Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Lord Chatham's ride: a big disappointment

Having studied my maps and discovered Lord Chatham's Ride, I've been champing at the bit for some time, fired up with the thought of experiencing what looks like a great ride through the woods. So, while I've had a couple of false starts over the past few weeks, yesterday (Saturday) I took the plunge after a pretty piss poor week, managing to miss my target of a respectable 70 miles by around three miles. I even considered going out and doing one lap of the Norfolk Nobbler just to knock me across the line, but then I thought no, what's the point? Just accept you've not been as fortunate this week when compared to last and crack on. The chances are that next week's rides will be good as the bank holiday Monday gives me the chance to get out there on a day when I would normally be going to work. In other words, I reckon I'll make the 80-mile marker at the end of the coming week, who knows?

Will I find Lord Chatham's Ride?
It's important to point out that while I didn't cycle until Friday (giving me a Sunday/Friday/Saturday scenario that totalled just over 67 miles) I did engage in other forms of exercise, namely walking, which is really exhausting. I was clocking up five miles per day, so 15 in total between Monday and Wednesday. On Thursday, rather than ride the Washpond Weeble (which was the plan) I mowed the lawn with my new Mountfield Princess 42-inch Rotary Mower (with rear roller). The grass looks amazing and once again I must take my hat off to my dear old dad, God rest his soul, for telling me once, many years ago, that my garden was my gym; he was right, it gave me a good work-out on Thursday afternoon as I mowed the front and back lawns and got the shears out to trim the edges, and don't forget, the grass hadn't been cut for a while so I was up and down the lawn like a yo-yo. I tell you what, though, it looks fantastic and afterwards I was whacked out. So, walking, lawn mowing and then on Friday a Washpond Weeble - during which I spotted some weird-looking stuffed scarecrows - saw me in reasonable shape for Saturday's ride.

This ain't Lord Chatham's Ride...
I left the house at 0905hrs and there was no rain, it was warm and fairly bright, although cooler than of late to be fair. I followed the slow way route to Westerham, along Beddlestead Lane, and then down Clarks Lane, but not riding down the hill towards Pilgrims Lane as usual. I had to go via Knockholt. Andy and my only recollection of riding to Knockholt (in pre-blog days, pre-2009) was driving rain and a punishing hill as we followed Sundridge Lane to Main Road, having riden along Pilgrims Lane from the bottom of Clarks Lane as it turns towards Westerham. There is only a village hall and a general stores in Knockholt. Oddly, the last time I was there (a couple of weeks ago, alone) there was more driving rain and I was soaked through, with only a Snickers bar and bottle of mineral water to keep me company. I remember standing in the pouring rain munching on the Snickers bar (I prefer to call them Marathon bars). While it was raining hard (and didn't really stop) it wasn't cold so it was little bother. Somewhere along the line I've digressed and lost my thread, all I'm really trying to say is that there's no need to encounter hills on a ride to Knockholt from where I live; not if I follow the wooded road that leads to the Park Wood Golf Course from close to the Tatsfield churchyard and then take the left fork and follow it until it meets Westerham Hill. I then cross the road and follow Grays Road or Grays Lane, can't remember it's exact name, towards the beginning of Main Road and then I kind of roll into town, well, Knockholt. 

...nor is this
Unfortunately, there's no caff in Knockholt or Knockholt Pound, for that matter, although they are really one and the same, but it's in the latter that I found Chevening Lane. I knew it would lead me to Lord Chatham's Ride, but I was to be disappointed. Chevening Lane was a No Through Road and for good reason: at the end of it there was Chevening House which, if I recall, is the country seat of the Foreign Secretary (currently Dominic Raab). So when I reached the end of the road where I was expecting to find a big sign proclaiming (in neon lights) 'Lord Chatham's Ride', all I found was a gate saying 'private, no entry' or words to that effect. It was very disappointing as I was hoping I'd have a story to tell Andy, but it wasn't to be. There was, however, a footpath that was probably not open to cyclists as it proved very hard to get the bike through the initial gate (and subsequent gates). Once through I was initially riding on a track with corn fields on one side and woods on the other. I met a few walkers on the way, none of whom seem bothered by my presence. Could this be the way to Lord Chatham's Ride? No, but it was the beginning of a complex network of bumpy, root-laden tracks through thick, dark woods. Some of the tracks were dead ends and others led me round in circles. The bike took a bit of a beating if I'm honest and eventually, fed up with the whole thing and realising that if Lord Chatham's Ride existed at all it was behind the locked gates and within the grounds of Chevening House, I decided to give up, which wasn't easy. There was a tall metal gate that I heaved my bike over, but I had to leave it hanging by it's front wheel until I used the adjoining walkers' gate to escape the depressing wood. I unhooked the bike from the larger gate and rode into Knockholt for a second time (why I don't know) and decided - after considering a further two-mile ride into Dunton Green - to go home instead. I had contemplated Bojangles for tea and cake, but the misery of not being able to tackle Lord Chatham's ride had depressed me somewhat and I preferred the idea of just going home and forgetting about it. 

