Today's trio of Peter, Judith and Ruth had an early start, leaving Bedrock at 9.15am. We knew that it was time to start getting some serious mileage under our belts in preparation for Peter & Judith doing the Cape Argos ride in South Africa. We sped off via Aldington, where Judith paused to deliver a letter, thus saving herself 30p postage. In "normal" circumstances we would have been joined by Norman here, but he had cried off citing a bad cold for his absence.
At Kingsnorth we were joined by John who had fitted new kevlar(?) tyres to his bike in the hope of avoiding the usual punctures. This was a good move as the group was spared any blowouts all day. It was here that we spotted a very overgrown stile and we felt glad to be on two wheels rather than travelling by foot. (see photographic evidence).
The fab four decided to make use of Ashford's excellent cycle path network to travel safely through the town via what would once have been outlying villages such as Kingsnorth, Singleton and Great Chart. This had worked well last week and despite Ruth's concerns about travelling through "No hope Stanhope" we were soon enjoying the open countryside and heading towards Bethersden still in possession of all our wheels and hubcaps. To be fair both Ruth and Judith had past experience of lovely, honest people who lived on the estate in the form of a work colleague and child minder.
Near Great Chart the Gypsy site showed us a glimpse of their old and new forms of transport, 2 lovely old horse drawn caravans and a Rolls Royce car, but we were more than happy using pedal power.
John was excited to be entering Bethersden at the prospect of buying homemade sausages from the master butcher and had to be consoled upon reading the closed on Wednesdays sign. Luckily a workman standing outside agreed with Ruth's suggestion that the Ragstones were not to be daunted by a mere technicality and went round the back where the friendly butcher and staff met our demands for bangers.
Our lunch stop was at the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst where we received a warm welcome. There we spent the next 2-3 hours feasting on Jerusalem artichoke soup, stilton mushrooms, baby Brie, the most succulent lamb noisettes and a variety of tasty puds, washed down in the usual way. We entertained ourselves by putting John's glasses on back to front so he could have an all round view of the hostelry and felt reluctant to leave especially when we saw that drizzly rain had set in. We had all vowed that in the summer we would bring our own picnics of smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne to save our wallets and calories, but somehow I don't think this will happen.
Sadly we had to part company with John at Kingsnorth and refuse his offer of tea because of the fading daylight and prospect of getting back on our bikes. When we cycled into Peter's drive we felt we had earned a cuppa after covering 38 miles, probably a record for the Wednesday wobblers. We were surprised to find that Dydiane, John's wife, was already there supping tea with Rosemary and Sophia. Poor John would have returned to an empty house with his gift of prize sausages.