|Longford Lake around 9am, Sunday 7th April 2013 – absolutely wonderful.|
|Enjoying a much-needed cup of tea.|
And then I remembered that my phone was off, so I switched it on and, lo and behold, a message. Andy wasn't feeling too good. He had a headache that he couldn't shake off and was aborting the ride. I wasn't sure when the message had arrived – the night before or earlier this morning – but I had to avoid a situation where the other guys discovered that Andy wasn't coming and invited me to join them for some gung ho! cycling.
|A frame through the frame|
I was feeling good and cycling came easy to me, even the incline on the 269, which ends at the lonely bus stop and the road and the scenery opens up a bit. It's always at this point that I feel glad to be out on the bike. When I'd received Andy's text back at the green, there was a temptation to cycle up to Warlingham Sainsbury's and then simply return home, but no, Westerham was on the cards and I started to look forward to my tea, but, sadly, no cereal bar.
|The trees are still bare...|
So, with memories of yesterday's exertions still fresh in my mind, I headed along Clarks Lane towards Westerham thinking that I deserved to stay out longer than normal and get a good ride in. Why not head towards Chevening Church along Pilgrim's Lane? It seemed like a great plan so, instead of riding the length of the downward stretch towards Westerham – which can be cold when the wind hits home – I branched left and continued east along Pilgrim's Lane. I hadn't been this way for a long time, the last time being in either 2011 or, at best, 2012 when Andy and I rode out early and sat in the churchyard doing what we do best – sipping tea and munching cereal bars. Click here for details.
Pilgrim's Lane was peaceful. While the hedgerows were still bare and the fields newly ploughed, it was glorious to be out there with emptiness on either side of the road, the occasional Lycra monkey riding the other way. At points I was totally alone with seemingly nobody around for miles and empty fields to the left and right. I reached Sundridge Lane and turned right, following the road down towards the M25 and then veering left and riding parallel to what Chris Rea once referred to as 'the road to hell'.
|I stopped here for a much-needed pee.|
As I rode towards the Chevening Church turn-off I decided to head instead for Longford Lake in Chipstead Village. I turned right, not left and rode over the motorway towards the village and the lake. When I reached the lakeside, the tranquillity hit me; it was wonderful. The most amazing thing was the solitude. There was nobody around, the trees were bare, the lake was so still it could have been a huge mirror and all that could be heard was the chirping of the birds in the trees and bushes.
I parked the Kona against a tree and sat on one of the benches that looked out on to the lake. It was time for tea and relaxation and I begun to wish I'd bought my book, Rob Lilwall's Cycling Home from Siberia, an amazing book about his journey from Siberia to England via Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong Indonesia, Australia and many other places, like Iran and Afghanistan. But I hadn't brought it with me and besides, with such solitude, such peace and quiet and such views, who needed a book?
After three cups of tea I was in need of a pee, but there was nowhere to go as now there were dog walkers coming from all directions. I'd have to wait. I sat on the bench for half an hour and reluctantly headed for home at 0935hrs. I was still in the right frame of mind for cycling and realised that I could have cycled all day if I had to, which got me thinking about riding John O' Groats to Lands End or Land's End to John O' Groats – what Mike Carter in his book One Man & His Bike calls Jogle and LeJog. I rode along the Chevening Road, back over the motorway and then turned left towards Sundridge, turning right further along the road and heading for Pilgrim's Lane instead of riding back over the motorway and into Sundridge.
|I was somewhere on this map, but don't ask me where.|
There were two horses in front of me when I reached Pilgrim's Lane and I had to overtake them, but all was well. I'm always wary of horses as I never know how they're going to react to my bike, but these two seemed fine and all I could hear after passing them was the clippety clop of their hooves, which seemed to get quieter and quieter the more I pedalled away from them – quite understandable really as I was getting further away from them – but they must have gone a different way as they never caught up with me. At one stage I had a strange thought: that if I turned around there wouldn't be horses, but a solitary man with a couple of coconut shells making the clipetty clop noises on the tarmac.
I found a place for a wee and, suitably relieved, carried on cycling along Pilgrim's Lane until I reached the hill that would take me to the top of Clarks Lane and the Surrey Hills totem pole that indicates the end of the hill – exactly an hour after leaving Longford Lake. This, I figured, was going to be a long one. I estimated arriving home at around 1100hrs, but it was 1125hrs when I eventually rolled up.
The 269 was relatively peaceful and I rode triumphantly into Warlingham, circling the Green and heading towards Hamsey and then Sanderstead. What a great ride, I thought, as I reached the Gruffy and Sanderstead Pond, which earlier had a thin film of ice covering its surface. I sailed down Church Lane, wove my way down Elmfield Way, turning left into Southcote, right onto Ellenbridge, then another right on Barnfield and home. Time to mow the lawn, but not before two ham rolls, a hot cross bun and a mug of tea.
You know when you get that lovely tired feeling when you're eyes feel heavy and you could just drift off to sleep anywhere? After mowing the lawn and drinking another bottle of Budvar Dark – I had two of them – that was how I was feeling. Wonderful.