It’s been a while since my last adventure – a four day, three night hike bivvying & hammocking a rough circumnavigation of my home town. Since then I’ve had surgery on my right hip to cure a rather painful case of hip dysplasia and despite recovery going well I’m still not 100% pain free. Running is definitely out due to the high impact and walking is a little too pedestrian, especially when exploring closer to home so I decided to head out on my mountain bike and see where I ended up.
I loaded up my bike using an alpkit airlock dry bag to store my sleeping bag, bivvy bag & sleeping bag liner and strapped it to the handle bars, everything else went into a 45 litre Berghaus arête extrem rucksack.
With the bike loaded, I set off in the rain with a plan to, well, was there a plan? Not really if I’m honest. I had a couple of maps covering my home turf, most of the North Downs Way and all I knew is that I wanted to bivvy somewhere new.
After an hour or so riding I was at the foot of the North Downs but frustratingly I was struck down with a nasty migraine that forced me to make an unscheduled pit stop, pop some ibuprofen and have a little lay down! On the plus side, this presented a good opportunity to test out my new mountain equipment self inflating mattress which I quickly set up and having pulled my buff over my eyes tried to clear the headache.
A bit of rest and the headache had all but gone so I set off again, linking up with the Pilgrims Way and heading towards Holingbourne. At Holingbourne the Pilgrims Way merges with the North Downs Way, heading off road & making things interesting with a fully loaded bike.
I quickly arrived at Lenham then Charing, stopping off briefly at the site of a chalk quarry where I stopped -going the other way then – on my long walk home nearly 2 years ago.
It was at this point I realised I was close (ish) to being able to almost fully retrace the steps of that epic walk back in 2013 but this time I fully intended to not end up back in my office! I would instead camp out on summerhouse hill, a small, perfectly formed almost micro mountain, nestled just between the North Downs ridge and the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.
I peddled on through Eastwell Manor and down into the picturesque village of Wye at which point I decided that in order to make it to my bivvy spot at a reasonable hour, I’d ditch the north downs way & instead make use of the quicker but no less pretty country lanes. Mercifully they were quiet and largely traffic free on this Thursday afternoon so I could pootle along and mind my own business.
As dusk approached and the daylight started to fade, I flicked on my head torch and rear light & eventually made it to the foot of the hill just as day turned to night.
What I didn’t realise after two years of driving past this hill on the motorway though, was just how high and steep it was! With my bike weighing me down it took a good 20+ minutes to scale the 200 odd feet of hill and by the time I reached the top I felt like I’d actually conquered a small peak! The view into Folkestone, around the bay to Dungeness and even across the channel to France were certainly worth it though.
Despite what was largely a gloriously sunny day, by the time night fell it was bitterly cold with temperatures hovering around 3 degrees and a wind chill bringing this closer to zero degrees!
I survived though, thanks largely to my new Helium 2.5 inflating mattress & my trusty Buffalo teclite smock, awaking to a glorious sunrise. With the first of the suns rays stirring me into action, I made a quick brew & headed back to civilisation for a well earned sausage sarnie.