Sat 2 Nov 2013
Three of us started from Catford Station, more boarded at Bromley and other people joined us at Otford. So we were a very respectable twelve people setting off on the ride, although one person turned back after a few miles feeling unwell.
Initially the weather was cloudy and a bit misty, but conditions soon improved to give a fine autumn morning as we rode towards Ightham Mote. After twenty miles and a few modest ups and downs with some stops to catch breath and/or take photographs, we reached the dreaded Vigo Hill about midday. A few of us with particularly large low gear rings on the rear cassette managed to get up on the bikes, but no disrespect to others who walked the steepest section (16%).
After a short recovery stop at the top, we only had a short distance to go to reach the Winterdale Shaw farm shop, selling their own award winning “carbon neutral” cheese and other products (The tag refers to their use of cars powered by solar electricity, and probably does not take the cows’ emissions into account). The group photo was taken here.
Another couple of miles and we reached the Black Horse at Stansted. It has a lovely beer garden but by this time a cold wind had got up and we sat inside on this occasion. Rare to find a country pub these days which sells reasonably priced non-nonsense food such as bacon sandwiches as well as more elaborate hot meals. Rarer still these days to find a selection of real ales at £3.00 a pint.
Two of the group left after lunch to head to the nearest station, including Albert who at aged 81 had done remarkably well to ride 25 miles including one of the steepest hills in Kent. The rest of us headed north through Hartley, and just as we turned south-west into the wind, encountered the only rain shower of the day – but what a shower! It certainly separated the best quality waterproofs from the merely “showerproof” jackets like mine. The rain also coincided with a long, gentle hill to dampen the spirits further.
But after the rain the sun came out, and after a slightly treacherous steep descent on wet leaves against oncoming traffic, we finished the ride with a splendid run down the gentle gradient of the Knatts Valley and a following wind enabling speeds of 20mph+ with little effort. Some of us headed straight home to dry out, others headed for the Shortlands Tavern for some well earned food and drink.
Many thanks to Trevor for planning and leading the ride, Andrew for backing up, and whatever guardian angels enabled us to notch up 400 person-miles on wet roads covered with debris without a single puncture or fall.