What a route. That sums the Fool’s Errand VI up rather well I think. I’ll admit I’m a local to this Hadlow based sportive (living just down the road) so possibly biased, but actually thinking about it, I think that should mean it would take more for me to be impressed, as I’ve already seen a lot of the roads, hills and scenery before. So for me, that makes the Fool’s Errand even more impressive a route – they really did strike gold.
So a little more detail. The Fool’s Errand VI: “the joy of six” was organised by Wide Horizons, a charity focused on promoting “adventure learning” for disadvantaged children. Far from being pushy, I liked the way that the organisers routinely provided good detail about their charity’s activities and benefits in the pre-event emails etc; it was simply a confident plug for a well-deserving cause and a great way to spread the message about what they’re doing.
Registration was at Hadlow College just down the road from our house (I wholeheartedly recommend the college farm shop by the way!) so I cycled over (a whole 2 miles) for about 07:45 – registration opened at 07:30 with the first group of riders being sent off at 08:00. It was great not having to faff around with the car, but that said, I saw there was plenty of parking for those who had driven.
Registration was in one of the College buildings, and provided great facilities compared to those at the Haywards Heath Howler last month. It was a quick and simple affair, with just a signature required plus a tag which zip-tied to your shoe for timing, no on-bike number required.
Having got all that sorted, I went to join the queue for the start. Groups of 15 or so riders were being let off in 3-4 minute intervals, so I didn’t actually get going until about 08:20. But it was all very friendly in the queue and everyone was pretty relaxed.
Lets get the signage issues out the way now. The long route (there was a 65km short route too) was signposted by orange arrows on a black background. So far so good. The problem was that someone had been a little over enthusiastic and put up double signs on most junctions, one on top of the other, and the result was that it often looked like a black arrow (pointing the other way) on an orange background instead! For the first few miles or so, this did cause the group I started with a little bit of a headache and there was some debate about the right direction, but once we’d worked out what was going on it was all fine. I did see some others still struggling later on, however. For the first time on a sportive, I was very thankful that I had the route uploaded on my Wahoo Elemnt computer, which definitely saved us more than once!
Back to the positives, and the route itself. Heading east out of Hadlow, we soon turned north through WestMalling, before hitting the first big climb hit at Vigo Hill, just past Trottiscliffe. I was with a couple of friendly guys who had travelled over from Westerham at this point, so the time had passed quickly as we chatted, but this was a proper hill that made us all pick up our concentration levels. That out the way, it was a fast rolling run through to the first drinks stop at the Wide Horizon’s office at Horton Kirby, after about 27 miles.
A push past Brands Hatch race circuit (there was a race meeting going on but no negative effects from the traffic) brought a lovely long descent down into Eynsford, the country roads getting all the more picturesque as we went on. A long upwards slog then took us to Tatsfield, followed by a lovely flattish stretch across a bit of the Pilgrim’s Way (lovely views from the top of the North Downs) before heading down at a good speed into Westerham, where the Westerham Cyclery had put on an unofficial drinks stop.
Hosey Hill, one I’ve done a few times before, followed out of Westerham. I’m actually quite a fan of this one, which isn’t too steep and allows you to get into a decent rhythm to pedal up at any speed you choose. However, soon after came Toys Hill, from an angle I’d only descended before. This was a bit of a killer, especially so soon after Hosey Hill. More galling were the temporary traffic lights two thirds of the way up, together with the guy who went straight through the red light (presumably after a Strava PB) whilst I waited patiently, but never mind.
Toys Hill done, it was just a beautiful descent via Ide Hill (I always think that road has a bit of an Alpine pass feel to it the way it sweeps down the side of the hill with a far reaching view out to the side), over Bough Beech reservoir and through Chiddingstone Causeway up to Hildenborough. Turning off Mill Lane before we reached Underriver and the dreaded Carter’s Hill (a real blessing at this point), the route took us through Shipbourne and round the back of Tonbridge to get us back safely to Hadlow College and the finish line.
I can’t put my finger on why, but this route just worked. Maybe it was the scenery, maybe it was the choice of roads, or maybe just the well judged profile, but it really was a fantastic ride and one I think everyone should do at least once in their cycling lives.
The organisers were serving “Fool’s Chilli” at the end, but I politely declined and opted to cycle the 10 minutes straight home as a BBQ was calling!
My Strava link is here if you’d like to check out the route in more detail. If you did the ride, then I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do leave a comment below!
Well done and thank you Wide Horizons, and I’m most definitely putting my name down for “Seventh Heaven” next year!