It’s a cool crisp morning as the sun rises across the Thames and the towers of the city of London bask in the dawn light. Gathered in the shadow of the magnificent Cutty Sark a band of cyclists prepare for a 100 mile ride out of the city across the Kent Downs and on to the coast at Dover.
Chains are oiled, tyres (and legs) pumped, energy gels, spare tubes and extra layers packed we set off south-east into the rising sun.
The carefully planned route takes us across South East London’s green spaces on quieter roads on a sleepy Saturday morning. Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory are behind us as we take in Charlton Park past the Barrack Field then across Plumstead Common, the imaginatively named East Wickham Open Space then out past the busy A2 at Hall Place and Gardens through Swanley then into the countryside. We make our first river crossing and a quick rest stop to feed ourselves and the ducks at the pretty Kentish village of Eynsford, preferring to take the bridge and bypass the shallow ford. Then it’s on to Wrotham and the fist significant climb. followed by a long steady descent and a crossing of the River Medway at Aylesford.
Next on the route is a skirt across the escarpment that follows the ancient Pilgrim’s way past Detling and then onto another challenging climb up Hollingbourne Hill at around the halfway point. It’s then a pleasant downhill section past Ringlestone down into Newnham near Faversham before an ascent of the Kent Downs and onto Chartham Downs with a distant view of Canterbury Cathderal.
You can almost smell the sea air now as the route descends into the stunning Elham Valley and then crosses the Kent Downs AONB to the north of Folkestone through the woodlands and chalk hills that take us close to Dover and across to Barfrestone then the final section across the rolling hills with a glimpse of the sea to the east the on to West and East Langdon before finally arriving down at The White Cliffs and a steep descent to the beach at St. Margaret’s Bay.
Then it’s time for a quick photo opportunity as the sun sets over the cliffs and then a welcome pint, a lovely soak in a deep hot bath, a hearty dinner in The Cliffe Kitchen and a well-earned night’s rest in a cosy coastal bolthole at The White Cliffs Hotel…