Tonbridge, the start of Kent Castle 100
700 hundred of us waited in the sunny grounds of Tonbridge Castle for an early start, some started as early as 7.30, where as Louisa and I waddled through the gatehouse at just before nine for what was to be a 100 mile circular route back to Tonbridge taking in some of Kent’s castles along the way. The route was superbly marked out at each junction to the extent that I did not need to so much as glance as the route sheet which I had located conveniently in my MapTrap in preparation for such a long ride through unfamiliar territory, the busy junctions were even marshalled to make sure we didn’t get lost.
On route, slowly starting to get warm
The first half of the route was through the leafy yet hilly lanes that typify Kent, as we cycled past numerous Oast houses, orchards and spectacular rolling countryside it soon became clear why Kent is often referred to as the ‘garden of England‘, the route had been well chosen to show us Kent at its very best. There were four welcome refreshments stops plus a lunch stop, with plenty of fresh fruit, bananas plus cake and water available. At each check point there was help in the form of first aid and mechanics, all the stops were indeed well used by all but the quick riders, some of the latter completed the course by early afternoon.
Best saddle cover ever!For me Charity rides are about savouring the day, I can actually get almost as much enjoyment and satisfaction at helping others achieve their goals as they do, lets face it Charity rides are for many their first taste at cycling any distance, at 100 miles this does represent a challenge to anyone, novices especially, even more so taking into consideration the hilly terrain. By late morning Louisa and I had got to Rochester, a quick stop for even more refreshments had us riding along sections of the Pilgrims way on route to the lunch stop at 56 miles. We were looking forward to what had been publicised as generous lunch, sadly at just after 2.00 o’clock this had all but gone and the organisers were out re stocking, in the meantime we made do with a few bread rolls, fruit and cheese, although in fairness we would have made alternative arrangements if we had known, you need to be well fueled for a ride of this distance.
After lunch we headed into a flatter section of the ride, the average speed increased as result, although being on ‘A’ roads this did mean the route was less scenic, but it was only for just over an hour and the fact that for many it did mean that they were getting the miles in without to much effort was a welcome change as far as most were concerned. At 73 miles we headed back into the quite lanes and extremely beautiful country side once more; oh and the hills! We were passed on several occasions by motorcycle riders who were there to assist anyone who needed it, on more than one occasion we noticed them changing a tube for someone, support vehicles and ambulances were also seen at regular intervals, always acknowledging us to make sure all was well.
Bodiam castle came and went at 77 miles, by this time most realised that although they were getting very tired they knew that they were going to make it, you could almost feel the relief coming off them, early on in the ride you could see they were nervous, now this had been replaced with stubborn determination, they were going to complete 100 miles, they knew it and nothing short of both legs falling off or was going to stop them. At 88 miles came the last refreshment stop, from here on the route eased off slightly in severity, the country side remained spectacular although I think Louisa missed most of the latter section, far to busy being bossed eyed and not very politely advising me that she had gone off hills, I assured her that this was normal for a first long bike ride and that infact she may not realise it but she was having a wonderful time going up hill; which went down well!
Needless to say as we got insight of Tonbridge the mood as to be expected lightened, the aches and pains forgotten, the organisers still had their reception committee cheering as we rode through Tonbridge Gatehouse to welcome us, along with some friends who had been injured before the day who will at some stage ride the course. All in all a well thought out route, well supported by both riders and organisation personnel, running out of food at lunch time was a set back for us personally, but this is easy enough to rectify for what I am sure will continue to be a regular event and deservedly so.