Attendance on my recent "RetroBike" rides have been diminishing, with few signing up and most of those dropping out at the 11th hour. The ride began with a very poor turnout of just myself and one other rider. On the plus side of the equation, that other rider was Flossyrockstar aka Pete, someone I have known for around 25 years now. He was even my lodger for a while during one of life's ups and downs. Sadly, in recent years I have seen very little of him, so without other riders' needs to cater for, we could go a little slower and have the time to chat and do a heck of a lot of much needed catching up.
We stuck to the scheduled meet up point of Bromley South and without further ado headed straight off. Within minutes we had left the suburban bustle behind and were riding through the many stud farms that co-exist on Bromley Common, stopping briefly to grab a quick snap of a Shetland pony and its foal.
Back in July it was not far from this spot that I spotted a deer roaming round the nearby thickets, you can easily forget that the A21 is only about 500 metres away and imagine yourself to be well into the country.
Next we headed into dense woodland, skirting around Hayes Farm, following tiny paths that snake through the trees to briefly emerge into glades before heading back into the woods. In no time at all we were at Keston ponds, but found our chosen path closed due to a fallen tree, which must have happened very recently as it was still in leaf.
We back tracked, then began the slow climb through Keston Common up towards Biggin Hill and the start of the Bridleway. Pete took to the downhill section like a greyhound down the track, shooting ahead so fast that he soon disappeared and I thought I had lost him.
In the past Pete had been quite unfit, some years back he had been humiliated when we went running together, since then he has been training very hard. Heading uphill towards Fickleshole, he had the novel pleasure of waiting smugly for me to catch up and get my breath back.
A couple of miles further on we both had the pleasure of stopping at The White Bear for a wonderful, refreshing, isotonic sports drink, otherwise known as cider.
Fully refreshed we had a fine race down the hill to Fryland's Wood Scout Camp before a fairly tiring climb back up through Crab Wood above it.
We then headed over towards Farleigh Golf Club and stopped for a photo opportunity. I discovered I had a serious puncture and rather than swap inner tubes, set about gluing on a patch. On putting everything back together I found I had completely missed the puncture hole! But it was a welcome rest and we had a fine view of a cavalcade of Audi 4x4s heading to and from the golf club.
Fortunately once the wheel was re-assembled, for the second time, it maintained pressure and survived the quick dash down to Bears Wood without further incident. The path was much more slippery than my last visit, not helped by mossy tree routes and brick sized chunks of loose flint on which I found myself getting very sideways, but somehow kept it together. On this occasion not only did we miss the all important left turn towards Selsdon, but took another wrong turn and ended up making a loop back to our starting point on the golf course.
2nd time lucky, we made the correct traverse towards Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve managed to avoid becoming impaled by low hanging branches or riding into badger holes and found a neat route back down to the end of Featherbed Lane.
I also found a really pleasant quiet route past Addington Palace and up Gravel Hill to The Lookout, the visibility was excellent with views as far as High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. The official ride ended with a quick visit to Shirley Windmill and the return towards Bromley by road.
As were were both still feeling feisty, we made an additional exploration of the extensive grounds of the Royal Bethlem Hospital at Monks Orchard. Given that it is a mental hospital, with areas that appear to be secure units, I imagine this is against a lot of rules. However, many of the paths were well travelled and looked like a popular dog walking spot. There were some wonderful woodland sections that had an almost primordial feel to them. It would be a great area to explore further and would be full on Scooby Doo spooky by the light of a full moon.
This just left us the time for a final swift half at in West Wickham before heading our separate ways.
It is an excellent route that never gets boring and one I would love to do again with a group, but judging by the paucity of interest is going to be highly unlikely now.