my mind, the idea being I really push the boat out on what could, theoretically, be my last consecutive ride for a while. I'm going back to work tomorrow, but that doesn't mean I can't ride any more daily rides, it just means I'm likely to break the current cycle of back-to-back rides...unless, perhaps, I get up early and ride the 10-miler to Ledgers Road and back (which should take an hour tops). Even if I do it once it means I've riden for 10 consecutive days, a nice round number.

I've sent a text to Jon to see if he fancies a ride over to mum's, but I've had no answer, which means a lonely ride somewhere else and there's a few jobs to be done around the house today so a Westerham ride might be out of the question considering it's now 0718hrs. It's looking likely to be the Tatsfields – either the bus stop, the village or the churchyard, although I've visited them all last week and that leaves Botley Hill, a short, predictable ride that I took twice last week. Woodmansterne Green would be good, but it's a bit suburban in terms of the ride over there, not sure. So, here I am, thinking, poring over the possibilities, something I won't have time to do tomorrow morning.

The river in Carshalton Park – normally it's dry, but not this year!
I called Jon, he called back and then I headed off towards Purley, Foxley Lane and, of course, mum's house. Jon met me along Foxley Lane as I was running a little late. I'd left the house at 0750hrs and after Jon and I linked up we headed into Wallington, branching off around the streets of South Wallington – Brambledown, Boundary Road and then into Carshalton Park to take a look at the water levels after the flooding earlier in the year. Normally the river beds are dry but today there were still full of water, but the levels had receded a bit. We crossed Ruskin Road and weaved our way down to Carshalton High Street, turning left and riding along to the ponds where we turned right into North Street and then left into Honeywood Lodge, through Festival Walk and right on to West Street towards Colston Avenue, Westmead Corner and into mum's road.

The Kona in Carshalton Park this morning.
Jenny and her fiancé Alex were there having breakfast (they'd stayed overnight). We had a mug of tea and a chat and then, around 0900hrs, we left. At the bottom of mum's road, Jon turned left and I turned right and headed up Shorts Road, then Alma and then turned left on to the Carshalton Road before doing a right up Oxford Road, riding through Carshalton Beeches High Street and up Banstead Road South to Staplehurst Road where I hung a left, sailed down the hill and up the other side and then turned right, heading towards Croydon Lane. This part of the ride is very pleasant as it runs between smallholdings on one side and the periphery of the Oaks Park on the other.

At Croydon Lane I turned left and rode into Purley, back into the Foxley Lane and then across to Pampisford Road before turning right, crossing the Brighton Road and weaving my way through side streets towards the Sanderstead Road and West Hill, where my gears messed up a bit, although I never dismounted. From West Hill, having rode up the 'steep side', I freewheeled into Barnfield and was home at roughly 0955hrs.

Mum on the doorstep bidding Jon and I farewell...
Another wonderful day – a million times better than yesterday and roughly on a par with the whole of the last week (sunshine and blue skies).

Since the Sunday before last, I have cycled a total of 143 miles on consecutive days.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Day seven: Easter Sunday ride to Tatsfield village (roughly 16 miles)

As I write this at 1100hrs there is rain, thunder and lightning disturbing the peace. Rain is hammering down on the roof of the conservatory, thunder claps can be heard overhead and yes, there was even some lightning to illuminate the greyness. Earlier, as Andy and I chewed the fat at the covered bus stop in Tatsfield village, there had been nothing but a mild misty blue air and a dull breeze and when a man passed the time of day with a 'looks like rain, lads' we shrugged it off, confident that we would reach home without getting soaked. And we did, but within 20 minutes of being home, I heard the rain, then the lightning and then thunder. And now, one paragraph in, the rain has stopped as suddenly as it began and there's just the drip, drip, drip of rain, like a dodgy tap – like my dodgy kitchen tap.

