Sat 1 Jun 2013
I’m not sure this was strictly a Bromley Ride, but as it appears on our website and as I went on the ride I feel that is sufficient justification for writing about it.
Most of us gathered at Otford railway Station at 9.40 am and we were ready to go until we received a text from one of our number who was stranded at Eynsford.
Fortunately none of us had any critical deadlines to worry about so we waited for Mike to catch us up and then we were off.
I am sure it won’t thank me for saying so but Otford is a sadistic little village, that sadism being particularly focussed as one departs the railway station and turns north to join the Pilgrims Way. This steep little ascent of perhaps no more than 300 yards serves as a severe punishment on cyclists who have not properly warmed up. It is a vicious and troubling little climb up the mega fault commonly called the North Downs. It wasn’t very much further on from this nasty little slope before one of our number realised that this was not the ride for him and decided to take an early bath.
The eight remaining riders pressed ahead soon turning away from the North Downs Ridge towards the strangely named Igtham (pronounced Item! What’s that all about?), then through Basted, Crouch and to Hadlow – the home of Hadlow Tower.
Hadlow Tower has been recently refurbished and it is now possible to rent a room in the building. The tower is a Victorian folly rumoured to have been built by a jealous industrialist of the period in order to spy upon his wife whom he suspected of having a liaison with a local farmer. Whatever the truth of the story there is little doubt that this rather attractive spire is a dominant feature in the landscape. Trevor our ride leader for today wanted to take a photo of the tower, I’m not sure if he succeeded; I definitely didn’t get a photo but you can see pictures of the tower here if you are interested.
Just around the corner we found the George Inn which was one of the proposed lunch stops. It was however a bit early for lunch and Trevor and Andrew decided we would postpone it until we reached a point slightly off our route marked PH on the maps near the wonderfully named Rabbit’s Cross just south of Chart Sutton.
Here we found ourselves turning onto the gravel car park of the Lord Raglan. We tied up the bikes in the neatly manicured apple orchard and made our way to the bar to order food and drinks. We settled ourselves on benches under the apple trees and were soon served very substantial sandwiches to ward off any pangs of hunger.
Wayne was on his first ride with us and it was here that I learnt that Wayne lives in Faversham and had caught the train up to join us on the ride so whilst most of us were on the outward journey Wayne was on the homeward leg!
We had set out from Otford in fairly bright sunshine but as we progressed eastward it had become more and more overcast. Here in the orchard of the Lord Raglan I think we were all aware that the cold northerly wind had sprung up and we were feeling decidedly chilled.
Nothing to concern us too much; Trevor had the perfect antidote lined up – a hill through the village of Weirton soon had us all warm again. We rolled along through the afternoon making good progress passing such villages as Warmlake, Sutton Valence, Fairbourne Heath and Platt’s Heath. Trevor had warned us of one more substantial climb on the ride and then about 10 miles of downhill all the way to Faversham.
This final hill was reached just outside Lenham – thankfully not the infamous Lenham Hill but the nearly as awful Hubbard’s Hill, then, at the top, the reward; miles and miles of downhill – lovely. But not for long. We then hit a newly repaired road. Well if that is what counts as a road repair in Swale then I for one am singularly unimpressed as were my fellow cyclists. Ton after ton of loose chippings had been spread across a thin layer of wet tar and left for the traffic to roll into a usable road. Disgraceful, bad enough for a motorist to drive over, for a cyclist horrid and dangerous.
At about 4.30 we arrived in the outskirts of Faversham and located the lonely road out onto the North Kent marshes where we had a rendezvous with the Shipwright’s Arms at the strangely named Hollow Shore. The landscape was almost surreal. Certainly Dickensian and how some of his tales are brought to life when in such surroundings. The tide was out, masts stood against the grey skyline almost like pins in a pin cushion.
We locked up in the garden and stood looking out over the estuary for a while before diving into the warmth indoors. There were a wide variety of real ales in kegs lined up behind the bar. We ordered our fancy and retired to ‘the other room’ where we sat chatting, feeling both tired and satisfied. Wayne popped home and returned with his wife. Despite being a local he had never been to the pub before.
It doesn’t take too much of an imagination to speculate what dread deeds might have been hatched up under this roof in this remote setting. Smuggling definitely, theft and robbery probably, murder I wouldn’t be surprised. It is a truly dramatic backdrop, you would have to be dead from the neck up not to be affected by it.
We drank up and headed to Faversham station where we were just in time to catch the 5.22pm to Bromley South.
‘twas a fabulous ride. c.60 miles in total. Thanks Trevor and Andrew.