Killing Kent (ish)

The Kentish Killer is an early season sportive in... Kent. One of those rides that is not a race but people treat like a race. This one however lives up to its name, firstly because of the timing (mid Jan) and the elevation (roughly 6.5k feet in 70 miles). As a result it can’t be taken lightly really and is a full day out on the bike in the garden of England. This year the ride was postponed due to the savage winter weather. The rearrangement took place through floods and bitter winds and we didn’t really fancy that. So we went mid-week, a short hop over the Dartford Crossing to the start at Brands Hatch. Clearly riding outside of competition, so to speak, we had to make our own arrangements and instead of a nice signing on tent and a grand start we parked up in a layby, hid all our valuable and cracked on, pockets brimming with emergency gels and spare tubes, with the roar of race cars filling the air.

No glamour here pal, just a hedge full of someones litter.

 The route of The Killer heads south, wiggling a bit on the Sevenoaks Weald to fit in another climb for a giggle before continuing into a bit of Sussex and Ashdown Forest. It returns you when you basically get to Crowborough if you know the area. For those outside of Kent it is important to note that Kent is not as flat as you think it is. You have probably got that bit already but we will reiterate it. The profile is pretty toothy and the early hills particularly Carters and Hubbards need to be respected early in the ride.

Once down from Hubbards the route winds its way through the Weald toward Ashdown forest through the picturesque Penshurst and taking in a series of stunning villages and rather large houses. The roads here, even midweek, are quiet, even the trunk roads. Presumably most of the traffic in these parts gets on the motorways and races to the ports or back to the M25. The killer however was starting to wield its axe.

Black Hill comes within 500 Acre Wood and is a long and fairly straight but challenging drag with stunning views across the forest. It took us around ten minutes to get to the turn at the top, which is the most southerly point on the route and it was then time to find something to eat. There must be some pretty crazy times coming down from here. We weren’t among them but the long descent was welcome for now. It reiterated the feeling that for most of the ride you felt as though you were either doing 40mph or 8.  

Coming over the top of Ashdown Forest

We found sanctuary at the delightful Pooh corner in Hartfield. In the days of ipads and hoovers that you talk to it’s easy to forget about Whinnie The Pooh. But this is his territory. It was in these parts that A.A Milne penned the famous series of stories, Pooh sticks and all. Pooh corner has the biggest collection of Pooh-phernalia in the world. But don’t let that put you off, it’s really very clean and do an excellent cheese and pickle sandwich and sell rule books to Pooh sticks in Cantonese. Onwards.

Obligatory picture of food

Before the Killer starts to really stab you in the thighs we pass Hever castle. Not so much a castle, more of a decorative house for Anne Boleyn in her youth and then for Anne of Cleves before she met her fate. Hardly a lucky place for those with Anne as their Christian name but in has an excellent maze. This is a really pretty part of the country and steeped in tradition and history whether it be regal or cultural.

The final three climbs are tough and steep in places. Ide Hill (The Ide-ger) is pretty gruelling and then followed by Sunridge Hill, which just gets steeper and steeper (where a passing motorist stopped to give us encouragement, we were obviously making it look easy!). The final climb of the route takes you up from Otford Station and lulls you into a false sense of security before steering you up Row Dow, which is pretty savage and required half a packet of mentos, which should be an official way of categorising climbs.

One day we'll do a separate blog entitled "Taking pictures on the bike in Zone 5"

The top of Row Dow come 6 miles from the finish and there are some rollers to take us home but nothing of the spite of the previous climbs. The roads are now familiar as we retrace our steps back to Brands Hatch and breathe a sigh of relief as the car appears to still be in one piece. The Kentish Killer route is widely available online but our route is here if you want it. With the bad weather this year slaying numbers we would encourage you to donate to Kent Air Ambulance who normally benefit from this event. The karma gods will pat you on the back.