Ride report: Off road to Ockham Bites

Seven riders turned out for today’s ride: Mick Curtis, Bill Kent, Bill Martin, Dave Clarke, Sean Slammon, Adam Domaingue and myself leading. The weather was glorious, with blue skies, very little breeze and the temperature was just right at around 72°F (22°C)

We were anticipating much higher mid-afternoon temperatures and so I wasted no time in setting us off on our way with as direct route as possible. I took a normally empty back route out of Nonsuch Park to keep us in the shade as much as possible, however today it was very busy with dogs walking their owners in the shade to stop them getting grumpy!

Briefly we skirted the Hogsmill River before climbing up through Horton Country Park and across the back of Epsom Common. The A24 at Telegraph Hill (Malden Rushett) was unusually easy to cross, and in no time we were in the lovely and cool Prince’s Coverts with the sun glinting through to tree canopy. The Coverts are excellent this time of year as the ground clay is rock hard and riding is easy. We traversed it without seeing a single soul, which was very unusual.

Yet again, the road junction at Stoke D’Abernon was quiet. Either everyone’s on holiday, or preparing for the forecasted heatwave next week! We passed through Downside, south of Cobham and then climbed up onto Signal Hill, Ockham Common. Some things never change however; the M25 was in its normal slow to stationary condition.

Soon after we ordered our food at Ockham Bites, Barry Gregory arrived to take a look at the Highways Authority exhibition on the three year project to ‘improve’ the A3/M25 junction, which was set up in the car park.

The exhibition was in my opinion very poor. Half a dozen large, poorly detailed ‘artist impressions’ of the new junction with no north/south orientation. A map with so little detail that I think a ten year old could’ve drawn it. I’m cynical about the whole project to save motorists ten minutes with the destruction of mature trees hundreds of years old, and so were the other 200,000 people who signed the petition against it.

Of course the best way to generate no further objections is to hold an exhibition in July and August when most people are on holiday and use poorly drawn maps. It means even those that manage to attend can’t spot any contentious issues to complain about anyway!

The temperature was now getting on for 80°F (27°C) when we started for home. Our route back was what I call “The long way around.” We climbed up and over the A3 and headed west over Wisley Common, down towards Pyford and right onto a bridleway under the M25. This brought us briefly into the southernmost streets of Byfleet before climbing up over the M25 and dropping onto the towpath of the Wey Navigation. The ride along this section was lovely and shaded, and the canal was acting as a great heat-sink keeping the air cool along the way.

After around half an hour we arrived at the ‘Number one lock,’ the entrance to the Thames in the outskirts of Weybridge. Our group of roasting cyclists briefly took to the road at this point to pass boat yards and various other buildings blocking a direct route to the Thames. Thankfully we soon found ourselves back in the shade of mature trees on the Thames towpath. Once again the path was unusually quiet. Had we just gotten used to loads of people out walking during the lockdown, was it due to holiday season, or just everyone’s back doing Saturday things they did before Covid? I wondered, although inwardly I was very happy the path was virtually empty.

We stopped at Walton Bridge to ponder the option of the cafe, but decided to push on for home. Around two miles beyond Walton, Bill Kent headed up towards Hampton Court and Teddington for home and the rest of our group headed towards Thames Ditton. The temperature was noticeably up a few degrees once we left the cooling effect of the Thames, however I kept an easy steady pace that kept us cool and took the route through as much shade as possible. This took us through the natural shade of Arbrook Common, the back streets of Claygate and across Claygate Common.

Everyone was in good spirits and enjoying the sunshine and if anyone dropped off the back we all waited at the next shady spot, so everyone was happy. The A24 at Chessington South was busy. We climbed up past the station and then Bill Martin took the lead onto one of his trails that takes us into the west side of Horton Country Park. I liked it too because it comes out about a mile from where my car was parked!

Most excellent ride chaps, 38.5 miles for me.


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