Saturday 19 March 2022

Kent Hills from hell on a Brompton!

If you are here having read the title of this blog post, you were not perhaps expecting to see my Orange Brompton gently leaning against a farm gate with beautiful views of the Kent countryside. You might expect something altogether different. I suggest you read on. 

The ride leader for this one was my friend of - I think - almost ten years, Mark (King of the hill). We have always got on rather well but at times on this ride I was actually beginning to think he must hate me! 

Moving on, for me the ride started early last Sunday morning. Being a family orientated sort of person, the weekends (and especially Sundays) are normally reserved for all things family. As such I rarely go on Sunday cycle rides. Mark had told me about this ride ages ago and I had told him that if it were raining I would not be going. Having a good look in the direction of the Albert Memorial at 08:45 in the a.m. I surmised that if it did rain, there wouldn't be much, so I cycled the short distance to Charring Cross. There I boarded a train to Otford - the meeting point. I more or less had the train to myself, so I settled down to the 30 minutes or so the journey would take. 

Getting off the train I heard always enthusiastic voice of the lovely Samantha who shouted out, 'Orange.' She ad a few other riders including Jenny (The Mile Monster) were on the same train as I but at different ends of the train. Heading outside we saw Mark and the rest of the Brompton crew, crazy enough to embark on this adventure!

We regrouped and has the obligatory group photo and then we set off into the unknown. 

The Kent countryside is beautiful and one feature are the remains of former Oast houses. These distinctive buildings were used for part of the brewing process where hops were dried as part of the brewing process. 

The first few miles saw us follow the tried and tested route that Mark uses for his Whitstable Winder - always very popular - that sees many of us cycle to Otford from London and then onto Whitstable. 

The rain stayed away for much of the ride but ominous clouds in the distance almost foretold of the adventures that were yet to come!

Mark's route had three hills as being particular features of the ride. The first consisted of a lengthy off-road section that was steep and difficult to negotiate. Rocks, gravel, mud, stones, tree roots and everything else lay ahead and it made it hard going. 

About half way up a smallholding had several pigs who actually followed as I made my ascent. As they followed they were very vocal and it was as if they were saying hello. Perhaps they thought they were being fed? Regardless, they all came over to say hello and a few fellow riders also stopped to take some photos. 

Again the scenery was wonderful and I could not help but take the odd photograph. 

Our lunch stop was at a local village tearooms but a quick search by mark revealed that it would shut by the time we got there. Having only had a bowel of cornflakes for breakfast and with the peanut bar I had brought as a snack long gone, I was a little hungry. 

With nowhere else open we descended on a small, quaint pub. The welcome was friendly but they could not serve us any food as we would have needed to let them know about us coming beforehand. Oh dear!

For a short time the owners dog - please do not let looks deceive you - looked to me as if it could make a lung at an unexposed throat at any moment!

So, I ordered a coffee and a packet of crips! These I ate with abandon in the full knowledge that it was possibly all I would have until much later on!

When we went to leave, the rain that had been predicted to fall, started to fall. The impact of this was lessoned somewhat by the distraction of Mark's new pair of waterproof chaps. These were a garment that reminded me of something a cowboy might have worn. In fact I am pretty sure that such a garment was once worn by Dolly Parton (at the height of her fame in the mid 1980's) when performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee!

Those of you from the UK might get the reference when I say that I suspect the performer Danny La Rue wore something similar as well when singing a Country and Western version of 'On Mother Kelly's Doorstep!'

Almost immediately after the lunch stop - if you can call it that - we came across a road closed sign but being Brompton riders we simply carried and wheeled our bikes through the gaps in the various fences. 

York Hill was a beast. It was long and steep and it got to the point where my legs said, no more. I walked up the remaining 200 metres or so. York Hill has the distinction of being one of the oldest cycle races. The full climb is 0.8 miles. It is one of the steepest climbs in the south of England and once a year it is crowded with spectators watching competitors make their ascent. 

Toys Hill was if anything worse. The same thing happened and I could feel my energy levels sapping. I was starting to slow down, Thankfully Peter had a spare energy bar that se kindly gifted to me. This I consumed with a frenzy. After a few moments, its wonders seemed to do their thing and I felt a little better. Mark lived up to the moniker I gave him years ago, King of the Hill, and got up everything without a foot down. Jenny I think more or less managed the same!

With a few miles to go until we returned to Otford, Mark phoned ahead to the lovely tea rooms there and we were told that sandwiches, a selection of cakes and hot drinks would be waiting for us to buy. It was all I could do not to shed a tear upon hearing this news. We made it to Offord and made staring for the tea rooms overlooking the little pond. There I had a tuna sandwich and a cream tea. Devine! That done it was off to the station for the train back to London. 

Brompton adventures are always memorable and this one was no exception. Many thanks to Mark for putting the ride on but I feel I will need several months before I repeat this one again!

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

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