Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Recce Ride on 27 March


By Steve H


What we hope will be the last weekend of dual riding saw us meet at Beddington Park on Saturday, Ken and I on one side of the road with Maggie and Paul suitably distanced on the other. Once rearranged, Maggie and Ken set off south for Kenley while Paul and I headed north for Clapham Common. Paul's mission, which he had decided to accept, was to reconnoitre part of the route for Tony Hooker's forthcoming all day ride up to town. We left past the church and through Beddington Village to join Beddington Lane. After a short distance we turned right into the Asda car park (the scenic route again) to reach the tram crossing at Therapia Lane. Once across we joined Croydon Road on the bike path and entered Mitcham Common. A short way along is Watneys Road on the right which has been closed off with concrete blocks to all but pedestrians and cyclists giving us a traffic-free ride through the woods to the east side of Mitcham Common.


Along Commonside East and then following the railway took us to the level crossing at Mitcham Eastfields station where the barriers were down. We pulled up alongside a couple on a tandem and during a short conversation it turned out that they were also members of SWLDA, Richard James in the captain's seat and Terry as stoker. They asked after several members of the club and when the barriers were raised, we rode with them briefly before branching off left towards Colliers Wood tube station. Here we joined the CS7 cycle superhighway which runs from Colliers Wood north-east along the A24 to Cannon Street in the city. The lane is painted light blue to match the corporate colour of the bank that sponsored its introduction and in places is segregated from the busy main road by bollards with which one must be careful not to collide. Although super it's looking a bit shabby in places with the blue paint peeling off. When the original sponsorship deal ended it was taken over by another bank whose colour is red, fortunately the workmen haven't been back with tins of red paint.


The highway follows the route of the northern line through Tooting, Bal-ham (Gateway to the South) to Clapham South station on the edge of Clapham Common. Here we had a brief stop then made our way across the Common which was busy, lockdown notwithstanding, and past the bandstand. This is now surrounded by bouquets of flowers in memory of Sarah Everard, the woman who was murdered on Clapham Common. 

On Clapham Common, tributes to Sarah Everard at the bandstand

As the Common was a bit crowded, we headed back south-west towards Earlsfield, stopping at a delicatessen on Garratt Lane for refreshments which were taken in the churchyard next door. Consumables consumed we set off again for more sleuthing, this involved frequent stops to consult the map and a few U turns. Nonetheless we eventually arrived at Abbey Mills to pick up the Wandle Trail.


The River Wandle once resembled a ditch polluted by industries along its banks but with their demise it has cleaned up considerably and wildlife has returned. We didn't follow the Wandle Trail all the way to Morden Hall Park but turned off through the Merton Park conservation area and past Rutlish School, alma mater of one John Major. Back across the tram lines, then towards Lower Morden and the path between the two cemeteries leading to Green Lane. We then passed The Hamptons, a housing estate built in the New England style. A recent fire there destroyed one of the blocks and investigation revealed unsafe construction reputedly rendering the properties virtually unsellable.


It was cloudy and cold by the time we made our way across London Road and Fairlands Park to the Sutton bypass where Paul headed on back through Sutton to Wallington. I made my way south along the dual carriageway to Belmont as before with 28 flatish miles done for the day. With any luck we will be able to socialise a bit more next time.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Ken visits Kenley 27th March

Cold and bright today and hopefully the last time we will be restricted to cycling in pairs. Paul and Steve are meeting on the opposite side of the road and we see them cycle off through the park.  We're on our favourite route to Farthing Downs, passing Chaldon Church and admiring the primulas on Doctors Lane before turning left onto Rook Lane.  This road doesn't get any flatter but we're soon at Coffee and Creams in Caterham-on-the-Hill and chatting to a couple who have recently bought bicycles and are regretting living in such a hilly area. 

We continue on Rook Lane to the junction and turn left onto Townend.  It's 1.7 miles straight ahead now to Kenley Aerodrome.  

