Reasons To Be Cheerful

From the moment we learn to ride a bike as a child, the pleasure of cycling takes many different forms which never leave you whatever your age.  Probably the most powerful sense gained from cycling is that of freedom; as a child it may be your first experience of this feeling but even when older it remains a powerful force each time you take the bike out, we just don’t tend to think about it very often.

At this time of the year after the Christmas festivities, when the days are short and mostly overcast in the northern latitudes, it’s easy to feel a little despondent, fed up, even depressed, which has now been medically defined as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Treatment of such a condition ranges from prescribing antidepressants, CBT, changes in lifestyle and light treatment – which simulates exposure to sunlight.  I have no doubt these might help but I’d like to suggest that for SAD and life in general doctors should prescribe cycling.  There are of course the obvious benefits  such as exercise, fresh air and just enjoying the world about you but, in general and at any time of the year, I find even certain stretches of road can bring an added pleasure that lifts my spirits a little bit more and thought I’d record a few of them here (see map below).

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1. Trumpet Hill to Betchworth 2. Gadbrook Road 3. Wear Street 4. Gibbs Brook Lane 5. St Piers Lane

There are a number of local rides I undertake which incorporate certain stretches of road that are uplifting, perhaps because they’re more attractive or maybe imbue an enjoyable atmosphere or feeling for mostly unknown reasons.  First of these and closest to my home is just 3.5 miles away on the Trumpet Hill Road – Wonham Lane route to Betchworth and beyond.

Trumpet Hill to Betchworth (1.5 miles)

This quiet lane passes through some of Surrey’s most beautiful countryside and it is no surprise there are therefore some very expensive houses along the route.  Cycling west to Trumpet Hill from home I ride via Woodhatch and then on to Flanchford Road.  Alternatively the route westwards on the A25 out of Reigate, then south across Reigate Heath past Reigate Windmill is also very nice.

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Trumpet Hill branching off Flanchford Road

There are two hills at Trumpet Hill depending which direction you come from – north or south (see above image) – both run downhill before joining up at the bottom to form Trumpet Hill Road.

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This grassy patch between Trumpet Hill & Wonham Mill is guaranteed to be covered in rabbits on an early morning ride from spring to early autumn

The route then briefly winds through meadow before passing the old Wonham Mill, recently converted into upmarket apartments; the road often used to flood at this point in the winter but I’ve got a feeling that’s been sorted since the mill’s conversion.  Bearing upwards and to the right after crossing the brook at the mill, the road then passes along the rear boundary fence of Wonham Manor on the left and the mill pond on the right, before briefly entering a short wooded stretch that remains shady even on a sunny day (and wet and slippery if it’s been raining recently).  Thereafter there are a couple of very upmarket houses on the right before reaching a more modest property at the top corner, which is covered in a spectacularly large Wisteria that glows with purple flowers in spring.

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Wonham Mill – recently refurbished into upmarket apartments

Immediately afterwards the road straightens to become Wonham Lane, with a grassy slope on the right where horses are usually grazing before it then changes to woodland, at which point the entrance to Wonham Manor is located on the left of the road.  An imposing building well set back from the road, the Manor overlooks wide grassy fields and mature oak trees, through which the River Mole gently meanders and where a large herd of deer can be seen on most days.  It’s always worth a stop especially if the deer are up by the road, which they often are in winter when the gamekeeper lays out their food at this time of the year.

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Wonham Manor – a quintessential English parkland
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Wonham Lane runs alongside the northern boundary of the Manor’s park, which in the winter months often provides a close-up view of the deer herd being fed

This is probably the highlight of the ride but after a gentle downward slope the road passes by a magnificent old, wood beamed country house on the north bank of the River Mole on the left, which shortly after appears again running by the roadside just around the corner creating a beautiful riverside setting; in winter this stretch can often flood too.

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Just before Betchworth the River Mole runs immediately beside Wonham Lane, producing a stunning setting in the summer but in the winter often floods

Soon afterwards Wonham Lane ends at the junction with Snowerhill Road in Betchworth, which is worth a stop at the Dolphin pub or a look in the blacksmith’s door opposite when it’s open for a view of another bygone era.

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If it’s open take a look inside the blacksmiths at Betchworth (left) for a look at another era, then cross the road to experience the excellent Dolphin Inn (right); note the nice new tarmac!

