Last of the Weekday Rides

I used to work a slightly weird schedule that meant I had weekdays free to ride bikes, with all my friends stuck at their 9-5's. These days were opportunities to stretch the legs and to explore the idiosyncratic landscapes at the southern and eastern fringes of the city, rooting out the antiquated villages absorbed by urban sprawl, ancient lanes short-circuited by modern highways, and greenbelt land encroached by industrialisation.

But, as you know, I've recently changed jobs and inevitably the last of these magical days came around. The forecast was great, with a clear Autumnal sky and temps high enough for short sleeves. Heading for the lanes of Kent, beyond the M25 near Swanley, the changing seasons meant it was like looking at a completely different landscape to the last time I'd ridden here just a couple of months ago.

Looking to get out of suburbia by the fastest route possible I took Star Lane from St Mary Cray. Accessing this decaying sunken lane through a Narnia-like gap in an row of old terraced houses feels like slipping into another realm and really deserves a whole post to itself. I looped around Hextable, Ram's Wood and South Darenth, with the arcane place names really starting to work on my imagination.

At Horton Kirby I took School Lane, which I've never ridden before but turned out to be the highlight of the day. Climbing gently through atmospheric woods the road was strewn with dirt and leaf litter washed there by the previous night's rain. With none of the usual infrastructure indicative of decade or even century visible, it was like going back in time. The dappled sunlight through the trees had a hallucinatory effect and conjured visions of 18th century post-chaises and headless horsemen around every corner.

The road continued to wind through increasingly dark woodland with the only turn off closed due to... what, exactly?.. Thoroughly creeped-out it was definitely time to head for civilisation again.


Of course I didn't go over 'to the other side' or anything like that; the full record of the ride is here.

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