I think the pictures from this ride describe our day out almost better than I can, even if the photography is a bit iffy.
There was were thirty registrations or expressions of interest in today’s ride; in the end we had 26 participants (I never managed to complete an exact head count but have checked the ride manifest).
Most riders travelled from Orpington on the train to the start point at Minster. There was confusion in the booking hall buying the tickets when the ticket clerk input the wrong data which made paying difficult and eventually, I believe one person had to pay for most of the tickets and then claim the money back from the others. A small inconvenience in the light of all that was good about this day
The train journey to Minster takes 1½ hours for a distance of about 65 miles which seems ridiculous: never mind High Speed 2, the rail companies need to apply their energies the routes they have first. One of our concerns had been the number of bikes on the train, I believe some rail companies have a limit of four per train so we were already way over that limit and of course if there were bikes already on the train having boarded at an earlier stop this really could have created a problem for us. In the end there was no difficulty with the numbers, in fact the guard or ‘Passenger Support Operative’ as he is probably more properly called nowadays was friendly and helpful.
We spread ourselves along the length of the train to minimise disruption and inconvenience to other passengers and whiled away the journey discussing all things cycling. At 11:06 we spilled onto a very quiet, sunwashed Minster Station Platform. In the car park we found Tracey and most of the other riders awaiting us.
Tracey was today’s leader and as soon as we were assembled she gave the pre-ride briefing; with such a large group it was essential that all were ‘on message’ to avoid mishap and most appeared to give their rapt attention. Tracey nominated me as the back marker.
However we had a problem; one team of riders who were travelling to Minster by car had called to say they were stuck in traffic so there was to be a delay. We made our way to the nearby public facilities so everyone could get comfortable before we set off. We then inched our way through some ongoing road resurfacing to await the latecomers in the further the carpark. As soon as they joined us we were off through the lanes at a nice even pace.
This was to be a big sky day. In all directions the countryside was bathed in sunshine flickering on the fresh green spring growth. Food for the soul definitely. After about 8 miles we arrived at Reculver which was thronged with people enjoying the weather. Tracey pulled us over for a welcome coffee break telling us we had 40 minutes. We thronged the local eateries.
After the restart we turned onto the coastal path and into a fairly brisk quite cool headwind. The tide was far out today. We made good progress along the sea defence wall very jealous of the riders being blown along in the opposite direction. We were required to dismount on several occasions to be compliant with the local bylaws, but this was a very minor inconvenience. Passing along the seafront at Margate we marvelled at the stoic British spirit of the sunbathers braving the cold wind. We climbed the coastal path from Margate to the cliff top of Botany Bay and North Foreland Point and stopped by the sewage station – of all places – for a breather. Out in the channel we could see the towering mills of a vast wind farm stretching towards the horizon, churning in the brisk breeze.
Rounding Foreland Point the ride swung southwards and so turned the winds to our backs. This was a welcome relief from hard pedalling along the sea defences on the seafront. At 3 o’clock we reached Broadstairs where we all split up to find somewhere for lunch. Some had fish and chips on the pier, others from a conveniently placed chippy in the town. I believe the Charles Dickens Pub did quite well from us too. Tracey gave us an hour accompanied by dire warnings about anyone being late for the restartJ. I don’t think Tracey would really eat anyone alive (but I think she could do so if she was minded too) anyway at five to four you can be certain that we were all saddled up and ready to roll again.
The restart was nice and steady along the top of the cliffs with the wind behind us, we dropped down the ramp into Ramsgate which was packed with afternoon trippers enjoying the weather and then back up to the higher level again.
It was now that we experienced the one downside to the day. We reached the Viking longship standing in the little park above Pegwell Bay, and having admired the view, taken a few selfies and read the information plaque, we re-mounted for the final few miles with the expectation that we would easily make it to Minster for the 16:26 train home. Most of the riders were disappearing over the horizon as one of the stragglers realised that he had lost his glasses case containing his bank cards, cash and train tickets. We carried out a search of the locality to no avail, by which time most riders were long gone and beyond recall without a major effort to stop the ride. With hindsight this was a costly error of judgement but it’s always easy to be wise after the event. We lent the ticketless rider some money to enable him purchase a return ticket in the event that his search back down the trail prove fruitless and he set off to retrace the route. Hoping that he would yet catch us up if successful. Unfortunately it was not to be and he had the pleasure of a return journey alone and the hassle of cancelling all his bank cards.
Meanwhile the remainder of us made ground to catch up the main ride, and here we had a couple of close shaves when we experienced two incidents of car drivers misjudging an overtake into a blind bend and nearly colliding with oncoming traffic. Fortunately on each occasion the drivers were able to apply the brakes hard enough to actually avoid a collision. But it was close a close run thing.
At minster we found the riders dismantling bikes to be loaded into cars for the return journey and others making their way to the westbound platform to catch the train. And here we learnt that one rider had spotted a glasses case lying on the road not very far from where the loss was discovered, it was difficult to pass this information back to the searcher via a dodgy signal and a lot of background noise at each end of the calls and as I have said the search was not successful.
We all thanked Tracey for her skilful and patient ride leading and headed home tired but elated from a wonderful day out.