A Half day in North Kent

A Ride Report from Alex

Sunday 6 September 2015

It has been a pleasure to ride with both Lewisham & Bromley Cyclists over the past 2 years and today felt like another step up – my first ride as a weekend ride leader. I’d helped out in the past for shorter pub rides, but not taken the lead on a weekend ride, until today.  Overnight I feared that the recent grey, dull, wet weather would put some people off, so much so that I even posted on the Facebook groups to suggest “winterfying” bikes; put mudguards back on, wider tyres etc. However waking up to blue skies and sunshine was a pleasant surprise, even if it meant arm warmers were needed for the morning trundle to Ladywell. Upon arrival, the butterflies began to grow when I noticed that almost every bike rack outside the café was occupied. Greeted by the familiar faces of Stewart, Bob & Trevor put my mind at rest over an espresso. By the time we left Ladywell, the group had swelled to a gargantuan 27 riders, meaning there was a rather large train moving down the Waterlink Way through the familiar surroundings of Ladywell fields through to Catford and on to Bell Green. Crossing Southend Lane wasn’t without its challenges, requiring 2 phases on the crossing to get everyone across. We then passed through and canine filled Beckenham Place Park before our first mechanical of the day, with one rider’s morning coming to a premature end with a broken gear hanger in Bromley.

A further 14 riders awaited us at Bromley South station, swelling the group to 40 riders!  So much so we could all fit in one picture. Snaking our way through Nightingale lane & Jubilee Park, the landscape of suburban London was left behind for the more rural North Kent countryside. The gradual incline of Chelsfield lane saw our group stretched out and also encounter a number horse riders, including one pulling a cart – something I haven’t seen in this part of Kent for a while. Just 2 of the many horse riders we encountered on the lanes. As if by magic, my rear tyre then decided to slowly deflate, so some vigorous inflating meant a slightly stressful decent down castle farm road, but relief at being able to make it to our café stop in Lullingstone Country Park in one piece before replacing the tube. Although many efforts were made to keep such a large group together, the variation in climbing speed had somewhat fragmented our group, but thanks to some expert wayfinding and back marking from Brian, Stewart, Bob and Trevor (without whom guiding such a big group wouldn’t have been possible), we all reconvened with enough time to sample some truly decadent baked goods in the café – cream teas and carrot cake aplenty.

With everyone refuelled, we descended down the valley into picturesque Eynsford, which hasn’t changed that much at all in the past 100 years. A quick stop to admire the landscape was followed by another steady climb back up the valley to Crockenhill, before using the slightly less travelled route back via St Paul’s Cray. Regrouping at the top of Crockenhill Lane.  Another puncture meant again meant gaps in our bunch and the fixie riders with us motored ahead to gain speed before ascending Leeson’s Hill. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t as heavy as predicted. From here our group began to thin out as a number of Bromley riders said their goodbyes whilst the rest of us cruised through Chislehurst village and made use of the quieter private roads to navigate our way back to Bickley. A couple of delays meant we were back in Bromley by 2.45 and I took the decision to head back to Ladywell the way we came, instead of via the advertised route through Downham (not suitable for a group as big as ours), making the most of what turned out to be a dry and enjoyable ride overall.

It seems the summer isn’t done yet. Very pleasing to see so many regulars and newer riders. Definitely looking forward to leading again.  Total Moving Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Distance: 37 miles Average Speed: 11mph

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