Friday, 30 April 2010

Black Horse Bike Ride – raising money for Multiple Scelrosis

The Black Horse, Reigate in Surrey.
This time last year we didn't have a blog so we couldn't really write about the great Black Horse Bike Ride, which this year is on Sunday May 16th. I think I'm right in saying that this year will be Andy's fourth attempt and my third and both of us are seriously hoping for good weather. Last year we had heavy rain and it wasn't at all pleasant. We were both soaked through, we then dried out during the middle part and then got a soaking again towards the end. Half way around I seemed to run out of fuel (I'd eaten nowt but a bacon sarnie for breakfast and that was at the pub and then, somewhere near Crawley, I faltered and had to stock up on cheese sandwiches and Digestive biscuits to finish the course.

The big problem with last year was the weather, it was awful, and I seriously hope it stays fine for this year. It's a 50-miler that weaves its way through some picturesque parts of Surrey and Sussex, skirts around Gatwick airport and then heads back through quaint little places like Rusper.

The ride starts and finishes at the Black Horse, a pub in Reigate that sells excellent beer (Young's) and throws in a free pint AND a barbecue (also free) for all the riders. It's a great day out. Last year Andy and I cycled to the start line from our respective homes (although my memory is a little hazy on that as I think I got the train to Redhill and cycled from there). The point is we didn't chuck our bikes in the car as we'd done the year before. Not sure how we're going to play it this year, although after that knackered feeling you get after a big distance, the thought of cycling home is not good at all. Last year, I think I cycled around 70 miles in total and when I reached home I went straight to bed and slept for 12 hours.

Getting back to the pub is probably the best bit of the lot. Taking that first sip of Young's and that first munch on a large beefburger with onions is better than sex. No, honestly, it is. Well, alright, it's similar. Okay, it bears no resemblance whatsoever, but you know what I mean.

So, there you have it, NoVisibleLycra's third year on the Black Horse Ride and we're looking forward to it. Not sure how many, if any, strangers stumble across this site, but if you're reading this now and consider it a worthy cause, then go to and donate some money.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The tunnel under the motorway...

On the way to Merstham via Gangers Hill there is a tunnel under the M25. In fact, on all our cycles we tend to go under the M25 – and over it too. This shot was taken on Saturday 24 April on the approach to one of these tunnels. I know, it's not very exciting, of course it isn't, but this blog is all about our cycling and these tunnels do play a part in our adventures.

The shot above was taken in the tunnel. It's quite amazing how there is no graffiti on the walls, but then I wonder how many of the local  nutters even know of the tunnel's existence?

Lastly, my brother Jon at Merstham, outside Hunger's End, fixing a puncture. It's the same puncture he's had for ages but he hasn't fixed it. The thing is, punctures are like hernias, I've probably said this before; they won't fix themselves and can only get worse.

Actually, I forgot to add this shot of The Enterdent taken from the top looking down. It might look pretty average, but believe me, there's a steep descent just out of view, which I had just ascended.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sunday 25 April 2010 – to Godstone Green (and back)

Despite the weather forecasters saying that today would be a right pain in the arse for London Marathon runners, it's turned out to be ideal running weather. Unlike yesterday's hot sunshine, this morning was overcast as Andy and I met up at Warlingham Green. Just prior to our meeting I'd been stopped by the police, not for committing any crime, but because I was riding past a crime scene. A house on the Limpsfield Road had been the subject of an arson attack, a policeman told me. The road had been closed but I was still able to pass even if I did have to give my name and address. Not a problem. The copper said it was a crime scene, hence the name-taking, and that there'd been an arson attack. This could mean people were killed, but who knows?

This photograph of Godstone gives you some idea of
the grey and overcast morning we were having. Andy
was planning on a barbecue this evening – not anymore!
Anyway, onwards, forever onwards and soon Andy and I were chatting on Warlingham Green working out where to cycle to today; we decided that it had to be Godstone Green and off we went, the usual route down Slines Oak Road and then through the urban hell that is Woldingham. Down Gangers Hill like yesterday, we soon found ourselves near the church in Godstone where we took a right turn down a dirt track on the other side of Bay Pond, ending up in quiet suburban streets and then the Green itself.

