The AIA Chapter Annual Bike Ride was originally planned as an educational outing to chart “the development of British gothic architecture from the Early English to Decorated and then Perpendicular periods”. On the day, it also proved a celebration of all things quintessentially English – timber framed houses, medieval churches, picturesque villages, hospitable pubs, glorious countryside and – of course - unpredictable weather.
The ride – organised by Benedict O’Looney RIBA, architect and historian (See HERE) – was a leisurely tour of the Kent countryside with an extension for the more intrepid through Romney Marsh and along the coast to Folkestone. Six AIA members – Etain Fitzpatrick AIA, Lorraine King AIA and Chris Musangi AIA - completed the core ride (See Chris’ Relive route HERE), while three others – Lutz Barndt AIA, Maria Loring AIA and Alex Miller AIA - followed Benedict to Folkestone.
As usual, the tour benefited from Benedict’s local social and historical knowledge, judicious route planning and intense enthusiasm for architecture in context. The now quiet Kentish villages on the route were once part of a lively network of trade and cultural exchange that is reflected in the quality of their ancient buildings. Benedict always takes time to point out special
features one might otherwise overlook, this time in particular, stressing the continuing relevance of traditional materials and the opportunities for special artistic treatments.
The ride started in the village of Headcorn, with a review of the two architectural types to dominate the day – timbered houses and 11th to 13th century churches. Quick to recognise the educational insights, Lutz’s on-the- spot journal entry for the day (extract above) faithfully recorded some of the salient features we were to witness over the next few hours.
Leaving Headcorn, we passed a WWII airfield on our way to the even more picturesque village of Smarden with a fine collection of vintage houses. Smarden’s local pub hosted the group on an outdoor octagonal table, perfectly suited for simultaneous lunching and sketching. The drawings below were accomplished quickly – albeit some with post-ride enhancements – under Benedict’s calm encouragement.
The next stage of the ride was undertaken in a gloomy “summer” shower, until we took refuge in Bethersden’s comforting village pub. The rain tried to dampen spirits, but most of us have lived in the UK long enough to appreciate English weather so we eventually just pushed on to Woodchurch with its striking windmill and fine church.
As we had hoped, the weather cleared along the way to the final village of Appledore. Although the weather did not quite achieve rainbow stage, the sunshine alone made the final leg as close to sublime as anyone could wish.
Written by: Lorraine King, AIA