The plan was to head back upwards, using Fackenden Lane, which is a good climb, but does necessitate riding maybe half a mile along the busy A road. It’s a left turn off it up the hill though, so no real problem. Then, probably the longest climb of the ride, through wooded hills, round bends, so you are never quite sure how much further you have to go, unless you know it well.
We were to lunch in Stansted at the Black Horse and this meant a tricky crossing of another A road which is where I lost the head of the group after I stopped to mark the turn. No one appeared for ages! I began to get colder and colder and then discovered I had no phone reception at this point so couldn’t check where the tail end was anyway. I knew Andrew was right at the back with the route, so figured he would sort anyone out who got to the junction. So rode off and found my own way to Stansted.
The tail end of the ride turned up at the pub safely soon after and we all had a good lunch before heading out. It was still drizzly, still cold and the slight descent straight after the pub stop certainly woke me up!
The further east along the lanes in this part of Kent you go, the quieter it seems to get. Woodland, hedgerows, farm fields, old oast houses passing by as you ride, a countryside so varied there’s always something to keep you interested. The sounds of woodpeckers in the still bare trees, a few songbirds just beginning to practice their first few notes,preparing for spring and sun. The roads are more rolling here, less steep climbs, too. And to make things even better, a stiff, strong wind was blowing, stronger and stronger, maybe, but firmly behind us, bowling us along.
In no time at all we were passing through Cobham, a tiny Kent village which has close associations with the Victorian writer, Charles Dickens who frequently walked to the village from his house at Gads Hill, a few miles north east of the village. It is said that he would often test his storytelling skills by giving readings from his latest work at the Leather Bottle Inn, which we rode straight past and which doesn’t look as though it’s changed much since then, from the outside at least.
After Cobham, it wasn’t long before we were riding into Meopham itself. Just a few minutes till the train arrived, and then just two stops to Bromley South, where we all said our goodbyes and dispersed. I made my way out, preparing to ride back down the Bromley Rd to Lewisham and was joined by Rosie.
Once we had negotiated the one way system around Bromley, it was a straight, exhilarating downhill all the way to Downham. It might not be a lovely country road and it might be lined with parked cars, car washes and blocks of flats, but it’s still a good descent! Especially when you get to overtake a Porsche and one of those weird cars with souped up engines that seem to growl at you. They left Bromley about the same time as us and I still rolled up at the traffic lights on Catford Rd ahead of them both!