9 Jun 2013
This is one of our landmark rides, it is always popular and so it was today. Rather than all travel down together we met at Birchington. A few caught the earlier train to spread the bikes out a bit, just in case some difficult staff member wanted to apply the rules on how many his train could carry.
At 10.40am there were 16 of us ready to go in Beach Avenue, Birchington. The fine weather we enjoyed for this ride last year was not repeated for today’s adventure, but it was at least dry (though some of our riders had driven through heavy rain on the way down). The clouds were heavy, low and leaden in colour, though somehow did not seem to threaten rain. But most significantly we were faced with a 20+ mph Northeast wind coming straight from the artic-circle. We were all (except young Jack who is apparently weather proof) wearing winter woollies and wind-proof gear.
Steve Watkin gave his briefing as we all shivered and then we cycled down to the water-front where we were met with a violent icy blast. As we turned eastward the hurricane almost blew us to a stand-still, and so we pedalled – all you can do really. The force of the wind was unrelenting as we crawled along the concrete blocks which form the wide flat path hugging the coastline here.
From Birchington we entered Margate. There were a few hardy souls on the beach, mainly engaged in wind-surfing which did look to be fun in spite of the cold. The sea was a heaving maelstrom with breakers crashing into the sea wall, though thankfully not over us. Gulls hung effortlessly in the air waiting to pick off scraps or the odd unsuspecting crab which broke cover in a rock pools. Coastguards huddled against the weather in their huts watching their warning flags snapping and tugging at their lanyards in the cold wind. Passing the iconic? Turner Gallery we continued keeping the cliffs to our right and the wind in our faces.
How glad we were to reach the shelter of the Palm Bay Café on the cliff tops and sneak out of the wind for a while to enjoy a warming cuppa and for some a slice of cake.
And here we were overhauled by three riders who had missed the Birchington RV, so now we were 19 which, considering the conditions, was very acceptable!!
Teas and coffees supped we set out again and began to follow the coast road as it swung south around Foreland Point to bring the wind onto our backs. Ah! Bliss. We passed several pretty bays and coves as we pressed onwards. With the wind behind progress improved and we were soon rolling through the much more attractive seaside town of Broadstairs. I think if we do this ride again we should perhaps think about having our lunch here its much prettier than Ramsgate which is where we did stop, outside the award winning ‘Peter’s Fish Factory,’ near the harbour.
We sat outside sheltering as best we could from the icy blast, some enjoyed a picnic others had Pete’s award winning fish chips and still others bought a seafood selection from a kiosk a little further along the seafront. We took turns on the assortment of cumberlands (private joke) that riders had brought. It was universally accepted that Jack was the best, showing bike handling skills way above his years.
Lunch over we returned to the saddle. A technical hitch with one of the recumbents was soon fixed using a pair of pliers and a bent pin – amazing what some of these mechanics can do with the most bsic of tools. I am sure Steve W would have been able to repair the space shuttle with a roll of gaffa tape, some blu-tac and a length of string. Talking of the space shuttle as we passed Manston Airport we could see a Jumbo sized plane on the apron; I was reminded that I was once told that if the space shuttle was forced to land in the UK it is to Manston it would be directed.
We were now on the cross country part of the ride inasmuch as we had turned away from the sea and were on the homeward leg now. We passed through the pretty villages of Minster and Monkton and stopped for refreshments at the White Stag where I’m not sure we were particularly welcome. Producing a pot of tea seemed to be something of challenge.
It wouldn’t be a Watkins ride if we didn’t take in a bit of agriculture and sure enough passing through St Nicholas at Wade Steve informed us of his intention to find a short cut and we were soon rattling alongside fields, through farmyards crossing through hedges and eventually passing bikes over a five bar gate.
The final run into Birchington was along the the very busy A28. We arrived at the station just in time for the London train. There were 14 of us on the platform as it pulled in. I think we all held our breath as we waited for the guard to let us on, but there was no problem and we were soon on our way home.
Thanks Steve. It was a great 30 miler.