Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Westerham revival...

Wednesday 8 June: When we first set out on our bikes back in the late summer of 2006 after that famous curry in Whyteleafe, Andy and I rode to Westerham in Kent. It was our default cycle for many months before one of us decided to suggest that other routes might be worth trying. Okay, we had our short ride to Botley Hill where we stood by the roundabout sipping tea, but that was really it.

Matt (left) and Andy at Churchill's statue, Westerham, Kent, June 4th 2011.
We did eventually get round to new routes – the Tatsfield bus stop, Tatsfield Village, occassional rides over Biggin Hill way, Godstone Green, Merstham, Redhill and Boxhill – and, in a sense, we totally ignored Westerham. Yes, we rode down there occasionally, but invariably we found that Tatsfield became a regular haunt, be it the newly discovered churchyard, the bus stop or the village.

Westerham, of course, has always been an ideal ride, not only because there was always some kind of buzz going on when we arrived – teashops opening, fetes being erected, people milling about, shops open – but because the distance itself (and the ride in general) was good. It's a good 22-mile round trip and the hill coming out of Westerham (in the early days) was always a little daunting. In fact, I remember the days when I used to warn Andy about the hill as we approached it. Today, of course, there's no need.

Last weekend we went to Westerham on the Saturday and as we rode down there, we discussed how the hill coming back was now nothing in terms of effort compared with the old days. In fact, Westerham is an easy ride these days and takes me only 55 minutes to get there from my house (although I distinctly remember doing it once in 52 minutes). That aside, our fitness levels have, of course, improved, although getting there in under an hour is still quite surprising for some reason.

We leave Warlingham Green around 0730hrs and 45 minutes later, we're in Westerham. Only last weekend, as the church clock – I'm assuming it's a church clock, but it might be just a clock, albeit a large and noisy one – chimed a quarter past eight, I was mildly surprised that we'd reached this quaint Kent town, home of the great Winston Churchill, at such a healthy time. Andy checked his watch and confirmed that it was only a quarter past eight, time to chill and relax, drink tea and munch cereal bars.

We now sit on the green behind Churchill's statue and, as a recent post on the subject has already mentioned, we've watched as stall holders set up shop for a rotary club fete and we've looked on as a mother and child scoot around Sir Winston on a couple of those stainless steel scooters. This weekend we watched a traffic warden as he took photographs of illegally parked cars. He must be the most hated man in the village, Andy remarked, as the uniformed man with cropped hair emptied one of the parking meters and then threatened to place a parking ticket on a Mini, until it's owner scuttled over and drove off, having been lectured by the warden.

Our bikes resting halfway along The Ridge, Sunday 5th June 2011.
The plan was to visit Westerham on Sunday too, but I was getting a bit of pressure to come home early and cook sausages for breakfast. So, when I arrived at the Green, I suggested to Andy that we go to Tatsfield or somewhere closer to home. We decided to cycle along The Ridge, from Botley Hill, to a small car park half way along the road where there are amazing views of (ahem) the M25. Actually, the view of the entire surrounding area is good: Oxted can be seen clearly as well as the surrounding countryside.

There are two wooden benches on some nettly, brambly grassland and that was where we were headed on Sunday morning. It was a straightfoward ride and all the way there I was thinking about changing my mind and heading to Westerham instead; but I knew that sausages were in the fridge at home and that a speedy return was advisable.

As it turned out, when I reached home at 0930 nobody was in, but the sausages were still in the fridge and so I grilled them and all was fine with the world.

I say 'all was fine with the world', but it's not really. I'm still technically out of work and in need of a job and the recent death of my father hangs heavily in the air. Cycling, however, helps tremendously. I always look forward to meeting Andy at the Green on the weekend and now it's doubly important as it takes my mind off stuff. In so many ways, I don't know what I'd do without our regular weekend rides.

We're both looking forward to the Black Horse Ride next weekend (Sunday 12 June). It's a shorter distance than previous years (35 miles instead of 50) but that's okay with us; and it's a later start too (11am instead of 10am) meaning a later start. Hopefully, there will still be the free pint of Young's at the end and the free burger from the barbecue in the pub garden (that's the best part of the whole day) although this year will be interesting as the route's been changed.

Whether David (our mate with the yellow Harley) will turn out as a marshall, something he's done for the past few years, I don't know, but only time will tell.

The weather's been very good for some time now. Today (Wednesday 8th June as I write this post) it's bright at just gone 8am; yesterday was a bright, sunny day and Monday was rainy, but, as dad would have said, "it's good for the garden." Last weekend was great weatherwise. We've not had a soaking for a while and and long may it continue. Here's praying that decent weather is in place for Sunday's Black Horse Ride as I don't think Andy and I could stomach a repeat performance of the 2009 ride.

Both photos on this post were taken by NVL's resident photographer, Andy Smith.

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