Kenley Aerodrome was the home of the Royal Flying Corps in WW1 before it became  RAF Kenley.  English Heritage describe it as the "most complete fighter airfield associated with the Battle of Britain to have survived ". It's a fascinating place to cycle round. We see the Rifle Range, the war memorial and templates of a Spitfire and a Hurricane. We stop at the information boards and as it gets colder we cycle passed the derelict Officers' Mess.

We leave this historic monument at the Hayes Lane exit and at the junction turn left to cycle downhill for 4 Km on Old Lodge Lane. Before the two railway bridges we turn left up Hartley Down, thus avoiding the busy A23.  It's a fairly long gradual incline but our efforts are rewarded by another speedy  downhill on Stoats Nest Road.  Under the railway bridge we turn left onto Windermere Road.  We cycle to the end and turn right on a footpath above Farthing Way.  We dismount at the lights. It's a busy,  confusing junction, and we walk across it to remount on Brighton Road. 

We cycle though Coulsdon, noting DD's is closed on Chipstead Valley Road, and are thankful we stopped for tea when we did. Then it's a rightish turn  at the lights and we're on Woodman Road and making our way back to Wallington.  21 Miles today and some wonderful descents!

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Jolly Boating Weather; Ride on 20 March


By Steve H


The heating system in my house failed its annual safety checks during the week and was decommissioned for the weekend by the service engineer for want of parts, leaving me with no heating or hot water. Top tip: never get your boiler serviced on a Friday. So, although Saturday was cold and cloudy again I was sure that I would be warmer on the bike than in the house. Paul and I chose Walton-on-Thames as our destination having postponed this ride a few weeks earlier. A mid-day start took us down through Cheam and round Nonsuch Park as before with only a few pedal strokes on Stane Street this time before turning right into Sparrow Farm Road for Worcester Park. Then the familiar Hampton Court route, passing under the A3 at Tolworth, but instead of bearing right at the Thames Ditton roundabout we took the first exit through Thames Ditton itself and headed westwards. This area abounds with reservoirs and waterworks so we threaded our way through the wetlands towards Walton-on-Thames. Paul had to make a detour at one point as our intended footpath was closed off, whether for mud or works we couldn’t tell.

Fortunately the cafe by the river at Walton was open so we had a short lunch break. The rowers were out in force and it's a wonder that those in the cox-less boats can see where they're going given that they are all facing backwards, perhaps they have boat mirrors like people have bike mirrors. We then crossed the Thames on the modern Walton bridge and made our way downstream. The road towards Lower Sunbury had us swinging together at good speed, my new(ish) Pearson bike running very nicely although I regret not having asked them to fit a bigger engine. Admiral Hawke lived nearby at Hawke House, we passed a road and even a pub named after him. We also stopped for a photograph in Hawke Park, a long thin strip of pleasant greenery. 

Admiral Steve

Paul’s route then took us through the impressive Kempton Park Waterworks, the Grade II* listed buildings house two huge steam engines that were installed in the 1920's to pump drinking water for London. The Kempton Great Engines were of similar size to those in the Titanic and were only retired from service in 1980 to be replaced by electric motors, more efficient but very dull by comparison.  


Then through Bushy Park past the Diana fountain, pausing to photograph the deer. Although numbers are controlled in the parks they are becoming a problem elsewhere as they can carry ticks bearing Lyme disease. Back over the river at Kingston Bridge and trying to remember the route through the town centre, only confident that we were on the right path once we passed the Hogsmill sewage works. After the railway underpass there is a short sharp shock up from Berrylands Station and my body was definitely between my knees by the time I reached the roundabout at the top.

A quick boost of Jelly Tots for the closing stretch through North Cheam and across London Road; Stane Street yet again, what did the Romans ever do for us? Paul and I parted company on the Sutton bypass, Paul carrying on through Sutton to Wallington while I took the bike path alongside the dual carriageway. The southbound carriageway turned out to be closed for resurfacing so I had an undisturbed ride up St Dunstan's Hill to Belmont and back to Cold Comfort Farm.

