Penshurst and Chiddingstone Ride
Chiddingstone and Penshurst Ride
This was a train assisted ride to maximise the amount of daylight riding in countryside a bit further out in Kent, now winter draws on. The forecast was bad and indeed it was raining as I left. I’d overslept a bit so didn’t have time to ride to the Otford meet point as I usually do, but met Fiona and Steve on the train.
At Otford, we caught up with two more riders off the train plus David and Alex were waiting on the Pilgrims Way just up the hill behind the station. Here we discussed the weather, (wet) the road surfaces (greasy and layered with slippery autumn leaf mulch) and how that might affect our riding, and the fact that I would most likely be altering the route substantially from that originally posted. My original route had used quite a few bits of off road here and there. Easy and mostly hardpacked bridleway the last time I had ridden them. But the current conditions made me doubt the wisdom of this, especially as my bruised ribs from last week had ruled out my usual midweek route check. Everyone agreed that this was sensible so we began the ride along the ridge.
We stuck to the Pilgrims Way as far as Heaverham then turned South down Watery Lane turning off to follow quite lanes to Bitchet Green. This part of the route was not too hilly although there were a fair few ups and downs and the rain and slippery patches of leaf mulch made it necessary for us to take quite a bit of care on the descents. At one point, I missed a turn and carried on, knowing there was another turn a few yards further on, looked back and everyone apart from Brian had disappeared. Alex had the correct route and had obviously taken everyone the right way. Brian and I went back down the hill, picked up the right turn and carried on, as the rain came down heavier and heavier. Eventually we caught them up, waiting at the top of Carter Hill as Alex had been wary of taking the group down a steep descent in case it turned out to be one of my route changes.
It was a timely bit of intuition as I did indeed decide to take the road going straight down the hill, rather than a rougher alternative originally planned. Then, bypassing Hildenborough we headed through Leigh and on to the pretty villages of Penshurst, Chiddingstone and Hever. Typically English, with mediaeval and Tudor buildings and a grand stately home in each one.
We chose Chiddingstone for our lunch stop, at the Tulip Tree tea rooms. Lovely place, with friendly and helpful staff. Good coffee and cakes. And deliciously warming hot soup.
Once through Hever, it wasn’t long before we hit Toys Hill Rd and the beginning of our penultimate proper climb.
It was the longest and steepest of the day and does that nasty, mean trick all good hills do by slipping a little bit that slacks if somewhat, fooling you it’s finished, if you don’t know it, before whacking you in the legs with another steep section before it’s really over. This caught at least one of us out, who didn’t know it that well, despite Alex’s warning beforehand.
Toys Hill done in the rain, we hit the descent, a touch slower than in dry conditions. But it’s a wide, pretty clear descent and the surface was good, c,ear of leaf mulch, so it was the fastest descent of the ride that day, and pretty exhilarating in the rain.
Through Brasted and then up on to the Pilgrims Way, we turned right and chose Sundridge Hill to take us over the North Downs. A little wandering through Knockholt and Halstead, then we were at the roundabout near Badgers Mount, from where we had intended to head to Eynsford through Lullingstone Park. But by now we were very wet indeed and decided to stay on full Tarmac, following Shacklands Rd to Shoreham. Here we headed to the station, rather than ride back to London. We had enjoyed the ride despite the rain out in the quiet lanes and charming villages of Kent, but no one fancied riding back alongside busy motor traffic throwing up dirty urban rain spray over us. A local train delivered us back to Bromley and bits of Lewisham. I think everyone was dreaming of hot baths and showers for the whole journey.