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…
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….
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…
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.
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.