We clocked up a good 30 miles for the day so Paul is definitely putting me through my paces, I'm told it's the Surrey Hills next!


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Spring Equinox ride to Banstead

 This week Ken and I decided to revisit Hatch Lane and assess the mud situation that had stopped us in our tracks last week.  We agreed to give it a go and in fact once we were through the initial boggy patch the path was easily negotiable. We then turned right onto the short, steep climb of Manor Hill to Woodmansterne. 

After a quick stop for the photograph we continued on Woodmansterne St, then Woodmansterne Lane to Banstead. We briefly cycled down the High Street before turning left onto Avenue Road and here faced as many potholes as I have seen in  one road. Luckily there was very little traffic and we were able to use the width of the road to safely cycle through them. Court Road took us to the roundabout at Holly Lane and we turned left to descend to Banstead Woods and the left turn onto Outwood Lane.  Road closed/Road work signs were being ignored by the traffic so we followed.  I was sure Paul had said there was a way through and I hoped I had been listening!  By now there's just a cyclist ahead but there are clearly roadworks right across the road. Said cyclist mounts the pavement and there is room for those of us on two wheels to continue. 

We're now on Chipstead Valley Road and tea & cake are within reach. Farthing Downs will have to wait in case DD's closes early.

 DD brings our tea & cake across the road

We stood by the recessed school gates for our tea. Unfortunately the alarm was going in the school so we didn't linger. Farthing Downs was a short ride from here, We joined the  A237 and turned up Marlpit Lane at the roundabout before taking Ditches Lane.  We turned round in the car park at the top.   Clearly the newly introduced  parking fees have put drivers off and  the car park is only half full. 

Happy Valley 

We crossed the road to photograph walker-- free Happy Valley and then made our way back to Coulsdon and on to Wallington.  20 miles today, Ken had cycled a little further.

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Joys of Spring; 17 March


By Steve H


Having postponed last Saturday's ride for meteorological reasons Paul and I decided on a mid-week excursion instead. It was cold and cloudy on the Wednesday morning although the sun was trying to break through but it eventually gave up the attempt and went back to bed. This time I had my pockets stuffed with flapjacks and Jelly Tots for in-flight refuelling as we set off down to Cheam. We passed round the outside of Nonsuch Park to join the ancient Stane Street or A24 as it is now more prosaically known. This was built by the Romans to connect London and Chichester and in places the original road surface can still be seen. We only went as far as Ewell before heading towards Epsom, avoiding the town centre and joining the B280 out of Epsom by Stamford Green. This heads out into the countryside, a fast road in places which crosses the main Leatherhead Road at Malden Rushett on the way to Oxshott.

At Oxshott we entered the woods from the station car park onto a broad level path that was popular with dog walkers; sometimes dogs and wheels don't mix but it wasn't a problem on this occasion. It emerges onto Blundel Lane where we had to wait at the level crossing before heading on to Stoke D'Abernon for an early lunch break at the Bakery. They serve nice sandwiches and coffee, the latter being free for cyclists wearing the appropriate kit which these days of course includes masks. As we were getting ready to leave, Maureen and Francoise arrived; they were also out on a mid-week pairs ride. We had a chat and posed for a correctly distanced photograph before going round to the station for a quick pit stop at which point it started to rain. We parted company with Maureen and Francoise, but what we hoped would be a passing shower set in for the duration and it became colder. Paul and I carried on to River Lane, crossing the River Mole and along paths to rejoin the road at Downside Common where the small St Michael's Chapel stands. On to the Bookham Road, passing under the M25 and railway in quick succession and heading down towards Great Bookham Common. It was still raining as we entered the common so we made our way through the mud, past the Isle of Wight with a stop for an action shot before emerging at Fetcham.

