This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. Back at the start of the decade, we cooked up an idea to mark the 2010 Solstice because experience beats ideas every time, everything else being equal. Even if it means getting up early.
So it was that we joined the druids of this country in marking the advent of the year’s longest ‘day’ with our very own Molestice.
Well, not exactly. In 2010 only Mark and Colin agreed sufficiently with me to get up at 2:30 and ride over to Holmbury Hill for the sunrise, an expedition that left me smelling faintly of coffee and established a certain aura about us that remains to this day. On that occasion, rather than mark the exact Solstice, we plumped for a day early as it fell on a Sunday and it suited our purposes.
This time round, we decided to be exact, even if it meant a very early morning on a weekday. To my surprise the idea has caught on and six of us – no doubt aware that there’s little sleep to be had in this hot weather anyway – agreed to rendezvous at Abinger Roughs at 3:30am to ride up to Holmbury and have ourselves another Molestice.
As an expert in short timescale, high volume fulfilment and delivery operations, Elliott managed to shuffle his work shifts around to join myself, Tony, Jem, Colin and Kev. Kev of course has no need to worry about shifts of any kind other than shifts in the weather; the rest of us were either making executive decisions to spend the rest of the day recuperating or in my case, to head to work at lunchtime.
As the time neared, engines could be heard disrupting the warm and still air as we converged on the car park at Abinger Roughs. Even at that time of the morning it was around 16°C, while the day promised to be the hottest in 40 years according to forecasts. Greeting each other in semi darkness, we quickly got ourselves sorted and ready to roll while the world slumbered on.
For various reasons I’ve not ridden a mountain bike for a few weeks and certainly not in anger, but the ride started easily enough with lights on and a meander across the Roughs, in some confusion as to our route, which soon resolved itself. We headed down to the A25 and up past Paddington Farm, the sky rapidly lightening in the pre-dawn and the Moon and Venus hovering above fields of ripening wheat.
From there, it was a quick trip round the back of the Volunteer pub, then up to Car Park No. 9, the plan being to meet Darren and Amanda. Sadly, Darren soon texted to say they wouldn’t make it after over sleeping. Meanwhile, we pushed on up the hill, managing to summit just around 4:30 for the 4:45am sunrise.
As with 2010, it proved to be quite cold and exposed up at the summit of Holmbury Hill. It must be a quirk of the geography but like last time it was also quite windy so I was glad to have packed a shell to keep warm while we stood around. Our arrival was anticipated by a woman on a yoga mat whom I apologised to for disturbing her peace. She said it was fine as we didn’t look like yobs, but I told her it was just because it was early in the day!
We gathered around the Trig point and pretty soon were joined by another rider, who kept his distance (fair enough), then shortly thereafter a half dozen people turned up, led by a slightly wild looking guy with the largest tea pot you’ve ever seen. I mean, really large!
He just came right up to us and forced us amiable souls to make space for him and his tea pot on the Trig point, then proceeded to take out of it a Primus stove and set to work. Soon he had a full pot heating and took out six mugs for his friends, who were a disparate bunch.
At this point, a closer look revealed that a shy, nervous looking woman was actually a man in a dress! As Jem pointed out, it wasn’t even a particularly nice dress… I was deeply disppointed and complained to Jem he’d sold us a pup on the prospect of naked Vestal Virgins…
During all of this, another local turned up, this time a guy with a well muscled Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. As someone mentioned they use them to hunt lions in their homeland, he took the dog off it’s lead and let it roam around, but warning it not to jump up as it approached people. I was thinking: if the dog needs to be reminded of it’s training, why let it off its lead with strangers who are there to enjoy the sunrise, not be distracted by a dog? But then, I’m always wary of large animals…
By now the sunrise was upon us and everyone who was planning to be there had arrived. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunrise on account of thin, low lying cloud on the horizon, but we toasted it with brandy just the same from Jem’s hip flask and ten minutes later the sun had cleared the cloud. The day was rapidly upon us and it was time to think about breakfast.
Our idea was the Jam Pot in Dorking, the perfect place for a cooked breakfast and decent coffee, but it wasn’t yet 5:00am and wouldn’t be open for a couple of hours at least. So it was time for a ride first.
We headed off to do a simple route of Holmbury Hill, down Yoghurt Pots, then over to I Should Coco and various other runs. Tony managed to seemingly vapourise a large dog turd in front of Colin although a large amount stuck to his rear tyre and quite honestly stank the air for minutes after. It went eventually and just made us ride harder to escape the fumes. We finished with a return to the Trig point, a second run down Yoghurt Pots followed by Secret Squirrel/Telegraph Road all the way to the end and Logan’s Run, before returning to Abinger via Raikes Lane and Paddington Farm.
By now my eyes were starting to smart from all the dust – something seemed to really upset them and by the time we reached the car park I could barely see. My eyes puffed up alarmingly and closer inspection showed the corneas had gone yellow, swollen and very weepy so the pupils were ‘sunk’ into the eyeball. It wasn’t painful exactly, but very hard to see and very itchy. Fortunately, anti-allergy eye drops have helped massively, but even by yesterday evening I looked like I’d had a fight and lost badly.
But you don’t need eyes to enjoy a cooked breakfast. Tony was driving, and we soon decamped from the car park to Dorking for breakfast at the Jam Pot. I can’t recommend this highly enough, £5.50 for an excellent breakfast and cappucino in a friendly cafe. We were even found by Gordo, who it turns out works pretty much next door!
By the time we left, at 8:30 the schools were getting ready for their day with kids making their way in, while we were headed home for sleep after already being up for 5 hours! What a great way to mark the Molestice!