Christmassy Ride to Rochester 2016

There is something not quite right about writing up the report for your own ride. How can I say that it was really fantastic without sounding conceited? Any way it was a great ride and in great company too!!

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Rochester City with its medieval castle, cathedral and association with the rather more contemporary but still historic Charles Dickens is a wonderful city on any day. But when the weather is such as we enjoyed today then Rochester is just a jewel in the Kentish Crown. The city title is a misnomer as Rochester was denuded of its city status in the 1970s when it was combined with Chatham, Strood and various other local towns and villages to become the District of Medway. By ‘letters patent’ is was later granted the title of the City of Rochester and the Home Office later permitted the whole area to be known as The City of Rochester-upon-Medway. You can read a whole lot more about this in Wikipedia.

There were about 20 registrations for this ride so it was no surprise when there were 18 riders at the Nugent centre in Orpington. Bromley Cyclists have collectively decided to limit numbers on rides to ensure they are safe and manageable, 18 riders is considerably more than we would wish to lead comfortably, three riders had emailed to cancel, which was quite fortunate in the circumstances.

The Nugent Centre is new to me and is clearly well sited and popular; we had to queue at 9.30 am on a Sunday for a coffee in Costa. There was hardly a table vacant and there seemed no let-up in the number of new customers arriving in the premises. Bearing in mind this is still a full 1½ hours before the majority of the centre shops are open this seemed quite remarkable really.

It was decided that the best way to manage the numbers was to split the ride with Bob taking some of the quicker riders and John taking the slower ride. John set off first whilst Bob and his riders stayed on for another coffee.

Exiting the rear of the shopping centre across a small bridge over the River Cray we were immediately in Blacksmiths Lane, the bright sunshine did little to warm us but the pedalling however soon ensured we were comfortably warmed up.

The riders were all working hard today and the pace was very good. The slower ride were in Swanley Village before Bob’s ride managed to overhaul them.

At Northfleet the rides amalgamated with Bob leading alongside the roaring A2 to the Cyclopark. This instead of the normal route down into Gravesend past the Gudwara and to the Promenade Café at Milton. The café at the Cyclopark was only doing light refreshments and as some riders were by now ready for a full English. Bob took us on onwards to Nell’s Café at Singlewell. Nell’s is one of those legendary eateries which many of the riders had visited at some point in their lives. It has to be said that the establishment really looked quite spruce and was apparently under new management.

Watered and fed Bob led out about ¾ of an hour later, still alongside the A2, with the warning that there were one or two hills in the next section through Thong. Only in Kent could there be village called Thong. What a crazy county this is with places such as Ightam, Sandwich, Snodland and Trottiscliffe (Kentish spelling – pronounced Trossley obviously).

In spite of the one or two hills this was a most interesting part of the journey. Over to the left the marshes criss-crossed by waterways and traversed by NCN1 could be seen in the distance. This was a lovely section and perhaps the part of the ride most enjoyed by the riders.

At Higham Bob reconnected with the normal route and handed over to John to lead over Bunter’s Hill and down the steep path towards the Russian submarine gradually rotting in the Medway sound.

And so into Rochester, buzzing with shoppers enjoying the winter afternoon sunshine. In Tiny Tim’s Café they looked as perplexed as they did for our visit last year. One again riders were sent to the basement and sat at the precious dining table, this year covered with a thick protective cloth. Soon large pots of tea and other comestibles were brought to table and a hearty feast was enjoyed over the excited chatter of a bunch of happy cyclists.

A great day out amongst really lovely company, our thanks to everyone who came and made it such a happy day.

Merry Christmas.

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