The Great Bookham temperate rain forest

Thence to Leatherhead down past the cemetery where I managed to overshoot the turning at traffic lights thereby dragging us into the Leatherhead one way system which Paul was trying to avoid, my apologies for that! We emerged unscathed and made our way round to the footpath over the M25 where we stopped to finish the last of the supplies from the cafe before the final leg home. Back through Ashtead Park past the school where the hearty lads were playing rugby in the rain (I remember it well from school days!) before joining the Headley Road at the end of Pleasure Pit Road, another of our regular cafe stops. We climbed Headley Road, crossing the line of Stane Street again before branching off into the narrow Chalk Pit Road and dodging the fertiliser to join Langley Vale Road. The final climb of the day was up from Langley Bottom to the Grandstand at Epsom Downs racecourse where it finally stopped raining and the sun came out.

The roundabout in front of the Grandstand was blocked with cars queueing up to enter the car park for the virus jab, the racecourse being one of the first public vaccination centres. Fortunately the logjam gave us a clear run along the finishing straight to Tattenham Corner and round to Great Tattenhams for the route back. Paul and I managed to become separated on the short climb up to the traffic lights at the Reigate Road and inadvertently chose different entrances to Nork Park. We met at the far end in The Drive where another photograph was taken, this time in bright sunshine under blue skies. Then along past the Tumble Beacon, a former link in a previous long distance communications line, across the dual carriageway and down past Pistachio's cafe to Banstead High Street.


The sun at last; Nork Park

At this point it's 'finished with engines' for the fast descent across the Downs, drifting out to avoid the perennial flood point and turning right at the end into Downs Road with the winning post just up the hill. Paul carried on the last few miles to Wallington while I had a chance to rinse the mud off the bike before a well-earned brew. Hopefully we will be able to repeat the ride later in the summer when the weather is warm and sunny ...

Monday, 15 March 2021

Blow wind, blow

In fact it was the mud, not the wind that brought us to a standstill. 

A host of golden daffodils

Ken and I followed our usual cycle tracks up through Wallington, crossing Foxley Lane and cycling passed Cumnor House Schools to Wallington Village Green. Today we crossed Smitham Bottom Lane to Meadow Hill then continued on down The Bridleway to Clock House. Deciding that the wind wasn't a problem we carried on along The Mount to the quagmire that the weather had made of Hatch Lane.  Stopped in our tracks with no sign of dry surface ahead we turned round without much discussion!  So let's try another route to Banstead. Retracing our steps and then going down Grove Lane, what a pleasure that was, we turned right at the bottom onto St Andrew's Road. This long, rolling road was an interesting challenge. The wind, head on, reduced any speed we had built up. Finally we gratefully  turned left on Sandown Road to go under the railway bridge.

Sizing up the unattended bike

We now stopped. There were two choices. Turn right and we cycle uphill to Banstead or turn left and cycle straight along Chipstead Valley Road to DD's for tea. DD's won the toss and we were welcomed as always. Turning for home we decided to differ our route to visit Daffodil Alley, or Silver Lane, just off Wallington Village Green and then Briar Hill. We were soon on Foxley Lane and joining our route home again.

Recruiting the Abominable Snowman

Ray was out cycling now and he flew passed in the opposite direction.  No stopping for pleasantries,  Ken and I had white van man on our tail and he wasn't going to give up his sport! I got home moments before the hail came down. Goodness, I hope Ken was able to shelter somewhere! 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Fingers crossed.....All Day Saturday Rides, the first on Saturday 10 April


Restrictions permitting........

Tony Hooker's All Day Ride for Saturday 10 April

Departure from Nonsuch Park cafe at 9.50, 

For those on Strava, details can be found here

Tony is looking for sub-leaders, assuming we will be able to ride in groups if six by then

Stef will lead May's ride to West Horsley via Box Hill, also from Nonsuch at 9.50, on 8 May

Tony will lead on 12 June to Virginia Water

Paul will lead on 10 July to Greenwich

Tony is looking for leaders for the remaining months, second Saturdays, up to and including October.

