Cycle ride – Dr Hoo’s Springtime Burn (2nd attempt)

When: Sunday 25 May 2014
Meet: 08:00 @ Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich SE10 9LW

NB: This ride was originally scheduled for Sunday 11 May, but with squally rain forecast throughout the day, and a wind in the lower Thames valley sufficient to provide aerodynamic lift to a small family car, it’s no wonder that no-one turned up at the start point in Cutty Sark Gardens. Other, that is, than the ride leader, who promptly returned home, and back to bed! Ho hum.

This coming weekend is a rare one for me these days. That is, I shall be (a) in London, and (b) able and willing to lead a cycle ride for the Dog & Bell Crew.

Hoo Peninsula

I therefore present: “Dr Hoo’s Springtime Burn”, being a 130-kilometre (650 furlongs) spin out to and around the Hoo Peninsula, the hooknose-shaped lump separating the Thames and Medway estuaries. The Hoo Peninsula is made up of sandy clay hills and marshland composed of alluvial silt, and derives its name from the Old English word for ‘spur of land’.

The ride away from Greater Londinium follows the main road from Greenwich to Woolwich and beyond, before diverting onto quieter roads through Belvedere, and rejoining the highway at Erith. From Erith it’s on to Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet, and a stop at the café on the seaside-like Gordon Promenade in Gravesend.

There we will pick up riders coming by train from London. I should explain that it takes a minimum of an hour and forty-five minutes to cycle between Greenwich and Gravesend, and that’s barring delays due to punctures, etc. We should leave Cutty Sark Gardens by 08:15 at the latest.

From Gravesend we cycle alongside the old Thames and Medway Canal, accompanied by the deafening sound of copulating bullfrogs in ecstasis. We then enter the Hoo Peninsula at Lower Higham, and turn north up to Cliffe and Cooling. After passing Schloss (Jools) Holland, aka Cooling Castle, we stop for lunch at the Horseshoe and Castle pub, renowned the world over for its mighty baguettes and well-kept local ales.

After feeding and watering, we proceed eastward to High Halstow, St Mary Hoo and Allhallows, where if the tide is high the brave can dip their toes in the briny estuary water (at your own risk: standards disclaimers apply!).

The return from the Hoo Peninsula takes us though the Stokes, Kingsnorth and Chattenden, and then northwest along National Cycle Route #1 back toward Gravesend.

From Gravesend we continue on NCR #1 to Dartford and Erith, and the final 25 kilometre stretch will be along the Thames Path to Grinnitch. Those unwilling or unable to continue past Gravesend can catch a train home from there. Alternatively, there is also a train station at Erith, on the same line through southeast London.

Ensure that your bikes are in good working order, with tyres pumped up hard and free of embedded debris that could cause punctures. Essential: tools, lights, in case of poor visibility, a spare inner tube or two, and a puncture repair kit. Also pack plenty of water and energy rich snacks, especially if you are intending to do the entire 130 kilometre ride.

RSVP, but it’s OK to turn up unannounced on the day.