It started to rain so we made our way across the green to some shelter near a lonely and deserted children's playground and stood there sipping tea and munching on our cereal bars watching the rain.

The main topic of conversation today was that men don't like asking for directions and that it has to be something to do with the admission of defeat, ie that asking means you've lost the game. We might eventually be cajoled into asking for directions but, to be honest, as whoever tells us what we're supposed to want to hear, we are not listening, we don't want to be told, we'll find our own way.

Wife/girlfriend: "Well, what did he say?"
Bloke: "Er, yeah, it's this way. I was right all along."

And then, of course, luck either plays its part or you end up having to ask somebody else while accusing the first directions giver of being a fraudster.

Bloke: "He gave us the wrong directions deliberately, I reckon."
Wife/girlfriend: "Hmmmm..."

We let the rain ease off before donning our helmets and heading back home, this time along the original footpath running alongside Bar Pond and then left when we reached the church. The climb out of Godstone back to where Northdown Road joins The Ridge, is pretty severe, but we got there and parted company at the top of Slines Oak Road.

Rain dribbles down from a drain, what a pain, muddy
country lanes, old men with canes, the mentally insane, with
nothing to gain but varicose veins for a life in chains.
By this stage I really needed more tea and something to eat. I started thinking about the Village Café on Warlingham Green, which was open on Sunday mornings, and how I could nip in there and order scrambled egg on toast with tea. Lovely. But as it drew nearer I decided not to bother as the prospect of a bowl of porridge, two slices of toast and marmalade and a mug of tea, for nothing, at home, was a far better option.

On the way home I passed the crime scene again. The road was no longer closed but the area surrounding the house had been cordoned off and there were photographers taking shots of the burnt out house. The Fire Brigade were still there too but all I could think about was my breakfast and whether or not I should drop into Waitrose and buy some oranges.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Saturday April 24th, to Merstham, the long way round...

I knew I would be cycling alone this Saturday so the temptation, as always, was not to bother. But knowing that last week, while I was in Exmoor, Andy had got up early and sailed down Gangers Hill, meant that I had to put in an effort.

I must admit that, while seated in front of my computer, looking at and writing a bit of the blog, I did consider remaining there and doing nothing; but that would have been to waste what was already an amazing day. The weather all last week, last weekend and now this weekend (today is the day of the London Marathon, by the way, and the weathermen are warning that it won't be ideal for the runners) has been really good so I decided to get up and go.

My plan? To reach Hunger's End in Merstham and have breakfast there with Jon, who would be travelling the conventional route (just as gruelling as he'd have to tackle Hazelwood Lane in Chipstead). Anyway, off I set with, quite literally, all the joys of spring. I was feeling optimistic about the whole thing, especially considering that breakfast would be thrown in at the end for good measure.

Me at the top of The Enterdent having climbed the hill
When I reached the golf course in Woldingham and a deceptively difficult stretch of off-road, it dawned on me that it wouldn't all be plain sailing: I had the Enterdent to climb, and this realisation deflated me a little as I was concerned that I wouldn't get there in time for Jon. The last time Andy and I took this route – the first time we'd ever done it – my gears were playing up, we stopped to take a few too many photographs here and there and ended up in Merstham at around 0930. I was kind of expecting a repeat performance as along the route I was stopped and asked directions by a Lycra-clad person on a racing bike and then I stopped to take photographic evidence that I'd actually bothered to go cycling. During the week, actually last weekend, Andy had sent me evidence from his mobile phone that he'd gotten out of bed and I felt ought to do the same, so I stopped at the top of The Enterdent and took a self-timered shot of myself and the Enterdent looking down before resuming my journey (see pic above).

The rest, I have to say, was pretty smooth running: Rabies Heath Lane, into Bletchingley, an empty A25 to cross into Church Lane, that bit of off-road around the quarry and under the motorway and then Spring Bottom Lane and Rockshaw Road before hitting Merstham – quite a haul, though.

