Monday, 1 May 2017

In the woods...

It was looking as if a touch of the 'same old, same old' would be the order of the day. We met on the green and headed towards Botley Hill and, should the fancy have taken us, a ride to Westerham, or even the lake, was on the cards. Although, as Andy remarked as we rode along, whenever we do go to the lake, it's normally alone. He's right. When we ride alone it's a case of all or virtually nothing: a quick ride around the block just to say we'd been out, or one of those rides that starts off small but ends up huge, and normally 'huge' means a solo trip to the lake. We've all done it and Andy did it on Saturday. It's a great feeling.

Bikes in the wood... pic by Andy Smith
On Sunday, my solo ride was a six-miler (12 miles in total) to mum's where a chunk of wedding cake (dark, fruity, fantastic) and a mug of tea awaited me, followed by a brief look at the garden before heading home again.

The ride back from mum's took in some off-roading close to Woodmansterne Green. Emerging from the bushes, I turned left on to the Croydon Road and picked up some more off-road tracks as I rode towards Purley.

This morning as we rode along the Limpsfield Road, the weather threatening to rain, it was decided to head the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, but when we both spotted an interesting off-road track veering away from Church Lane our plans changed. The path in question shimmered a gaslight blue with scented bluebells lining either side of the trail. It was magical. We followed the path and it seemed never-ending. As we rode deeper into the woods, the bluebells stayed with us as we chose other tracks at random that seemed to keep us off-road until, eventually, we were back on Church Lane and only a few yards from where we had entered the woods. For a moment we thought our off-road adventure had ended, but then I saw a sign for Ledgers Wood and followed it into a mysterious world of more bluebells and the chilled sound of birdsong.

Bluebells in the woods....
Ledgers Wood was big and eventually opened out into fields. We followed a track that circumnavigated the field and took us back to a wider track that led us out to a narrow lane. We followed the lane to a field with a bench, which was damp from overnight rain, but we sat on our gloves and enjoyed tea and Belvita biscuits watching a group of joggers (three fat women of debatable age) and a man on a mobile phone, newspaper under arm, with dog of wolf-like proportions.

While in the woods we had some idea of where we might be, we were both disoriented in terms of where we were headed. At one point in the woods I reached for the compass on my iphone and the choice was either to ride East of West. We chose the former, although now I'm wondering whether the latter might have kept us off-road for longer. Another day, perhaps. Heading East had been the right decision and it was odd to realise that we had spent a long time cycling off-road but hadn't really moved too far beyond Warlingham Green, from where we had started.

Tea finished, biscuits eaten, we mounted our bikes and followed a roadside track towards the Harrow public house. We continued towards a mini roundabout where we hung a right and followed the road to the green where we parted company.

The Rockhopper in Ledgers Wood...
It was a good ride and, more to the point, a new ride. How odd, we both thought, that we had been riding for almost 10 years, every weekend, and had passed the track we took earlier virtually every weekend, but hadn't taken it before. Likewise Ledgers Wood. I'd seen it on maps before and we'd skirted around it, but hadn't thought about taking any of the tracks that run through it. The great thing about this new ride, apart from the fact that it was new, was that we did a lot of riding off-road and seemingly in the wilderness, but were only a short distance from the green. It goes without saying that we'll be doing it again.

There was, however, a big problem. My Rockhopper was covered in mud. It would need a jolly good clean, I thought as I surveyed its muddy frame. Andy was glad to see a bit of dirt on my bike (I'm not sure he likes being the only one with a bike covered in dried mud). Well, not for long. While it did start to rain as I made my way along Limpsfield Road towards Sanderstead – stopping once to see if the garage next to Waitrose had a jet cleaner – I reached home and immediately filled an old plastic bowl with warm water and a dash of washing up liquid. Then I braved the elements, wheeled the bike into the back garden and set about giving it good clean. I got through three bowls of water and then, after drying the bike down, I oiled the chain. It's as good as new now and is safely padlocked in the garage ready for my next ride.

Woods near Woodmansterne yesterday...

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