The Viking Trail has always been a very popular ride and it was for this reason on this occasion we decided to restrict who could join the ride so that all LCC members got first refusal. In the end there was room for all. In fact we had two extra spaces which were never filled and four riders didn’t show.
Most of us met at Orpington and caught the slightly delayed 0836 direct service to Minster. As most of our regulars know we generally start from Birchington-on-Sea but the Sunday service has been disrupted for more than a year now and a replacement bus service has to be used – clearly no good for cyclists. The journey to Minster from Orpington takes 1½ hours so there is plenty of time to discuss all things cycling on the train ride. There were 12 of us boarded at Orpington. Kieran was already on the train and we met Tracey, today’s leader, at Minster.
The toilet facility on the 4 car train was defective and therefore locked. Some riders realising this managed to have the train held at Ashford whilst they did a sprint for the loo on the platform. The rest of us sat tight and so by the time we arrived at Minster were fairly desperate. There was a quick briefing when those riders who were not members of the LCC were reminded of the importance of giving some thought to signing up. Increasing our membership is one of Bromley Cyclists targets for 2016. So if you are coming on our future rides and you are not yet a member you can expect to hear some marketing from us. Today’s ride had been designated an official LCC Ride so all riders benefitted from insurance cover. Fortunately there were no incidents of note so no claims are expected.
There are public toilets in Minster, so having completed the ride briefing we immediately made our way to the facility which was a welcome relief for some more than others.
It was gone 1030 when we finally got going. The sky was wall to wall grey but it was dry and rain wasn’t forecast until much later in the evening. The wind however was a somewhat different matter. I had considered cancelling the ride due to the wind forecast of 40-50 mph west-south-westerlies for the duration of the time we would be out. The forecast moderated a little overnight – though not by much – and on this basis we decided to ride. I am so glad we did.
To begin with there was a stiffish breeze and we were riding into it, there were a couple of gusts which had us all wobbling around to keep balance, but nothing serious. This part of the ride was on the quietest of roads and in places farm tracks as we headed towards Reculver. The pace was brisk and Tracey lead with confidence, it is a route she knows well.
On reaching Reculver we passed a rather welcoming café with barely a glance; we turned eastward to bring the wind, which by now had begun to increase in strength, onto our backs. Yes we had that wonder of all cycling wonders; the stuff of legend: the elusive tailwind.
It was almost like cycling with a spinnaker. We were literally sailing along. It was a real joy. Just before Birchington we had a brief pause for one of John’s ‘homemade treats’. No-one needed the loo again. Bob who had kindly been volunteered to be the lantern rouge had heard from Linda who had decided to have a lie in instead of coming cycling – what’s going on? What kind of commitment is that I ask? Disgraceful. There will have to be consequences.
We pressed on through Margate, some of us nearly came unseated as we crossed great piles of sand thrown up onto the path by the stormy conditions, but there was no mishap. Climbing out of Margate keeping the winter gardens on our left at last we could see our regular café overlooking the cliffs at Botany Bay. Surely Tracey would call a halt here; but not so we passed by at great speed, the ferocious tailwind driving us ever eastwards.
At North Foreland Point the trail swings south and so we began to lose the benefit of the wind and we now had to work to keep moving.
At 1300 we rolled into Broadstairs and drew to halt outside the Charles Dickens Pub. We were ready for a break. We were informed we had an hour to find a suitable eatery and have some lunch. The ride would restart at 1400 prompt. We were already two thirds of the way round already.
Riders availed themselves of a burger restaurant which Chris had used previously, others found a fish and chip restaurant and still more had brought their own food. Tracey, Eve and John had a very nice lunch in Morelli’s Ice Cream Parlour, although it has to be said that at least one diner had a rather greedy extra portion of naughty ice-cream. Broadstairs proved a very suitable place to take our lunch break and I am sure we will do this again in the future.
I would not call the wind after lunch a hurricane, it would do no justice to those folk who have experienced the real thing. But there was one hell of a headwind as we followed the cliff-top path out of Broadstairs and then dropped down into Ramsgate. The sea along the north facing coast at Reculver, Birchington and Margate had been remarkably calm. But at Ramsgate the sea was being whipped into heaving rollers topped with foam flecked breakers which were throwing themselves against the seawall with increasing determination. The path was soaked from the constant spray blown on the gale. Here we found ourselves peddling down the hills as well as up them.
It was strange to see the tranquillity in Ramsgate Marina protected by both an inner and outer sea wall and compare it with crashing waves beyond. The eerie sound of metal screeching on metal could be heard coming from the disused ramps buffeted by the gale in Ramsgate Harbour.
Finally at Pegwell Bay we arrived at the Viking Longboat after which the ride is so named. A short photo-shoot was permitted before we once again set off into the maelstrom for the final leg.
We arrived at Minster Station with about 15 minutes to spare for the 1528 to Cannon Street. Tracey had come by car so we all thanked her for leading and making it such a nice ride and we headed for platform 1. As we were about to cross via the footbridge one rider spotted a manually operated level crossing at the end of the platform, which was a whole lot more convenient especially when a rider realised that there was no need to open the barrier using a rather labour-intensive pump handle but access could be easily gained by a conveniently placed pedestrian gate. Arriving on the all but deserted platform we prepared to wait in the cooling breeze when suddenly the female occupant of the platform shelter collapsed to the floor in front of our very eyes. Naturally we rushed forward to assist and John, our first aider, was summoned with his first aid kit. The poor women was soon roused to consciousness and it was established that she was suffering from an infection and undergoing chemotherapy treatment. An ambulance was summoned and eventually attended and took the woman whose name we learned was Pauline to Hospital in Margate. We send Pauline our best wishes and hope she soon returns to good health. This little episode resulted in five riders missing the 1528 and having to wait for the next train at 1628 so a little later getting home than planned.
Todays was a great ride. We had great riders who were pleasure to cycle with and who worked well in some quite difficult conditions. So a big well done to everyone.
Time: 3:57:58, Dist 31.85, Av 9.5, Max: Not recorded.