When I got there, no sign of Jon and having not looked at my watch, I assumed it was something like 0930hrs, but then, as I passed Hunger's End and noticed the 'Closed' sign on the door, I realised that I was mistaken. I pulled out my iphone and noticed that it was only 0857hrs. Amazing! A record time! Then Jon arrived; he'd been there for around 20 minutes or so and was cycling around Merstham, killing time.

We had a hearty breakfast. Jon tucked in to a large full English and I had scrambled egg on toast washed down with a couple of mugs of tea. Jon still hasn't bothered fixing that slow puncture and his front tyre was flat by the end our breakfast. I lent him my pump and soon we were on our way, this time riding back the usual way (for Jon and I) up Markedge Lane, past Fanny's Farm and on towards Chipstead, down Hazelwood Lane, left into Holly Lane towards Banstead High Street, where we parted company, and I carried on into Woodmansterne and the usual route home.

I reached home at 11.30am and then sat in the garden reading the Guardian before having a spot of lunch (pea and ham soup and a bottle of Shepherd Neame Spitfire ale).

Friday, 23 April 2010

Andy did go cycling last weekend...

Andy has just pointed out to me, quite rightly, that other members of the NoVisibleLycra team DID go cycling last weekend. In fact, if I recall, Andy was up at the crack of dawn last weekend, earlier than normal, and was cycling down Gangers Hill and doing a bit of off-roading too. What a guy! He texted me some pictures to prove that he hadn't lolled around in bed. If you look at the previous post, you will notice, Andy, that I've amended the headline accordingly.

Hopefully, I'll be suitably self-motivated tomorrow morning as Andy isn't going tomorrow. We'll see. I'm not planning on a late night so it might be possible. The aim is to meet Jon at Hunger's End in Merstham, except that I'll be taking the long way round.

Avid readers of this blog will know that a few weeks back my brother and cousin managed to ship two Moggridge pianos over from the USA. Well, the reason behind that, as I probably explained in the post, was that our father has been doing a lot of family tree research and is in the process of putting the finishing touches to a book, which he'll either publish properly through the usual channels or simply have a few copies printed up for the family.

Anyway, Exmoor, where I went last week instead of cycling, is where the Moggridge family originate from; Dad told me to visit the church at Molland, which I did, and there I found the graves of two Moggridges. Pictured are the two graves in question. The conventional slab like stone belongs to an Elizabeth Mogridge while the one with the cross is that of Mary Ann Mogridge – weirdly, both christian names exist in our current family, although we now spell our surname as Moggridge with an extra g. I've got a notepad with all the details of those occupying the grave and when I find it, I'll post the details. That's the church pictured above on the right and those are the graves, the one with the cross in the foreground and the slab just beyond it to the left.

No cycling last weekend – for Matthew! Andy went, though!

No cycling last week as I went away for the weekend and couldn't very well get back in the morning from Exmoor where I was staying. But this weekend, I'm back in the saddle and, as I write this, it's touch and go as to whether Andy will be there or not. I'm currently awaiting a call, having telephoned him from the new Marston's pub in Caterham, the Ladybird, where I'd been enjoying a chicken and roasted peppers sandwich and a pint of Brakspear's. Very civilised, especially on a hot day like today. Here's hoping it'll stay this way for the weekend.

A map of the Exmoor region. 
If it is hot and sunny, I plan to get up early and head off in the direction of Gangers Hill en route to the caff in Merstham (the caff being Hunger's End). I certainly need the exercise as I've been drinking a fair bit of beer of late. In fact, as the weather hots up generally, now might be the time to start cycling every day, early in the morning.

I can't remember if I've mentioned the fact that I had my bike serviced the other day. Cost me £103! Still, it needed doing; the gears kept on getting stuck, there was a lot of creaking going on and, yeah, it needed to be done.

