There were a couple of text messages sent and phone call replies around 07.30hrs this morning to ascertain if Bill and Dave still planned to ride today.
In deepest, darkest Berkshire I awoke to strong winds, heavy skies and light to moderate drizzle. I contacted the members in the Surrey area for a weather report; both replied, ‘Not that bad here, see you at Cheam.’ Within a few minutes I was loaded and ‘Atomic batteries to power, engines to thrust’ (Batman Quote for the younger reader).
Once parked in Cheam and while unloading the bike I noticed a slight wobbling of the car in the gusts of wind. The high head wind speed was confirmed by Dave Elliott upon his arrival at Cheam Station from his homestead in Chipstead Valley by his heavy breathing and the odd expletive. We were in for an entertaining ride!
…And so the roll call at Cheam Station for departure at 09.00hrs was, Bill Martin, Dave Elliott, Andrew Adams, James Rowe (KPRC) and myself leading the ride.
It was going to be an interesting ride I thought as I headed into Nonsuch Park and found unbeknownst to me that they also use a circuit of the park for jogging on a Sunday. I diverted onto the old pre war abandoned concrete road in amongst the trees. As we rode through I stopped briefly for two riders to catch up when I heard a crack of splintering wood and there behind us (not on our traversed trail) a bough of a tree of about 80lbs odd succumbed to the wind and gravity, I thought this is not the place to take a break today!
Our route took us out on a usual Ewell, Hogsmill River route and out over Horton Park, Ashtead Common towards Prince’s Coverts woods. I wasn’t planning any scenic, technical stuff today as the winds gusting 40mph plus for most of the day would be enough to contend with. We descended through the Coverts woods, crossed Fairoak Lane into Limekiln Woods, and turned left into the bridleway of Birchwood Lane. I used a particularly boggy, soggy, muddy path to keep Bill ‘Hippo’ Martin happy just before we negotiated the ‘as usual’ horrendous crossing of the A244 Copsem Lane to access Esher Common from Arbrook Common.
Once over Esher Common after having to walk a little way to negotiate a blown down tree we crossed the A307 Portsmouth Road and onto Winterdown Wood.
James Rowe said he knew the climb and advised a low gear. Alas I didn’t choose a gear low enough and powered up half the climb until power was too much for traction and on said climb I walked the last few yards to the top. (I should’ve used a ‘Twiddly gear!, an unfamiliar climb so I’m forgiven ;-)) we descended down much the same, ‘an unfamiliar descent’ slippery and boggy with last night’s heavy rain. Only Dave Elliott had a minor slip and close relationship with Gravity that resulted in kissing mud on the descent. He was unharmed and ready for breakfast, which at this point was only around a mile or so away.
We reached Garson Farm around 10.45hrs and had a very pleasant elevenses in a warm, busy establishment. After pleasant social intercourse about bikes, wait staff who don’t ask for permission to clear the table and ‘I have a pair of ten year old Rock Shox forks etc’ we departed back into the windy melee for the bridleway running along the River Ember in the direction of West Molesey. Andrew Adams left us in Hersham for a more suitable direction to his home and at this point we bade him farewell as he was now only about four miles from home (lucky Begger!)
We slipped and slid our way along a bridleway paralleling Hersham Golf club before a river bridge crossing of the Ember put us into the ‘iggy wiggy’ residential streets of Thames Ditton. We turned south onto Station Road and passed the border of Thames Ditton & Esher Golf Course a, ‘No go bike area’ as they pay £20,000 a year for the privilege to play there we’ve been told in the past, more money than…! And so by road a short stretch for the off road ride up to the traffic lights once again crossing the Portsmouth Road southbound onto Littleworth Common connecting soon after with Arbrook Common and back towards Claygate.
The trip back is ‘flattish’ to Arbrook Common but then after there are some minor undulations taking us back into the south west of Claygate, over the railway bridge and right into Beaconsfield Road. A swift ascent/descent took us into a cul de sac road leading onto Claygate Common. After crossing the common it was then the little climb of Stevens Lane that took us neatly into a bridleway — that due to the lack of use by anyone other than walkers, horse riders or cyclists — was a very boggy bridleway under the A3 to Chessington South…the “Underpass of boggy doom!”
A nice descent after the underpass took us down to the ‘Toucan’ crossing at the A234 Leatherhead Road, which has for the last four weeks been faulty on its timing, especially to cyclists!
A slight ascent past Chessington South Station took us via a ‘club known’ path to the perimeters of Horton Park where we guided Dave Elliott to the right direction for a route for home across Epsom to Chipstead.
The usual paths were used by the remainder of the group of Bill, James and myself back to Hogsmill, Ewell, Cheam. At Ewell Bill headed for home, leaving just James and I to cross Nonsuch Park — for me to the car parked in Cheam, and for James, another few miles back to Carshalton.