Escaping the woods!

Tea and cake at Sheree's Tearoom made things a lot better

Instead of retracing my steps along the private road that led to the Park Wood Golf Club, I followed road signs on a parallel road to Tatsfield and found myself on a hilly up and down country lane that plonked me bang in the centre of the village, which was bustling with cyclists and villagers. Andy and I are normally in the village early in the morning, back in the day, sitting inside the wooden bus shelter munching biscuits and drinking tea from a flask. Sheree's Tearoom is normally closed, but now, at around noon, it was busy with cyclists some of whom sat on the wooden tables on the green while others sat outside the tearoom, their bikes parked in front of it. It all seemed very agreeable so I stopped for tea and lemon cake and sat at a wooden table overlooking the lake. I phoned home to let them know where I was and then, after eating the cake and drinking the tea I rode out of Tatsfield following the usual route towards Botley Hill, but turned left on to The Ridge and followed the road into Woldingham, not looking forward to the steep but manageable hill at the far end of Slines Oak Road. I was home around 1300hrs.

One of many sinister roadside figures
On Friday, incidentally, I managed a Washpond Weeble in the morning, leaving the house at 1037hrs and getting home just before noon. I had made a snap decision to take the day off and that meant I could get the ride out of the way early and not feel tired and weary and demotivated, as I tend to feel around 4pm when a ride looms. I'm not saying I don't like cycling (I love it) but the Washpond Weeble, while pleasant, is a fitness ride, not so much a leisure ride (like riding to Westerham to meet Andy). While out I noticed that some people had made these strangely sinister stuffed figures and left them outside their houses or in fields. It was like something out of a horror movie (see photos for evidence).

Why was the road closed? Flytippers, that's why. But bikes not affected.

The Washpond Weeble is far better than doing the Norfolk Nobbler, which is restricted to suburban streets, but that extra 2.5 miles often makes me think (certainly if it's late in the day) that perhaps I'll just do five miles or, better still, nothing whatsover; instead I'll take a drive to Oxted and have a Millionaire's Shortbread in Caffe Nero or Costa. There's nothing worse than feeling tired and weary because it lurches towards despairing, feeling pointless and trapped and worthless and when I feel like that the last thing I want to do is jump on the bike. Ironically, however, jumping on the bike and riding for roughly one hour cures me so it's worth pushing myself when feeling down and getting out there.

Dunton Green? No, I'll go home...
And now it's bank holiday Monday and while it's looking a little overcast outside and I remember hearing heavy winds last night while I lay in bed, there doesn't appear to be any sign of rain, which is good as Andy and I are meeting again at Westerham and it's all seriously good news for this coming week's mileage. Yes, I missed my respectable 70 miles last week, but with today's ride I'm a good position to push things into the 90 miles bracket, and one more Westerham would take me over 100 miles, so here's hoping.

It's now Tuesday evening and I'm contemplating riding to work tomorrow. I don't know why I'm thinking about it because it ain't going to happen. I've yet to kick myself into gear on cycling to work and soon the clocks will go back, the nights will draw in and the time available to go cycling will be limited, which is very depressing. Winter will be winging it's way and soon there will be cheap tinsel Christmas trees in shop windows and people will be counting the shopping days until Christmas and all the greedy bastards will be ordering huge turkeys from the supermarket and stockpiling Paxo and then toilet rolls when it becomes obvious that Boris Johnson's gamble with the public's health was just that, a gamble. We'll all be in lockdown again and our mop-topped nutter of a Prime Minister will be stuttering out his excuses to a gullible public who will quite happily vote the nutter into office for another five years, whenever the next General Election is due. It's a long way off, but that makes it all even more depressing.

A view of Tatsfield pond while munching lemon cake and drinking tea

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