Sue B's year of cycling alone

 From Sue B

Well, who would have thought it’s now, almost a year since the 1st lockdown and I am still solo cycling and walking.

We did manage a few weeks of cycling in groups of 6 thanks to the leaders and co leaders for all their hard work organising these. I, along with a lot of other members really appreciated these and enjoyed them.

I haven’t been as adventurous as most of you. Although I did get down to Dorking once, the Stepping Stones weren’t visible due the River Mole flooding! Most of my rides have been looking at the wildlife in Home, Bushey and Richmond Parks. If I didn’t keep stopping to take so many photos and watch what  was going on, I could either get home sooner or cycle further, but I really enjoy that part of it as much as the cycling.


I managed to go along the towpath in Richmond twice during high tide. Never experienced this before. Pleased I didn’t get stuck anywhere like some people did. In January I walked to Nonsuch Park. What a good job the rides weren’t still going out, as the entrance I go in was completely flooded, even with wellies on it was still deep. Not many cars were in there due to depth of the massive puddle as you can see from 1 of the photos.


Really looking forward to seeing you all again soon, that’s if everyone behaves and our Covid numbers don’t go up too much.


Please stay safe and well everyone.


Monday, 8 March 2021

A Hunting We Will Go

By Steve H.

Saturday was cold and cloudy so I had put on every layer of insulation I could find before Paul and I headed for Richmond Park.  A route through Cheam and Worcester Park took us on to New Malden for the long climb up Traps Lane, where I had to stop for a breather half way up.  We then entered the prestigious Coombe Estate and at the far end of Warren Road past Telegraph Cottage, the house occupied by Dwight D Eisenhower during World War II.  This was named after a nearby semaphore tower that was part of the London to Portsmouth optical telegraph line at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  On a good day a message could be sent from the Admiralty to the fleet at Portsmouth in under eight minutes.  You'd struggle to do that today!  Crossing the main road we entered Richmond Park at Ladderstile Gate.  Richmond Park is a wonderful oasis of rural in urban surroundings, a Royal Park originally established for the purpose of deer hunting although this is now limited to the annual deer cull.

We made our way round to the main cafe at Roehampton Gate but this was very busy with lots of cyclists and walkers out for their permitted exercise and social distancing so we decided to press on, dancing on the pedals up past White Lodge,  to the Pen Ponds cafe for a much needed hot drink, as much to warm the fingers as anything else.

Steve wearing cycling, rather than ballet, shoes

Descending to Robin Hood Gate we decided that Wimbledon Common might be a bit muddy so we took the scenic route back via the cycle path alongside the A3.  This is sadly strewn with much fly-tipped rubbish, dumping a mattress next to a busy dual carriageway must be no mean feat.  The return to Sutton through Raynes Park and Lower Morden took us to the path next to St Helier Hospital, which passes a good viewpoint as the trees open out.

I was definitely low on fuel for the final ascent from Sutton and had switched to the reserve tank by the time we reached the top of Banstead Road South.  Fortunately there were no more close encounters on the final approach to the house and my thanks again to Paul for a good ride.  I must remember to eat plenty of cake at the cafe stop next time!   

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Nursery slopes

Ken and I last cycled to Wimbledon Common in November before the current lockdown. It had been busy then and we were under no illusion that it would be less crowded today but we'd both had the first Covid vaccine a month ago so had some protection from whichever variant was out there!

It was a cold afternoon but no snow or rain were forecast.  Immediately we were cycling on the grass through Beddington Park as families milled across the path and youngsters happily meandered on their new bikes and scooters. We left the the park to cycle over the bridge by Hackbridge Station and turned left at the mini roundabout onto Hackbridge Road planning to join the Wandle Trail at the Hack Bridge. I could see there was a problem ahead as a cyclist was facing tall barriers where the path joins the road. Imagining we were going to have to rethink the route we  cycled down Riverbank Way just in case there was an exit onto the path. Thankfully there was a new short, narrow path leading us onto the trail. 

