Kent Weald loop
Cycling UK's Chief Executive, Paul Tuohy, has been cycling pretty much all his life, but his home county of Kent will always be where his heart is. In this loop of the Kent Weald, Paul shares the story behind how he discovered his Saturday riding group and the best spot for beer along the way!
About 10 years ago a few chaps got talking in their local pub, The Bull at Horton Kirby in North Kent. The catalyst for the discussion between two strangers was a lover of good beer and cycling as both had cycled there. Before the conversation had finished Roger "the poet" and "mad" Andy decided they would ride socially together and "The Old Gits" cycling group was formed: no forms, no constitution just some basic etiquette and principles. The rides would start at 1pm from Rogers house and end up at The Bull by 4pm for fine ale and home by 6ish….10 years on the group rides every Saturday around 30 – 40 miles in glorious Kent winter or summer. The record ride had 16 participants, men and women and firm friendships have been made and endure till today. I "joined" about eight years ago and this is an example of one of our Kent loops.
Sutton-at-Hone start is just beyond Dartford and once here you have the Kent lanes on your doorstep. Many SE London riders head out this way but they have a lot of traffic to negotiate before the quieter lanes arrive.
This route takes you to the wonderful Knatts Valley Lane via Farningham, where you'll be pinching yourself to think that you're only a few miles from the M25, M26, M20 as you head out towards the North Kent downs.
Descending Cotmans Ash (a bugger to climb up!) you'll cross the Pilgrims Way around beautiful Knoll Park in Sevenoaks to head into the Weald of Kent. Watery Lane turns into Honey Pot lane with its chocolate box cottages. Gracious Lane then takes you west to the top of Ide Hill, one of the highest points in Kent and a fabulous descent before the inevitable climb back out of the Weald to the Downs . Heading up Toy's Hill is a brute from either side, but this south side is regarded as the more difficult. Toy's Hill is more than 200 acres (81 hectares) of woodland. The area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its abundant wildlife, and much of it is recognised as a Grade I site of national importance for nature conservation. It is a marvellous place to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing walk, admire fine views over the Weald of Kent and to discover the wildlife it supports.
There is a pub at the summit of Toy's Hill but it's perhaps better not stop on this ride but rather wait at the top for everyone to catch up before heading onwards to your destination: The Bull. Descending down to Brasted and Sundridge on the A25 quickly brings you back into the lanes to Shoreham where there is an exceptional bike stop tea room known as the Shoreham Aircraft Museum. It’s a popular watering hole for the many ramblers and cyclists who pass through the village and is listed in the Cycling UK guide of cycle friendly stops.
By now it will be ‘beer o’clock’ in the Old Git's peloton and the ‘Eglatine Roller’ Strava segment into Horton Kirby always gets our tails up to complete the ride to The Bull, Horton Kirby. Their garden in summer is one of the best in Kent. You then put the world to rights over ales from Dark Star, Kent, Thornbridge, Vocation, and many other craft brewery ales that Landlord Danny (another keen advocate for cycling) can source.
I hope you enjoy this route or part of it should you be in this part of the world!