The fingers and toes were already chilling, the damp leaves lying across the paths to turn the slightest skid into a painful spill, the wind biting across Beddington Park and the skies threatening rain of the coldest, dampest sort. But there was a heartening turnout as Maggie and I coasted down to the Pavilion Cafe on a day we had said to ourselves "Why are we doing this?" as we put on your fourth layer and tried to persuade numb, ungloved fingers to stretch that stupid black rubber band that nowadays keeps your rechargeable light attached to the bike. Isn't technology supposed to offer progress?
Colin, of course, has always been there in the wind, rain and snow and managed it again, despite domestic duties. Anna and Roger can be relied upon so long as they remember it's the third Saturday and they need not to Go West from home, like a boy band, but to turn East like Phileas Fogg. Ken had told us he would be there, well wrapped up; he's marched with the Guards in more miserable weather than this. But there was Frank, a regular at Nonsuch and Easy Riders but an infrequent visitor to Beddington Park, and we had just overtaken Jackie, breaking in her new bike, and then Paul B came along to make it eight.
Weighing up the length of the day, the opportunity for more than a short pedal up to The Smallholdings, and the need for a bit of a change, and the likelihood of off road mud, we elected to go on Colin's route to Elmers End. Colin led and I back-marked. A decent ride it was, too, with the traffic surprisingly light and the rain, kindly but only just, holding off; Beddington Church, West Croydon, Selhurst Station, Croydon Arena, South Norwood Country Park and then a quarter of a mile of the unavoidable busy roads that take us to our destination, Branching Out, the pleasant cafe with the bestest cakes, on Eden Park Avenue. Eight surprise customers on a darkening winter afternoon! They must have though that Christmas had come again.
Back through The Glade and Woodmere Avenue and Shirley Oaks and Glenthorne Road and the posh bit of Addiscombe, North of Lloyd Park and then a new and very exciting route through the middle of Croydon on Market Day back to Wandle Park and Beddington Church.
Two-o-clock is a bit late to be starting at this time of year, but it is the tradition, and we also chatted a bit too much before departing. And we had probably overestimated the likely pace. The result was an end to the ride a bit darker and colder than we would really have liked with Beginners. But, hey, we all got out and did some exercise, and the cakes were truly scrumptious.
Written by Paul J