Bluebells of May ride, 4 May 2008
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4 May 2008

Off the train in Milford.

The only section that was planned to be off road-ish.

The colors in Winkworth Aberotorum

Bluebells and more bluebells.

Stop at the cafe for tea and cake.

Back on the road and a false turn onto a muddy bridal way.

Nearly there for lunch.

Coming into Shere.

Cute bug.

Churchyard in Shere.

Assembling to leave Shere, waiting for a puncture.

Through the forests.

A double puncture stop.

Up the last steep hill.
I had been watching the forecast all week. There were a few fears, the week had already been extremely rainy and various weather websites pretended they knew anything about the future and changed their stories seemingly at random. Refresh, lots of rain on Sunday, refresh, rain, no rain, it will be sunny and lovely, refresh, oh, did we forget to mention the rain. But still, there were bluebells to see, can't let a little rain stop that. And besides, it was nice on Saturday and the most reliable weather report seems to be just see what it is like the day before.

Riding to Green Bridge, the weather seemed to be very nice, not too hot, not too cold, and only the barest hint of rain. Five were waiting there, oh good, it won't be a total washout then. More had said they would meet at the station, but the number who call and say they will be there and the number who actually show up are rarely the same figure. I didn't want to miss the scheduled train since fast trains to Milford only run once an hour. So, after giving it a few minutes, we rush off to the station, sticking mostly to bigger faster roads. After Tower Bridge, I realized I completely forgot how to make that turn onto Tooley Street, oops, has been a while since I've done that.

We arrive at Waterloo with a good amount of time to organize and purchase tickets and catch the train. A few more are waiting there at the station. Somebody has called a few times, where are you, waiting at the station, don't see you, we really are here. Never figured out where he was, sorry, the train won't wait. I get a sinking feeling, I get a text that Gerry is almost there. Oh no, I know how this one is going to go. For the rest of the day, we play Waiting For Gerry, a flurry of texts, just 10 minutes behind you, will catch up soon. But we never see her, even though she apparently knew her exact GPS coordinates. Not sure what I could do with those. Sounds like she had a grand old time all day so I won't feel so bad then.

Things went smoothly to Winkworth, sort of the main goal of the ride, to see fields of bluebells. It was a relatively short distance there, although Surrey is a little confusing, lots of turns. We lock our bikes by the back entrance and walk across to see what there is to see and to have a stop at the cafe. I had been there a few months before and imagined it would be pretty nice in spring and I wasn't disappointed. Colors everywhere and the bluebells looked like a mist of blue across the fields. Excellent. The tea and cake was good too and we head back to continue the ride.

One decides to leave at this point, presumably a little disappointed with the pace. It wasn't really meant to be a head down, pedal to the metal sort of ride, but it wasn't also supposed to be walk in the park (well, not the entire time). There are plenty of hills in Surrey and I had plotted out a good number of them in the route. So, you can't plan everything for everybody but hopefully it was mostly good for most everybody.

So, onward with a goal to have lunch in Shere. Soon after, Gerry is in Winkworth, where are we? She will catch up soon. We leave two behind waiting, who wait and wait and eventually try to catch up again. I make my first major map gaffe of the day and end up on a very muddy bridal way. It doesn't look too bad at first until we hit that point of, do we just go back, after two sections seem completely impassable. But we get a little muddy and keep going. There are both shrieks of laughter from some and a bit of grumpiness from others. But I don't think there was any lasting damage done, so hopefully it wasn't so bad in the grand scheme of things.

Soon then after, back on the road again, I miss the turn and we have to backtrack a little bit on the busy A road. The sign about the road being closed and bridge repair worried me a little bit, but it turned out fine. It was a few mile stretch of completely deserted road and the bridge was still passable. Quickly, the two waiting behind for Gerry catch up and we head on to lunch. Apparently she is lost in the woods but having a great time.

Outside of Shere, we have missed lunch at one pub but they point us to the White Horse in Shere and says they are serving all day. We order, they tell us it will be 45 minutes to an hour for food, so we retire out to the garden and enjoy the sunny day. And watch a cute caterpillar scrunching and stretching across the table. The food arrives fairly quickly, no where near the promised hour and it is pretty nice.

After lunch, we wait by the stream going through town for the first puncture to be fixed. Some run through the very nice churchyard just a few blocks away. And then we are off, quickly out of town and start our steady climb up and up through the forest. What an amazing forest and so close to London too, not just boring plantation conifer pine but real proper Scots pine and others. It is a nice climb up, steady up hill. Somebody stops to check their brakes, convinced that they must be rubbing and slowing him down.

Nearly at the top, the decision is made to skip the planned swoop through the south through Cranleigh and cut across the ridge straight back in order to catch an earlier train back. After the long uphills, the way back is much quicker and some of it covers some of the same ground, so my navigation improves slightly and there are no more wrong turns. A few miles out of Godalming, we suffer double punctures and we stop to sort that out. The rain which had been holding off all day starts to drizzle slightly, but not enough to be even very noticeable.

Just past Winkworth, we encounter a surprise hill, short and steep but everybody manages fine. I could have sworn it was going to be all flat and downhill the rest of the way in, but that's Surrey for you. In Godalming, many find their own ways to the train station, some even lucky enough to have a few teenage girls help them along. But all reach the station in time and after a short wait in a light rain, we head back to London.