For the final official Tourist Trophy ride of the year I came up with the idea to go “home” to Frimley and ride the hometown streets I bombed around on rattly-can sprayed single speeds, ‘racers’, and BMXs as a kid, and then the local Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire roads that were my playground when I first got into road cycling. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’ve already bagged Surrey and Hampshire, but Berkshire means I’m still within the Tourist Trophy rules.
Jumping off the train at North Camp I start off along the dirt track of the Blackwater River Path to Frimley, skinny tyres skidding around a bit, and having to pull leaves out of mudguards every now and again. After stopping on the high street to grab some well needed breakfast I was off to explore streets I’ve not ridden for about 20 years. Across the roundabout by Ye Olde White Hart [when did it acquire Ye Olde? Sure it was just The White Hart back then], up towards the church past Apex Drive [where Dad taught me to ride a bike without stabilisers], and off down Field Lane.
Then it was past Lakeside Primary and Middle schools, Tomlins Pond [where did those houses on the far bank come from!?], and Tomlinscote School [never looked like that when I went there]. Past the Catholic School [where the hell did that come from!?] and turning right at the end of the road [road? that used to be a path] I headed off up towards Heatherside past the woods, Frimley Fuel Allotments, where there used to be a BMX track. Actually there were two, one down near the school field, and another at the top of the hill near the junction of Old Bisley Rd and Edgemoor Rd. In the late 80s I rode up the Old Bisley Road most weekends to my friend Alex’s house, before heading off for a training ride [he raced for Woking CC and then VC Meudon]. I spun through Heatherside and down to the roundabout over the M3 and towards Camberley, before turning back towards Frimley via the footbridge over the M3 again [the quickest way over the bridge is to pull massive skids around the 180 degree switchbacks. How none of us fell off this bridge and died is beyond me]. Past the house where the fella from Bros lived [think it was the drummer one] and up Longmeadow past another old house, through the Warren estate, and then darted down the alleyway [who put that fence there?] behind Latham Avenue and the back of another old house. Past Alphington Pond back on to Field Lane, round the back of the old primary school and out towards Frimley Green on St Catherines Rd [I remember when that was all fields down there]
From here we’re into roads further afield and parts of old training rides. From Frimley Green it’s through Deepcut and along to Pirbright bends [still a lovely stretch of road to ride]. Under the railway bridge I turn right for the long climb [well, it felt like a big climb when I was 15] over towards Mytchett [there used to be a tiny magical bike shop here where an old man built wheels, shiny Campag parts glinted in the window, and where I bought my first cycling jersey – a black Castelli wool one with red and yellow striped side panels. It itched like hell]. At Mytchett lake I skip down the steps to the Basingstoke Canal towpath back towards Frimley Green. Rejoining the road I pass the Kings Head [when did it become a Harvester!?] and head for the Hatches, a bridleway past the old gravel pits and over the A331 [I remember when that was fields as well] and across the railway line at Farnborough North.
I head out towards Berkshire through Hawley, across the A30, and through Frogmore and Darby Green. I bought a map for this ride as I thought I might need one, after all it’s been a long, long time since I’ve ridden out this way, but as I head out through Yately it all comes flooding back. I’m chasing my teenage self down the Reading Road, head down and pushing hard, sprinting for the village signs. Past the cricket green at Eversley Cross and onto Eversley I turn up Fleet Hill towards Finchampstead. Somewhere on this hill must be the border with Berkshire but it’s unmarked. Over the top of The Ridges I turn for Crowthorne and down Wellington Avenue, which isn’t as steep or as long a descent as I remember it. At the roundabout I turn north towards Wokingham to pick up Nine Mile Ride west towards Aborfield Garrison, Aborfield Cross and Swallowfield. To try and ride as many roads that I used regularly way back I loop back to Fleet Hill, but this time I turn off before the top down to Eversley Cross to retrace my wheel tracks for a mile or so. Forking left at Eversley I head for Bramshill for a few miles around the Forest of Eversley. Once out on a Sunday morning a young squaddie from Aldershot we passed near Fleet on a fixie asked if he could join us on our ride. We ended up out this way. I remember he thrashed us on every village road sign sprint, and then it would take us half a mile to catch him up as he wound down his pedalling [it ended up a long ride and he missed his lunch back at barracks].
At the end of the Bramshill Road I aim for Hartley Wintney. The other way leads to Heckfield and I’m sure there used to be a 10 mile TT course down that way somewhere. I remember riding out that way one weekend and sitting on a grass verge by a roundabout watching low profile bikes with disk wheels one weekend. Also that way somewhere was the Happy Eater where we’d get toasted tea cakes in the winter. The road back to the A30 drops, rises, and then drops again, and today my legs were starting to feel a bit battered [I’d been out the night before, had less than 5 hours sleep, and eaten nothing more than a sausage roll and a biscuit all day. The younger version of me coped with this level of preparation far better than the current me]. I headed over the A30 towards Fleet but then turned back towards the A30 up a narrow lane. This was so I could get onto the road through Yateley Heath Wood, another road I’ve ridden hundreds of times in the past. In the old days we just rode the hill up the A30 out of Hartley Wintney towards Blackbushe airport. The A30 was much quieter in those days! The road through the woods is lined with rhododendrun and bracken. It summer it was an incredible, intense shade of green. In winter it’s deep green mixed with the orange-brown of the ferns. It stills smells the same as it did back then, but again the descent down to Fleet isn’t as long or as steep as I remember it.
I’m now on the final stretch now, back towards the train. The roads round this part have changed a lot and I get lost round the back of Farnborough. Eventually I find my way into town past the leisure centre and library [there used to be a half pipe and ramps just here], and spin over the hill towards Farnborough North station. For two years I rode from Frimley across the Hatches, or along the Blackwater River, to this station, locked my bike up, and got the train to art school in Reigate [there’s a shoebox under the bed with sketchbooks that were filled on this trainline]. I sit on the platform and wait for the deisel train like I did all those years ago.
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/100141300
Miles ridden: 65
Feet climbed: 2200 (told you those hills were smaller than I remembered)
Average speed: 15mph (the first 2 hours were done at average of 8mph so I must have caned it somewhere along the way)
Old houses passed: 3
Old schools passed: 3
Things that are the same: Everything
Things that have changed: Everything