London to Whitstable April 2022 ride report
Whitstable is one of the classic Friday Night Rides to the Coast, so I was hoping that this year’s adventure to the Kent seaside would not disappoint. Around 55 people signed up and it was exciting to see the first few already gathered, as the 8 of us who had travelled on the same train to Victoria arrived at the National Theatre meeting point on the South Bank.
We set off promptly at midnight having welcomed the several new riders and outlined the safety elements and etiquette of night riding. Apparently some had difficulty hearing my dulcet tones - not a criticism which has ever been levelled at me previously. It may be helpful to gather a bit closer to the ride leader and leave the chatter till after the safety brief has been completed in future….
Always before a ride there are a few days of anxious weather watching. The expected tailwind didn’t materialise unfortunately but neither were we much challenged until the final Graveney dash across the marshes which is almost always breezy. As for Southend last month we were illuminated by the full moon and the weather was clear and mild all the way to the Dartford bridge.
We were making great time with no mechanicals thus far and only one u-turn (ride leader’s apologies) until out of nowhere a mist so thick descended on us we had to ride very carefully, as the country lanes were unlit and it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.
It was cold too, so we kept the regroups short and arrived at our halfway stop in Strood around 4.30 eager to be warmed and refuelled. Tim had once again pulled out all the stops and laid on a magnificent spread of filled rolls and homemade cakes. He was on his own as Angela was unwell, so thanks to Gordon for stepping up and manning the tea urn.
As we emerged refreshed we were slightly delayed by a puncture, but as it was still dark we didn’t visit the Russian submarine which is for many a highlight of the ride. We did take the steep climb up to the castle and cathedral in Rochester and took the cobbled road through the old town on the way out towards Chatham.
After another brief stop to get our breath back after the climb to Upchurch we headed onwards and took plenty of opportunities to take some stunning photos of the beautiful hazy sunrise. The mist had lifted somewhat but still lent an eerie mystical quality to the marshland.
Spirits were still high as we arrived in Faversham for a comfort break and a raid on Sainsbury’s bakery counter. Just before Graveney we divided into 2 groups; some chose to sprint the final 5 miles to Whitstable while the rest of us took a more leisurely pace and enjoyed the scenery, anticipating the breakfast awaiting us on the sunny terrace at the Waterfront.
So all in all, another fabulous, fun-filled adventure with the Fridays. Thanks so much to everyone who helped to make such a successful ride: the all-upper, the TEC, everyone who volunteered to waymark, and Tim at Strood, and Faye at the Waterfront for all the carbs.