The Free Beer Bike Ride

Free Beer

Just a few miles from my house, there are some lovely parts of Surrey for an evening or afternoon bike ride. Feeling the pressure of our upcoming departure from England, I’ve been trying to squeeze in some last few rides in the part of the local countryside most familiar to me.  This ride on the last Sunday of August turned out to be an especially memorable one.

I filled up my water bottle and put my Canon G9 into my handle bar bag, and took off for the wilds of north-western Surrey.  It takes about 3 miles of riding through traffic before you get to a more relaxed place.  Although surrounded by motorways, railways, and suburban sprawl, Windlesham is a nice little community.  Church Road is a quiet and wide street that includes the Half Moon pub and Saint John’s Church.   Crossing underneath the busy M3, the countryside starts in earnest with Hook Mill Lane, a very narrow uphill through the hedgerows. Taking a right on Burnt Pollard Lane quickly brings you to the tidy suburb of West End.

Garden Allotment in West End

I stopped at the northern end of West End to wander around the allotment. Allotments are public areas that have been set aside for the use of gardeners, and they are a common scene in England. They are also very common in the German-speaking lands, where they tend to be much, much, much more regimented and formalized. English allotments, although they can have some very elaborate fixtures, tend to be ‘organic’ looking, tending towards the sloppy.

Charles George Gordon statue

Gordons School is located on the other side of the road from the allotments.  Originally sponsored by Queen Victoria, the school is named after the extremely colourful British army officer, George Gordon. Known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, the school features a statue of Gordon and his camel.  Portrayed by Charlton Heston in the somewhat romanticized flick, Khartoum, Gordon was killed at the fall of Khartoum in 1885. Although he was probably in over his head, Gladstone could arguably have saved him by sending relief forces earlier, and Victoria never forgave the PM for Gordon’s death.

Dry Wash Road

Riding through West End and then taking Pennypot Lane back north, I crossed the A319 and went looking for Watery Lane. Featured in several guidebooks, it is apparently the status of a byway, connecting Clappers Lane with the very posh pseudo-rural neighbourhood along Ford Road.  The road is certainly accessible by horse, and possibly by a very fit and ambitious mountain biker, but I chose to walk my bike along the narrow path that parallels the perpetually flooded and well-named lane.

I turned East on Windlesham Road, crossing the B383 along the northern end of Chobham.  Past the Red Lion Pub, the road changes its name to Gracious Pond Road. Much beloved by local cyclists of all skill levels, this long and smooth road skirts along the southern edge of the Chobham Commons, passing through lovely birch tree stands.

Gracious Pond Road, Chobham, Surrey

On the other side of Gracious Pond, I headed back towards Chertsey. Riding about 1/8 of a mile East on the busy A319, I crossed over to Philpot Lane. A beautiful little arched masonry bridge, crossing a burbling brook, is one of my favourite sights on these nearby trips.

By this point, I was getting tired and ready for home.  I almost didn’t stop when I saw the huge handwritten sign, “Free Beer,” in Chertsey. Then I remembered that there had been a beer fest the day before, and realized that they must have some left over that they would be throwing away.  I immediately turned around and headed for a large tent with a large Pimm’s banner drooping along one side.

After the Beer Fest

It was like beer heaven.  They gave me a pint and congratulated me on arriving just before they shut down. I bought a sausage and downed my pint, hoping for seconds. That’s when I noticed some well-pickled locals who were filling up soft drink bottles at the bar. I poured the water out of the bottle on my bike, kicked myself for not having brought two bottles, and filled it up with the lightest ale that they had (why overdue it, right?).  It looked like I was bringing home a urine sample, but I figured it was a worthy experiment.

About a mile and a half down the road, I heard a little pop sound, and noticed a stream of foam, volcanoing away from the nipple of my bottle. I stopped, took about an inch off the top, pushed the nipple back down, and headed for home without further incident. I put it in the fridge, and had it with my dinner a couple hours later, after church. It was flat and sour–just like it was when I got it out of the tap. Perfect!

Several other pictures from my rides around Surrey can be found on my Cycling Surrey photo gallery. The map/satellite image below shows my route in blue, and it can be zoomed in so you can see some of the places from my trip.

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