To Eynsford by bike

One of the things I wanted to do with my borrowed bike was take it out for a spin into the countryside. That’s not really been so easy with less time free and autumn nights drawing in. But while others saw Wednesday’s beautiful, crisp, clear day as a chance to smash a few points home, I took advantage of a sudden day free to head off in the opposite direction, out to the pretty village of Eynsford. On summer Sundays, it’s packed out with people enjoying the views and the hospitality of the riverside pub, the Plough. What would it be like on a chilly autumnal Wednesday? It seemed the ideal chance to flex my new-found freedom.

Actually, it was far simpler than I expected – riding down to Sidcup’s fairly straightforward, roadworks through Sidcup itself make things fiddly but there’s a couple of off-main road routes that are rather handy. The only real difficulty comes at Ruxley Corner, where an intimidating roundabout is designed purely for cars and lorries – there’s no way to cross the dual carriageway North Cray Road other than by legging it between gaps in traffic. As suburban London fades into Kent on the Maidstone Road, motorists start to discover their inner boy racers – and it’s not pleasant. I gave up and hopped onto the deserted pathway next to the road.

Then, as I reached nine miles…

The county line
Cripes! Has this cycling lark gone too far?

Civilised Swanley
Across into That Kent, and suddenly a lengthy cycle lane opened up – take note, Bexley Council – and it was plain sailing through Swanley (alright, I did stop to check out the market) and out the other side, across the start of the M20 (ulp!), then a sharp right down a single track road (double ulp!), then a left across the M25 (treble…) and then – ta-da….

The Darent Valley
The Darent Valley. A sharp reminder that there’s some stunning countryside right on my doorstep. Down a meandering hill, and finally, after 13 miles…

Eynsford
Eynsford

For the hour or so I was in Eynsford, I’m sad to say that I didn’t see anyone use the ford. I’ve a nasty feeling plenty have some unstuck over the years – the signs on emerging helpfully advise “try your brakes”. I give myself much time down there, so there wasn’t much else to do but quench my thirst in the Plough (surprisingly busy for a Wednesday afternoon) and watch the sun set over the fields. Oh yes, and pop into the lovely old-fashioned sweet shop which still yearns for the days of Spangles…

Eynsford church
Sweet shop counter

It’s one trip I’ll definitely do again, if only because I sneakily fancy seeing the birds of prey at Eagle Heights some day, and it also looks like good walking country too. And there’s Lullingstone Castle too, the other side of this viaduct.

Riding back from Lullingstone Castle
It’s a steep climb back out of Eynsford, but at least in the lanes, nobody can hear you scream…

I took a different way back, heading through the village of Crockenhill – the dark, bumpy couple of miles between there and the first street lights of Greater London were unnerving, but from St Mary Cray northwards was surprisingly easy, with a dedicated mini-cycle road next to the main Sevenoaks Way, and another cycle path alongside the A20 almost as far as New Eltham.

Past Eltham Palace towards Eltham Green and Kidbrooke – feeling pleased with myself after finding a handy shortcut – and I was back home after a round trip of almost 30 miles. As I said, it’s definitely something I’d do again, probably in a more welcoming season. While I’m not sure my legs can take the hills of the North Downs, if anyone has suggestions for slightly more distant places I can ride to, I’d love to hear about them.

10 comments

  1. I’ve seen a few cars get stuck in that ford over the years. It’s just too tempting.

    There’s some fantastic walks around Eynsford as well and that patch of grass by the Ford and the pub is thronged during the summer with drinkers and waders. Happy memories…

  2. Good stuff, Darryl. Eynsford was one of my first rides out of town when I got back onto the bike after a bout of illness, and it’s a fair old ride. And you’re right, it’s a bit of a haul getting back out of river valley.

    A similar ride I did a short while afterwards was out to Downe (of Darwin fame) via Bromley and Keston. The return trip from Deptford to Downe worked out at around 40 miles and you get that same feeling of achievement for having pedalled your own way into the countryside from our enormous city.

    Bexley and Sidcup cyclists might be good places to find rides into Kent – http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=794

  3. Marmoset – Downe’s on my mind, although I’ve done it a few times by bus (it’s still in the TfL area) as a launching point for walks/ place to hide in country pubs.

    Brenda – thanks for that; the trouble is for non-car drivers like me is that Eynsford is super-fiddly to reach (at least from this bit of SE London – obviously you can take a train from Bromley South). But there’s always a way if you try hard enough.

    Just seen this Kent County Council page of cycling routes too, although they may need a bit of train travel first: http://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture/countryside_and_coast/cycling/cycle_routes.aspx

  4. I looked into the travel as the next time we do it we want to do by train and take in a few of the pubs. You can get the train from Blackheath, changing at Nunhead, takes 55 mins including the change. The good thing too is if you’ve had enough by Otford or Shoreham you can jump on the train there also.

    ta da!

  5. Oh no – walking is still good; plenty of time to stop and stare. I’m having trouble getting away with that by bike!

    That Blackheath/Nunhead connection magically vanishes after 7pm, so drink up early 🙂

  6. The Plough is my favourite pub, it’s always busy. I simply love Eynsford but have never tried the walks. Must do that!

  7. Darryl, finish the walk by 3pm… enough time for a few before staggering to the station. Tho this line does not run on a sunday unfortunately.

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