Trains, planes, lakes & snakes.
Relieved to find Jim at Brighton station awaiting us, so I could check on our final destination & then no queue at booking office. Soon joined by Tessa, Sikka, Wendy & Prudence & off we go for a new-style new Thameslink train to 3 Bridges, where we change platforms via lifts, stairs & excellent toilet facilities for the 2 stops to Horley. 1st stop is Gatwick, so the already bit of a squash, became even more of a squash as tired international travellers [from Argentina in our carriage with us 2] attempt to enter between two bikes in a tight squeeze. Fortunately the 2 tourists assured us that Argentinian railways are no better, though improved over last couple of years & agree to move into the adjoining 1st class carriage so that we can alight at Horley.
Since Horley station has little to recommend itself for photographic purposes we agreed to postpone the customary group pic for a promised nature reserve.
We arrived at the first lakes at Earlswood Common & The Lakes Cafe & picnic stop, where we saw about a dozen swans, two baby coots & their mum on their nest about 8 feet away from us & were able to ask a dad to desert his toddler & take our photo; fortunately no toddlers were drowned & 2 pics taken. We set off again across the common & had another exciting moment when we had to pass between 2 holes of the golf course. Fortunately we were all wearing helmets & no angry shouts from distracted golfers caused tension. On through the trees & following the footpaths, we reached The Plough at the projected lunch stop time of 12.30.
It was/is a charming & quirky pub with the ceiling inside adorned with a dozen or more copper pots & pans & the garden decorated with unusual sculpture & knick-knacks. There was a little fireman, a giraffe, a bike, a witches broomstick, an ostrich, many mirrors, pigs, chickens along the top of the fencing & some flowers too!
This pub even had 3 bike stands which was just right for our 6 bikes! By now the sun was out & there was a struggle to set up the sunshades over the table. Fortunately there were few, if any, other diners as we were early & we were able to take out pick of seats, shade, & flowers. Food came fairly swiftly too & was scoffed before anyone remembered to snap it for Fred’s delectation. I made a wrong menu choice, as usual & ate far too much fish & veg, Tessa had duck confit, Wendy had tomato soup, Jim had veg curry & Sikka had lured me into the fish as she needed assurance it was free range & not farmed.
Think I dominated the conversation with praise for Yanis Varoufakis’ new book & its relationship to John Perkins fab “The Economic Hitman” & so I was the last to finish but we managed to keep to Jim’s meticulous schedule without any chivying from our leader. The church was huge with an impressively tall tower, but it was not ancient & we decided to give it a miss as we had been forewarned that a huge hill would be on the menu shortly after lunch!. Before “the hill” we had a detour for Redhill Common where trees & their roots overhung the path threateningly, seeming to cling precariously to the steep red slope.
“The Hill” started gently & Prudence & Wendy managed to cycle all of it & reach its crown, but the rest of us had a breather 2/3 up & admired the views. Have to say the promised downhill afterwards seemed to go on for longer than the toils uphill. More lakes at The Moors Nature reserve, with much bird song, “haunts of coot & hern” [& crested grebe], wild flowers, peace, tranquillity, little bridges, pretty wooden gates & quiet, easy paths.
After a few roads & side roads we arrived at the noisy aerodrome for our tea. Fortunately, the titchy, fragile plane making all the noise, finally took off, presumably to the skies, but I didn’t really care as long as it buzzed off! More excitement as the SKY News helicopter arrived causing some to think there May be a VIP inside, but ’twas not to be, as both London police & ambulance are based at Redhill Aerodrome. There were dozens of planes & again I wished Fred was there to enjoy them with us. Tea & staff [& toilets] were much appreciated there, but Tessa was let down by the ungingery ginger cake & since we were both hitting the indigestion pills hard I didn’t offer her any more of my medicinal crystallised ginger.
Back on the bikes & off to the NCN 21 on delightful wooded paths, twisting & turning a bit, led by Jim, so that we savoured all the best bits.
If you were hoping for snakes too, that is a Greek saying from Yanis’ book – ”snakes in the stomach” describing his anxiety before meeting Eurogroup ministers & the arch neo-liberal Chair, Schauble. Mick tells me my stomach ache was unfit stomach muscles from missing my bike rides & it disappeared soon after arriving home, so was no fault of The Plough, merely my greed.
Trains for return were fine & uncrowded, but it was a long day & we were all tired, arriving home at 6.30pm. Jim had really packed a delightful ride into our day & meticulously looked after us. Just a sad note in the evening as I looked at facebook, I saw that Linda Mabey had intended to join us but had ended up in Worthing A&E having twisted her ankle in Horley before the start. Hope she is feeling bit better now. We would have been a Magnificent Seven, but it’s a brilliant ride, well-worth repeating anytime Jim has time, though think I would certainly get lost without his leadership. Still if we keep the instructions us women should be able to take back control!
Sikka & Tessa relax at Three Bridges station after a tough ride
Thanks again Jim – it was a great day.
Sikka’s wonderfully decorated high-vis jacket