The Ship, Tatsfield, Kent early this morning.
Today's ride, my eighth consecutive ride (if you include last Sunday's jaunt to Westerham*) was characterised by empty streets. Everybody, it seemed, was lying in except for Andy and I and a guy in an Aston Martin, not forgetting whoever it was erecting posters for the London Air Show, an event that sounds grander than it actually is. The rain's started up again outside, but it's very bright out there too and I'm told it'll pass over – just as well as I'm planning a drive into darkest Sussex in about an hour from now.
Deserted – Easter Sunday morning on Sanderstead High St.

Let's get back to the London Air Show. I was wondering, as we passed a huge sign for it, whether or not it might be another name for the Biggin Hill Air Show, but I was wrong, this WAS the London Air Show and it was being held in Woldingham, an area not renowned for its airstrips or airports and, in terms of aviation heritage, I can't think of any (Woldingham is garden centre and golf club territory). However, on closer inspection, it became clear that the London Air Show is to the Biggin Hill event what lawnmower racing is to Formula One. To put it bluntly, we're talking about hang gliding and stuff more akin to the Selsey Bird Man competition than anything you might refer to as 'real flying'.

When we reached the village we talked more about Andy's ride to Brighton and back, roughly 80 miles. It was odd that he was complaining about cramps as he's normally not the complaining type. Perhaps, I suggested, it was the different riding position of the racer when compared to the mountain bike. Good point, he said, but the racer was needed to cover the distance in the alloted time. In other words, he'll have to get used to it – and I'm sure he will.

I mentioned that I'd be travelling again shortly to Indianapolis in the USA where, I've discovered, they have just introduced a 'Boris bike' scheme. I emailed those behind it and they said I can buy a 24-hour ticket when I arrive, so expect a few blogposts about riding in Indianapolis in a few weeks' time.

Tatsfield village, incidentally, had been cleaned up since my last visit on Good Friday. The rugby ball and beer cans had disappeared and so had the pint glasses left by the bench near the pond (it's too small, surely, to be called a lake?).

We drank tea, munched our Kellogg's NutraGrain bars – Andy's switched from Jordan's for some reason, but this isn't a complaint – and then we headed off and I began to complain about my Tesco Tearaway tracksuit bottoms; I've been wearing them all week (see photos in all but one of last week's posts). I hate them with a vengeance, they look so untidy, cheap and loutish and are a tad immature too.

The roads on the return journey were as deserted as they were on the way out, hence the image of Sanderstead High Street above. Note the lack of traffic and people. But then this is Easter Sunday in England and people are probably nursing Saturday night hangovers or preparing for a later start than normal. I've also included a shot of the Ship, a pub at the heart of Tatsfield Village, and one I haven't visited for a beer for a long while. The last time I was there they had surfboards with sails hanging on the walls.

Home-made sausages and mash at the White Horse, Sutton, Sussex – lovely!
The rain carried on all day in the end. I drove to one of my favourite pubs, the White Horse, in the middle of the south downs in the heart of Sussex, in the village of Sutton. I've included a photo of my lunch – home-made sausages, mash, kale and carrots, washed down with a pint of one of my favourite brews – Harvey's (an established Sussex brewer in Lewes).

All the way home in the car there was rain so I abandoned a much needed visit to the beach and instead headed home on the A24, which seemed quicker than my usual route along the A29. There was also little point in stopping in Arundel as to do so would have meant getting very wet indeed.

Now, at 1909hrs, there are blue skies and sunshine and I'm told it will continue into Easter Monday, my last day off work. What a truly great week off in all senses of the word: the weather, the cycling, the trips out, you name it, and especially having the entire family at home. A highlight was Max's chicken and leek pie – a worthy meal – and one I hope to enjoy again soon.

* I've been counting my consecutive days of cycling from Monday, separating them from my usual weekend rides and that's why it's Day Seven, although, in reality, by counting last Sunday's ride to Westerham, it's really Day Eight. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Day six – with Andy to the Tatsfield churchyard (16 miles)

Yours truly and Andy at the Tatsfield Churchyard.
Another nice day as I embarked upon my seventh consecutive ride since last Sunday. This time I was meeting Andy at Warlingham Green at the usual time of 0700hrs. Yes, it's a normal Saturday, but my string of rides continues and won't stop until I break the cycle, which is likely to be on Tuesday when I return to work. Having said that, I reckon I could manage a 10-miler before work simply by riding to Ledgers Road just beyond Knights (and back). Anyway, enough!

