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Earlier in 2020, during Lockdown mark 1, I rode my bike a lot, to keep myself active and exercise alone in line with the Government Advisory guidelines. I ended up riding a couple of thousand miles, and not only virtually rode from Lands End to John O’Groats, but most of the way back as well. I blogged for the Easy Riders, describing most of the route that my husband Jim and I rode in 2013.

The UK returned to lockdown mark 2 at the start of November. And I started looking around for a new route to virtually cycle. I decided to ride Dover to Durness, which is a different north to south route in the UK. I also have a new bike, an Oxford Bike Works tourer, supposedly lighter than my Thorn Raven.

Wednesday 4 November Dover Priory-Canterbury 19 miles

A bike ride from Dover to Durness would start off with a train ride from Braintree to Dover Priory station. A single ticket would cost about £50 but for a retired railway employee, with a staff discount like me, it’s only £13.

Dover Priory started as a place of worship in Saxon times. It moved between Canons of the Augustinians, then the Benedictines, and ended up as a subsection of the Christchurch Monastery. Canterbury. In Victorian times there was much development of Dover Port and the site was de-sanctified. Victorian housing developments and Dover College boarding school were built in a redevelopment of the site. Dover Priory station was developed on the west end of the site, while Dover College used the medieval buildings for the Strangers Refectory (also used for concerts), the Gateway as a music school and a private chapel.

Today was a comparatively short ride – only 19 miles, but this would take me, via peaceful country lanes to Canterbury. Canterbury Cathedral is a world heritage site, overseen by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Canterbury Cathedral was originated by the Benedictines, whose motto was Ora et Labora – Pray and Work. They were known for being highly literate, and a Benedictine scribe would be expected to work for 6 hours a day. They were also known for their herbal medicinal knowledge and provided hospitals and accommodation for the weak and homeless.

Canterbury Cathedral

I have an affection for Canterbury, as it is one of the places my sister-in-law and I visited, when we were doing city break holidays when her Mum was in respite care. We visited the Canterbury Museum ‘The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge’, where some artists had been doing outreach work with the local homeless community. They had created an exhibition with artworks drawn by homeless people and responses by schoolchildren to these works. One artwork sticks in my mind – a simple drawing of a homeless person’s dog, with the caption ‘Hostels don’t take dogs’. I’ve subsequently read news articles about homeless people refusing assistance – but if a dog is their non-judgemental company, their friend, and their heating & security system – and they know they will struggle to comply with the behavioural requirements (no drugs or alcohol) of a hostel - then a homeless person will choose the long-term company of a dog in preference to a short-term hostel bed. This artwork gave me understanding that no news report could.

Friday 6 November – Canterbury to Gravesend Ferry. 38 miles.

Today’s bike ride would have taken me to the Gravesend Ferry, through the country lanes of Kent, keeping the River Medway and Thames estuary in sight to the right, for much of the time.

Gravesend Pier’s claim to fame is that it is the oldest cast iron pier, built in 1834. Engineers recognise it as being unique as it has cylindrical cast iron columns used in its construction.

Quirky fact for the day is that Gravesend station has a Platform 0 – used for terminating trains from London Cannon Street. There are only about 6 stations with a platform 0, usually created when station redevelopment has created a new platform adjacent to the original platform 1.Railway companies are reluctant to renumber platforms, and using platform 0 sometimes enables a more logical numbering system to be maintained, rather than have an illogical chronological number within a station layout.

The Gravesend-Tilbury ferry is a foot and bike service across the Thames. Here, the Thames is half a mile wide. The ferry costs £4 single (bikes free), and runs Monday to Saturday, from about 5.30am to 7pm.

Mileage for the week: 57 miles


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