Rode across the desert on a bike with no name*

It’s a funny place, Kent.

I grew up in Essex so I like to think I am down with all things eastern. Lincolnshire – *high five*, Suffolk – I’m with you tractor-loving brethern. But Kent – it’s meant to be the Garden of England but those quaint cottages, rolling downs, even the white cliffs, as beautiful as they are, just don’t move me. I thought I had Kent sussed –  then I went to Dungeness.

View over Dungeness

Dungeness is the world’s largest expanse of shingle and the UK’s only desert. It is an extremely bleak, yet rather beautiful place – its flat expanse only broken by lighthouses, buildings traditionally made of old railway coaches but with the nuclear powers stations looming ominously and incongruously over the almost lunar landscape. The foreland can only be accessed by two ramshackle roads or rather eccentric miniature steam railway, complete with Royal carriage, just in case her Maj fancies a walk on the shingle.

Road bike leaning against a wall at Dungeness

We rode to Dungeness from St Mary’s Bay, about 10 miles north up the coast. We tried to follow the road all the way down the coast, but some of Coast Drive north of New Romney was just a grass track, unsuitable for the road bikes. So we just cycled down the concrete seawall instead.

The Aussie on his bike

Battling through some coastal cross winds was well rewarded with Tea and Jaffa Cakes in the Light Railway Cafe. The road surface was variable, at best and despite some the coast road through Greatstone and Lydd being a 40 speed limit, the volume was moderately low and I felt safe – which is important to me, as I am still ever so slightly wobbly at times on the new road bike.  The only other cyclists we saw were commuters from the power station, but you could tell regular vehicle users of the coast road were used to cycle traffic. I imagine they get a lot during the holiday season.

Dungeness Lighthouse

Dungeness is astonishing place and really rather evocative. On a clear day it was wonderful to be able to see from the shingle, across the marshes of Romney to the chalk downs. Getting to cycle through a a bona fide desert was a delight, though I suspect it might be a little more difficult to add to my desert-crossing list.

Kent, I take it back. You are more than just cliched green and pleasant land, you are full of surprises – miles of pebbly shingle, quirky buildings, looming nuclear monoliths and odd plants battling against the elements and thriving –  that’s much more my idea of a garden of England.

You can see more of my Dungeness photos on Flickr.


*For the sake of blog continuity my road bike does have name, but the title was irresistible.

The Last Day of Summer

This summer was the summer of bicycles. Well it certainly was in our house. With a Brit firmly ensconced in a Rainbow, in early July we headed off to France to follow the Tour. We hung around on road sides, we collected tat from the Caravane, we saw a British man in Yellow, we cycled through roads lined with sunflowers and looked longingly at Ventoux. I came home and bought my first road bike while the rest of the country tried to grow ginger sideburns. The Olympics and Paralympics continued to fuel the fever. So last week’s Tour of Britain felt like an appropriate end – a cycling race for a country gone cycling mad.

We rather jealously watched the growing crowds on the television and on the last day of the Tour we headed off to Surrey Hills to get one last look (perhaps) at those Rainbow stripes. The Aussie was a volunteer marshall on the Category 2 climb on Crocknorth Road and some friends and I found a perch on a rather well placed disused railway bridge. Here are a few rather shaky instagram snaps…

An appropriate T shirt for the day – roughly translates as “Everyone is crazy for the Tour”

Off to the Surrey Hills

Head of the race

The head of the race

Cav leads the peloton

And the back of the race heading up Crocknorth Road

Surrey Hills beer

All this spectating is hard work

There was a stage win at the end for the Rainbow in front of record-breaking crowds and a British pretender to the cycling throne winning the GC. It was a fantastic day out with some wonderful friends and I started considering of a third bicycle for my collection… Possibly the perfect cycling end to the cycling summer.

London 2012

Spent two amazing days in the sun at the paralympic road cycling at Brand Hatch this week. Sarah Storey! David Stone! Zanardi!

I could go on and use far too many exclamation marks. Here’s a little montage:

Top to bottom and Left to right: Crowds from all over the world gather on the straight; Very British spectators; Ello ello ello; The curve down to the final straight; A coach from the french team takes a ride; Sarah Storey wins gold.

As always you can see my whole London 2012 set on Flickr. I really don’t want the Paralympics to end, thank goodness the Tour of Britain is starting today to let us down gently…