Staycation Ride², or the HOGwarts express

12th July 2015

It really was sunny when we did the recce, honest!

Staycation Ride

There is an never-ending search for new destinations for the Sunday ride-outs. The requirements are quite stringent, in that it must be reachable within about three hours of normal riding and be able to offer parking, suitable refreshments and something of interest to see or do. This time we settled on the preserved Spa Valley Railway, with the intention of visiting a station in the picturesque village of Groombridge in Sussex and having a ride on a steam train. This was a real slice of Old England, the track and buildings haven’t changed since Beeching’s axe fell in 1963. Nor it seems have the sandwiches.

After the unfortunate event of the deficient drop-off at JW’s Red Baron Ride, I went to some pains to explain the rules of engagement to the assembled 43 riders and pillions. This included a clear explication of the principle of continuing straight on the road you are on unless there is a drop-off indicating otherwise. And a dire warning of the consequences of mixing uncontrolled horseflesh with the output of possibly quite noisy exhausts (e.g. V-Rods as modelled by the newly clean shaven Jean Dignand).

The route out of London was perforce different to the usual Putney Bridge/A3 event. Instead we had the Trinity Road (plus roadworks), Tooting (why did three drop-offs stop for the Church Lane turning?), Mitcham, Croydon, Purley, Warlingham, Oxted, Edenbridge, Cowden, Hartfield and finally Groombridge. This was managed without incident and in good time; we left 611 Kings Road at 10am and arrived in Groombridge just after 11.30am, some 40 miles later. Parking was relatively simple and we had adequate time for tea and sandwiches and a short ride on a train (with a diesel engine). And then another short ride on the same train but with a different (steam) engine. And in the other direction. So we got back to where we started from (i.e. Groombridge). And for only £5!

Staycation Ride

Another short briefing, reminding participants of the destination and warning them to look out for a 20 foot chicken and we were off. It all started to unravel when we reached the A264. Firstly Emine had a mild but unscheduled off. Then we had to stop for petrol, as personally requested by Tina Gath who has a 48. It was now raining properly so on with the waterproofs; it soon became clear that the route which had been safe and manageable for drop-offs on a dry road was anything but on a wet road with impatient Sunday traffic. Since this was the first rain for quite a while the road surface resembled an ice rink and I had several impressive twitches and one full blown slide. No ABS on a 2006! Fortunately my new Harley-Davidson™ boots kept my feet warm and dry. The same couldn’t be said of my Other Brand gloves. It all came to a head on the roundabout where the A264 meets the M23; there was no possibility of leaving a drop-off as it’s a clearway in every direction, slippery as heck, and there are only two routes - straight on for the A264 into Crawley, or left or right onto the M23. Most people went straight on, to find a drop off at the next roundabout (and the one after that)... some didn’t. Then we had issue 2, which was a serious road accident at the following roundabout with several ambulances and police cars and a sports bike apparently being rescued from a thicket. Feeling it unwise to leave a drop off here, I relied upon the ‘go straight on unless otherwise indicated’ principle and hoped that the riders would see Andrew Eborn at the next roundabout and get back on track. Which most seemed to achieve. Regrettably some didn’t and I can only apologise to those who didn’t get to our destination but visited other places instead. Including Brighton. They really made the ride-out their own.

Staycation Ride

We eventually achieved the A25 about 3 miles outside Dorking, having come up through Grizzly country (Newdigate); by this time it had stopped raining and the roads were drying fast. Pulling out on to the A25 still took a while as there were few gaps in the traffic. The chicken is a large aluminium sculpture on the Cock Roundabout at the entrance to Dorking, celebrating a local breed of laying fowl. On arrival at Ryka’s, we had the place almost to ourselves - had the sports bikes been frightened off by the (light) rain? More tea and burgers were soon procured and then it was another C&F Social event...

Emine did rejoin us just after we got to Ryka’s (how was Brighton?) but she soon disappeared with chums for a late lunch in an ‘interesting’ local hostelry. Do tell?

I am given to understand that the ride was enjoyed by those who took part in it! I must make very public thanks to the unflappable Mick Newstead as last man and the ever supportive Les Channing who was the roving marshal. I am also grateful for the warm welcome we received from the staff of the Spa Valley Railway, particularly the Groombridge Station Master, Mr, Peter Gilbert. Apparently we did very good things to his takings on an otherwise damp and drizzly day.

Staycation Ride

Another few shout-outs - the pictures are courtesy of Emine San, Johnathan Wootton and Nick de Demko. Amongst the new(er) riders we extend a warm welcome to Patric da Silva, Sally Bishop and Kelum Weerakkody.

For those of you who might be interested, the two locos were a rare Class 14 Diesel and a Hunslett Austerity steam engine, late of the National Coal Board. Both are on loan to the Spa Valley Railway.

The next C&F rideout is 8th August. Note that the meeting place is the Ace Café on the north circular (A406) at 8.30am so don’t go to Warr’s first, as it will be shut. My next ride is the Remembrance Ride on November 8th, when we are going to Brook wood military cemetery near Bisley.

Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain