The Ride of the Falling Leaves (ROTFL), is normally as it’s name suggests a commemorative ride set in the romantic times of Autumn. Only today, Kirsten, Rob and Justin are taking me on a different route, for a Great Getaway.
We start on familiar roads, from Vauxhall Bridge, to Cyrstal Palace, that eventually take us through to the country. Before the lush greens, we roll through the back roads of Brixton. The market too is waking up, and with the World Cup underway the mix of communities are buzzing. It’s a Sunday, and the vegetable stalls are out, blending brilliantly with the bright hues of the graffiti displayed on the walls. A train overhead rumbles gently along the arches and it’s quite a sight seeing my three companions before me roll through such a colourful community.
Some of my favourite climbs are on the doorsteps of villages just waking up to a Sunday morning. The church bells are ringing, people walking their dogs, and a few out for a horse ride. Whatever the reason, it’s a fantastic feeling to be outside.
Familiar roads blend into new winding lanes, and I start feeling I’m holding everyone up. Thankfully, there are a couple of moments to catch my breath and view the garden-like scenery of Kent. I notice Rob rocking his new socks: a thunder bolt on the back flanked by the silhouette of a lady on each side. Quite appropriate, as we’re forced to step up on the hilly sections. Everyone is smiling.
Like a Tardis, just with Manners
As we pedal up the longest climb so far, we are promised a welcome break. Our dipping heads, proof that we sure could use it. We happen upon a roundabout with bunting hanging from a bandstand; I recall this place, but just can’t put a name to it. Justin leads us to a little oasis that I would have easily missed. Suddenly the name and the location take me by surprise. ‘Ide Hill’ is a popular spot for walkers, vintage car drivers and cyclists alike. Not just for the calming view, but for the couple who runs the Community Shop.
With so many people relaxing on the doorsteps of the shop, it almost feels too much of an effort to go inside, but once inside, it’s all worth it. The shop holds all your regular goodies, but with locally made pasties, you can’t go far wrong by sitting down and munching on one of these. We find a spot on the walkway and refuel. It’s a spot I find very hard to tear myself away from. There aren’t many petrol stations with a view and customer service as good as this.
On our way home
We’re on our way back now, but so too it seems is most of the South-East. The roads begin to swell, and what is usually a straightforward matter of navigating through traffic, is delayed by the steep return, and obstructed by my weakened frame. I feel privileged to ride with the group, but thankful that Denis is meeting me in Brixton. He becomes an excellent reason to excuse myself early from the pace.
The Cafe St Germain is now packed with customers. In the morning we paused to enjoy some freshly squeezed orange juice. Oh how would I like to that again. Unfortunately, I can’t peel off just yet. It would be bad manners, and besides, I’m not quite done yet. I’m keen to see if I can catch a shot of the group riding into the hustle and bustle of Brixton. Alas, the best I can do is catch us in more traffic. It’s worth it though; to thank new friends and wish them well till the next getaway.