Range Extender Battery - Fiido C21 e-Gravel Bike

Hello everyone,

I published a video about my experiences with the “Range Extender” (or additional external battery) with my Fiido C21 e-Bike. This is obviously only applicable to people who either own a compatible bike from the Fiido range or who plan to own one.

The video is below and I have also added some pictures I took while installing the new battery controller that comes with the battery (a bit fiddly to be honest).

As I recommended in the video, if you are planning to get one, it would be good to watch the battery installation guide first.

You may see from the pictures below that the space, in the bottom of the frame,  where the new controller should be inserted is very tight. I had to apply some force to all the cables to make it all fit inside again. I hope that over time this will not become an issue.

Also, something else they didn’t show in the installation video was that, in my case, the yellow connectors / sockets where the new controller should be plugged were glued together, so I had to very carefully cut them lose with a knife.

Hope the video is useful to someone.


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The Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike

In this post…

    1. Introduction
    2. Pre-Sales things you may like to know (how much, delivery, customer service, etc)
    3. Unboxing and setup of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Grave bike + Video
    4. Cycling review of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike + Fiido App + Video (54 min long)
    5. Conclusions.

Introduction

How many reviews had you read about in this blog? Or how many review videos have you watched in the EyeCycled YouTube channel?

Not many, right? Yes, and this is intentional…

I don’t typically do reviews… there are so many people out there doing reviews on everything, I have no desire to compete with anyone on this, but sometimes I feel excited about something and this gives me an opportunity to write about it, hence a “review”. So, keep this definition of “review” in mind if you decide to continue reading or to watch the videos I recorded. I am happy with just having written about them (writing has a therapeutical effect on me), but I truly hope this work will be of use to someone else.

If you decide to continue, this is the situation at the time of writing…

  • This is my 1st e-bike:
    Although I’ve done test-rides on other e-bikes before, I’ve never owned one myself, so I have no frame of reference to compare with other e-bikes. If you are looking for comparisons, there are quite a few YouTube channels and blogs doing them now… keep in mind many get the products sent to them for free from the manufacturer, so there is always a question on whether their review is neutral and unbiased. This is something you have to decide. I paid for my bike.
  • First time… I used my Insta360 X2 camera mounted on a bike’s handlebar
  • First time… I used my Comica BoomX-U wireless microphones connected to an external USB3 Microphone adapter on the camera
  • LOTs of “firsts“… What can go wrong, huh? 🙂

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Pre-Sales things you may like to know

    • How much I paid: USD $1,399.00, down USD $200 according to them. Paid using PayPal’s “pay in 3” option and once converted to £ that made for 3x interest free instalments of  £386.23 and a total of £1,158.69.
    • Order process: Ordered from Fiido directly after exchanging several messages (emails) with their pre-sales team. Excellent pre-sales services. All emails answered within 2h of sending. All information given turned out to be accurate. The email address used was support@fiido.com
    • Delivery: Free of charge (i.e., incl. in price) and very good… ordered on a Wednesday and Saturday morning 9:30am it was delivered. Although Fiido is a Chinese company, they have warehouses in the UK and EU, so the bike was delivered without any added import duties.

At the time of writing I believe it was the cheapest e-bike of this type in the UK market. Did some “online research” before buying and every other equivalent option was at least 25% more (in the UK! I may have missed options available in other markets… the world is still a pretty big place)

Although this review is for the “Step-over” C21 model most of it is also applicable to the C22 “Step-through” model. This review will NOT focus on specs as they are available in the Fiido Website.

Fiido C21 Pro order confirmation from Fiido.
Fiido C21 Pro order confirmation from Fiido.

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Unboxing and setup of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Grave bike.

Before I start let me tell you that…

  1. I have unboxed, assembled and setup dozens of bikes over the years, but I am by no means an expert.
  2. This is not a guide on “how best” to unbox and assemble this bike, but I hope it helps you do it better and faster than me.
  3. It goes without saying, if you use any information provided here, you’re using it at your own risk.

I think the video below is very self-explanatory, if you have the time to watch the 16 min of it (probably could have done it in less than 10). I will list, however, some highlights and things to watch for from what I learned while unboxing and putting this bike together.

Fully assembled Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike.
Fully assembled Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike.
  1. Don’t waste time! Open the box, cut the cable ties holding the front tire, remove the front tire and the accessories box, then remove the bike from the box. Put the box away, you won’t need it anymore, unless you decide to return the bike. I still have my box, although I have decided to keep the bike.

