London to Eastbourne - July 2019
Fresh from the triumph of our new London to Eastbourne ride, Ride Leader Tim reports on what turned out to be a very wet ride:
"On reflection I have to say that this turned out to be a fun ride, depending of course on your definition of fun! Mine includes being wet, climbing lots of hills and worrying about whether it will all be okay.
The forecast through the week leading up to the ride became increasingly bleaker and perhaps understandably we had a number of people who decided this wasn't going to meet their definition of fun. So I was heartened on turning up at the Southbank to find 33 people who were relishing the challenge.
We left at midnight in heavy rain and splashed our way past the Oval towards Brixton. Our route took us past Herne Hill Velodrome after which became a lot quieter and pleasant, including the ascent past Dulwich College up to Crystal Palace, the first big climb of the night.
We had our first visit from the puncture fairy just outside Addington which entailed a bit of a wait at the top of a hill in pouring rain. Fortunately, it was a warm night and nobody seemed to be too disheartened. Unfortunately the amount of debris on the road meant this was the first of nine punctures during the course of the night. Well done the Tail End Charlies Ross and Rob who leapt into action so many times.
Our half way stop at the Scout Hall in Forest Row was fabulous. There was a great spread of home made sandwiches and cakes and it felt that we hadn't even made a dent in the piles of food! We will be making a nice donation to them for their hard work.
Despite the conditions, wildlife was in abundance. A fledgling bird sitting on the tarmac; hundreds of frogs (or maybe they were toads) crossing the wet roads; loads of slugs and snails; foxes, cats, badgers and most surreal of all, a cow. Not a cow in a field, but a cow standing on the verge at the bottom of Titsey hill, watching us as we went past. She probably mistook us for the Tour de France such was the look on her face.
This was billed as a hilly ride and I don't think it disappointed. There had been a lot of speculation as to whether we were going to ride up the infamous Kidd's Hill, but I wanted to see how the riders got on leading up to our half way stop before deciding. Knowing that this wasn't as steep as Ditchling Beacon (a regular Fridays HIll) and the fact we were a tough bunch made it an easy decision. Well done to everyone for getting up it in style. Unfortunately the weather meant we weren’t able to appreciate the spectacular views, nor witness a glorious sunrise. However, you could sense the triumph of beating the hill.
The long descent through Ashdown Forest was welcome, particularly as the rain had finally eased up. This marked the end of the big hills, although there were plenty of smaller ups and downs on the way to Horam where we joined the Cuckoo Trail.
Although there was plenty of storm debris on the trail it wasn't any worse than many of the roads we had been on. Plus it was also downhill all the way to the outskirts of Eastbourne. It wasn’t long before we were sitting in the garden of the Cornfield Garage Wetherspoon enjoying a well deserved breakfast, and basking in conquering a hilly route, in difficult conditions.
The stormy conditions always brings out the best in people, and I think most people will feel they achieved something quite special.”
Finally, for a different perspective on the ride from one of the participants, check out Sam Walker's reflections on the night. It's a great read.
Photo credits: Sam Walker and Ross Chestney