Such is the location of this stretch of road I use it often at the beginning or in reverse at the end of many rides and it is always a pleasure.  Going east it’s important to engage in a low gear before getting to Trumpet Hill, which though short is a very steep climb.

Gadbrook Road (1.1 miles)

Nearby and accessible from Betchworth to the north, Gadbrook Road is another short but enjoyable route that also runs east-west before ending at Brockham Road; needless to say it follows Gad Brook stream.  Arriving from the east, leave Leigh on Tappener’s Road located by the Seven Stars Inn heading towards Betchworth, then after 0.60 miles turn left onto Gadbrook Road; straight on goes to Betchworth via Snower Hill.

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Looking north east at the start of Gadbrook Road (east) – North Downs and Box Hill in the distance (right), the farm fields in the foreground attract flocks of birds and deer. In the far distance (left of centre) is Denbies vineyard, situated on the slopes of the North Downs

If the weather is clear the view northwards along the first section is very good, with the North Downs and Box Hill in the distance.  The farm fields in the foreground are often covered in birds feeding on leftover crops and on a special occasion I encountered a deer running across the fields, which jumped over the hedge in front of me, crossed the road and disappeared off into the adjoining fields and woods!  Just after turning into Gadbrook Road, on the south side the fields currently contain a small herd of llama!

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France? No, Gadbrook Road – central section

At the end of this stretch the road turns slightly left and then continues straight ahead for about half a mile, with a few cottages and converted old farm buildings dotted about on either side.  On the left (south) side towards Gad Brook, is an alley of tall popular trees each side of a farm track which produces something of a French ambience.  Further on towards the western end, the road winds a little through orchards, open woods and some very large houses.

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Late winter morning looking over the area between Gad Brook and the River Mole

There’s nothing spectacular about this road it’s just very pleasant and flat – always good when cycling – and worth a detour just to include it in a longer ride outwards to the west or going home east.

Wear Street (3.0 miles)

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Being a further distance from home, I usually tend to cycle this beautiful country lane in the spring-summer-autumn months, when the weather is better and the days longer, so my rides go further afield; if I lived a little closer I’d ride up and down it every day, it’s wonderful.  However, the road surface is not good, in parts it is actually very poor and the western Gatwick flight path goes directly overhead about half-way down but don’t be put off, this a great ride, much favoured by local cyclists in-the-know.

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Entering the middle section of Wear Street

Starting from the north, west of Ockley Station, turn left (south) onto Wear Street – the road first rises and is currently in very bad condition.  Soon thereafter most of the route winds gently downwards through mixed woodland, broken occasionally by small fields and cottages on either side – in places the eastern (left) side falls steeply away into the woods with a small stream below.

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Wear Street runs mostly through shady woodland along much of the middle section

Early on, by the entrance to Holbook Farm, there’s an opening in the trees and a small pond with ducks which is surrounded by a grass slope and a conveniently placed bench at which to stop and take a rest, have a snack and hopefully have a few crumbs left over for the ever present and keen ducks.

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Holbrook Pond – unusually the ducks have gone awol on this occasion!

After two miles the lane bottoms out and takes some very sharp zig zag turns over a small bridge, climbs steeply but briefly, levels out and then gently rises again before finally ending at the junction with Stane Street (A29), an old Roman road.  Just before this point there is a wonderful view to the right across the farm fields towards the top of Leith Hill in the distance – at 294 metres this is the second highest point in south-east England, much favoured by off-road and road cyclists alike.

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Leith Hill from the southern end of Wear Street

Gibbs Brook Lane (1.50 miles)

Going east from home there are plenty of other very enjoyable roads, particularly on the southern side of the Greensand Ridge but for me there’s one special lane just east of Crowhurst Lane End.  It would be easy to miss the left (north) turn off Crowhurst Lane which immediately crosses the Guildford to Tonbridge railway line (itself a trip worth taking, as it runs first along the southern edge of the North Downs and then the Greensand Ridge).  Over the bridge the lane wiggles down and up through some of England’s most beautiful countryside.  But before going too far I always stop at a metal barrier on the west side of the lane to take in the wonderful and quintessentially English views all around.

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If the weather is calm and I’m lucky the farm field on the west side is used by a model aeroplane club to fly their planes, which is great fun to watch.

