London to Whitstable - August 2019
[Photo credit: Jenny Hung]
The Whitstable summer ride is always a popular one and this year was no exception. Despite the formidable weather forecasts there was a good turnout of familiar faces and first timers. Ride leader Kim checked all were present and correct before giving us an idea of what to expect en route. Then, ably accompanied by Ross and Stuart... and all others who joined in, she introduced us to the language of the peloton: left, right, easy, stopping, hole... bollards!
There was a sense of excitement as we set off into light drizzle and towards East London. The front quickly passed the entrance to the Rotherhithe tunnel, and at the back a route mix up at the end of Law Street was resolved with the help of Martin and Nick.
Photo credit: Ross Chestney
At Greenwich we regrouped by the Cutty Sark, which unfortunately was not lit up for us this time. We headed east and soon entered the historic area of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. Wide streets, museums, new flats, lots of bollards and a surprising number of humps in the road.
On from here, through the showers and along cycle paths we made our way to Plumstead McDonald's. We stopped here for those in need of a hot apple pie. We rode on, stopping briefly at Dartford fasttrack bus route before continuing onwards over the Dartford Crossing tunnels and under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. I didn't notice either of these as I was looking to the right at the vast Sainsbury's depot on the other side of the road.
It rained heavily all the way to Gravesend, where many sheltered in doorways near a pub once called the Call Boy. Finally we were all together and back on the road to Strood.
This next section seemed a long one and it was a relief to turn into the half way stop. Inside the dry, warm church hall were Tim and Angela who had prepared an impressive quantity of rolls, cakes and hot drinks. All funds raised were for Step & Learn, a children's charity supporting educational needs for those with physical disabilities.
At just after 5am we departed for the second half of the ride. As the sun rose daylight brought renewed energy even though rain persisted. We crossed the bridge over the Medway, rounded Rochester and continued onwards into the attractive Kent countryside.
After a brief stop at Upchurch we rode on through twisting country lanes until stopping at the end of Raspberry Hill Lane for a fine view of the Sheppey Crossing. With the outskirts of Sittingbourne behind us we joined Lower Road and cycled past fruit farms, through Tonge Mill and Teynham, before a steep descent into Faversham.
After a last get together at Sainsbury's it was only the final stage left to conquer. To be honest I was dreading this trip round the Graveney marshes via Seasalter as it's very exposed and strong winds were forecast. I'm glad to report the wind was gentler than expected and in our favour for much of the road to Whitstable.
It was a joy to arrive at the Waterfront Club Cafe Bar, order breakfast and sit out on the huge upstairs veranda overlooking the sea. Typically the sun decided to make an appearance at this point!
Well done to Kim for being the Friday’s first female ride leader and getting us safely to Whitstable. At the finish she stayed out until the last rider was checked in. Thanks as always go to those at the back, including Martin, Nick and Stuart for repairing punctures, rounding up the lost and keeping us all on track. Special thanks go to Harley Day for an incredible amount of way marking and the couple of friends on their first ride for marking the last turn into Whitstable at the end of Joy Lane.