    Assembling the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike
    Assembling the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike
  2. RtFM (Read the Friendly Manual). The English in the manual is not the best, but it’s clear enough. The manual itself is well designed and quality printed (not the typical A4 page on printed paper with Chinese to English machine translation). The order stated in the manual is the best to assemble the bike, follow it!

    Manual Fiido C21 Bike
    Manual of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike
  3. Don’t forget to remove the disc brake pad spacer (the little plastic thing that is inserted in place of the rotor for transportation) before you attempt to put the front wheel in place.

    Fiido C21 Disc Brake Spacer
    Fiido C21 Disc Brake Spacer
  4. I struggled with the assembly of the control panel (meter). This is something I never had to do before as this is my 1st e-bike and it’s not very well described in the manual, in my humble option. It is not immediately clear what cable is connected where and once I figured it out, I struggled a bit with the connection of the cable coming from the handlebar control buttons. The manual and the cables themselves are not very clear in which direction to connect and where, and I was afraid of forcing them and breaking something. In their web site there is a much shorter video that makes this clear.
    Underneath the Control Panel of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike.
    Underneath the Control Panel of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike.
    Front light assembly of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike

    Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike control panel and handlebar buttons.
    Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike control panel and handlebar buttons.
  5. The fenders or mudguards, as known in the UK, are a bit fiddly to install. The is no explanation in the manual for how to install them, so I presume it is something they assume everyone knows how to do. I, personally, could have used some directions to get it done faster. 
    Rear fender or mudguard on the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike
    Rear fender or mudguard on the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike

    Rear Wheel with mudguard on the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike
    Rear Wheel with mudguard on the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel Bike

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Cycling review of the Fiido C21 Pro e-Gravel bike + Fiido App

Well, the video turned out to be 53 min long (and that is after I cut out significant portions where I wasn’t talking)… I know, I know… who has time these days, but in the video I don’t just talk about the bike, I show you places here in Bracknell, Berkshire (UK), I talk about the camera setup (the Insta360 mounted on the handlebar), the weather and all 😉 .

I did ask in the video for permission to make mistakes and awkward moments 🙂 .

This is the route I’ve taken here in Bracknell to reach the 30 km mark.

I am not going to write more about the cycling here. I’ll let the video do the talking, but I will provide some opinions in the conclusions part of this post below.

Before I move onto the conclusions part, I mentioned in the video that I would be providing more info on the Fiido Smartphone App that you can download and install from the Google Play store (there might be an iPhone equivalent, but since I don’t use Apple, I can’t tell).

The App is relatively simple and a bit “low end” in my humble opinion. In my experience the Bluetooth connection must be handled by the App itself as when I connected to the bike through the traditional Android pairing mode the App could not connect to the bike.

Fiido App Login Screen
Fiido App Login Screen

The login procedure is also perhaps a bit more complicated than needs to be (I have not used the Facebook option though), but that might be because you can start the bike by proximity if you are using their wearable watch called Fiido Mate (at an additional cost of USD $ 100). The phone App does not allow for proximity start.

The login screen apparently comes up every time you have not used the app for a while and remembering the credentials have proved to be a challenge for me. I’ve already had to reset the password 3x as the App does not remember the credentials and the phone (Google) doesn’t appear to store them.

Fiido App Landing Page. A "Facebook style" feed page with posts from other Fiido App users.
Fiido App Landing Page. A “Facebook style” feed page with posts from other Fiido App users.

When you get the list of countries to select the country code from, the United Kingdom is listed as “United Kiongdom“, a very visible typo that no one in their development team appeared to have picked up (sorry, I am a detail oriented person). In practice, you can only use it to display information from the bike, not to change any settings in the bike. The default “Home” screen shows you highlights from a feed of other Fiido App users in a “Facebook Style” feed page where you can see updates and pictures posted by other Fiido App users. This is likely linked to the community feed under the “Discover” option, but I am not sure what gets highlighted under the home page.

There are 3 other pages or screens you can switch to at the bottom of the phone screen: Device, Discover and “MY”.

Fiido C21 Pro, Bluetooth icon on control panel.
Fiido C21 Pro, Bluetooth icon on control panel.
Fiido App Device Page listing all bikes you've connected the App to.
Fiido App Device Page listing all bikes you’ve connected the App to.

The Device screen shows you a list of Fiido bikes you connected to (if you have more than one, I presume). The picture on the left shows the screen before you connect to the bike. Once the bike is connected a little Bluetooth icon is displayed on the control panel of the bike (picture on the right) and when you select the bike (or device) you want then you get the picture below on the left.

