As I hinted in previous posts, today was an emotional ride. Everything went better than I could have hoped. I’ll try to explain…
We left Brands Hatch just after 8am and after the climbs of yesterday (which must have put something in the bank for us) we were treated to a very long downhill stretch to get warmed up. I’m not quite sure how far but it seemed to go on for a long time and I had a nagging doubt that we would pay for it later (we did!)
Our route took us through West Malling, something I’ll come back to in my blog later, and to our first refreshment stop at 25 miles in an orchard in the middle of the beautiful Kent countryside just south of Maidstone.
Suitably refreshed, we set out for our lunch stop at Canterbury RFC – another 25 miles. We made really good time. The weather and the terrain was kind to us (we had a short shower while we having lunch but the rest of the day was dry). Canterbury RFC laid on a great chilli for us and I think the hot food was just what we needed to get ourselves ready for the challenge ahead.
Steve had said that today would be flatter than yesterday. I’d like to say he lied but to be honest he was just being economical with the truth! Leaving Canterbury and heading towards the coast at Hythe is a pretty straight road but it does climb over the North downs. Nothing quite as steep as yesterday but it did drag on a bit! The views however were wonderful and the ride down into Hythe once we’d got over the top was greeted with much relief.
We were treated to Afternoon Tea in Hythe (about 65 miles in), courtesy of Holiday Extras, one of the ride sponsors. Fresh strawberries and clotted cream really didn’t do much for my plan to lose a few pounds on this ride (but they were really nice!).
I set out from Hythe ahead of many of the group as I knew there was a tough climb ahead of me and I had a particular task to undertake at our next stop so didn’t want to be late. All was going well… I left Hythe following the little orange arrows that marked our route, following them through Shorncliffe (where I joined the Army in 1981), Sandgate and on to Folkestone. It was at this point that I must have missed a crucial arrow as I found myself in the middle of the town.
I turned around and enjoyed a short ride along the prom before coming across some equally puzzled riders heading the other way, Between us we consulted the maps and worked out where we had gone wrong, retraced our steps and got back on track (but having lost about 15 minutes in the process).
We then started to head out of Folkestone to the top of the ‘White Cliffs’ and the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-Le-Ferne. It was a very steep climb (varying between 10 & 12%) over about a mile. I got as far as I could in the saddle but at the steepest section, about 2/3 of the way up and 75 miles into the ride, I had to admit defeat and walked until the gradient flattened out. I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of our planned memorial event (phew!).
Those of you that know me, also know that I look after the CWGC war graves in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Westmill. You may also know that I am in the middle of organising a memorial to Pilot Office Peter Mildren, one of The Few, who grew up in the village, but whose name was never inscribed on the existing village war memorial.
I had always hoped to lay a wreath on behalf of the villagers of Westmill, in memory of Peter, but when I was talking to Steve about it, he asked if I could talk to everyone for 5 minutes about Peter and give an insight as to why I was commemorating him.
All the riders gathered around the central memorial – a wonderful sculpture of a fighter pilot, sitting in the middle of a huge propeller, looking out from the top of the White Cliffs across the English Channel. It’s a wonderfully fitting memorial and I urge you to pay it a visit if you’re ever in the area. Take my advice though, and go by car!!
Steve introduced the Battle of Britain to the group and then handed over to me to provide details of one of the Spitfire pilots who took part. Pilot Office Peter Mildren was born and lived in Westmill, Hertfordshire but served in West Malling and Biggin Hill. It was thought provoking cycling around the same Kent countryside that he fought over. At the end of my talk, I laid the poppy wreath at the foot of the memorial and Steve led a minutes silence. It was so nice afterwards to hear such kind comments from everyone that had listened. I am incredibly proud to have the chance to do this. It was a great idea of yours Steve. Thank you for the opportunity.
After taking a few photos, I joined everyone and headed out of the memorial and down (thankfully!) the road into Dover and our Hotel for the night having completed 80 miles.
We’ve just enjoyed a fantastic meal to celebrate our last evening together. Tomorrow, we head up (again!) to Dover Castle and then begin our ride back to Hoo, taking in the Kent coastline on the way. It’s going to be a great day I’m sure!
If you haven’t sponsored me for my ride, please think about donating using the JustGiving button on this page.
I might not get around to updating my Blog tomorrow when we finish, as I’ll have to head home but I will do a final update as soon as I can.
Thanks for looking
Click on the link to view a ‘fly-by’ of today’s ride: https://www.relive.cc/view/1084766674
As promised, please click on the thumbnail below to read the text of my talk about Peter: