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Kentish Contrasts

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Ride Level: Red - Challenging 

Gravel/CX MTB | GPX Route | Gravel, Single Track and minor roads  | 68 km / 42 miles 

I couldn’t think of a sensible name for this one, but I’ve been longing to explore this diverse much-maligned part of Kent for many years. It's just a weird route of contrasts, sultry salt marshes, prim orchards, Napoleanoic canals, abandoned forts, Victorian guided missiles and wild horses. The ride starts and ends at Ebbsfleet (no longer) International Station, a ghostly complex amidst acres of empty car parks and roundabouts whose only saving grace is that it is only 20 minutes from St Pancras. 

The riding is as varied as the countryside, the aforementioned pan flat salt marshes of the estuary contrasting with rugged rubbly testing byways as you head up the to the North Downs ridge. Then of course you have the plunge down the scrap slope and the beastly climb back up…

It's a testing route, bordering a black grade, so not for the faint-hearted, but it’s worth the effort, with challenging riding and fascinating history, so take the train out and see for yourself. 

Any questions? Contact me 

Ride Description

Ebbsfleet Station, you can’t but help wonder how the planners got this bit of Kent so wrong, with acres of empty parking and the disused Eurostar terminal - but, hey, not our concern. 

Gravesend isn’t as grim as you’d expect, eschew the beach as you ride around the original basin of the Medway and Thames Canal, one of those almost forgotten relics of the Napoleonic Wars, built to provide a secure route for munitions ships bound for Chatham naval yards. Join the towpath and head out into the wilds of Magwitch territory, after a couple of miles turn sharp left and join a concrete road out to Shornmead Fort - yes another remnant of London’s Napoleonic defences. 

Follow the shoreline on a broad gravel track until you reach a derelict finger post detailing pointing to a footpath that again follows the coast towards Cliffe Fort, yet another defensive block, today cunningly incorporated into an aggregate wharf. Before you get to the fort, you’ll come across the remains of a Brennan steerable torpedo station. These odd-looking rails head out to sea are the launch pads of this Victorian wire-guided missile system. Similar were installed around the Empire to defend critical locations, like London, Hong Kong, Malta and the Isle of White - never expected to find that one on this ride…

Ride on (possibly walk as you are on a footpath here) until you reach the gravel paths that run around the bird reserve and ultimately lead you off the marshes and through the orchards around Cliffe. 

Take time to enjoy the flowing path through Cobham Park, before tackling the, in places, quite technical byways leading you to the chalk ridge, before plunging to join Pilgrims Way at the foot of the escarpment. 

It’s a monster climb (or 5-minute bike push) back to the ridgeline, but at least you know it's pretty much downhill from here on, following a series of byways and quiet lanes to Cyclopark and eventually back to Ebbsfleet Station. 

Note: There is a ½ mile-ish section on a footpath between miles 9 and 10 - you ought to push your bike on this section. 

Start and End Points 

Start and finish: Ebbsfleet International Station

Ride Details 
  • Distance: 68 km | 42 miles
  • Climb: 750 m | 2500 ft 
  • Percentage off-road: 70%
  • Trail surface: Gravel | Cycle Paths | Single Track | Minor Roads
  • Technical Grade: Red  - Challenging in places
  • Mudometer - Moderate - Several muddy sections - avoid when wet. 
Is this ride for me? 

Ideal for riders with decent off-road experience and reasonable fitness.

Is my bike OK for this ride? 

The route is best completed on the gravel/CX bike or a mountain bike.

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