It was an afternoon for families to be out with their children and it was lovely to see.  Children, some of them really quite small on their own bikes and babies in seats in front or behind their parents'. We repeated the route of November ending up climbing the hill and making our way through muddy puddles on  Wimbledon Common before stopping briefly at the windmill cafe for a comfort break. The cafe was too crowded so we cycled back to Eastfields for tea.  

The Windmill at Wimbledon Common

The temperature had been dropping and when Ken took his gloves off his hands were blue. We quickly downed our drinks and set off back along the Wandle trail to return to our warm houses. As I left the Wandle trail I was behind a young boy of about 5, with his Dad, returning from cycling to the Thames!  I wonder how far he'll be going in a few years.

We're anticipating warmer weather soon and also possibly returning to cycling in groups of six around Easter.  Let's hope so!  

Monday, 1 March 2021

Two arms. two legs, keep moving


From Steve H

Steve modelling the latest PPE

Just as the dreaded lurgy was getting into full swing last March an unexpected health problem put me off the road for the duration with the advice not to drive or cycle for at least a year in case of interruption of service.  Later on, riding was allowed but only in groups which, of course, was not allowed.  This left me with at least six idle wheels and unable to take advantage of last summer's unique but unfortunate combination of fine weather and quiet roads.  Nonetheless my New Year resolution was to break the Lockdown Lethargy and get back into the saddle.  To mitigate the possible consequences of a solo unplanned dismount I decided to equip myself with some elbow and knee protectors of the type worn by mountain bikers to hurl themselves down hillsides, reasoning that it would be easier to mend a limb than a joint.  The knee ones were fine, but although the elbow set was the correct medium size according to the measurements they were extremely tight and caused my forearms to swell, better even than spinach.  The large size replacement turned out to be a bit too large but as they did not sell a Goldilocks size I had to strap them on as tightly as possible and persevere, although I haven't tried zip ties yet.  Thus accoutred I decided that the time had come to bite the bullet and, er, hit the road.

A bit apprehensive at first after such a long lay-off, I was delighted to find that as soon as the wheels started turning I was away, the bike almost riding itself until I came to the first climb when it became immediately apparent that light pedal assistance was required.  After a few local loops through Banstead, Woodmansterne and Epsom Downs I was ready for the fray.  Although group riding is off the menu we are allowed to ride in pairs and Paul kindly offered to take me out on my first long ride, so on Saturday we set out from Belmont for Hampton Court in glorious sunshine and blue skies.  We skirted Nonsuch Park and made our way through the back roads to Worcester Park.  Being away for so long I had forgotten the routes and didn't recognise the roads and junctions but it turned out that we were going a different way to avoid the traffic.  On out through Tolworth and Thames Ditton, heading for the river.

The green opposite Hampton Court station was very busy with everyone having to stay outside, fortunately we found a small cafe and bench far from the madding crowd.  Suitably fortified by tea and cake we returned through picturesque Weston Green, pausing at the lake for a photo op, thence through Berrylands to north Cheam for another short break.  We passed the famous bottle house in Sutton and later the ornate house once lived in by the artist Graham Sutherland, he of the infamous Churchill portrait.  We parted company at Downs Road, and when I got back I had exactly 25 miles on the clock; not bad for a first effort and my thanks to Paul for a grand day out.  The climb up from Sutton was hard work with the Lockdown lack of fitness beginning to tell, hopefully this will improve with the miles, although I suspect that climbing will remain a work in progress.

Blood, sweat and gears

The sting in the tail was having to fend off a large car that was attempting to overtake just as I was signalling the final right turn into the house, it nearly was my final right turn.  Welcome back to cycling!