An overcast start from Wrotham with a group of six including Josh who decided to join us rather go with his dad who was leading another group from the same start point. We headed out along the Pilgrims Way to Kemsing and across the A25 at Seal. Dropping down the hill past Ightham Mote and a loop through Leigh we arrived at our café stop at Hilden Park golf centre. Ahead of us in the queue were a group of mud splattered fast Inters who had arrived from Marden. Also in the café were a large number of Kent Velo girls and boys who seem to use it as their HQ and appeared to receive preferential treatment as all our drinks and food arrived at very erratic intervals. Tony remained very calm despite receiving his eggs benedict long after everyone else ! In fairness the one cook was hit with a large influx of cyclists (not one golfer in sight). Return was via Shipbourne and as the day warmed up so did we on the long grind up Hamptons Lane to Crouch which offered nice views across the valley. A last leg through Ightham to Wrotham where the D groups had also just returned. A distance 0f 35 miles at an average of 13,8 mph,
Tony Palmer led this ride, from Staplehurst to Reading Street, out on a bright sunny morning without a cloud in the sky. Colin and Ang opted, without coercion, to ride with the B+ Group, rather than G+ Group, swelling the usual number of B+ riders to eight. Tony’s route ensured that the biggest hill climb was out of the way early on by going straight up Colliers Green Road to cross the A262; however, the road closure en route meant that bikes had to be carried for 30 metres. Despite a slight headwind and Tony still grappling (overheard talking to the device) with the functionalities and idiosyncrasies of his Garmin 820 the group arrived at the Tenterden Garden Centre café in time to beat the shoppers’ lunchtime snack dash. Tony Wells and Adrian somehow munched their way through massive sides of ham, accompanied with eggs and chips, while others drank even more tea. This opportunity also gave time to Gary and Tony to fathom how to make imported routes more legible and usable on a Garmin.
The return route via High Halden provided the perfect setting, with crocus surrounding an old oak on the Green opposite the Chequers Inn, for the customary group snap. Tony’s grasp of his Garmin improved significantly as he navigated his way through the narrow lanes around Haffenden Quarter. These little used lanes were full of silt and pot holes, one of which was found by Tony Wells. Hindered by a bent rear derailleur hanger and a small hole in his prized jersey Tony limped home with a wide smile on his face. A distance of 42.7 miles at 14.3mph average with an elevation gain of 1,797 feet.
Tony Palmer led seven riders out from East Malling in a Westerly direction with the promise of a lumpy route to Four Elms and a flatter return. The sun had been out most of the week; however, the group endured a total grey out all day. Undeterred, the group made good progress through the mist and damp conditions. Little Phil peeled off at Knole Park in order to get home early to enjoy (right word?) his fortnightly fix of Gill's football extravaganza. Tony elected not to exploit the panoramic photo opportunity, or lack of it, at Ide Hill and continued down straight down Ide Hill, so that Paul's request for an Americano could be met promptly. Suitably nourished at the Elms Cafe, with its interesting objet D' art, the group made good progress on the return route to arrive back on time (for once). A distance of 41 miles at 13.4 mph average with an elevation gain of 2,894 feet.
Seven riders left the car park on a bright but still very breezy morning following Storm Erik the day before. A welcome to Julian on his first B+ ride. We were not out of the park's grounds when we encountered our first 'lake' of the day....not the only time our tyres disappeared beneath us on the ride. The route took us past Langley, down Ulcombe Hill and into the glorious farmland around Smarden. It was here we met the full force of the gusty westerly wind and it was quite a struggle at times, without a 'windbreaker' up front. Unfortunately, Richard Byatt had a nasty spill on the Biddenden Road. He and Keith had become detached from the other 5 rides and opposite Woodlands Park he came a cropper through a combination of the wind and crumbling road. Eventually we all met up at Silcocks Farm cafe, with Richard nursing 2 layers of torn clothing and a grazed shoulder. His sense of humour was still in tact although worryingly he counted 12 riders when we left the cafe. A special mention to Gary and Keith who patched up Richard's badly abrased front tyre.
