Today was arguably one of the best cycling days for a long time. Why? Because we explored new ground and found it to be just what the doctor ordered. Years of riding the same old routes – Woodmansterne (yawn!); the Tatsfield Bus Stop (yawn!); Merstham via Woodmansterne (yawn!); Westerham (yawn!) – they're all 'okay' but we've just been stomping over the same old ground, week after week after week. And quite frankly, it was beginning to get very, very samey. Well, not today!
Alright, the first leg of the journey was the same: the route we'd take to reach Tatsfield or Westerham; but once we'd passed the 'off road bit' on the way to Botley, we turned right, not left, and made our way down to Ganger's Hill. We didn't know what to expect, but what we found was heart-warming. Not only a new route, but a picturesque one too.
As for complaints that Ganger's Hill needed a good tidy-up, there was no evidence. What we found were woods and off-road tracks (to be explored at a later date) and, lo and behold, other mountain bikers, people we tended not to see on our normal routes where the Lycra-wearing, PC using riders of bikes with dropped handlebars seemed to rule the roost. But not today! Polite, Apple computer-using mountain bikers passed us by as we travelled down and up and around Gangers Hill, which eventually became Flower Lane, through Flowers Wood and down to the A25, which I think we went over when we reached the end of Church Lane.
Then, the hard bit. Up until this point, it had been easy enough, but now we had the Enterdent Road to contend with and it was far from easy: a big uphill climb, through some amazing woods. We crossed Tilburstow Hill Road and found ourselves in Rabies Heath Road and at this point we started to wonder whether it was possible to reach Hunger's End in Merstham by 9am, our stated goal.
We pushed on, through more woodland on either side of the road and soon we found ourselves in Bletchingly. It wasn't long before we encountered the A25 again for a short burst of traffic-heavy A road and then a devil of a job trying to cross into Church Lane before continuing north through Bletchingly Golf Course and then on a track that skirted its way around a menacing looking quarry (loads of 'Police Keep Out' signs, the mention of guard dogs and plenty of barbed wire fencing). But it was good to be off-road and the track led us under the M25 and out on to Hextall's Lane before we started seeing road signs to Chaldon and Merstham.
We hung a left into Spring Bottom Lane and then crossed the Warwick Wold Road and into the final straight of Rockshaw Road. Unfortunately for me, my gears had decided to play up and remain in a very very low gear. Progress was slow and it was now 0925 and no sign of Merstham, although we knew that Rockshaw Road led us on to the A23 just short of the village. It was slow going but we made it at around 0930hrs and I ordered my scrambled egg on toast and Andy's four-sausage bap (with lashings of brown sauce). We both had a mug of tea and reflected on our journey.
Yes we were half an hour over schedule, but that was easily solved. For a start, I'd have to arrive at Warlingham Green at 0730hrs on the dot and not 0740hrs and we'd just have to push on or even leave the Green at 0715hrs to be at Hunger's End when it opens at 0900hrs.
My gear problem really was a pain in the proverbial. So much so that I decided to catch the train home from Merstham. I jumped on the 1011 London Bridge train, changed at East Croydon and took a Caterham train, alighting at Purley Oaks and cycling the rest of the way. And guess what? When I got on the bike the gears were working again! I've got a slow puncture too, but having pumped it before leaving the house, it was still as solid as a rock when I reached home.
Happy Days, as they say. Happy Days.