Talk about rambling! I'm waiting for somebody to approve copy before my magazine, the one I edit, goes to press. Still, there you have it. Exmoor was good for cycling, not that I did any, but reading in one of those tourist newspapers, one I picked up near Dulverton, I discovered that Exmoor is ideal for mountain biking. There are tracks for both experienced and inexperienced riders and what's more it's all off road. I did spy a couple of mud-spattered Specialized mountain bikes at the Tarr Steps near to where we were staying and it got me thinking about a NoVisibleLycra Field Trip. Thoughts?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Warlingham Green to Godstone Green via Gangers Hill

Our bikes in front of Bar Pond, Godstone, Surrey
Yesterday the sun shone brightly as I rode alone to the gloomy Woodmansterne Green. Today, there was cloud. Yesterday, wearing a Tee Shirt and jeans, I walked across the sand on the south coast at Felpham. Today I donned a jumper as I headed out towards Warlingham Green to meet Andy.

Still fuelled with the excitement of a new route, we were heading off for Godstone but not to the church. This time we were going to Godstone Green via Bar Pond. When we got there we discussed the ducks on the smaller pond on the green. There in the middle was a duck house, but we figured it must have been pretty cramped in there at night, judging by the number of ducks that emerged as we sat there on a bench.

"What if one of them farts?" said Andy.

A good point, I thought.

"I've never heard a duck fart, have you?" I asked.

"No," said Andy.

"More tea?"

A man turns up in full leathers on a big Japanese cruiser.

"It's probably the best option: first, it's Japanese, then it's shaft drive," I said.

"But Harley's are belt driven and they're just as reliable," said Andy.

We sipped our tea, munched on our cereal bars and then the phone rang. It was Jon. He was at Woodmansterne Green and about to head off for mum and dad's in Carshalton.

"It was Jon," I said, hanging up.

We admired the houses surrounding the green.

The pond on Godstone Green, home of many ducks who live
in a duck house in the middle – a bit cramped for so many ducks
"I bet it costs an arm and a leg to live round here," said Andy.

"Yeah, definitely. I'd like to live in the big yellow house over there, it's a semi but, yeah, fucking pricey," I said.

"Getting into London would be a problem," said Andy.

"No, it's direct; probably only takes about half an hour, if that to Croydon," I said.

"Yeah, I suppose so," said Andy.

"I wouldn't mind a radio-controlled duck for that pond," I said.

"We'd better be getting a move on," said Andy.

And off we went.

"I'll keep the camera out so we can take a picture of Bar Pond," I said.

My bike in a similar pose to yesterday's on Woodmansterne Green
Andy reckons the bloke on the cruiser is in IT.

"He's hiding behind the leathers. Note his got short hair so he can just jump into the suit tomorrow," I said.

And then, as we passed him, "Alright?"

He nodded in acknowledgement.

"I reckon he's waiting for some-one," I said.

"Yeah, lucky it isn't raining, then," Andy said, alluding to last Saturday when I stood him up in monsoon conditions in order to remain warm and dry.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Woodmansterne Green alone

My lone Kona on Woodmansterne Green. How can I convey the boredom? In short, I can't. This pic taken on my iphone shortly before I cycled home.
Not much to report on today other than it was warm and sunny. I left later than usual, around 8am, and decided to pootle on up to Woodmansterne Green. Very, very boring. I didn't even take any tea. Anyway, that's it. Hopefully, more to report tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Some proper off-roading at last!

Whenever I see people with 'Chelsea tractors' I always find myself getting a little irritated by the fact that they only drive from home to the school or the shops or wherever, on tarmac roads, when their four-wheel-drive motor car is designed for tougher terrain.  I feel the same way about my bike and I often wonder if the occasional bystander, seeing me on the road, wonders why I didn't get myself a dropped handlebar racing bike and some Lycra. 

The start and finish of the off-road circuit.

Well, in the same way that 'The Dark Lord', Voldemort, is not to be mentioned by anybody within the hallowed grounds of Hogwart's School, so the word 'Lycra' is forbidden territory for the likes of Andy, Jon and myself, but, if the truth be known, most of the cycling we've been doing over the past four years could have been done on a racing bike. We've all got decent Kona mountain bikes but we rarely go 'off road' with them. 

