Sunday, 28 April 2013

Rain and shine – at Botley Hill and Westerham

Major General James Wolfe was born in Westerham.
There's nothing more depressing than the small, shaded car park just beyond Botley Hill at the top of the Titsey Estate. For a start, whenever we're there, it's raining and there are always little muddy puddles of rainwater and a litter bin to stare at as we try to shelter from the rain. It's a miserable place and it's always on the agenda when either of us need to get back home quickly for some reason. At the moment, it's me. My Saturday ride is severely curtailed for a few weeks (until July) because of an early morning commitment back home. It's one of those 'is it even worth going' scenarios, but it's always worth going; the thought of cutting rides back to just one a week is out of the question especially as sooner rather than later, one ride a week would become the norm and then suddenly, when I suggest that I'm going out on a Saturday, noses will be turned up. So, no, I have to get out there, even if it's just a ride to the Green and back.

Yours truly on Westerham Green
All this week the weather has been wonderful. It reached 22 degrees mid-week, which is not unheard of at this time of year – but then again, nor is snow and rain and April's had them all this year. With the sun shining and the skies blue, it was depressing to wake up on Saturday morning to fine grey clouds and spitting rain, that later developed into full-blown rain. It was cold too. There's nothing worse than raindrops hanging from the rim of the helmet (if you'll excuse the phrase); it makes you feel wetter than you actually are – and that was how I was feeling as I made my way up the 269 towards that depressing car park with its muddy puddles and it's litter bin.
"Come and join us on a ride"

Andy and I stood there drinking tea and munching cereal bars and then, basically, we jumped on the bikes and headed home again. We'd met at the Green at 7am, not 7.30am, in order to make the tea drinking bit a little less rushed and to give me enough time for a leisurely rather than a hurried ride.

We parted halfway along the 269 and met again on Sunday, early, to ride somewhere a little further away. Various destinations were discussed: the Titsey off-road ride, which we hadn't riden since February 2012, Longford Lake, Merstham...but we settled for Westerham.

Compared with Saturday, Sunday was lovely. Blue skies and sunshine, but it wasn't that warm. There was a frost on the ground and while the sun was shining, any wind generated by cycling was cold. I noticed that the trees were still, meaning there was no real wind, just that created by our own movement. It warmed up slightly as we made our way past the Tatsfield Bus Stop, but on the hill down to Westerham, the air was still cold and mildly unpleasant.
Oh! Such a bargain! Not!

Westerham is a pleasant place on a sunny morning and we arrived at 8am – enough time to enjoy a break and a chat as we watched the town slowly wake up and chatted about Rob Lilwall's Cycling Home from Siberia among other things.

We joked about how nobody ever joins us for a ride. One of the panels on the right hand side of this blog invites those reading it to 'join us on a ride' but nobody ever does. We started fantasising about how 'joining us on a ride' could develop into a huge cycling festival with hundreds of riders basking in the early morning side on Westerham Green. Sticking with silly fantasies, we both noted with interest that our bike shop – the former Barclays Bank that used to stand in the middle of the high street but had been advertised to lease for many, many months – was still vacant. Some years ago we'd had an idea for a bike shop and caff slap bang in the middle of the High Street – not a bad idea considering the amount of tourists and cyclists you get in Westerham during the summer. But we're both too risk averse, understandably in these troubled economic times.

It was hard to come up with an image of Westerham that we hadn't taken before and thinking one up delayed our return trip for a few minutes, but I decided that the statue of Major General James Wolfe, who was born in Westerham and died at the Battle of Quebec, was the best bet – that and a self portrait. Andy took a shot of the benches, vacant and ready for other cyclists who might 'join us on a ride'.

Jon rang as we sipped tea on the green. He was at Woodmansterne Green. Now there's somewhere we haven't been for a while.

I'm never keen on the ride back from Westerham as it's uphill all the way to that miserable car park I mentioned earlier. But these things have to be done so off we went and then, halfway along the 269 we said goodbye and vowed to meet again next weekend

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