Each signpost points to somewhere I was either a few minutes or an hour or two ago, and quite often both. A back and forth route that almost retraces and crosses itself but never quite meets. A series of incredibly familiar lanes, like a list of old friends in an address book; St Helena, Streat, Underhill, New Way, Danworth, Pomper, Twineham, Bob, Kent, Picts, Long House. These are old commutes, once visited daily, autopilot could be applied but I tap the Garmin to check which way to turn as although I’m riding usual ways it’s not in familiar directions or combinations. The hinterlands of the South Downs where the curves of the hills flatten out into mid-Sussex. Not completely ironed out though, there are short sharp climbs. There’s that lane that has a Belgium like feel which is appropriate as it’s Classics season.
Past the house that looks like a World War II bunker from the outside but you know it’s all walls of glass and pristine white inside. Square edge shorn hedges, splintered shards poking outwards, spiking the sunlight. A harshness and violence at odds with the flowers gently exploding in verges. Spring’s big bang. Colour splatters. Galaxies of flowers in verges and hedgerows, white and yellow and lilac. Hawthorne blossom, buttercups, daisies, things I don’t know the names of, I should get a book of plants. Dazzle ship pattern shadows on the roads, sunlight able to filter between still bare branches but the pointillist fizz of trees coming into bud has started. Squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants in the quiet lanes. Cats laze in the shade under car bumpers in driveways. A coke can, bright and new rolls across the white lines in the centre of the road, must have been thrown from that last car. What is wrong with people?
The reservoir after a detour for a closed road and then Horsted Keynes, a place that will forever sound like the name of a firm of solicitors from a Wodehouse book in my mind. Up and down and across Sussex, the route still folds in on itself, almost crossing itself but not quite. Slugwash Lane returning towards the South Downs in anticipation. Those hills have been in sight almost the whole time since setting off but not yet to be clambered over. Back to the north and the Ashdown. A route that takes in almost all of what Sussex has to offer, the Downs, the Weald, Ashdown Forest, High Weald, Pevensey Levels, but not today…
Diamonds are forever but not the ones in my legs. A hundred and twenty k into the two hundred and I turn around and head back to Lewes and the train station. I’ve managed another complete James Bond audiobook continuing this years Randonneur Round the Year soundtrack theme but not all of the ride. I’m feeling empty, going through the motions for no real gain, either physically or mentally. Changes at work and a bout of COVID have played havoc with my audax schedule with cancelling entries to calendar events and trying to find weekends to squeeze in DIYs and now I’ve missed March. Perhaps a month off to reset and start again in May. Maybe even revisit that idea from a couple of years ago before the world closed down to try and complete RRtY on French roads now travel restrictions have eased.