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Looking north west from the lower end of Gibbs Lane – in the middle distance is the Greensand Ridge, which runs parallel with the North Downs through Kent and Surrey and provides some excellent cycling.  In the middle ground, by the trees on the left, model planes are often flown.

The rest of this narrow lane continues to meander through lovely countryside, which near the end provides the possibility of turning right onto Popes Lane and thence onwards via Merle to Staffhurst Wood – but that’s another story I’ve written about elsewhere.

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Heading towards the middle section of Gibbs Lane.

St Piers Lane (1.60 Miles)

If I’m looking for a +30 mile ride east I always end up at Haxted Mill and then shortly afterwards St Piers Lane.  From Haxted Mill turn left onto Water Lane – the clues in the name as it floods a lot – first heading south, then after crossing a modern brick built bridge over Eden Brook turn immediately right into St Piers Lane.  This very narrow country lane winds along the valley of the River Eden and it is, as the name suggests, very beautiful.

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Eden Brook at the eastern end of St Piers Lane

I’m most likely to do this ride in the summer, when the vegetation along the river is rich and green with abundant insects, butterflies, birds and small trout visible from the aforementioned bridge in the Eden Brook below.  In contrast, the winter can provide an altogether very different but nonetheless interesting experience, when the fields are often flooded and sometimes even frozen, it becomes a winter wonderland.

Approaching the western end, the lane first passes through St Piers School, a large group of buildings spread out over a country setting, which is used for the care and education of young epileptic children.  Shortly afterwards the lane ends just before Lingfield racecourse, which is just around the corner under a railway bridge.

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There are many other stretches of road that lift my spirits but really just being out on the bike usually does it for me, though there are exceptions.  It’s undeniable that traffic conditions can often detract from a ride or just aggressive drivers and there’s always one on every ride.  Most of my rides today are on the road, albeit wherever possible quieter countryside roads but wherever you ride in the UK at the moment there’s one common bugbear – potholes and poor road conditions.  Notwithstanding, every now and then the council get their act together and resurface a small stretch of tarmac, which before it inevitably starts to deteriorate again is cycling heaven.

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Local road this summer – not just a problem for cyclists  it’s very dangerous for all road users.
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On the other hand: nice smooth tarmac = cycling heaven!

All being well I would expect to ride all the above roads many times over the coming year and every time it will be a pleasure.  Whilst recovering from a knee replacement operation in 2015, I even just rode up and down some of these sections just for fun.  I’ve written before about Seasonal Cycling and as I ride throughout the year along these and other familiar roads the effect of the changing seasons or just different weather can also add another dimension that might further enhance or at least change my appreciation of a ride.

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Despite personal health problems, Ian Dury knew a thing or two about reasons to be cheerful which he used in his music.  Although he passed away in the year 2000 his band The Blockheads still regularly tour and I can highly recommend them, they’re great fun and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  Almost certainly they’ll play Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3, perhaps cycling should be Part-4?

 

Reasons to be cheerful part 3 – Lyrics (slightly abridged)

Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly

Good golly Miss Molly and boats

Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet

Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

18 wheeler Scammels, dominica camels

All other mammals plus equal votes

Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willie

Being rather silly and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it

Your welcome we can spare it and yellow socks

Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty

Going on forty no electric shocks

The juice of a carrot, the smile of a parrot

A little drop of claret, anything that rocks

Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain’t spotty

Sitting on a potty, curing smallpox

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Reasons to be cheerful – 1 2 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Health service glasses, gigolos and brasses

Round or skinny bottoms

Take your mum to Paris, lighting up a chalice

Wee Willie Harris

Bantu Steven Biko, listening to Reko

Harp Groucho Chico

Cheddar cheese and pickle, La Vincent motorcycle

Slap and tickle

Woody Allan, Dali, Domitrie and Pascale

Balla balla balla and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy

Being in my nuddy

Saying okeydokey, sing-a-long a Smokie

Coming out a chokie

John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano

Beuno Colino ????

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Reasons to be cheerful – 1 2 3

Yes yes – dear dear

Perhaps next year

Or maybe even never

In which case

Woody Allan, Dali, Domitrie and Pascale

Balla balla balla and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy

Being in my nuddy

Saying okeydokey, sing-a-long a Smokie

Coming out a chokie

John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano

Beuno Colino ????

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

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