Until yesterday. Bank Holiday Monday, April 5 2010. A day to be remembered. Why? Because while out cycling on Sunday, following our aborted attempts on Saturday, we found a complete off-road circuit, around five miles in length, circular and, it has to be said, absolutely fucking brilliant! Needless to say there's a Gangers Hill connection, Gangers being our favourite road at the moment because it has taken away the drudgery that is Woodmansterne, Westerham, the Tatsfield Bus Stop and other uninspiring routes, which, amazingly, have kept our interest over the past four years.

Gangers Hill has given us a reason to live again: new territory, a new church gate under which to sip our tea and munch on our cereal bars and now it's given us something else: a decent woodland trek, full of mud – naturally – but a five-mile round circuit where the roads our in a minority and the open countryside rules the roost.

Marden Woods, part of the Woodland Trust, doesn't have any 'no cycling' signs, but, in the quiet car park a quarter mile down Gangers Hill on the right, mountain bikers gather. Actually, not that many, which makes it all the better, but from the car park there begins a fantastic circuit that goes downhill towards Woldingham Station (where we had to dismount and manhandle our bikes over a wooden gate (twice)) and then back over the railway bridge, uphill for a bit, before encroaching on the grounds of Woldingham Girls School. We cycled past a lonely tennis court then took a road left and found ourselves on the same road we cycled along on Sunday before we bore left and on to the muddy, uphill track we had to walk up on Saturday. However, once at the top, instead of hitting the road, we dived off-road again until we found a really serious hill – one to rival the greats of our cycling – which eventually brought us back to the road again, but only briefly.

Across the road was another gate and another woodland path. Lots of mud and it wasn't long before we were lost. The iphone's GPS wasn't working and we had to put all of our skills, acquired while living with the bushmen of the Kalahari, into action. These skills could be summed up by "Look, there's a bloke with a dog, he must have come from the car park, let's hang a right". So we did and soon (not too soon, we still thought we were lost) we found the car park. When we looked at the map we realised how we had probably been a little more adventurous (purely by accident) than intended. We hadn't followed the route for the last half a mile or so and instead had hacked our way through thick woods, narrowly avoiding a quarry, only to arrive eventually at the finish (which was also the start).

Elated by an excellent morning of cycling, we sipped tea and munched on cereal bars – and then Andy found a KitKat in his rucksack, an Easter leftover, and we tucked into that too before cycling home and parting company at the top of Sline's Oak Road.

Needless to say, the bikes now looked like mountain bikes and were caked in mud (see pic to right of my bike). All the way home our tyres flicked mud at us as if to say thanks for setting them free from the roads. Later that day, after a spot of gardening and cooking, I hosed mine down in preparation for a visit to the cycle shop and a much-needed servicing.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

To the church in Godstone, via Gangers Hill and a bit of mud

After yesterday's depressing non-starter of a day, we were up and ready at Warlingham Green this morning and looking forward to a trip to the church, St Nicholas's of Godstone (pictured below). Like yesterday, there was rain, plenty of it, and by the time we crossed the A22 and then the A25 we were wet, but it was well worth it. The covered gateway to the church was a million times better than the Tatsfield Bus Stop and the view far more picturesque.

It was, of course, Easter Sunday and there were a few people up early and wearing their Sunday Best passing through the churchyard. Whether they'd attended a service or not was unclear, but they were all togged out and smart-looking so we assumed they were doing something church-like. Across the road was Church House and an alleyway running down its right hand side which, had we followed it, would have taken us past Bay Pond, a seemingly large pond, en route to Godstone Village proper.

This morning we tackled the big 'why are we here?' sort of questions and that whole issue of what contains space and what contains the container that contains space? I said that eventually, pondering such high brow stuff must drive you crazy. so we moved on to religion and the whole thing about it being a form of social control. We got on to the subject of being a member of the clergy and how, instead of a company car, you get a company house (the vicarage).
Not bad, especially if you're Church of England as that means you're not banned from shagging, thanks to good old Henry VIII, who had six wives.

