Crazy MTB ride across Romney Marsh Kent

As well as working on duffbag I enjoy frequent mountain bike and Road rides with a group of like minded friends from my base down in Kent. I thought I would start sharing some of my experiences with you on my blog.

One of our group suggested “doing something different”, this was distinctly out of character as he is one of those types that loves meticulous planning and organisation. When he added “we will just have a rough plan and see what happens” we knew it was going to be a great ride.

I took my fully rigid singlespeed for a spin – nichetastic!

The rough plan was to follow the Military Canal from Hythe in Kent and see where it takes us, that was it, how much trouble could we get into by following a canal?

Four of us arrived at Hythe in the stealthy black van with bikes and gear on board, the atmosphere was of a distinct military nature as not only were we following a military canal but we had parked alongside the live firing range of the British Army with a backing group of high velocity snipers practicing shooting things.

We span along to the start of the route with a cheerful toot, toot from the little steam train (Romney Hythe and Dymchurch line) that chugs across the marsh. Within five minutes we were being berated by a local for daring to share the same piece of the planet as her at the same time she wanted to use it. We cheerfully greeted her and left her raging and bewildered and probably writing to the local paper as we speak.

The cycle path here is the standard issue of gritty shale type paths so beloved by local authorities with a bit of lottery cash to spend. What was not standard issue was the Emu on the right. Yes, I did say Emu, a full size, live Emu pecking about in the Kent countryside, something to do with the Port Lympne zoo we figured out, still an Emu!

The gritty trail soon petered out as no one expects people to ride more than about six miles so from here it was a bit of cheeky freestyle through the countryside aided by Garmin hi tech satellites.

What did we spot in the distance? Obelisk. A big one. Right up on the hill. Be rude not to go and have a look. A quick detour had us at the foot of a very impressive column of stone with a gold pointy bit at the top. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, just sitting there obelisking at no one in particular. It was erected in 1834 in memory of Sir William Cosway and has a pretty impressive view of the surrounding countryside.

Onwards and weaving through a gaggle of ramblers without incident we pick up the canal once more and push on through fields of skinhead sheep, long grass and errr sheep waste, which sticks to tyres like errrr sheep waste does.

Then… Portaloo. In the middle of a field near an old church. No houses. No people, Just a field, a church and a Portaloo. Unusual. Then… a Marquee. Something must be up, we are miles from anywhere in the most open and desolate spot deep on Romney Marsh, Why is there a Portaloo and a Marquee here? A bit further on we find enlightenment in the form of a charming old gentlemen who is wearing a cravat and cordoning off a portion of field. A quick conversation reveals  that this is the site of the annual raft race at Bonnington and this is the preparation for the big event taking place tomorrow. It is quite a star studded event by local standards as Julian Clarey and Paul O’Grady live nearby and both are due to attend. The day just gets more surreal.

With some helpful directions from our new found friend with the cravat we carry on alongside the canal, crossing fields of wheat instead of skinhead sheep.

From here we encounter the ever popular right of way that goes through someones garden. You know the type that buys a house with a right of way passing through their garden and then spends the ensuing decades making it look private and forbidding stressing themselves into a frenzy if anyone merely looks in the direction of the path. We crossed the garden past the beware of the dog signs, through 14 gates and chains (slight exaggeration) and safely out the other side.

Then we found the church… It looked like it was abandoned, the weeds outside were shoulder height and the gravestones had been absorbed by a mini New Romney rain forest. An abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, who would not want a bit of an explore?

The first door was locked, as was the second and third. A small door on the North side was worth a try. The handle turned and the door opened. I expected a flock of bats to fly out followed by a wide eyed wild haired woman with bony fingers and a scythe. What we found was a perfectly preserved, beautiful little church, complete with altar, pews and organ. Really, really unexpected, we respectfully had a quick look around and left, quite in awe of what we had just found. A quick bit of research revealed this to be the church at Snave, known as “the remote church” dating from the 13th century and declared redundant in 1984. It has since been maintained by the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust. Awesome church, just need to cut the grass a bit more.

A bit more Garmin assisted navigation led us across some bumpy wheat fields and onto some little lanes, where we caught and passed a guy riding what looked like his twelve year old daughter’s bike. The surprising thing was he sped up and kept on our tail for about 2 or 3 miles. They breed them fit out there on the Marsh, must be all that fresh air and high winds or nuclear spider bites or something.

With the ride almost over it was a quick stop in Dymchurch for a bite to eat and a drink and then a fast spin back to the van and civilisation. What more can you ask of a ride that gives you, live military target practice, angry woman, Emu, Obelisk, man with cravat, abandoned churches and a high speed pursuit by a man on a girl’s bike – you could not make this stuff up!


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