Most of my local rides go west. There are a number of reasons for this but mainly I try to ride out against the wind and, as far as possible, return with it on my back – as the wind here generally blows from the west I therefore naturally head west. Notwithstanding, from time-to-time – mostly about mid-year – the wind turns and provides some good cycling opportunities to the east. My standard route eastwards is a 30-mile loop out to Haxted Mill but a few years ago I discovered a very nice add-on just to the north which passes through beautiful quiet countryside around Crowhurst, before subsequently dropping down into Edenbridge, then on to Haxted Mill and home on the aforementioned standard route.
The route extension adds about 7-miles to the ride but importantly goes though some really beautiful and quite countryside lanes, which are great for cycling. Despite being a short diversion there are some notable highlights along the way, with two in particular standing out.
The first is an unprepossessing stopping point along lower section of Gibbs Brook Lane that, on a sunny day is simply magic. It is difficult to describe the exact qualities but in the foreground looking out west across farm fields the cereal crops sway in the breeze, just beyond sometimes an amateur model flying club are intriguingly flying their planes, while in the distance the wooded Greensand Ridge provides a beguiling background to the scene. I live on the Greensand Ridge, a conspicuous geological feature parallel to the North Downs that runs across north Kent and Surrey. Though not as high as the adjacent Downs, in my opinion the topography and associated scenery is far superior and, furthermore, produces some very attractive cycling; Churchill’s home at Chartwell is on the Greensand Ridge and I reckon he was a shrewd judge of such matters.
A few miles on is the next highlight – Staffhurst Wood. A 50 hectare site of Special Scientific Interest, the area has been continuously wooded since Saxon times. The antiquity of the woods is obvious even whilst cycling through on the country road but it’s necessary to stop and get off the bike in order to take a walk into the woods in order to really experience its full beauty. On any day the quiet atmosphere is enjoyable but in early May when a carpet of bluebells covers the woodland floor it becomes truly spectacular.
Other Points of Interest:
- On the outward section the ride passes by Outwood Mill, the highest post mill in Britain built in 1665, thus also marking the high-point of the cycle route.
- Immediately prior to entering Staffhurst Wood a short diversion down Caterfield Lane leads to the Royal Oak Pub, which makes an excellent stop for refreshment and lunch – lovely views and good grub!
- Just past the halfway mark on the road east from Edenbridge is Haxted Watermill. With references dating back to 1361, the western half was built c1580 and the eastern part in 1794.
- In the small somewhat unassuming village of Horne near Smallfield, along Bones Lane is a war memorial just by the side of the road. The memorial marks the location of RAF Horne a temporary airfield used by British, Canadian and Polish Spitfire pilots in support of the D-Day landings in 1944.