A Two Counties Ride

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A great Longer Lewisham Ride today!

 I’ll admit I was feeling a bit worried about it beforehand. A pollution and pollen spike on Thursday tipped me into a fairly bad asthma attack. It was the day I planned to recce the ride and I was too ill to do that and the attack also left my lung function pretty low. I use a peak flow monitor to keep track of it. For a woman my size and age it should be about 400. It’s never that, as a lifetime of pretty bad asthma as a child and younger woman, although improving with age and medication, means the best I can do is 300 to 350. But dropped way lower than even that in the week. Luckily, there were showers and more of a breeze on Friday, both of which can dampen down and disperse all those nasty pollen and pollution particles, so by Friday evening I knew I could ride. Just wasn’t sure how I’d cope with the hills.

      Warned the other riders I might have to shorten the ride. Everyone was really understanding. So, after a great coffee start at Le Delice, we set off for Kent and Surrey.

Ladywell Fields, Catford back ways to Beckenham Place Park then on to Red Lodge Rd and Corkscrew Hill. Nice urban descent to the roundabout which takes you on to Layhams Rd: every SE London rider’s easy way out to the country lanes of Kent and Surrey. It’s a long slow climb but gets you out through the hills fairly easily. Then, just before that lovely bit of Layhams that takes you to Beddlestead,  we detoured west to go through Fickleshole, past the White Bear and then round the lonely little lanes, bordered by bluebell filled woodlands at this time of year, alongside the B road which we crossed to head down the Halliloo valley. 

It’s a great swoop of a descent with rolling hills to the right and wooded hills to your left. Down, down past the golf course to the railway bridge at Woldingham where you can pick up every cyclists dream: a long traffic free tarmac road through a beautiful valley. It’s actually the road to Woldingham private school, so drivers can use it to get to the school but feels motor traffic free in practice. And it’s a lovely open valley to ride through. 

At the other end, we stopped just before the track that leads back to the road, our 20 mile refuel stop.

Then off again, downwards now, on the lane that leads through the little settlement of Churchtown, with its old almshouses and church. 

Then up The Enterdent.  Odd name.  Apparently it means something like “ a cluster of cottages set in a wooded valley”.  Which, I guess describes it very well. The road itself is a rough narrow track that climbs steeply uphill through the woods.  I climbed up the ascent slowly. For once this was no hardship as we were surrounded by the new fresh green of spring trees, resting gently in a soft, wide bed of bluebells. Glad to be forced to take the time to appreciate it for once. 

Normally I descend this lane on a different two counties route that accesses Surrey via Farthing Down. Descending The Enterdent is a whole different experience.  If you’d like to read my account of one such descent a few years ago its here

Once the climb’s over its down Tilburstow Hill turning off eastwards by the Fox and Hounds. Still in Surrey, heading through open farmland along easy flatter roads, then finally back north towards the line of the North Downs again.  Through beautiful beech woods, sheltering the lanes with that beautiful spring green light unique to this tree and this time of year.  Staffhurst Wood and Limpsfield Chart. Lovely.

We cross the A25 and ride towards the North Down climb we know we have to complete before we head homewards. The lanes are more open here.  You can see the sky again, no gentle green luminous light.  Its a fairly cloudy day, warm enough, but not too warm, good cycling weather.  

Clacket Lane takes us over the M25 and a glimpse of the motorway services named for it.  Lying beneath us, another world of noise funnelling up from below, petrol, metal, tarmac and speed. We carry on, turning the pedals, and instead of heading straight over the hills, turn on to the Pilgrims Way.  Another world, a narrow ancient way, calm and quiet. One of my favourite lanes around here, a rolling ride along a low ridge of the North Downs. 

We are now in Kent, bowling along this terrific little road that seems made for cycling, even if it was made centuries before anyone thought of our simple machines and for very different journeys.

Our coffee and cake stop is the lovely little VeloBarn. Good coffee, lovely cakes. Plus a little bike shop. Friendly staff who wave us off as we leave, with a cheerful, “Go Team!” 

Two climbs left now.  We are pretty tired after nearly fifty miles of fairly hilly terrain, and when we finally leave Pilgrims Way turning north straight into a chevron climb, I grind straight down into my lowest gear and take it as easily as I can. Almost everyone else spins past me. 

Finally we are at the top and head for the descent down Cudham Hill, a few roads further on, through Knockholt. It drops steeply, quickly and twists round sharply straightaway, then straightens out and if you throw yourself and your bike into it, its a cracking ride down. One last climb back up, then we are riding through Downe village, and despite the fact we have maybe 10 miles or so left, the ride feels almost over here. Except for one last hurrah after crossing the A21 and heading down again, Jackass Lane and Gates Green Rd. Another fine descent.

Then its just a matter of negotiating the outer suburbs of London till we are back on the outskirts of our own borough and Ladywell fields once more.

Thanks to everyone who rode with me today. You were a pleasure to lead, a lovely bunch.  And thanks to the VeloBarn for being in the right place, at the right time, with great coffee and delicious cakes. Apparently the sausage rolls weren’t bad either! 

And when I got back and did my daily peak flow test, my lung function had increased! Good news all round.