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Canterbury - Sandwich - Canterbury (sadly not via Dover this time)

12 Apr 2020
by DavidM
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Canterbury to Canterbury via Sandwich (not Dover!)

Tempted by a Nicholas Crane write up in the Telegraph, four of us tried a Kent circuit in early March, gambling with the weather. Parked up in Canterbury and cycled north through the town early Sat morning, up the long hard hill of the Whitstable Road before turning onto the Crab and Winkle way to take us to the coast. Post the first hill, good easy cycling all the way to Whitstable on a combination of well laid tracks and tarmac. Into Whitstable and east to Herne Bay, then to Reculver, where we picked up our fifth man, Dave the local, and stopped for coffee and cakes at the coffee stop looking out to sea. Girls behind the counter charming, but considered us mad to be cycling from Canterbury, even madder to be going to Sandwich. But great coffee and brownies, and so, refreshed, we headed on past the Reculver Towers, (maintained by Trinity House as a navigation point) across sea wall above the marshes to Margate. Views to the north of windfarms, Maunsell Forts and occasional large ships. Inland, the odd bump of Thanet, once an island, now joined to the mainland by silting.

Lunch at the BeBeached Café on the mole at Margate, just along from the Turner and the Little Ships monument, 5x Eggs Benedict and Whitstable Bay Pale Ale. Excellent food and cheery staff. Then along seawalls and coastal roads to North Foreland, turning south at the Captain Digby past pleasant rows of fine twenties houses built for fine channel views. Through Broadstairs, and down to Ramsgate, for coffee below the harbour ramp, where our fifth man turned inland again. Back at four, we rolled out of Ramsgate to the south, skirting Pugin’s rectory (now Landmark Trust and looking fine), then round to Pegwell Bay (sadly no view of the old hovercraft terminal from the route, but at least it runs straight past the Viking longship) and then the sadly light industrial route along the 256 into Sandwich from the North. Stowed the bikes in the beer cellar of the New Inn where we were staying, out on the town for Thai and beers. Fine town, good beer in the Admiral Owen by the old gate, and a great live band in the Fleur de Lys knocking out heavy metal covers with good humour and some aplomb. Definite impression that Sandwich makes its own fun.

Breakfast in the New Inn, hearty fry up, but weather had turned vicious overnight, with Storm Freya blowing up the channel and making landfall right at Dover. Eighty mph gusts made our planned route, down to Walmer then across the back of the White Cliffs, into Dover and then Folkestone, look very unwise, so we swung onto Route One, and diverted back into Canterbury via Fordwich. Lovely countryside, but hard going in the teeth of gale, each break in the hedge resulted in a sharp swerve as the wind took the bikes and panniers, and we were happy to get into Canterbury for an early lunch at Café St Pierre, who stored our muddy bikes in their cheerful garden , and welcomed us steaming gently into their genteel coffee shop for open sandwiches and mugs of coffee.

Took another year before finally covered the Dover leg, starting at Brighton and coming the other way around, to complete the full Kent Coastal just before Covid-19 closed down the touring.