2 Oct

field cycling

Cycling means many things to many people. Usually, to me it means getting to work or racing as fast as I can. But this weekend it meant a leisurely jaunt through countryside and along coast in lovely, sunny Kent. Off came my usual racing slicks, on with the knobbly jobs. Perfect for the off-road adventure ahead for me and Mog.

cake, huts, art & paddling

The adventure began at St. Pancras station, with the pair of us trying to navigate the escalator with our heavy, baggage laden bicycles with one hand, and hot coffee with the other – possibly the most difficult part of the trip. It took both of us, the chap who got on the escalator behind us and the train conductor to get us, our bikes, and our coffees on to the train safely.

Once in Canterbury, we made our way to Whitstable on the wonderfully named Crab and Winkle Way, or at least we did once we found the blue signs that would mark our route. Without Mr Cakes and his magic bicycle sat nav, this proved difficult! Then Mog got a puncture after only a few miles. Helpful passer-by #3 told us that Herbert’s Cycles in Whitstable was the place to go for help, a small but perfectly formed bike shop that sorted us out in half an hour. Of course, we both do know how to fix a puncture, but why DIY when you can sit and drink coffee while someone else DIFY (does it for you)? From there the journey was easy – just follow the coast until we get tired, or the sun sets. Day 1 was the latter, day 2 the former.

condor, brompton, herberts bike shop

We only had 2 days away, and just 90km of cycling, but we certainly packed in plenty of stuff. Firstly, lets talk cake. There were Mog’s lemon drizzle buns on the train; Granny Ann’s bread pudding bought from a bake sale on the High Street in Whitstable; plum tart from Age & Sons in Ramsgate; and chocolate & beetroot brownies, strawberry muffins and tablet in Deal. Add in a few local ales and now you’re talking.

We saw castles and beach huts a plenty, a wind farm that followed us for miles, something that resembled Britain’s Got Talent in Herne Bay, heard the Noel McCalla trio, avoided about a million dogs and children, cycled on gravel and through muddy fields, failed to see any artwork at the new Turner Gallery in Margate (closed for exhibition changeover), played in the interactive (childrens?) exhibition in the new Turner Gallery in Margate, drank Gadd’s Ale in the Charles Dickens Pub in Broadstairs, drank café au lait at a French cafe in Sandwich, and generally had a ball.

St Margaret's bay swimming

Oh, and there was swimming. We were by the coast, of course there was swimming. I was consumed by the thought of it. We tried on day 1, but the sun was setting and we feared getting too cold. So, instead we settled for a quick paddle in one of Margate’s tidal pools (yes, Margate has two! Lucky Margate!)

We spent the night in Ramsgate, and a chap to whom we got chatting gave us his tip for the best local swimming spot. We got up early and walked along the cliff top to said spot. The tide was out, and there seemed to be some kind of dog/vagrant party going on right in front of the water. We chickened out, again.

But the best was yet to come. According to Wikipedia, channel swimmers and submarine telephone cables start from St Margaret’s Bay, and it was on the route for day two. Finally, salty swimming salvation. Mog watched and snapped and I stripped to my cossie and ran in for a brief breaststroke in the chop. I thought about what it must be like to embark on 22 miles of swimming from right here. Not today, I thought, and out I ran to warm clothing and the rest of the journey to Dover!

I can’t leave you without a recipe. Mog made us lemon buns – why not try Nigel Slater’s Demerara lemon cake, split into 12 muffin cases and baked for about 20 minutes.

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