The advertised ride was Toys Hill, Ide Hill and Penshurst. The actual route altered en route but took in Baldwins Hill towards the end for a big and splendid group of riders.
Fourteen riders set off from a very busy Woodhatch Park (see the photo below). Nick 'the Smurf' Curran immediately stuck to his usual formula and rode out to the front, staying there at varying degrees of distance right the way through to Lingfield.
Despite cries of 'we're not turning left', he turned left into Tandridge Lane - clearly with a new and interesting route to Toys Hill in mind... or so we thought! Turns out it just was another example of 'Smurfys Law': four or five miles later an awful sense of 'here we go again' dawned on the peloton and we popped out just a few 100 yards up the road from the original turning.
This required a pause and Henry V-esque speech about the consequences that befall those who assume blue-bottomed riders who confidently veer off the prescribed route actually know where they are going!
Much mirth ensued and we resumed (the main photos shows yours truly and the Smurf bickering like an old couple after the incident) in the direction of Edenbridge and Toys. At the right turn into Four Elms Lane, Kaaren and Maria decided to take a detour and head back via a different route while the rest of a very fit group including new faces David, Mike and James ploughed on up to Toys.
Tim Sales - still recovering fitness and leg strength - took the ascent at a suitably gentle pace to give some comfort to those of us who watched the young 'uns speed up fearless. Note, Nick in good form with all that Majorca training in his legs beat me up there this time.
At the top, with a few deadlines for returning home, we decided on the delightful Tudor Tea Rooms at Westerham rather than a further 15miles down to Quaintways. After sustenance, we then rode back via Crockham Hill and the Dairy Lane lanes route.
Nick somehow got trapped in the loo at the teastop and when close to catching up with the group noticed a non-RCC cyclist and decided he must have had a 'route malfunction'. He headed home alone but apparently continued for some hours up and down the Kent Hills getting home near 4pm with 78miles on the clock. Suitable penance for the Smurf Loop to Crowhurst as it shall henceforth be known!
With many riders in the bunch still dead keen for climbs and miles, we took an unfashionable detour on the route home at Lingfield to return via Feldridge. This does take you on some busy roads but also throws in the surprisingly challenging ascent of Baldwins Hill... the advantage is then a very quick section on a nice gentle descent via Snow Hill. This pushed the average up considerably with the whole bunch managing speeds around 20mph for four or five miles.
We eventually turned right at the Burstow Volvo garage and headed for home.
If anyone would like to see the final route, I've mapped it with mile markers. I'll post it up on the forum.
The weather was great, the company was excellent, the standard of the group very high and the banter brilliant. The only downside was the appalling potholes. On Hathersham Lane near the end I missed a call and plunged into a 5inch deep elephant trap which did my wheels no good at all.
Thanks to Brian both for backmarking and leading the line on the way back; Tim Sales for some excellent route advice and respect to Meera for showing great consistency and fitness the whole way despite the lack of cleats! Welcome also to James Fisher, Mike Cowan and David Powis who all fitted in perfectly and show impeccable group-riding manners. We hope to see you all again soon...
... and next time we will fit Ide Hill in!