Willow blog

Cheshunt Fans raise funds for Willow!

August 17, 2021

An early start saw Tony Madden, Gary Fleming & Jim Tuite  on the road at 05:30,  the team stayed just ahead of schedule throughout the ride, and arrived in Folkestone at 16:30. You can see pictures taken on the day, in our gallery at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/folkestoneorbust

The guys cruised down through the Lee Valley towards the Olympic Village site as the sun came up on their left shoulder, and then on through Canary Wharf to Woolwich where they could walk through the pedestrian tunnel and follow the Thames east towards Dartford.  This stretch had been part of their training runs & they knew it would be the easiest part of the journey, the real work started as they left Dartford heading for their first stop at Meopham 40 miles in. The support vehicle topped up with two flasks of tea before heading around the M25 to rendezvous just outside Dartford. With a spare cycle, 4 new tyres, 4 inner tubes, cables, toolbox, sun cream, physio bag, first aid kit , a high carb lunch, a box of bananas, and enough water & electrolyte drinks to float a barge the M25 was quiet and the rendezvous smooth.

Stopping for 15 minutes at Meopham iced towels were draped over heads & the map studied, & SatNav calibrated, the road leaving Meopham presented the first big hills as the team skirted the side of the North Kent Weald, next stop Headcorn Aerodrome a further 25 miles along the planned route.
Mid morning & the temperature rising the support vehicle pulled the team in for an extra water stop to replenish water bottles being carried and issue bananas all round, a brief (pleasant) exchange with a lady whose wall we rested cycles & bottles against, and then onward to Headcorn.

The guys arrived at Headcorn Aerodrome & took a well earned break in camp chairs while Pasta & Beans with Tuna was served, Tony enjoyed his first cup of tea & we were entertained by a succession of take off and landings as a small transport plane took sky divers up to thousands of feet before releasing them to make their way back via gravity, It was considered that may have been a quicker way of raising funds for charity, but consensus was riding 100 miles was more interesting, and slightly less scary.

Fuelled up the team left Headcorn in good spirits and had a relatively flat start on their way to the village of Ruckinge 20 miles away, the rolling hills of the edge of the South Downs  beckoned & Tony, who had ridden them on a training run took point and set a pace that would save a bit for the hills, but not eat into valuable drinking time.  A short stop at Ruckinge to top up, and now to make the final assault on the back roads to Folkestone, one hill in particular Knowle Hill presented a challenge to now tired legs all round, a sore shoulder, and creaking knees. The support vehicle assured the team that if they conquered Knowle Hill, then they would see the sea on their right side, and be able to breathe in the coastal air on a cruise into Hythe & Sandgate via Port Lympne.

Sure enough, once the guys made Hythe, the pace picked up as they cruised around the one way system and opted for the Military Road into Sandgate.  It was a stunning day with not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze was a welcome relief but it did mean the route along the seafront promenade would be too busy with day trippers to cycle along, and plan B was swung into action to end the ride at the Bandstand on Folkestone Leas. In the way, the steep & punishing Sandgate Hill, the entrance to Folkestone, Jim circled, dropping his chain on the pedal crank & selecting top on the rear wheel and led the way, after 97 miles the guys were not getting in the support van at this stage of proceedings.

Recording an actual riding time of eight hours thirty five minutes and completing Ninety Eight miles the aches & pains were forgotten as three elated cyclists posed for photographs at the welcome to Folkestone sign & unfurled the Willow banner at the Bandstand.

Thank you everyone for your contributions and support, it was a huge boost to know we had such great support. The guys expect to raise in excess of £10,000 pounds when all on & offline donations are totalled.