The route back benefitted from more interludes of a following wind. We navigated our way through the flattish roads of Biddenden, Frittenden and Headcorn before the slog up Wierton Hill. From there we zigzagged our way back to Mote Park trying to avoid the A229. The ride ended in unceremonious fashion as we had to carry out bikes around the works going on between the rugby ground and the car park. Quite damaging to the average speed.
We covered 42.5 miles at an average of 12.3mph and 2,200 ft of climbing. I should also mention I counted Tony yell lake, water, river, puddle, hole etc at least 150 times!
An unusually mild January day greeted five riders out to venture from Chestnut Street along the North Kent Coast to Tankerton. Tony Palmer led the group on the sunny morning taking the customary route through Rodmersham, Bapchild and Teynham but missed a right turn to end up at Conyer Quay. Retracing their steps, the group made excellent progress through Oare, Faversham and Seasalter, to reach the café on Tankerton Cliff just before the lunch time rush. Tony thought that he would attempt a different route back which avoided Faversham. When he noticed a sign showing Canterbury 2 miles away it became obvious that something was awry. Another right turn had been missed and the scrutiny of a map was necessary to get the group heading back in a Westerly direction. Tony managed, somehow, to get back on a road, near Dargate, that was vaguely familiar to him. As Richard Byatt reflected, “We never knew where we were but wherever it was, it was very pleasant”. Nevertheless, this unplanned return ride was all recorded on Strava and Tony can put his errors down to personal experience, or lack of it! A distance of 54.3 miles at an average of 13.1 mph with elevation gain of 2,804 feet.
Tony Wells led the group of five riders out from Headcorn Crossroads to Faversham Quay on a dry but cold morning with a gentle easterly breeze. Snow had been forecast on the higher ground: fortunately, the weather forecast was overly pessimistic. Even the rain stayed away. The group had not gone far when it almost lost its leader because a Polish lorry driver had forgotten that he was now driving in the UK. Undeterred, Tony kept calm (clearly drawing on years of experience) and slid neatly through the remaining gap. The remainder of the group followed whilst observing the apologetic Pole. Climbing Ulcombe Hill and Hubbards Hill ensured that the group stayed warm. The café at Quay was extremely busy; however, the wait for a table proved worthwhile. The route back through Sheldwich and Throwley was quiet and picturesque. At the Bowl Inn crossroads Brian and Anita decided to head straight home to Larkfield as they had ridden in to Headcorn and the miles had now clocked up significantly. The remaining three were left to complete the planned route which was marred by them seeing an injured motor cyclist laying on the ground following an accident involving two cars near Headcorn Station. This route is definitely one for the summer months as well. A distance of 43.1 miles at an average of 12.8 mph with elevation gain of 2,294 feet.
The D Groups and the B + Group all met up on an overcast by dry morning at Aylesford Station Road to offer three different routes. Tony Palmer was unable to recruit some of the D Group riders because his planned route to Penshurst Place included ascents totalling 2500+ feet. Four undeterred riders set off towards Wateringbury in a very mild temperature of 10°C which necessitated the removal of apparel after climbing Bow Hill. Adrian, Brian and Anita took full advantage of Tony’s bulk by sheltering behind him as the group headed into the strong wind on their route to Tudeley. A warm welcome to Adrian Cole who contributed significantly to the conversation while we munched our bacon baps. Suitably refreshed the group tackled the remaining hills, notably Moat Road, on their return journey.
Distance of 48.2 miles at average speed of 13.3 mph average speed with elevation gain of 2,666 feet.
The car park at Brenchley was heaving with riders looking to work off some of their Christmas stodge. Eleven left base on a cold but dry morning but this soon became ten as Darren peeled off due to a lack of recent riding. Having navigated the short stretch down the A21 we made our way to Ticehurst, passing Frant and the lumps of the A267 to Mark's Cross on the way.
The Greedy Goat café normally closes at noon on Saturday but they stayed open for us and it was well worth the wait for our food. After leaving the café we skirted Bewl Water and made our way through Kilndown and on to Goudhurst. Riders were reasonably spread out at this point but we regrouped before the final climb up Castle Hill and back to the start, with Gary unleashed from his normal back marker duties and showing an impressive turn of pace up the climb. My stats were 35.5 miles, average speed of 13.1mph, and 2,657ft of elevation.