St Mary's Church, Tatsfield.
At the green I met another bunch of cyclists who, like Andy and I, are regular riders (although I don't think I've seen them before). One of them referred to hills as mountains, so a typical conversation would go something like this:-

"...yes, but the problem with that ride is the hill on the way back."
"Which one?"
"Coming out of Godstone, prior to crossing the motorway?"
"Oh, you mean the Eiger?"
"Well, no, it's Ganger's Hill, isn't it?"
"That's what we call the Eiger."
"Oh."

I started to wonder whether another sad blog like mine existed somewhere else in cyberspace, but decided to say nothing. Instead I texted Andy. "Are you awake?" I wrote, cockily, and then, as if by magic, he arrived and we headed for the Tatsfield churchyard, followed by our new acquaintances who overtook us on the 269 and disappeared.

As always, it was a straighforward ride to the churchyard where we sat on a bench, munched our cereal bars and drank tea. Andy told me about his ride to Brighton. I thought he'd cycled there with work colleagues, but apparently they'd all pulled out at the last minute with various excuses, leaving Andy to ride there and back alone. It took him two hours and 30 minutes to get there (39 miles) and three hours and 15 minutes to get back. The racer did well, but it was much more uncomfortable than the mountain bike as every pot hole, every irregularity on the road, rankled.

Andy makes it to Brighton alone. Photo: Andy Smith
I spoke briefly about my week on the bike and how great the weather had been and then it was time to find a photographic angle we hadn't already attempted on previous visits – a near impossible task.

The ride home was fine until I reached the green. Andy and I had said goodbye and then, as I followed the road round, some stupid idiot decided to open their roadside car door just as I was passing. I swerved and somehow managed to avoid a collision, but only just. All the way home I was dreaming up expletives that I would have used had I come off the bike.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Day five: Tatsfield Village (16 miles)

Yours truly, Tatsfield Village Green, Friday 18th April 2014
I won't deny that I'm feeling pleased with myself. All week, from Monday 14th April to today, Friday 18th April, I've cycled a fair distance every day to places avid readers of this blog will already be familiar with: Botley Hill, the Tatsfield bus stop, churchyard and village – and the weather has been amazing. Yes, all of my rides this week have been accompanied by blue skies and sunshine.

In fact, if you want to discuss distances, from Monday through to today I've covered roughly 76 miles and with last Sunday's ride to Westerham added on, it's almost 100 miles (98 miles if I've got the mileages right).
Tatsfield Village Green. There's a pond there, but you can't see it.
Today, as mentioned above, was another wonderful day and, as I headed out on the 269, I was in two minds about where to go. Should I visit the Tatsfield bus stop the long way or go to the village the long way or just be content with Botley and back the fast way? Should I go to Botley and then come back the long way via Hesiers Hill? Decisions, decisions. In the end I decided to visit Tatsfield village (the fast way) and sit, for all of five minutes, on a bench opposite the pond on the green. I considered the covered bus stop opposite the pub, but somebody had left it in a right mess: there was a rugby ball there for some reason, accompanied by a couple of lager cans. I'd considered another bench, but somebody had left a couple of pint glasses, one with beer still in it, under the bench in question and, well, I just didn't fancy sitting there with that occasional waft of stale beer meeting my nostrils. Fortunately there was a bench that wasn't littered so I sat there and took a few photographs before getting up and riding home (the fast way again).

Today, of course, is Good Friday, something I forgot earlier when I headed out under the impression that there would be traffic en route to work. Had I gathered my senses earlier I might well have taken the Scrap to Sutton for breakfast round at mum's as I discovered that Jon had cycled there this morning, but I wasn't thinking.
The Kona casting a shadow on Tatsfield Village Green this morning.
So, here I am, it's nearly 8pm, I've cycled every day since last Sunday and I've covered almost 100 miles. It's been great, I feel good and to top it all, when my mother and mother-in-law came round for lunch today I had no qualms about eating a couple of slices of cheesecake, thanks to clocking up all those miles.

