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Exploring Kent’s Oasts and Coasts

The Oasts and Coasts is a 300km ride organised by Kent Audax, which heads over the Ashdown to Uckfield, roller coasters to Battle and beyond, across the marsh to Hythe, followed by lumps & bumps around the coast to Herne Bay with a gentle climb up the Downs to the finish. David Cowie gives us the low-down on this Kent epic.

The ride starts in Meopham which required an hour drive, meaning a 4am wake time! Full oats (sic) breakfast early before leaving. No parking at the Scout hut (full) so just as well I looked at Google Streetview night before. I missed the massive wave that went at 6am and left shortly after at 6.20am. The Garmin decided to have a moment. To be fair, I started the route before it had acquired the Satellites. So the Garmin didn’t know where it was. Note to self, do not accept software upgrade the night before an Audax. I suspect the upgrade had deleted or made obsolete the weekly location file. Satellites acquired and route stop/started a few times and I was off.

Since I was a tad behind, the controller had left first stop in Farningham (12km). It would be obvious the helpers at the start said! Anyways, took selfie and rode on down the valley. The first real Control was in Uckfield (67km). The route took in Toys Hill and Chuck Hatch. I found fellow Wheeler Tim Wormleighton along the way, as well as Audax friend Jon Patient (Pure Motion CC). The Weald was not too bad and Uckfield Aroma Café was busy. Tim and I had bacon-and-egg sandwiches with Lattes. This was the bottom left of the route before turning East (into the NE wind).

At Cross-in-Hand there was a wonderful road side support (ala PBP said Alan Parkinson). They had juice and the best flapjacks which lasted a mile. Next Control was in Battle (98km) with a free receipt style. This ride did cost a small fortune in food! I did make an improvement to eat at the Control and then take what was possible to eat on bike for the next stage. Impressive fortified entrance opposite the Co-op (where almost everyone stopped). Easy to spot with all the bikes outside.

Undulating terrain down towards Rye on the river. No stopping there as we then had to battle the NE wind across the Romney Marshes. This saw many an adult have a good cry. Many times I was doing 220W into the headwind only going 20km/h (and I’m suited to the flat!). It also included a long gravel section on Melon Lane, which had been resurfaced with loose tar chips poured on top. Our own strade bianche through the fields.

Hythe (157km) approached as the next free receipt control. The “usual” light Railway café was closed so headed down to the sea front to a pop-up café on Marine Parade. No substantial food but cake, milkshake, apple juice and coffee did the trick. A short distance later though Folkestone and we were routed up the hill above the coast. Not always welcome after food… The headwind combined with the hill to make it doubly torturous. Passed the remote houses on the Old Dover Road and via the busy Folkestone Road into Dover. Again out of Dover required a climb past the castle into a NE headwind. Times were slow to say the least but at we had turned a virtual corner and were heading North. Read front right headwind as opposed to front left.

The next control was Deal (218km) where I found a warm beach café and stopped for more fuel/food. Luckily I caught them before closing as many were turned away later. From here further north across the private estate and golf courses around Sandwich. The industrial area of Ebbsfleet and Minster followed. I did see a drive through KFC and was tempted but it was on the other side of the busy dual carriage way. Passed Manston Airport and finally to the NE coast at Minnis Bay. Here the wind was finally at our backs! A free push for a while. The ride along the Northern Sea Wall was not all that great with cement sections every 5m. My seat did not appreciate this.

Herne Bay (230km) was the supper control and I ordered a Ham & Cheese omelette. Although Alan’s pictures says I should have gone with the Rhubarb crumble as well. A stamp gathered and leaving the warmth of the café meant leg warmers back on and light set to flash mode as it was getting dark. We headed West and through Whitstable. Faversham saw a busy section on the London Road which required full lights to spot the potholes at speed.

The Shell Service station (286km) was the last Control and I’d joined up with Neil C(rocker?) who was completing his 100th Audax. I figured his guidance and advice would prove useful. I was glad for the company in the last 30km as I was flagging. Should have eaten more of the winegums I bought at the Shell. We avoided the hills to the east of Maidstone and then crossed the Medway. Now about 15km slowly uphill towards the finish. A group of four caught us going into the finish resulting in a ridiculous sprint towards the Scout Hut. I decided on preserving my legs for the cycle back to the car.

All in a great day out, seeing lots of places I hadn’t visited. Very windy but you should expect that on a coastal ride. Not sure I would have enjoyed a SW wind either.

Check out the ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/7031955683