Well, the invitation response was enthusiastic, 23 on the road plus Frances riding independently to lunch, which may be a January record for us. But did I detect a reluctance to leave Hersham? All our three groups left a little later than my optimistic early start. Was it the cold outside or the excellent coffee and bread pudding inside?
First Steve Duffin
There were eight in my group, first away at 10.35. Janice had ridden to the Day Centre with Andy Huddart from Kingston Phoenix. There was also Ged, Mike, Neil W, Patrick, Dave B and myself. It was sunny with little wind, but cold. The route cut out much of the Seven Hills road by diverting onto the pavement, turning into Convent Lane and hey presto, we were in Cobham. The quiet roads south led us up Sheepleas hill which was hard work. We took a picture in Staple Lane looking towards Woking, but the fog layer prevented us from seeing much detail.
We made good time downhill to Send and cutting along the River Wey valley, arrived at The Seven Stars at 12.20 pm. I thought £10 for a baguette was a little steep, until it arrived huge and well filled, with a pile of salad, some sauce and a sculpted lemon for garnish. We met Frances inside and it was good to have the nine of us seated at the same table chatting. Andy told us racing stories and tales of groups averaging 20 mph!! A nice pub, which we didn't want to leave.
Nevertheless, we left at 1.25 with Frances. The route took in sunny Byfleet, then Weybridge and Walton to tea at East Molesey cricket club. Janice, Frances, Mike and Andy left for home. So the remainder of us had tea. Ray from the B's turned up and after the others left, the second group arrived so I stayed for a chat. When I left for home at 4 pm it was freezing.
I think we all enjoyed the company of everyone in the group. It was a lovely route, shown at its best in the sunshine. Thanks Dave and thanks to Mike for back marking for me. Another super ride with no problems.
Next Neil C
At the appointed time there were five of us outside in the cold, and two more inside, each trying hard to be the last to arrive. After a few minutes they ended their stand-off and joined us for our ride south in search of the one big hill for the day.
We resisted all opportunities of short cuts to lunch that Dave had built into the route and rode all the way to the top of Staple Lane. On the descent we stopped to take in the view but the mist was still hanging over the capital. We could see the towers of Canary Wharf but we struggled to see the Eiffel Tower, but Simon assured us it was there.
As we passed Send Prison Simon felt a little deflated. No just because we didn't believe him about the Eiffel Tower, but because his tyre had picked up a flint. Richard and Dave W stayed to help reinflate him while the rest of us pressed on to lunch. Soon they caught us up.
The food at The Seven Stars was good, and my sausage and mash was the most artistic interpretation I've seen in a long while.
After the warmth of the pub it felt quite cold outside but we still stood and shivered as Simon took the customary group photo.
We soon warmed up again on the ride and five of us stopped for tea at the Molesey Cricket Club where we met Steve's group.
Thanks to my group for a fine day out, Dave W for back-marking, and Dave V for a route with just the right amount of climbing for a cold January day.
Finally my group of David & Jennie, Sue C & Sue F, Gina, John B and Dave F were on the road just around 10.55. Sue F qualified for the day’s climbing award having also done Sheepleas last week with the B’s and on a recent recce. We stopped for the view on Staple Lane to debate whether the hazy layer over London was in fact smoke pollution trapped in an atmospheric temperature inversion. A great pity as the view from there can be spectacular.
We arrived in the pub about 1.10 to be united with the earlier groups. Having 23 bikes in the garden from which they are normally banned was another sort of record. Service was friendly and generally speedy and nobody complained about the portions. David J left us before lunch. Few things are more important than cycling, but supporting Spurs is one.
Leaving the pub a little behind my 2pm schedule we made steady progress as far as Walton, where Dave F, Gina and Sue C left us to ride home direct. It was getting late to finish the ride in Molesey before they closed, so four of us took tea (in proper China cups) at the Riverhouse Barn.
Jennie led us homewards through Molesey where the aggressive driving was even more noticeable than usual for the time of day.
We had a couple of dropped chains during the day, but cometh the hour, cometh the man with a Rehook, a cunning device for reattaching the chain with clean hands. Thanks Dave F.
Thanks to everyone who came on the ride, and in my group to David & Jennie for back marking. Photos courtesy of Neil W Simon and Ged. And big thanks to Steve and Neil C for co-leading.
PS Are the evenings getting noticeably lighter?