The consecutive days of cycling haven't ended yet. Tomorrow I'm planning a ride to Westerham with Andy (22 miles added); then there's the same again on Sunday (weather permitting – the TV forecasters say Sunday won't be that pleasant); and then, of course, there's Easter Monday, when the weather is likely to be more characterised by blue skies and sunshine.

Andy rode to Brighton and back today and I'm sure there will be images to post later. Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day four: Tatsfield churchyard – 16 miles.

On a bench in Tatsfield Churchyard, 17 April 2014.
The good weather continues and I find it hard to believe my luck: four consecutive rides, including today's (five if you add Sunday's ride to Westerham with Andy) without a drop of rain or a grey cloud. It's been blue skies and sunshine all week, the blossoms are not only on the trees, creating a sweet aroma in the air, but scattered on the ground as if every house I pass has recently hosted a wedding. Add to this the smell of woodsmoke from unseen bonfires, the distant drone of a light aircraft hovering over Biggin Hill and the picture is almost complete. Oh for a freshly creosoted fence and that delicious smell of hops from a pub.
The Kona in the churchyard
I headed off later than usual (0925hrs) and decided to ride to the Tatsfield churchyard, the fast way. It was traffic all the way to the green, but once beyond Knight's it thinned out considerably, as always, leaving me on the open road with green fields on either side as I approached Botley. I carried on past the pub, turning left and heading east on Clarks Lane, past the famous Tatsfield bus stop and then dismounting and manhandling the bike up some steep steps towards the churchyard where I was greeted by the usual tranquility of the place.
The Kona again resting against a bench in the Tatsfield churchyard
I parked the bike against a bench and with little in the way of power left on the camera, took the photographs that accompany this post prior to the phone shutting down. Without tea or companionship, there was little point in hanging around so, photographs taken, I walked the bike through the churchyard, manhandled it down the steps and then rode back along Clarks Lane towards Botley Hill and eventually home. I reached my house around 1055hrs, put the bike in the garage and then enjoyed a cup of tea. Perfect!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day three: back to Botley Hill – 14 miles.

Botley Hill Farmhouse, Wednesday 16 April 2014, 0945hrs.

Another wonderful day. Blue skies and sunshine. I rode to Botley Hill, rather sluggishly, it seemed, on the outward journey, but the return was superfast and I can only put it down to no headwinds. From Botley to home, 25 minutes on the nail and I never stopped pedalling along the 269.

Lambs enjoying a spot of breakfast at the Botley
I spent roughly five minutes at Botley taking the photographs accompanying this post and then embarked upon the return ride.

A self-explanatory photograph.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Day two: to the Tatsfield bus stop...the slow way (approximately 17 miles)

The early part of Beddlestead Lane today. A long, slow hill.
I discovered today that riding to the Tatsfield bus stop – the slow way – is only a fraction longer than riding to Botley Hill the fast way. It takes 50 minutes to ride from my house to Botley and it takes 65 minutes to ride the long way to the Tatsfield bus stop – probably slightly less than that as I stopped a couple of times to take the photographs accompanying this post.
Further along Beddlestead Lane...still a way to go
Once again  –  as the photographs testify – the weather was fantastic: blue skies and sunshine. The ride was good. I decided to go the slow way to Botley to avoid the traffic and it proved to be a good idea. What was great about today's ride was the solitude; once on the country lanes there was nothing but birdsong.

Rolling hills along Beddlestead Lane...nearly at Clarks Lane
A good ride, thanks again to the Pistorious trial, although the defence lawyer wants to adjourn the case for some reason – at least I think he does – which means that I'll have to head out earlier than usual. 
Final destination: the Tatsfield bus stop at 0955hrs...time to ride home
My wife is totally engrossed in the Pistorious case.