Tony Palmer led the group of three riders to visit Bodiam Castle and then return via Beckley, Wittersham and Rolvenden. The glorious sunny weather necessitated smothering our exposed extremities with sun cream and attending to regular re-hydration. The route to Bodiam offered shady lanes through Glassenbury, Benenden and Sandhurst. With little wind and some concentrated effort tackling numerous inclines the group reached the castle in just over 75 minutes at an average speed of 14.9 mph.
We stopped at the Hub Café at Bodiam for an early lunch and to take plenty of fluid on board. The return route took us through Ewehurst Green, Beckley, Wittersham and Rolvenden Layne. As our water supplies were running low we stopped at the convenience shop in Rolvenden Village to replenish our tanks and to consume sugar boosting snacks. We continued back via quiet country lanes of Halden Lane, Forsten Lane and Biddenden Road to reach Frittenden. The slight tailwind ensured that we maintained our steady pace all the way back to Bell Lane.
A distance of 46.2 miles at 14.6 mph average speed with elevation gain 2,795 feet.
Peter Collins led this lumpy ride, aptly named ‘Hills and Houses (AKA Stately Piles)’, starting from Witches Lane at Riverhead. The group of four riders crossed the A25 on to the B2042 to then turn right into Back Lane’s pleasant wooded valley. In less than ½ mile we had transitioned from suburbia into peaceful countryside epitomised by a mewing buzzard circling on thermals. The long slog up Back Lane brought us on to Goathurst Common, near Ide Hill. We then ventured down Yorkshill which is not for the faint hearted, particularly when wet leaves aid your decent. All reached Bough Beech Reservoir safely where the sun, glistening on this vast water, prompted Tony to mug a bored twitcher to take our group snap. We pressed on to Chiddingstone, with the castle to our right, we bagged our first pile. It would have been rude not to pay Penshurst Place a visit as we were in the vicinity.
Peter led us through the Penshurst Estate road on towards Leigh. I’m not sure if we counted Hall Place at Leigh because you can’t see it from the road. At Hildenborough, from our vague encounters with aristocracy, we thought that we would take morning coffee with Dame Kelley Holmes; however, she apparently had other prior engagements. Our next pile was encountered at Ightham Mote where we were reminded of the hills element of this ride. We crawled up to Ivy Hatch. We headed on towards Godden Green along Stone Street Road with the expectation of visiting Knole House. We skirted Knole Park, so that was good enough to count. An impromptu excursion to Seal, Kemsing and Otford ensured that we took full advantage of the sunshine.
A distance of 39.2 miles at 13.4 mph average with an elevation gain of 2,503 feet.
Mark Phillipson brought along his personal entourage to boost the B+ Group to 8 riders. Mark’s renowned preference for lumpy routes was revealed quite early as Wierton Hill came into sight.
It became apparent, as we climbed our first lump, that we had all overdressed, particularly as the sun suddenly made an unexpected appearance through the cloudy morning haze. We continued our lumpy ride by passing through the Loose Valley, via Boughton Lane and Teasaucer Hill.
We headed on towards Dean Street and East Farleigh and then turned left to climb up Vicarage Lane and Willows Lane to reach Heath Road. This route provided spectacular views over the Weald and the Medway Valley. We dropped down into Yalding and then passed through East Peckham as the sun shone brightly.
By the time we had reached our scheduled stop, at the Weathered and Worn Café in Hadlow, there was a strong urge to shed our excess apparel. We sat outside, properly disrobed, in the pleasant sunshine to cool down and to soak up some early-season rays.
A flatter ride back through Golden Green, East Peckham, Laddingford and Collier Street enabled us to maintain a steady pace back to Marden. Jim, on his road to recovery, declared 2 miles from home that his tanks were about spent, so our prompt arrival back was apt.
A distance of 38.3 miles at 14 mph average with an elevation gain of 1,148 feet.
Ian Hilton extricated himself from the warmth of Annies Café, in the Mid Kent Shopping Centre Allington, to lead the group of six riders to the Teal Café at Hildenborough. In order to avoid cycling along the A20 Ian led the group up the metalled path from Howard Drive through to Hermitage Lane. Going up past the hospital we then turned right on to Heath Lane and continued on to North Pole Road heading in a westerly direction. Aided by humorous conversations (thank you Bernadette), we travelled at a steady pace through the quiet and familiar lanes of West Malling, Offham, Platt, Crouch, Plaxtol and Shipbourne. Ian’s preference for descents became increasingly apparent as we sped down Riding Lane to reach the B245 London Road in next to no time. Taking the B245 straight up the hill, we promptly reached the comfort of the popular Teal Café. The café was extremely busy; however, with a waitress service, we were quickly on our way again after enjoying the banter and our culinary delights.
We returned along the same route until Dunk’s Green. Ian opted to continue along Hamptons Road to then turn right down High House Lane towards Hadlow. A good pace was maintained we as headed eastwards through Golden Green, East Peckham and Wateringbury. While the rain threatened it remained dry with a gentle but cool breeze.
A distance of 45 miles at 14.1 mph average with an elevation gain of 2203 feet.
With an excellent turnout of riders at the Village Hall Richard and Tony decided upon a joint group ride with a stop at Headcorn Aerodrome. The group of 17 riders, led by Tony, started by going down Church Hill and turning sharp left (and too sharp for some) into Peens Lane and then continuing south easterly through Green Lane and Babylon Lane. The lanes were very mucky with plenty of pot holes focusing the riders’ attention. The group reached the scheduled refreshment stop, after 10 miles, by using New House Lane and Shenley Lane.
