By the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend I was well and truly ready for a bike ride. A ride from Ramsgate along the coast to Faversham beckoned, I slipped out of the house at 8 o’clock and cycled to Bromley South for the 8.45 rendezvous and the 9 o’clock train.
other pix at bottom of page.
The weather was fine, but there were high clouds blocking the sun. At Bromley South I had time for a coffee and a croissant from the little vendor in the booking hall. The coffee was excellent and there are no complaints about the croissant either.
This was an explorer ride by invitation only, in the end there were just seven of us explorers led by Tracey, we thought it would be just six until Jonathan turned up at the last possible moment as the train was arriving
By road Bromley is about 70 miles from Ramsgate, so a train journey of 1¾ hours seems somewhat excessive, but that’s what it takes. I suppose it gives a chance for the riders to chat, have a snooze or otherwise just chill out but it does knock an unnecessarily big chunk out of the day.
Ramsgate is the terminus and we were soon on the station forecourt and ready to start. Threading our way through the streets we picked up the route of the Viking Trail with which we are all familiar, though from the other direction. It made pleasant change to see it reverse.
We found the road had been temporarily closed at Ramsgate Harbour in preparation for some sort of street party, we were able to slip through as things were not yet under way. We climbed the long ramp from the Ramsgate seafront and then made our way through pretty Broadstairs, high above the water. It was here I think that we got the first inkling of the wind we would face later.
At North Foreland Point the route turns gradually westward and by the time we reached Botany Bay we were riding into a fierce westerly unrelenting gale, we were actually having to pedal down the hills, and we still had over 30 miles to go.
Arriving at the back of the Turner Gallery in Margate noted a sign saying 74 tons of seaweed had been removed from the beach yesterday. I’m assuming it was rotting seaweed that was the cause of the dreadful stink which accompanied much of the days ride. In places the stench was almost overpowering and the ghastly, green slimy glutinous mess seemed to cling to every exposed surface.
To the west of Minnis Bay we cycled along the tops of the flood defences completely exposed to the wind. It was hard hard cycling. About a mile short of Reculver we found the path blocked by a throng of telescope wielding twitchers. They had found a bird called a Baird’s Sandpiper; native of North America; Baird’s Sandpipers do not visit these shores, no doubt it had been blown here by the same bloody gale we had spent the last two hours battling against. One of telescope owners allowed us to peer through his lens and sure enough we could see this small rather uninteresting bird spuddling in the mud on the far side of a water filled gully. As we continued on our journey to the ruins of Reculver we passed even more camera and telescope clutching bird watchers hurrying to see the migrant further along the path.
At Reculver we stopped in the lea of the old abbey to gather ourselves. The cafes here had been an option for lunch but it was still a little early, the place was quite crowded and we were a bit concerned that the weather might break later when we might be glad of the chance to stop and take shelter for a while.
To the west of Reculver we departed the Viking Trail and picked up a path called the Saxon Shore. We were now cycling on grass, uphill and into the wind. Oh this hurt.
By the time we reached Herne Bay the clouds had broken and we were bathed in glorious sunshine. We stopped for lunch in the Main Square where we were sheltered from the wind in a sort of outdoor theatre and spent an hour chatting and lunching. Electric cycles were high on the list of conversations and we all would have been glad of an e-bike today. Some riders had brought a picnic and others bought stuff locally, it was very pleasant, one rider decided on a rather greedy double ice cream and for this he later suffered.
Departing Herne Bay we continued on the Saxon Shore route passing row upon row of neat little beach houses, some closed but many open with occupants enjoying a day at the seaside. Kids ran here and there and we had to be careful avoiding the many many walkers. Fortunately with the wind, if anything even stronger, in our faces there was little chance of getting up any speed, you will doubtless note the average speed for the day at the bottom of the page, so it was all quite safe really.
Whitstable has been described as the new Chelsea – attracting visits from media personalities and other wealthy clientele referred to by the locals as DFLs. The seafront and shore line were rammed and we cycled passed the bustling oyster houses with great care.
We could have chosen the road route from here and with hindsight this might have been the wiser decision. We kept to the Saxon Shore and found ourselves negotiating all sorts of unanticipated hazards. At one point we had to carry our bikes over hundreds of yards of sand-brakes.
Eventually we found our way onto the Faversham Road, a road we are familiar with from our rides to Whitstable which we do most summers. Unsurprisingly Faversham Road led to Faversham town and from here it is but a very short ride to the final destination.
We arrived at the Hollow Shore at about 5pm. We were knackered. The wind had in effect given us a 30 mile uphill ride. The Shipwrights Arms at Hollow Shore is an amazing place, tucked away at the mouth of the Swale. The ‘welcome’ from the locals is questionable to the point of being non-existent; it’s one of those places where all heads turn and silence descends as you push the door open to enter. Dating from the 17th Century one can only speculate about the wickedness that must have been hatched in this strange almost mystical pub down the centuries.
Most of us ordered tea and we sat in the garden under the sign reading “Only food and drinks purchased on the premises may be consumed in this garden” and surreptitiously passed around some slices of fantastic banana loaf prepared by Alison. Absolutely delicious.
The final ride into Faversham to catch the train set the wind to our backs for the first time in the day, how glad we were to climb the stairs to the platform for the hour long ride on the slow train back to Bromley. To baths, to dinners and to beds.
Do not be in any way put off by this report. This was a fabulous day out. Great ride, great riders great fun. Thanks to all for coming and particularly to Tracey for her immaculate route finding and ride leading.
Distance – c40 miles
speed: 8.5 mph
Pedalling time – 4 hours 51 minutes
Total time 6½ hours