Adding on perhaps only an additional mile or so (and ignoring some generous rounding up), it looks like the participants in this year’s annual AIA UK Bike Trip on 30 Jun 2018 earned at least 1 Continuing Education Credit for every 6+ miles of biking. So – after battling vicious headwinds in relentless heat under a blistering sun – were the CEU points really worth 36 miles of knee pumping effort?
For the first mile or so, we walked our bikes through the pedestrian zone of the refreshingly unpretentious, historic town of Faversham. There were unexpected pleasures in extensive vernacular architecture, a medieval market square (for some truly delicious bakery treats), a scattering of period buildings from the 16th century onwards, a fine church and an odd cast iron pump thrown in for good measure. The whole Faversham effect of bustling commerciality held hints of how parts of London might have looked before the Great Fire.
The next miles started off innocently enough where the boat yards, warehouses and semi industrial buildings of Faversham petered out into a rural backwater. Then, we got thoroughly lost trying to find a route to Whitstable and the going got rather rough. For some time without a GPS signal, we meandered through fields of bizarre, unidentifiable weed crops, plagued by leg-attacking nettles and clothes-grasping blackberry vines - the usually benign English countryside in apparent rebellion.
Eventually, we made it to the village of Graveney by a series of rolling, rural roads. The Graveney Church proved to be that rare treat – a village church untouched by Victorian or modern interventions.
However, biking the next miles from Graveney to Whitstable was a less than salubrious, hard slog as the weeklong heatwave brought out every stray motorist in the area looking for beach relief via normally tranquil, deserted roads. Despite a look-in at Whitstable’s heritage and harbour, morale was lowering – that flat tire on the way had not helped - until we reached the haven of the Hotel Continental for drinks, gourmet lunch (fresh oysters!), swimming and sketching.
Well-fed, rested and with morale restored, the level miles from Whitstable – punctuated with picturesque beach huts - flew by until we reached Herne Bay, where the seaside ambiance, a clock tower and pavilion gave us a further architectural boost.
By the late afternoon with increasing headwinds, some of us were flagging again, but the miles from Herne Bay to Birchington along the coastal Viking Trail beckoned with undeniably spectacular potential. So, with sea gulls dive bombing us from above, wind farms twirling in the distance, beach huts basking in the forefront and the Romanesque towers of Reculver enticing us ever onwards, we persevered.
There was a convenient train station at Birchington, but group pressure kept us focused. The advance of late afternoon lengthened shadows, while the extraordinary visibility foreshortened distances. Was that Margate just around the next headland or just a mirage?
No - there were still a few miles and a multitude of strangely stunted, ruin-pocked, white cliff headlands to round before arriving at the real Margate. Margate’s architectural landmarks included (inter alia) a modern Chipperfield gallery, Dreamland’s scenic railway and a lovely, welcoming Beaux Art train station – with a very convenient timetable for London bound trains. After a long day in the saddle, we had reached our destination.
So – in answer to that overriding question ‘were the CEU points really worth 36 miles of knee pumping effort’? The short answer is – of course – ‘yes’. Or, as one participant described it succinctly ‘it was fun’, although – admittedly - there were a few knee protests on Sunday morning.
Many thanks to our tour guide, Ben O’Looney for another exciting Kent adventure filled with architectural insights and scenery to wonder at.
By: Lorraine D King AIA