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A lovely ride in Kent

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Ten of us met at London Bridge on a dull but dry morning. After a 40 minute journey, we arrived in Paddock Wood and headed out almost immediately on the first of the tiny, practically traffic free country lanes that criss cross this quiet part of Kent.
This ride covers the wide flat flood plain of the Beult River and is mainly farmland, orchards and old oast houses, a reminder of another crop which was once widely grown all over the county.
We skirted the main centres of population, Stapelhurst, Marden and Headcorn, travelling just below and often in view of the beautiful North Downs Ridge. In autumn, the hedges lining these pretty, quiet lanes are heavy with the fruit of damson trees and blackthorn bushes. Now, they were green and fresh, hawthorn blossom and wild flowers bursting through.
Through Frittenden on to a tea stop at Biddenden. The hops may be gone, but the grape is definitely here, and the grapes at Biddenden are not for eating! They make quite a tasty, if less earthy brew than the homely old hop and I would recommend Biddenden’s sparkling white and Rose. They do a tasty range of ciders too.
Unfortunately, the vineyard was packed as it was some kind of food festival. It’s a lovely place usually for a pot of tea and cake, but the crowds made this impossible, so we headed off to the Smarden Bell for lunch. We had a bit of a wait while they got a table and two of our number headed off to Headcorn for an earlier train home. They had tickets for a gig that evening back in London. The rest of us enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch, most opting for the “Little people’s menu”. Which provided an excellent sized portion of roast dinner for an exceptionally reasonable price of £6.50!
Then it was just 20 miles or so left. Jackie decided she too would leave us at Headcorn. 40 miles for her that day. Terrific, especially considering that up till now her riding had been mainly shortish trips around London.
The last twenty miles took us quickly back to Paddock Wood, with the only climb of the day, Castle Hill, 340 feet above the Beult Flood plain well the effort for the view and the descent. Wheeeee! My favourite way to end a ride.
Thanks to everyone, who came along. These rides are a pleasure to lead these days. Easy going, friendly people with a lovely sense of humour. Lovely countryside. And no rain! What more could one want.