Sat 11 May 2013
“We seem to have run out of cheese Gromit!” declared Wallace. “We’d better set up a ride to Winterdale Shaw to collect supplies” he continued. And that is how the Kentish Ride from Otford, also known as ‘the Cheese Run,’ came to be organised by Bromley Cyclists’ very own Gromit.
We arrived at the farm with just seconds to spare at 1pm as staff were just about to close for the day. Impeccable timing Gromit! Cheese was purchased and carefully stowed in saddle bags, panniers and rucksacks for the homeward journey. Hmm! I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s wind the clock back a little to mid morning when we were arriving at Otford Station by train from Bromley South and Catford. One rider was waiting on the platform having cycled all the way to here from Lewisham. There were six of us; Wallace and Gromit (aka Andrew and Trevor) obviously, Hannah who might also be called Helen (she was introduced to me by both names, so my most sincere apologies for not getting it sorted out properly) Steve, Jane and me.
We were soon on the road, there being little need for a briefing as we had all been out on the rides before. Departing from Otford Rail Station is always a bit of a wake up call. It is 600 yards or so up a nasty little slope to the Pilgrims Way – perhaps this can be considered ‘Homage to Vigo,’ of which, more later.
Pilgrims Way runs Eastward under the ridge which forms the North Downs overlooking the Weald of Kent. We soon entered and passed through the village of Kemsing. It was here we suffered our first, and in fact only, puncture of the day. Jane’s nimble fingers soon had the tyre prised off and the offending foreign body located and removed. New tube fitted we were off again, delayed by no more than 10 minutes!
Our next stop was at Ightham Mote, some of us hadn’t seen this medieval manor house before. It has an interesting history which you can read here if you wish.
Viewing complete we pressed onwards, the ever faithful Garmin directing our path with quietly bleeping confidence. How ever did we manage before we had such technology? We passed through Plaxtol and mused how it got its name; you can see a rather dubious suggestion in Wikipedia here.
The long cold spring seems to have finally relinquished its grip on South East England. Pear and apple blossoms were abundant; trees shrubs and all manner of flora were pushing forth young bright green growth which makes the countryside so attractive at this time of year. The bluebells, probably two – four weeks late this year, formed billowing blue blankets amongst the woods and trees.
At Dunk’s Green we passed the Kentish Rifleman Pub; it was here we left a bag behind on a previous ride. By not stopping here on this occasion we ensured there would be no repetition of that mistake. The long climb from Dunk’s Green to Crouch kept us quiet and concentrated on the job in hand (foot I suppose that should be really). We were also aware that time was tight for the cheese shop – it would be a disaster to have come all this way only to miss it by a few minutes. We were all aware that between us and cheese lay the huge geological fault known as Vigo Hill, this being the route up from the Weald to the Ridge of the North Downs.
At Trottiscliffe we began the ascent of this absolute monster. Gradually the gradient increased becoming steeper and steeper until passing under a viaduct towards the top it becomes nearly vertical. We all stayed on our bikes for the whole hill. Well done us. But did it take its toll.
And so to Winterdale Shaw just a mile or so further on.
We lunched at the Black Horse at Stansted. This pub has undergone a major refurb since our last visit. It has been quite well done I think. They have resisted the temptation to turn it into a restaurant but they do nice food and beer there; and we were given a very pleasant welcome. Can’t really ask for much else from a pub!!
We loitered for about ¾ of an hour and as we left came the first spots of rain. We had been very fortunate ‘til now. Setting off into a steadily worsening shower, the roads were soon running with water; in a short time we were all soaked to the skin. Horrid!
I am not usually one to find smutty behind the bike shed humour funny but passing Pennis Lane at Hartley I couldn’t help having a quiet snigger.
Between Fawkham Green and West Kingsdown we crossed over six lanes of the A20. a road on which bicycles are prohibited. Yet here on the quiet lanes of Kent cars still seek total dominance over the humble pedal cyclist. It was on the this section of the ride as we rattled down Knatts Valley in the pouring rain cars constantly came roaring up behind us and then sat on our tails until we pulled over to let them through without so much as a wave of thanks. Cars from in front came whooshing through forcing us into the river running down the hill in the nearside gutter.
The original plan was to finish at the Plough at Eynsford and have a drink there before catching the train – indeed this is what Trevor and Andrew did. The rest of us, cold and wet, grabbed a quick cuppa in the refurbished tea-rooms by the ford and then headed to the station and home for a hot bath and a warm up.
39 miles and hundreds of feet of climbing! But great company and great fun. Andrew it was a fabulous ride. Many thanks.