Saturday was one of those days you could not be sure of the weather; rain covers or not? Extra layer or not? Eight of us met for the Beddington Park Ride and though a few familiar faces were missing, like Sharon and Ken, we had a rider new to the club, Stephen.
With no real beginners on the ride we elected to go for a familiar ride up to Streatham Common.
We have all experienced being led through unfamiliar streets, discovering new places we did not know and suddenly emerging and thinking “so THAT’S where we are”, and it is fun to take a new member like Stephen through it.
We took him past Beddington Church and Waddon Ponds, through Waddon Park and the slightly less pleasant bit negotiating West Croydon, through the back streets of Thornton Heath, past St Andrew’s church and the bowling club towards Norbury to cross the London to Brighton railway at Manor Farm Road. Up the narrow path by Norbury Manor College to Green Lane.
Then for most it was down Green Lane a little and up Gibson’s Hill (one show-off chose to ride up Norbury Hill and back down Covington Way). The rendezvous was at the foot of the upper part of Gibson’s Hill, which is a bit of a challenge no matter how you look at it; the first part a rough, stony, unmetalled private road on an incline and the second part a narrow tarmac path short (300 yards?) but as steep as almost anything in the Surrey Hills.
The reward is the panoramic view of Croydon and the Shirley Hills from Norwood Grove, which is mentioned in one of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and which was once owned by one of the founders of the P&O shipping line. The blue plaque tells you that Mr Nettlefold (of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold) also made it his home in between running steelworks and making the fixings to screw a nation together.
From there it is only a short roller coaster through the woods to coffee and cake at the Rookery Café, where Ray could take Stephen to see The Rookery itself, charming and quaint Victorian gardens and rockery (once a part of the Norwood Grove estate), while the rest of us got on with sampling the impressive array of cakes.
The return trip was downhill in more ways than one, introducing Ray and Stephen to the less than quaint glass, graffiti and litter under the railway bridge in Norbury, to the Saturday driving of all those folks in such a hurry to get back to their homes in suburbia that they overtake on the wrong side of the bollards and suddenly slow to below cycling speed to negotiate the sleeping policemen. Through Streatham Vale across Northborough Road, where Derek Bentley once lived. He was infamously hanged at the age of 19 for the murder in Croydon that his accomplice, too young to be hanged, actually committed. A dark tale from South London's Hobbiton.
From there we went to Mitcham Common, which we crossed on the lane where an Asian man was taking photographs of what we think of as weeds but what in fact are quite delicate blue flowers and where was strolling a large, handsome fox; exactly the same one, I’ll wager, as met me last Saturday around that time in the same spot as I made my way back from the all day Greenwich ride. Perhaps we’re striking up a relationship, Foxy and I.
The path across Hackbridge Marshes is closed again so we enjoyed a further experience in working class social history, through the architectural and cultural desert that is the Beddington Lane industrial estate on a Saturday afternoon. I showed Colin the new way through Asda Car Park and the gap in the fence to the car park next door, thus avoiding much of cycle-unfriendly Beddington Lane before the labyrinthine journey past the filling station into the “back door” of Beddington Park, a convoluted route negotiable only with Colin as your guide or if you left a ball of string to mark it on your way out. A pleasant way to spend the hours before the Cup Final; and the rain held off and the sun blessed us occasionally.
Paul and Maggie, Roger, Anna and Roy are the riders I have not mentioned yet, and we very much hope Stephen comes again.