Sunday, 31 July 2016

The last of the short rides to Botley Hill...

Botley Hill, Sunday morning. Photo: Andy Smith
Fortunately, today, Sunday, represents the last of the short rides to Botley Hill. Last week, as avid readers will know, I rode to Botley Hill twice, early, as I had stuff to do during the day that required me being back at the house before 0930hrs. Alright, once in a while it's fine, but it's nice to ride a little further – to the churchyard or the village or even Westerham, not to mention the lakes, although we haven't been along Pilgrim's Lane for a long while.

It was just Andy and I today – and for good reason. Phil was in Sardinia embarking upon day two of his honeymoon. On Friday just past (29th July) Phil married Jane and now, as husband and wife, they're probably soaking up a few rays of Sardinian sunshine.

Both Andy and I and our respective other halves attended the wedding at the splendid Wiston House near Steyning in West Sussex. It was a great day in so many ways – decent weather for a start, great food and, of course, great company.

Wiston House has to be seen to be believed. It's an amazing place surrounded by beautiful grounds and it even has it's own church, although the wedding was a civil ceremony, and I gave a reading at the beginning and managed to finish it without any hiccups, which is always good news and fortunately, is generally the case.

The Kona Scrap at Botley Hill

The weather wasn't supposed to be as good as it was. During the week Phil had been watching the forecast and was concerned that there might be rain, but there was nothing but hazy, English summer sunshine throughout the day and into the early evening.

There's accommodation at Wiston House some of us stayed over and had the pleasure of continued decent weather the following morning. After breakfast – and having said our goodbyes – we took a stroll around the grounds and then headed south to Shoreham, the plan being to take a look at the place before driving home, but there was a sudden (and prolonged) downpour of rain, which prompted us to find the A23 and drive home. The rain stopped as soon as we moved away from the coast and the good weather continued for the whole of Saturday.

Sunday was the same. I left the house for Botley Hill around 0635hrs and was quite surprised to find the temperature a bit nippy. So nippy that I considered returning to the house to pick up the rust-coloured jacket, but decided instead to push ahead along Ellenbridge, up Elmfield and, ultimately, up Church Way.

Like last week I was cycling alone, leaving the house earlier and meeting Andy at Botley Hill. This was to save time and to ensure that I was back home before 0930hrs (I got home around 0906hrs). Thinking about it, however, it was pointless leaving earlier as I met Andy, who left at the usual time and we both headed home at the same time, so why I pushed the envelope and left early I'll never know. I think it made me feel more comfortable in myself in the sense of getting there early, being there when Andy arrived and then seemingly have greater control over the time we headed back. Whatever the reason, I don't have to do it again.

A fine morning at Botley Hill...
The weather warmed up as I rode along the Limpsfield Road, past Warlingham Green, then Warlingham Sainsbury's and, of course, Knight's Garden Centre. From then onwards the 269 was very quiet and there was hardly anybody around as I rode towards Botley Hill. I arrived at just gone 0730hrs, quite early, and parked the bike. I took off my crash helmet and paced up and down, partly to warm up as my back was cold. That might sound odd, but having had my rucksack pressing against me for the duration of the ride, the sweat cooled and I found myself feeling a little chilly.

The sun was up and the skies were blue and, like last week, there was a paraglider in the skies. A motorised paraglider who had taken off from a nearby field and was now buzzing around above me taking in the same scenery he took in last week. Wasn't he bored? Soon Andy arrived, from a different direction than last week. Instead of following the tried and tested route, he came from The Ridge and was riding his racer. Today, he told me, was Ride London.

Out came the tea and biscuits and Andy and I talked about Friday's wedding and Wiston House, which had impressed us both. Then we moved on, for some reason, to winning the lottery. I said if I won millions I'd buy a house on the beach, nothing the size of Wiston House, but probably something with five or six bedrooms and a decent sea view. That said, I'm quite happy where I am and what about the cycling? If I lived on the South Coast I wouldn't be riding to the Tatsfield Bus Stop or the village or the churchyard. I wouldn't be riding to Westerham or the lakes, but I guess I'd find other places to visit on the bike, like Arundel and Littlehampton and Pagham beach, which is always a little desolate. I'd probably give up work and travel a lot. I might have a place in Italy and I'd let my pals visit rent-free and I'd probably spend a lot of time out of the country, on holiday.

It was soon time to ride home and there was still a mildy cool breeze as we headed down the 269. It made me wish I'd worn that rusty old jacket. Andy and I parted company at the green and I headed home on the Limpsfield Road, getting home, as I said, around 0906hrs.

Later I went to mum's and sat in the garden eating fruit cake and drinking tea. Being round at mum's always reminds me of when I was a kid and dad was alive, reading his newspaper and smoking his Three Castles cigarettes in the sunshine.

During the summer months mum's garden is completely secluded, which is great. But the sound of mowers and radios in adjacent gardens and the occasional train travelling from Carshalton to Sutton or vice versa can't be shut out – not that I've ever shunned the sounds of trains and radios and neighbours mowing their lawns.

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