Cycling: London to Dover overnight

With the English bank holiday weekend (Scotland has the August bank holiday on the first Monday instead of the last), I thought that I would go for one of my longer cycle rides and see if I could beat my previous record of 150 miles. On the Saturday morning I packed the 4.5 litre of water, home made pasta, chocolate and extra clothing layers into my panniers. I finally got going at 1pm, which was a lot later than I was expecting.

The first part of my journey was heading north to the River Thames on the Waterlink Way/National Cycle Route 21. Then I followed the Thames to the Woolwich ferry using the NCN4 and 1. I decided to add a little extra adventure to my journey by crossing the River Thames a couple of times. First using the Woolwich Ferry to get to the North bank, which is free. Then following a part of the new Cycle SuperHighway 3, which is a rebranding of the previous cycle path that it runs along, to head east towards my next crossing. To get back to the South bank of the Thames, I used the Dartford crossing. You can’t cycle over, however a free pickup truck service is provided to take cyclist and bike over to the other side.

After a nice chat about traffic and cycling with the traffic officer who took me across, I then re-joined the National Cycle Route 1 most of the way to Whitstable. I decided to follow a straighter new cycle route from just before Gravesend to Strood, which is part of the old A2 prior to it being upgraded.

Shortly after Sittingbourne while following the NCN1, I seen on the right hand side of the road a car with the two door windows smashed a couple of people and another vehicle, which looked rather unusual. I continued further up the road until I was out of sight, as I didn’t know how they would react and then reported the car break-in to the police via a 999 call. As I didn’t know how to describe my current location well, thus I took a photo of the screen on my phone (which ended up against my face while talking thus unable to look at the screen) with the latitude and longitude, and gave the lat/lon to the operator, which worked. On Sunday afternoon I got a phone call from the police following up with some clarifications to the useful evidence. They were pleased that I had phoned in the incident as a witness as most people would have just turned a blind eye.

A bit further down the road I stopped to eat some of my pasta, and suddenly some dark rain clouds came over and the heavens opened. Luckily it was just a fairly short shower and I had managed to find a bit of shelter for it to pass. It did worry me a bit as to how much more rain there would be for the rest of my journey. Luckily once that cloud passed it was clear for the rest of my journey.

From Whitstable I followed the coast, much of which was on the path or promenades that runs along the edge of the sea. As I was getting into Ramsgate at about 2 am after 107 miles, I was getting too tired to be able to continue the rest of the night further round the coast safely, so I found a nice bench and shelter overlooking the sea to put my head down for a few hours. Luckily I had a towel with me that I was able to use as a pillow.

Shortly after 5am I set off again slightly refreshed with the first signs of dawn. The route of the NCN1 down to Deal is quite nice. After Deal however it turns inland a little and into a very long climb that seems to just go on forever. It was nice to be able to get to the top and see the nice view across the English Channel. After a little decent there is the White Cliffs of Dover National Trust site, which has a nice view overlooking Dover ferry port. (Yeah, I’m sure you already know that I quite like travelling by ferry from time to time.)

From there I headed down the short and steep downhill into Dover, the downhill was over way too quick considering the amount of uphill. I then took the train home, going the full length of the straight track from Ashford to Redhill (with a change at Tonbridge). The reason I mention it, is because it does look quite strange or unusual at lower zooms on a map, when there generally is more curves in rail lines.

On the Sunday late afternoon/evening I took a nice 5 hour nap to catch up my sleep, before getting up for a few hours to catch up on a few things before heading back to bed for a full nights sleep.

In total it was 133 miles over 20 hours, which is my second longest cycle in one go. The Dunwich Dynamo was 127 miles including the ride to the start. At some point in the future I want to ride from Dover anti-clockwise round the coast, particularly to try hill out of Dover and the long downhill into Deal. I’d also like to do Dover-Brighton via the NCN2.

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