In all honesty we should have gone out. While it was damp and drizzly it wasn't too bad and yes, we might have found ourselves a little damp on reaching our destination – Tatsfield Village – but we could easily handle it. But we decided to abort and in a way I was glad, but I was also unhappy about the decision. The abort decision lingered and nagged at me every time I looked outside and said to myself, "It's damp, yes, there's a very fine rain, yes, but it hardly constitutes an 'abort'".
|Our bikes on Approach Road near Tatsfield Village, 11 December 2016|
On Sunday morning the roads were still damp, but the skies were clear and blue and there were pink clouds, which eventually turned white. While the temperature was mild – very mild – I still wore the balaclava because it insulates me from the elements and I feel kind of protected and warm, which is nice.
I faffed about a lot before leaving the house – looking for batteries for my front light. I sent Andy a text to say I'd be around 10 minutes late. Had I been riding anything other than the Specialized I might have been later, but as soon as I'd left the house I made up a lot of time. I zoomed up Church Way and bombed along the Limpsfield Road. In no time I found myself on the green chatting to Andy. I'll say again: the Rockhopper 29 Sport is a tremendous bike: it really shifts and makes mincemeat out most hills, ideal for the festive season.
We had planned on riding to Westerham, but I don't think our hearts were in it and besides, there would be nothing but damp seats in the Northern Kent market town so we opted for the safe bet offered by Tatsfield Village. We rode there the slow way. The Rockhopper made easy work of Beddlestead Lane and we broke out the tea and biscuits when safely seated under the covered bus stop. Had the old Tatsfield Bus Stop on the Approach Road been repaired, we would have gone there instead, but it wasn't so we found ourselves in the village again.
Andy mentioned the days when we used to ride to Westerham twice in a weekend – a 44-miler, I reminded him – and then we discussed how riding to Westerham isn't as time-consuming as we think it is; it's a lot to do with how much we stand (or sit) around chatting once we get there.
"You think about it; we usually leave the green around seven thirty and we get there around ten past eight, but we don't head home until around nine o'clock," I said, pointing out that if we rode off from Tatsfield now we'd probably meet ourselves coming up Clarks Lane. It was a surreal thought. I was sort of right – except we didn't meet ourselves, that would have been daft – but riding to the village is much shorter than Westerham, the key is just to cut the chat to a minimum and knuckle down for the homeward journey. But I was forgetting one thing: the ordeal of riding out of Westerham.
"It's uphill all way to Botley," Andy reminded me, to which I suggested we should ride to Westerham twice a month, which is roughly every other week.
We rode out of Tatsfield without incident. Earlier, Andy had taken a shot of the bikes resting against some rocks (see above) and now we passed that very point on the Approach Road as we headed out of town. The weather was perfect: not too cold, blue skies and hardly any cloud. We headed for Botley Hill passing yet another Golf on a grass verge, although this one seemed to have broken down.
We turned right at the mini roundabout and headed north, past the Botley Hill pub and along the 269 to the green. Once again the Rockhopper performed well as I slipped it into top gear and roared towards Warlingham, slowing as we passed houses and parked cars and side roads and coming to a stop at the green where Andy and I said goodbye. This would be our last ride until Christmas Eve and then it would be our traditional Boxing Day outing to Woodmansterne Green and following that no more riding until the New Year unless one or both of us slyly edged out on New Year's Day (it has been known).
Christmas Rides from the Past
Boxing Day 2009.
Christmas Eve 2011.
Boxing Day 2012.
Boxing Day 2013.
Boxing Day 2014.
The day after Boxing Day 2015.
I rode along the Limpsfield Road and around Sanderstead Pond where a flock of seagulls had landed. The gulls were chilling with the ducks and moorhens as I passed.
Riding down Church Way I had a go at 'no hands' and managed it all the way to the last sleeping policeman. I turned left on Morley, right on Elmfield, left on Southcote and right on Ellenbridge. Soon I was home where a cup of tea was followed by a hot shower and later a sandwich.