Six riders met at Cheam Station Southside at the appointed hour of 09:00hrs, Dave Rapson, Dave Clarke, Sean Slammon, Mick Curtis, Adam Domaingue and my good self leading. What a glorious morning! The sun was bright, the sky was blue, but alas we are now into that morning chill in the air that requires arm and leg warmer for just an hour or so at the start. I must admit I was so enamoured with the lovely weather conditions after parking in Horton Country Park that on the ride over to Cheam I was a couple of minutes late due to a bit of daydreaming and lackadaisical riding!
We started off well by Mick Curtis’s chain coming off fifty feet after we started, clearly it had caught “Frequentchainoff 20” from Dave Clarke’s bike the week before. This problem would from time to time show itself for both of them on this ride. (I hope it’s not catching!)
The day was going well as we rode along the Hogsmill with all ringing bells as we approached dog walkers from behind at a responsible pace. One fellow failed to hear ALL of us and then nearly had his little ‘red hairy rat’ type dog (Sorry no idea what breed it was!) killed as the invisible telescopic fifteen foot lead that connected owner to dog was suddenly noticed by me as it wrapped itself around my chainring! I left the dog owner to unravel the now greasy lead from my chain!
Dog owners, if you’re going to have these leads, please buy one with a bright yellow string, as you can’t see the dark ones against the background in low light!
I had decided our ride would use some trails and ascents not used recently where possible, starting north of Claygate then out across Arbrook Common leading to Esher Common. On the common I took a short brutal little climb of around 1:5 just for a change, for this was all about doing routes less travelled. After crossing over the busy A3 we were in the back of Fairmile Common, Oxshott, south of the A3 and exiting into Sandy Lane. After a few more bridleways we came out in Cobham and headed south west towards Ockham Common via Downside Bridge over the River Mole. As we approached the usual bridge turning over the M25 and ascent of Telegraph Hill to the semaphore tower we stopped for Mick to catch up as his chain had come off again. (I really hope it’s not catching!!)
The group was ready and assuming there would be the usual steep 1:10 three minute climb to the tower, I pulled a switch of route to the old defunct road section (Pointers Road) now cut off by the M25 junction with the A3. Now, as I said earlier, it was all about riding trails not travelled recently, and this one for me has probably not been used for twenty-five years! The trail exit comes out right by the traffic lights on the southbound A3 junction with the M25 eastbound. It’s just a little hole in the bushes, take a look left sometime if you happen to be stuck at those lights. Anyway after negotiating four sets of crossing lights to get across the busy junction we were at Ockham Bites at, as Sean commented: “Perfect timing, two minutes to eleven!”
After suitable fuel and social distancing we headed back. The group didn’t escape another steep hill as I once again took them off our usual path and along the northern Perimeter of Ockham Common up a sandy, gnarly, tree root-covered climb. All made it safely to the top and passed by the semaphore tower, which now has had the scaffolding removed that was erected in February after roof damage caused by strong winds.
The sun was shining brightly and I could hear the group behind me was in good spirits despite us now heading back into a gusty north easterly wind. We passed Downside Common south of Cobham and followed trails up to Stoke D’Abernon. Soon we were at Bridle Lane, which connects us with the busy A244, Leatherhead Road, Oxshott. Luckily we only had to do a quick left, twenty yards and then turn right to cross it into one of the many private roads in the area that gives us access to the south end of Prince’s Coverts, more trees, trails and piece and quiet. I think Mick’s chain came off in a little technical and gnarly bit as we had to wait a short while for him to catch up. (I really, really hope it’s not catching!)
Once again the the normal route used would be to descend west side, then turn right and ascent on the north side, this again was today’s assumption by the group, but once again the normal route wasn’t taken by me this time. This was much to some of the group’s relief, no more climbing! Instead I opted for a route across the middle that will soon become boggy and virtually impassible once the winter weather soaks it few times. After crossing the A24 south of Malden Rushett we entered Ashtead Common heading for Horton Country Park. The group carried on for Cheam after Horton, and as my vehicle was in the car park at Horton that was the end of my duties as leader for today.
Good ride chaps, 31.5 miles for me.