[Note: This is my first post for ages. I still have a few un-blogged significant rides and may get round to them eventually, but thought I’d get this one out there now.]
Distance:114 miles. Elevation: 5523 ft
Having suffered a catastrophic lack of cycling mojo during various periods over the past couple of years, there are signs that I may be regaining my love of cycling, to some degree at least. While I have done various rides over the past few years, they often entailed forcing myself out the door, ‘for my own good’. This ride was somewhat different in that I actually got excited planning it and looked forward to it (and actually really enjoyed doing it!)
In an attempt to move towards recapturing the epic rides of a few years ago (2014-2016), I decided to do a modified version of one of the routes that started the whole thing back then, nearly four years ago. In planning it, I broke one of my own cardinal rules – “always ride with the wind behind you on coastal sections”. I broke the rule because I was keen to try out the long descent of the A252 Canterbury Road (as suggested here) with the wind behind me, so I had to go ‘clockwise’. Also it feels ‘nicer’ (and quicker) returning from Dymchurch as opposed to returning from Deal. Although westerly, the wind was light today so didn’t hamper me too much along the coast. The new route also cut-out some of the cliff-top escapades of the original.
With that light westerly the temperature was to reach 24-25°C, considerably cooler than my ride with the club on Sunday, at 32°C, which had me pouring water over my head during the ride!
I set-off at 8:54, slightly later than intended. It was probably about 19-20°C and was sunny but with lots of clouds, some looking ominous on the horizon.
I first rode to Lenham, where I got some cash out at the post office. The village was stirring with morning activities. I said good morning to an old lady near the church.
Then it was up Hubbard’s Hill onto the North Downs, where the roads were much quieter. There were some excellent road surfaces here at first, although they became quite rough as I approached the top of the A252 just west of Challock. Then it was on to the 7-mile descent down to Chilham, where it joins the A28. There was hardly any traffic and it was great fun, averaging 20mph without much effort, except the wind wasn’t featuring as much as I’d hoped.
Now 26 miles into the ride, I stopped on an unattractive bridge crossing the Great Stour river for one of the savoury snacks I had in my napsack. A mini scotch egg, and half a banana.
Then it was non-stop (save for photos) for the next 23 gently undulating miles to Deal.
There are some lovely quiet roads in this area, although what traffic there was conspired to get in my way. Every time I came to a crossroads for example it would be just as the only car that day was approaching! Or when two massive tractors forced me to the side of the road on an otherwise unused road! Frustrating.
Approaching Deal there was a mile and a half along a cycle path next to the busy and noisy A258. I definitely won’t use that route again – diverting through Mongeham should be better. Through Deal town, at last I reached the sea. Then it was a short way along the coast to the excellent Sea Café at Walmer, where I had a lovely fried egg on toast and a cup of coffee.
I was now four hours and 50 miles into the ride. After topping up my bidon, I left the Sea Café and rode along the sea front cycle path as far as Kingsdown where my modified route eschewed the clifftop path via St. Margarets and the White Cliffs of Dover and instead turned inland, also avoiding the potentially busy Deal Road by diverting away from the sea through Ringwould, Martin, East Langdon and Guston …
…eventually emerging opposite Dover Castle
Through Dover, my route again turned inland to avoid the tricky coastal path out of Dover, choosing instead to climb out of Dover on the Folkestone Road, as far as the ‘secret’ route to Samphire Hoe.
This involves climbing over a gate and then using the perfectly tarmac’d and completely traffic-free 8% gradient climb towards the motorway. I think this road was some sort of service road for when they built the channel tunnel. At the top you can use a tunnel to cross under the motorway to the coastal path between Samphire Hoe and Folkestone.
Four miles later I had descended into Folkestone town…
… from where I headed towards the Lower Leas Coastal Park…
… to join the coastal path to Hythe
It always fascinates me how it looks as though Dungeness Power Station is out to sea from here, such is the curvature of the coastline.
Along this section I thought I heard thunder in the distance, but it was just the firing range at Hythe, which I’m always annoyed at having to cycle around to get back to the sea wall, for the two mile ride to Dymchurch. At one point I stopped for a break and the chance for another savoury snack in the form of ¾ of a mini pork pie.
It was round about this time that I realised I had been feeling more content over the past few miles. While I hadn’t exactly been in a negative mood at the start of the ride, I’d still had some frustrating thoughts going through my mind earlier and these now seemed to have evaporated and I felt mentally stronger – difficult to describe. The healing power of a long bike ride!
Once into Dymchurch I stopped at my favourite café, previously know as the , but recently taken over and now known as the . I asked if they had any cake but they didn’t. Almost out of a sense of obligation I ordered a small portion of chips, even though I wasn’t that hungry for them. I had a coffee and sat outside in the sunshine. Because there was a delay with the chips, the boss gave me a large size instead! They were tasty but I didn’t finish them. I enjoyed sitting out there in the sun watching the pre-season holiday makers strolling by, and chatting with people. Whilst there I was tempted by a bottle of Tango. I poured this into my bidon before setting off on the last leg of the journey towards home.
This last 37-mile leg could so easily have been a slog, leaving all the fun of the seaside behind me. But I felt great and really enjoyed it. Could it have been the effects of the Tango?!
At one point, I was musing how good the road surfaces are on Romney Marsh, when I hit a section of the dreaded stone chippings, all the way into Bilsington! No doubt they will have bedded-in in several years’ time once enough traffic has pounded them.
I felt good for the rest of the ride home, except…..
about a mile from home I thought an insect had got under my jersey near my shoulder. I pulled the jersey away from me and brushed with my hand but I realised that there was a sharp pain. I had been stung. The pain got worse. I squeezed the skin around the pain and saw that I had squeezed out what looked like a splinter. That was the sting I guess. I kept on squeezing the area and rubbed some spit on it (god knows if that actually does anything!). With Barn Hill approaching I reasoned that I’d either get up it easily, distracted by the pain of the sting, or I’d pass out when I found out that I was allergic to it! In the end, the pain faded and I got home OK.
As can be seen from the photos, this ride was mainly sunny, I would say, but with enough cloudy moments to prevent the adverse effects of too much sun. Perfect weather really for my first solo ride of this length in several years.
Don’t over-estimate avg. speed
Don’t overestimate average speed on this sort of ride, with off-road sections, lots of stops, lots of photos, etc. I had estimated 12.5mph as an overall average and that it would take about 9 hours, taking stops into account. But with all its stops and off-road and sea-wall sections the actual overall avg was only just over 11mph, and took over 10 hours!
Don’t order chips when you really want cake
Tastes nice in bidon! You know when you’ve been tango’d!
Charing Hill to Chilham descent
7 miles of downhill on a wide, almost traffic-free road. What’s not to like?