What better than the warmest day of the
year to ride the new Hilly 50, unlike the traditional H50 which normally
comes with rain, snow or ice.
First off Sassi’s Café, just what I needed after a stiff 6 miles into a fresh breeze. There’s Turmeric Latte with black peppercorns for those who can’t take normal coffee, amongst many delights.
Next the pleasure of meeting Fixie Dave and Tony Hooker at the start. We all peered into the mysterious Hoggpytte before they set off, while I lingered to view The Grotto, traditionally one source of the mighty Wandle.
Out of Carshalton Park the climbing started
almost immediately, unsurprising as the first climb was up to Banstead, where I
encountered Grant. There’s plenty of climbing on this ride but some fine
descents, of which Holly Lane is one for the longest and finest. Enjoy it while
you can because you are turning up Park Rd to (er) Banstead. Next it’s Woodmansterne
and Rectory Road descent where I met Dave Ward; no time to stop as I’m
descending and he’s climbing.
We are headed to Coulsdon, the centre of various hilly loops via a roundabout route which makes sense only to it’s author Paul James. Here I met Paul and Maggie outside DD’s café, refuelling after a gruelling headwind climb of Farthing Down. I wonder whether he bases himself there to check all H50’ers are doing the full 40 miles. We have a nice chat. I have now met 6 Wayfarers en route, a record for me, and very welcome too after weeks of isolation.
Next it’s Cane Hill, looks daunting but in fact easier than that, through the old mental hospital grounds, and down again to (er) Coulsdon. But on the descent on a previous excursion with Neil I had noticed a curious road name – Iron Railway Close. This commemorates the Surrey Iron Railway which passed nearby and formerly carried goods up and down the Wandle valley from Wandsworth as far as Merstham. It was the world’s first public railway, opened in 1804 and was decades ahead of the steam engines and steel rails which would eventually make railways an economic success. Not much survives now of what was a major engineering success, but in Coulsdon there is an embankment which carried the railway over the Chipstead Valley. In it’s pre-Industrial Revolution time it must have been an impressive sight.Another climb takes us to Netherne, a rather more spacious hospital development. It’s time for lunch. The shop offers perfect Audax fare, an out-of-date treacle tart reduced to 20p, and I spend a peaceful break sitting on a rock looking at the old church surrounded by old redwoods.
The stiff breeze from the south has hampered progress so far, but on Harps Oak Lane it’s a blessing, especially on the steep final climb. After Caterham I choose to ride the A22 to keep the bike clean and the speed up. Up to Kenley is tough, and it always feels as if there are ghosts on the airfield. Silver Lane in Woodcote is charmingly prim, but the menagerie in one garden including a white gorilla must be considered a scandal by its neighbours.
A final swoop back to (you guessed) Coulsdon sets you up for the final climb; this time I confess to erring and taking Rectory Lane to minimise the distance riding into the sun on Chipstead Valley.
Mike would have protested at every climb, but he would have loved the descents. Thank you Paul.