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A Morning out with the Starters

As one of the founder members of Sutton Cycling Club I try to stay in touch with as many of our members as possible and join the various group rides if I can. Today I was committed to joining the Starters group, which was meeting at Beddington Park. The starters group are the youngest members of the club- from 4/5 upwards to about 9yrs old. They ride off road, normally in such places as Beddington Park, Epsom Downs and Sutton Arena.

Today's ride was to start in Beddington Park and fortunately yesterday's rain had given way to Sunshine. The group assembled by the famous old Carew Manor, parts of which go back many centuries to the days when the Carew family owned half of the borough. Today we had five children and four dads. Christopher McGovern has been a regular rider and dad Julian has ridden with us and is now leading the group whilst Clive Oxx is recovering from his illness. Little brother Matthew is now riding with us also, it seems only yesterday that he had stabilisers on his bike and cried when Chris and the starters had to leave him in the car park. Also riding today were Toby Cook, dad Gavin and Daniel Howe and dad Stewart. We were pleased to see Clive at the start although he's not yet well enough to join us. Beddington Park was very busy but we navigated our way across the Park, past the cafeteria and joined the gravel path that winds through the Wandle Country Park towards Mitcham Common. As there has been a lot of rain recently there were lots of puddles for young cyclists to ride through. Whether those bikes got washed afterwards is anybody's guess, what do you think? To enter this trail and proceed its length one has to get through several 'gates' which are designed to stop motor bikes being taken on there and so require lifting and passing bikes through. It's easier if someone helps so team work gets our bikes through. Onto Mitcham Common and an area the boys have discovered with a few jumps and, of course, today, more puddles. They rode round in a circle whilst parents rested in the centre watching them. Across the green at Mitcham Junction to join the Wandle, following the Wandle back towards Hackbridge. Tea stop was at 'Wilderness Island', a nature reserve near to Clive's house in Mill Lane. An impromptu meeting agreed the programme for the rest of the year. Back into Beddington Park and a game of 'Poo sticks' for the boys. For those who don't know of this sport it consists of the contestants dropping sticks into the river on one side of a bridge and rushing to the other side to see whose stick came though first. A courtesy we encourage is for our young riders to greet people they meet whilst riding with a cheery 'good morning.' This we find deflates those who feel outraged that we are cycling in their park and also brings a smile to many a face. I've had several people we've met tell me how nice it is to see youngsters exercising and happy. We return to the start point, tired, thirsty, and muddy but having enjoyed a good morning's exercise. It is amazing how many riding routes one can find quite close to home. I always say there is no better way to spend time than cycling with some good companions, today I did and I cannot help but agree with the opinion of John F. Kennedy who said 'Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride'.

Peter Fordham 7th October 2006


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