|The tunnel under the M25, but would you sleep rough here?|
|Should we even be here?|
Andy suggested the Titsey ride and it was good to be doing it again. The last time was February 2012. I'll always remember it because there were deep puddles and mud and, like today, we sat in the churchyard sipping tea. The last time we were here was when I injured my foot – through walking too far in the wrong kind of shoes. I remember being convinced (wrongly) that I'd been wearing wrong-sized shoes. I hadn't been, but back then I thought so and it just so happened that a size eight shoe, a wide-fitting pair of shoes, fit me perfectly. I'm not a size eight. I'm a size ten. Size 44. I'm wearing a pair now, as I write this post. In fact, the shoes I'm wearing now are the shoes I was wearing a year ago when I was walking around Crawley in West Sussex. It wasn't the shoe size. It was the fact that I was wearing 'office style' shoes on long walks. I should have been wearing trainers or walking boots.
|Another day, another churchyard – this one in Limpsfield.|
Anyway, that was over a year ago. The ride towards Botley Hill was fantastic; I love it when the steepish incline is over and done with and the view opens up a little as we head towards the pub, fields on either side of us and, at such an early hour, little in the way of traffic – just the odd airliner in the distance landing at Gatwick Airport. Just past Botley, we headed towards the Titsey Estate gate, which was open, and headed on downhill, and off-road. We stopped halfway to take a photo of my bike next to a 'no cycling' sign, but, as Andy pointed out, the sign was for the routes to our left and right, not the rocky trail we were already riding on.
We cycled all the way down and there were woods on either side of us; and then, through a farm gate and on towards a short tunnel under the M25 where we stopped again to take more photographs. For some reason, I always have this strange desire to camp, to sleep rough, and I was looking at the tunnel and thinking: no, not a good place to camp the night (if we had to). Andy said it wouldn't be good if there was a wind howling through it. I said it was too exposed and by that I meant that it was a route others might take and, therefore, not safe. Far better, to camp in the undergrowth, out of sight. Why do I think up all this rubbish? There's no way that I'm going to camp in the woods, no situation that might arise where I might find myself in a position where the decision to sleep rough would have to be made and, of course, no reason in hell why I would ever set off with a tent on my back.
|The Kona in the Limpsfield churchyard. Pic by Andy.|
We carried on to the end of the track, emerging on the road and crossing it to where another track would lead us towards Limpsfield, past some rather grandioise houses and out into a quiet and deserted 'high street', if you can call it that. It consisted of a Post Office and a few other shops, including a fancy dress outfitter, all of which were closed. There's a nice restaurant, a pub and a bookshop, but it was too early for any of them to be open and besides, it was Sunday.
We rode towards the A25 and then turned back and headed for the churchyard where we found a bench and sat drinking tea and munching cereal bars. It's amazing how things change in life. When I was a kid I was frightened of graveyards, but today I find them peaceful places where nothing but birdsong disturbs the tranquility. We sat there contemplating nothing in particular. And then I started again – thinking to myself this time – about sleeping rough and whether I'd be happy sleeping in a graveyard without spooking myself. The answer was yes, of course. Remember, the living are scarier than the dead – as somebody once said.
I used to know someone who slept in a churchyard in Sutton, Surrey, and the only reason he slept there, with a few others – down-and-outs like churchyards – was because a friend of his (and mine) had died in the flat they shared and the whole thing had spooked him a bit. But why, I remember thinking at the time when I heard he was sleeping rough in a graveyard, why sleep surrounded by dead people? Surely that would be even spookier for somebody who had witnessed the death of his flatmate. Graveyards are, by definition, full of dead people and choc-a-bloc with reminders of death – headstones, epitaphs, wreaths and flowers.
For me, though, the churchyard in Limpsfield – and the Tatsfield Churchyard – are nothing but havens of peace, places of contemplation and somewhere to recharge the battery before riding home. Alright, perhaps a reminder of one's own mortality, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
We headed home and faced Titsey Hill, a 16% incline leading to the top of the Titsey Estate and that dreary old car park with muddy puddles near Botley Hill that I mentioned a few posts back. It took about 15 minutes of hard graft in a low gear to reach the top. The key was not to look ahead but to 'knuckle down' and keep pedalling until we reached the top. Eventually we got there.
One thing I love about meeting at 7am is that it's still relatively early when we hit the home straight. Andy and I parted company half way along the 269 and vowed to meet again tomorrow – Bank Holiday Monday. I carried on along the road, feeling quite energised as I reached Warlingham Green and headed towards Hamsey and then Sanderstead High Street. It was only 9.45am when I looked up at the church clock and headed down Church Way. I sailed down the hill, with no hands on the bars, and then put them on smartly as the T-junction with Morley Road approached. I hung a left into Morley, a right into Elmfield, a left into Southcote and a right into Ellenbridge.
|One of many sculptures to be found in Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst.|
A hearty breakfast followed: porridge, bread and marmalade, a boiled egg and fingers plus a cup of tea. Lovely. Then we headed out in the car with the mother-in-law, to a very pleasant place called Pashley Gardens in Ticehurst in Sussex.
I loved the gift shop and the gardens and, of course, the sculptures that were dotted around the grounds.
We had a picnic of sandwiches and samosas, prepared by the mother-in-law. All in all, a perfect day.