I counted them out – seven – and I counted them all back. That is a first for me: leading a >100-kilometre cycle ride with zero attrition.
It was a perfect day for cycling, with a temperature in the low twenties, and very little wind. With such favourable conditions we made our way east by main road to Plumstead, before wending our way around the houses of Abbey Wood and Belvedere to Erith. Then it was back onto the main road to Gravesend, save for a scenic detour taking in those cultural delights of Greater Dartford known as the Sainsbury distribution centre and the Littlebrook power station.
After a tea break on Gravesend’s Gordon Promenade, we rode alongside the disused Thames and Medway Canal to the foot of the Hoo Peninsula, before turning north to Cliffe. From there it was mostly rural lanes largely free of traffic. A brief stop by Cooling Castle, owned by Blackheath posh boy and minor TV celebrity Jules Holland, followed by another at St James’ Church, of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations fame, and then a warm welcome and lunch at the Horseshoe and Castle pub in Cooling village.
From Cooling we climbed to the top of Northward Hill, there to appreciate the fine panorama of the Hoo, and then slogged east up Lipwell Hill to High Halstow. With hearts still racing we turned northeast toward Allhallows, and there stopped by the water’s edge overlooking the Thames Estuary, with Southend visible on the other side.
The return took us through the various Stokes, and down the eastern side of the peninsula overlooking the Medway Estuary. We then retraced our outward track from Gravesend, where, to my surprise, all insisted on returning to Greenwich under own power. This we did via a different route, taking in National Cycle Route #1, which in part runs parallel to the busy A2 arterial road through Kent. From Erith we followed the Thames Path back to Woolwich and Greenwich, stopping to scoff some ripening blackberries plucked from riverside bushes.
We arrived back in Greenwich shortly after 19:00, with 135 kilometres on the clock, and all still smiling. Many thanks to my fellow riders for such a jolly day out in the sticks.
Attached photo courtesy of Reuben Miller.
Next ride: Saturday 4 August: Lee Valley to the newly reopened William Morris Gallery in Waltham Abbey. This is one for fans of Turner Prize winning artist and natty dresser Grayson Perry, whose “Walthamstow Tapestry” will be shown at the William Morris gallery from 2 August to 23 September. Meet 10:00 at Cutty Sark Gardens, SE10 9LW (by foot tunnel entrance).