Whenever I've gone for a ride around Kent via the Tilbury Gravesend ferry I always get the same response from Chris, " why didn't you ride to Tilbury then?" It was always doubt over
my fitness levels and a desire to keep those twenty miles 'in the tank' to burn south of the water.But yesterday, well the day before actually, when I noticed the weather forecast said it would be a mild 10c and light winds I thought, let's see how tough that twenty mile trek to the Tilbury ferry actually is. The time taken to get to the ferry and my fitness levels woul determine how far I'd cycle on the other side.
On the bridge by Benfleet Station
Decked out in my new Hi Vis cycling gear I acquired from Ebay for a ridiculously cheap amount I set off for Tilbury. My only real decision was how I would get to the old A13 and the way west- the busy and potentially dangerous A130 Canvey Way or the route all the cycle route planning websites recommended and go through Benfleet. I'd ridden Canvey Way before and not only are the cars whizzing past at 50mph without a buffer of a cycle lane it is monotonous and tiring. It was an easy choice, 'Benfleet, A(n) Historical Development' it would be. Just passing onto Benfleet from the bridge is the 'Welcome to Benfleet' sign which has caused a weird grammatical debate. The signwriters and indeed the council believe the correct way to phrase the tagline is ' A Historical Development', however locals believe it should ' AN Historical Development. Cue someone continually adding an 'n' after the 'a' and the council rubbing it off again.
I coasted through Pitsea and and Vange, stopping only to take a photo of a haggard looking old cat.
Crossing Five Bells roundabout I was into Fobbing and on the old Southend Road west, stopping for a a photo by the NCR sign that I seem to spend half my cycling time looking out for.
I continued on through Corringham with the first sign of tiredness creeping into my legs at the 10 mile mark, exactly halfway to Tilbury. At Stanford Le Hope I got a little disorientated and and had to ask the way to Tilbury and I was glad it was the downhill option over the railway tracks via the nice little village of Linford.
Are these self taken photos looking a bit 'samey'?
A welcome very steep downhill stretch at Tilbury saw me hit 32mph and dumped right in on the edge of the town centre, which is a pitiful depressing looking eyesore if ever I saw one. Pretty soon I was at the dock, odometer showing exactly 20 miles, I was proud I'd finally done it. I was also pleasantly surprised, if not overwhelmed, that the ride through some south Essex towns that would hardly be described as salubrious, was actually quite nice.
It was mainly countryside once I was past Five Bells and only the eyesores of Pitsea and Tilbury let it down. I even had a nice view over the river at one point.
I managed to arrive at the docks at the time when the ferry stops running for an hour for the operator's lunchbreak so I just waited, chatting to another passenger.There were plenty of people waiting and it always surprises me how popular this service is.
I didn't have a definite plan on what to do once I'd hit Kent and Chris suggested Meopham, a nice village that claims to have the longest village street in Kent, at 7 miles long. With time running short I decided to give it a go, stopping for an English Breakfast in Gravesend first and thus piling back on all the calories I'd expended up to that point. Couldn't knock it though, £.2.95 for a breakfast that was so big I could barely finish it.
After leaving the suburbs of Gravesend heading south I had to admit the worst, my legs had gone. I hadn't cycled anywhere in a month and I'd hit the wall, just getting my excuses in early! It's quite hilly there as it's the beginning of North Kent Downs and some hills, well most if I'm honest, beat me.
I eventually rolled into Meopham at around five with nothing open apart from a dodgy looking pub called the Railway Tavern. I know of two other pubs called The Railway Tavern, one in Stanford le Hope and the other in Gravesend. Both are the kind of pubs where people stop talking and look at you the moment you walk in. Meopham's own Railway Tavern wasn't quite so unfriendly but not by much. It was definitely a local pub for local people and I'm sure that in past generations sawdust would've been sprinkled on the floor.
I only saw the first part of Meopham, which apparently is a collection of villages in a collective parish. There wasn't much from what I saw but I'm sure there is more to see. The claim to have Kent's longest village street is a bit tedious to say the least; it is simply the A227 which connects Gravesend at the northernmost point to Tonbridge in the south, passing through Meopham and several other villages on the way.
I had a pint of a local Kent ale and headed back to Gravesend for the ferry home, inadvertently making the last possible connection for the last ferry of the day.
I'd had a good day but my lack of fitness concerned me, I'd ridden further than this but suffered less tiredness. Was glad to get home for a long soak in the bath.
Total Miles for the day, 32*
*probably around 2 of those walked...