The cafe was very busy with prospective adrenaline junkies because the flights were grounded due to low cloud. The catering staff quickly served up refreshments. Some were disappointed not to have time to consume their customary bacon butty. Roly’s president’s group then rolled in, unexpectedly, having arrived at the same conclusion to avoid the limited capacity of the Lenham cafes. While sitting outside was pleasant, the riders began to feel chilly prompting an immediate return to the road.
The group headed north easterly through Bell Lane, Bedlam Lane, Sherway Road and Southernden Road towards Grafty Green. Rachel shared out her hermaphrodite jelly bears to boost energy levels to aid the climb up to Boughton Mulherbe Church. The sun made a brief appearance at the church which prompted Richard to get his camera out. The riders’ stomachs were now beginning to rumble, so it was time to return by turning left along Park Lane and left again on to Lenham Road. Now sufficiently incentivised, the group sped along the ridge’s roads, aided by a decent tailwind, to reach the Village Hall in a perfect time for the SFA birthday lunch.
On the return journey at the junction of Hawkenbury Road Graham opted to take the direct route back while the remaining lunatics opted to loop back via Babylon Lane and Green Lane. Chris Moon then left the group to notch up Wierton Hill while Russell and Tony ploughed on through the deteriorating conditions to reach the A229 at Linton. The loop back via Redwall Lane and the short-cut along George Street to Chainhurst enabled the frozen lunatics to meet their 35 mile target.
Distance of 35.6 miles at 13 mph average with elevation gain of 823feet.
Five riders set off from Bell Lane on a bright sunny but cold morning towards Frittenden. With Tony Palmer leading, the group decided to keep to busier roads in order to avoid the risk of ice in enclosed tree-lined narrow lanes. The group, however, encountered the occasional patch of ice and slush along the roads through Biddenden and along Tenterden Road around Parkgate. The group took full advantage of the stiff easterly chilly breeze at Tenterden by turning right along the A28 towards Rolvenden. The downhill section through Rolvenden Layne, passing Wittersham Road Station, enabled the group to progress at a steady pace into the easterly headwind.
The wind became more noticeable as the group headed through Wittersham and down across the the Isle of Oxney. After 22 miles the café offered welcome respite from the biting wind. The huge cheese scones in the café proved irresistible to all riders. Gary managed to devour two!
The long climb up the B2080 towards Tenterden soon warmed up the riders; however, the short-cut along the lane past Finchden Manor was not a good idea, as there were many patches of ice from several overflowing streams. The flat roads on the return through High Halden, Smarden and Headcorn were much safer and also quicker with the strong tailwind.
Distance 43.7miles, 1772ft elevation gain at 14.1mph average.
Spring sprung and 3 met up in the Dickley Lane, Lenham car park for my planned route (December 9th route reversed). Having made off and heading down Ham Lane heard calls of 'Wait for me' from Bernadette who had missed our start by minutes. Now 4, just into Old Ham Lane and 3 danced on ice, well it is Winter Olympics time, fortunately all stayed upright. Followed the intended route to Platts Heath and on towards Egerton then a wrong turn lead us on a great route to Barnfield. Usual route along Pivington Lane to reach Pluckley for another deviation to Hothfirled and Goddington House. South of Ashford via Great Chart and Singleton reaching Mersham to emerge on the A20 for our break at the Blue and White Cafe, Smeeth. Up to Bradbourne Lees, Bradbourne Downs to accept Peter's challenge of the ascent to the top of Wye Downs. Fantastic views, first time for some made it well worth the climb for a photo shoot. Down from the Downs and Peter left us to return home to Brook having cycled to the start from there earlier. Kept to the route returning via Boughton Lees, Eastwell, Westwell, Charing, Charing Heath, Lenham Heath and Lenham Square. Roly who had expected the start to be from there had missed a great ride, sorry Roly. 47.5 miles with 2600 feet of climbing just making the 13 mph average.
Route on Strava
I was unable to coerce, despite generous bribes, any of the Easyrider Plus Group to join me to Chiddingstone.
The overnight frost lingered, resulting in very slippery lanes with many patches of ice and slush. The stream at Crouch Bottom had broken its banks leaving a large puddle to navigate with slush on entry and exit. Spots of rain started at 11:00AM; however, the temperature did not rise as forecasted.
The café at Chiddingstone was shut so I pushed on via Hoath Corner to break at Penshurst Place café. A warm venue which enabled me to defrost my toes. My return journey through Leigh, Hildenborough, Golden Green and West Peckham was complemented by a decent tail wind and unwelcomed heavy rain. Distance 48 miles with 2300 ft elevation gain at 13mph average.
Two hardy riders confronted a cold and very wet day’s riding, with only slight trepidation, from Bell Lane Staplehurst. Tony Palmer and Chis Moon eagerly tackled the harsh elements passing through Biddenden, Rolvenden Layne, Wittersham and Ebony to reach the dry sanctuary of the Tenterden Garden Centre at Reading Street. The wet bedraggled pair were greeted with the comment of “you must be bonkers” by a member of the restaurant catering staff. Her statement contained a grain of truth. After warming the bones through and with hot sustenance consumed the bonkers pair faced misty damp conditions on their flatter return journey. Their route back skirted Tenderden, passed through High Haldon, Smarden and bypassed south of Headcorn. A distance of 43.9 miles at 13.3 mph average speed with elevation gain of 1,649 feet.