Ride report: Hoo Peninsula & Rochester Sweeps
- Eight gathered in Greenwich Park early on Bank Holiday Monday morning for a long ride out to the Hoo Peninsula. The group included a stray Polish road demon by the name of Jurek, who, prior to my arrival, had been spotted in the park twiddling his thumbs, and was persuaded by Morris dance-hater Sandra to join us. The others were mostly known to me already, but are not Greenwich or Lewisham Cyclists regulars.
With young Jurek complaining that my pace was too slow, we proceeded along the main road through Woolwich to Plumstead, before riding around the houses to Belvedere and Erith. From Erith it was hilly urban highways to Gravesend, with the odd quieter detour wherever possible. The final stretch into Gravesend town saw us cycle through the Thamesside industrial estate west of Baltic Wharf.
After stopping for a break at the café on Gordon Promenade, the party continued east along the disused Thames and Medway canal to the base of the Hoo Peninsula. The canal-side path was recently resurfaced, and, although it is a little rough in places, is navigable on bikes with skinny tyres.
At Lower Higham we turned north up the Hoo Peninsula, slowing the pace in order to better appreciate the scenery, and ensure that we didn't arrive too early at the pub in Cooling. This we did around midday, after stopping to take a look at the old church and Dickens-inspiring graveyard just outside the village.
Following our pit stop at the Horseshoe and Castle, we made a little detour to the top of Lipwell Hill, and at this point Jurek and Sandra left the group to return to London. The latter visibly cringed at the discussion of watching Morris dancing in Rochester!
The surviving six then continued eastwards through the Hoo, before turning southwest at Stoke toward Kingsnorth, Hoo Saint-Werburgh and Chattenden. From Chattenden it was hilly main roads to Strood and Rochester.
We arrived in Rochester shortly before the start of the finale procession of the Sweeps Festival, and at this point it started to rain a little. Still, we saw the Morris dancers process out of the castle gardens, and heard the Medway council leader say a few words which were instantly forgotten. Two more left the group at this point to catch a train back to London.
The remaining four then headed back toward Gravesend. At this point their leader had a bit of a brain fart on running out of cycle path by the M2/A2 interface, and led his charges on a merry and muddy adventure around a mountain bike trail through Shorne Wood Country Park. Navigating largely by wits, we exited the park at the Shorne Ifield Road, and headed northwest, up an down through the housing estates of Gravesend, before joining NCR1 near Northfleet.
From this point I was on autopilot. I was at last able to rest my malfunctioning brain, and let the legs and arms lead us toward Dartford and Erith. After a final rest on Erith Pier, the four of us continued along the Thames Path at a relatively sedate pace. One left for home by West Thamesmead, and another by the Thames Barrier. That left me and Daniele to cycle on to Greenwich. But for Daniele the ride was not yet over, as he continued on to London Bridge to catch a train home to Brighton. I, on the other hand, crawled and moaned my way up Hyde Vale to Blackheath, and within minutes of reaching the ranch was fast asleep on the sofa.
I'm afraid that I have not a single photo from the ride. If others who took pictures on the day are willing to share them, please let me know.
Dr Francis Sedgemore
journalist and science writer