What was rather odd was a war memorial (pictured left) in the churchyard. It said the Great War was 1914 to 1919 and not 1918 so whether, all those years ago, somebody made an irreparable mistake on on the monument or all the history books have got it wrong, I don't know and nor does anybody else. One friendly couple stopped to pass some time with us. The man asked what had happened to mudguards as he noticed how wet and muddy we were. I pointed out that Andy's bike did have mudguards and that mine was how I'd bought it – without mudguards. What's a bit of rain and mud among friends, I thought? My bike would look naff with mudguards, it's a dirt jumper.

Everybody that passed us said hello or good morning or made some comment on the weather, this was a friendly sort of place, but after two cups of tea and a cereal bar, we had to be on our way, back up the hill. The rain had stopped but it was a bit wet. Jon had called as we were sipping our tea: he was at home, sipping tea in the warmth while we were out in the open air, wet and muddy and preparing to tackle the hill.

Andy had been dying to try out some of the off-road paths but I had been reluctant because of the rain. I knew that it would be thick mud and we'd end up walking and sure enough, that's just what happened. We took a track off of Flower Lane, just inside the M25 and within yards we were pushing our bikes up a fairly steep and muddy incline, emerging on Gangers Hill at Hanging Wood Farm. Andy found some more off-road tracks, but I stayed on the tarmac and we met up at Marden Wood where there was a map that sketched out what looked like a complete off-road wooded circuit. We resolved to have a go tomorrow (Bank Holiday Monday) and then cycled home along the Northdown Road, through Woldingham and parting company at the top of Slines Oak Road.

Things to bear in mind for future trips down Gangers Hill

1. Bay Pond. On the map it looks huge, it's down the alley from Church House opposite St Nicholas' Church in Godstone and would bring us out in down town Godstone.
2. Another route. There is another track on the other side of the churchyard which, if followed, leads us down to three large lakes and a wood. The path continues under the A22 and then through open country towards Tandridge where we could pick up Jackass Lane, cycle east for a short while on the A25 and then hang a left up Tandridge Hill Lane, over the M25 and then rejoin Gangers Hill.
3. To Hurst Green and on towards Westerham. There is a route, similar to 2. but instead of turning left up Tandridge Lane and left into Jackass Lane,  we continue off-road and end up in Hurst Green. In fact, there is a way of travelling through woodland and along off-road tracks all the way to Westerham where there are clearly defined – and probably quite decent tracks – through extensive woodland, bringing us out in Central Westerham where we could go back our conventional way. Quite a hike, but I reckon it'd be worthwhile.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A depressing start to the cycling weekend...

Well, I can understand Andy not being too happy this morning. In fact, as I write this, he is riding home to Caterham from Warlingham Green in the rain, having stood in the rain for about 25 minutes longer than normal waiting for yours truly to arrive.

The annoying thing is that I was up early, I'd pumped up the slow puncture and set off way within time to be at the Green around 0720, but, as I climbed up Church Way, the front tyre began to wobble and I realised that what was a slow puncture had suddenly become a fast one: the tyre was flat.

To make matters worst, my mobile was displaying a 'no service' sign, which meant that I couldn't call Andy to explain the delay. There were no phone boxes so I had to return home to use the landline and then fix the puncture.

While fixing the puncture, down came the rain and I know for a fact that there's no cover at the Green, so when I called, having fixed the puncture, let's just say that Andy was a little abrupt. I think I heard something about standing around in the fucking rain followed by a quick 'see ya' and the phone went dead.

To be honest, though, it would have been pointless going out. By the time I'd reached the Green, soaking wet, Andy would have been wetter and we'd probably have decided not to bother going any further. Right now, we'd both be on our way back home in the rain.

Still, there's always tomorrow, mind you, now that I've finished writing (at 0810) it seems to be brightening up. Hold on, though, nope, it's still raining. Mind you, it's the Easter weekend, which means shit weather all round. I wonder if we'll get out at all. Having said that, if it does clear, I'm going out.