Today's ride took in yet another section of Sustrans National Route 1, which I am hoping to ride in its entirety between south east London and Dover over the coming months. Broadstairs to Dover was completed last year on a three day trip, and I've done all of Deptford to Dartford numerous times over the years. I did part of the Gravesend to Rochester section via the Hoo peninsula earlier this year.
Yesterday in glorious sunshine I took the train to Gillingham with the intention of getting to Whitstable - in fact I only managed to get to Faversham, but that was a respectable 30 miles, not too bad for a leisurely three hour ride.
If you intend to do this ride, TAKE A MAP and expect to have to make your own way around Sittingbourne, or Shittingbourne as I've now renamed it. In fact if you can bypass it altogether, probably best to do so. It never looked great from the train and now I know it definitely is not great. What's more I need a word with Kent County Council/Swale Borough Council about their cycle route signage, or lack of it, in that particular location. A seemingly endless ride through miles of dirty, dreary and busy industrial estates - navigating mostly through guesswork - culminated in a vanishing cycle path and an uninspiring detour which was almost as drab as Shittingbourne itself. At the other end of the missing section, I found a notice about a footpath closure, although according to the map it shouldn't have affected the route of the cycle path.
Well I didn't let it mar an otherwise glorious ride. The route out of Gillingham hugs the estuary through the Riverside Country Park and there were surprisingly pleasant views over mudflats and across to the huge cranes on the other side.
Most of the lanes were lined with blackthorn, its heady scent and beautiful flowers dominating the landscape (along with rows and rows of fruit trees just going into leaf - perhaps worth a trip back in a few weeks to see these flowers!)
Some sections are on bridleways, a bit of a challenge for my touring bike tyres but I escaped without any punctures and without sliding off on the gravel. Bike chain's a bit sandy now though, due a good clean!
Despite the Shittingbourne debacle I made it into Faversham in the end, just as the market was packing up. This is a lovely little town with some delightful pubs and good walking nearby - worth a trip on the train if you get chance.