Fiido App showing the connected and selected bike.
Fiido App showing the connected and selected bike.
Fiido App Meter Setting Screen
Fiido App Meter Setting Screen

That page allows you to change some settings, but these are App settings, not bike settings. Most of the information it displays at default are also displayed in the bike’s own panel, but there are additional items you can show by selecting the “Meter Setting” option. If you click on that

you get a very “heavy” screen in which the UI overlaps the Android buttons at the bottom (another development oversight, perhaps) and its just a bit messy to understand and use. You drag the desired screen setting (on the bottom) to one of the square areas on the top.

Fiido App Bike Meter Screen
Fiido App Bike Meter Screen
Fiido App Setting screen
Fiido App Setting screen

To see the “Setting” screen (picture on the right) you must be connected to the bike and it will show you info about the bike. As far as I know only some of the information is user configurable, like the name of the bike (device) and the type of measure (km / miles).

When you click on the Cyclist / Bike button just below the settings in the device page (you must be connected to the bike) the information you configured to show under “Meter Settings” will be displayed in the App (picture on the left above).

Fiido App, Discover Screen, Ranking list
Fiido App, Discover
Screen, Ranking list
Fiido App, Discover Screen, Community Feed
Fiido App, Discover Screen, Community Feed

The “Discover” tab offers a “ranking list” (picture to the right) of Fiido App users and the distance they cycled in a Day, Week, Month and all. There are people that cycled nearly 4,000 km in a month showing in that tab 🙂 In addition to this ranking list, there is a community option to the right where a more extensive “Facebook Style” feed page is displayed (picture to the left).

Fiido App, "MY" screen
Fiido App, “MY” screen

Last, but not least, the “MY” tab at the bottom appears to show your own posts to the feed and some personal information you choose to display, which you can setup through the hexagon shape icon on the top left. Just to test it I added a post to the feed with the picture of the assembled bike after the unboxing. Appears to work OK, but remember, your data is likely going to Chinese servers 😉

Personally, I think the Fiido App is a “nice to have” addition to the bike. I usually have details such as distance, elevation, etc, available on my Garmin device and my phone is displaying routes (either using Google Maps or Komoot) and I am unlikely to be contributing to the feed, but I may check it out every now and then. We cyclists are social beings after all and usually proud of our physical achievements (the Strava generation), but it is just another social media feed to worry about. The software definitely needs a bit of polishing as its UI is a bit all over the place sometimes, but it works.

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Conclusions

OK, I do have a sense that this post and related videos are way off the mark when it comes to how extensive they probably should be, so it would be good to keep at least this portion short. The table below is not in order of importance.

ProsCons
PriceSmaller battery compared to other options in the market.
Hydraulic Disc BrakesGreater range (related to the battery size above)
Responsive torque sensorNon-Removable battery. I see this as a "con" because that means you can't simply remove the battery for charging, you need to place the bike closer to a power outlet. That also means if the bike is outside and its raining, you can't recharge it (well, I wouldn't).
Excellent pre-sales customer serviceMore gears, perhaps a 2x9 system
Easy to use control panel and display. Very visible even under bright sunlight.No gear indicator panel in the gear shifter.
Included Accessories such as a kick-stand, front and rear LED lights and fenders / mudguardsOnly one mount for a water bottle (which might be taken by a range extender battery in the future)
Silent operation (can barely hear the motor)No rack mount holes in the fork.
Not heavy for an e-bike, approx. 18.5 kg fully assembled and with all accessories.Instructions manual could use a review, such as more clear instructions for the control panel and fenders / mudguards (minor)
Bluetooth connectivity with Smartphone App and integrated community features.Smartphone App has a few issues (minor)
Ability to "Promixity Start" the bike using the Fiido Mate smart watch (not tested)
Rear rack mount holes in the frame.
Future availibility for a range extender battery on the water bottle mount (untested)
Good build quality
Step-over or Step-through (easier for women) models available.
Comfortable saddle
Reasonably fast charging, although I have not tested it with the battery completely flat. From 40% to 100% took less than 2h.

At the time of writting and as far as I am aware, the bike can be purchased only through the Fiido site.

As I said in the beginning, this is my 1st e-bike, so I have no frame of reference to compare, but I would give this bike a 4 out of 5 star rating (perhaps a 4.5 if I can get the gears properly setup).

The more I use this bike the more I discover about it (setting’s tweaks, battery time, etc). Instead of changing the post and delaying its publication, every time I find something worthy of mentioning I am going to add a comment here and in the EyeCycled Facebook page, so stay tuned if interested.

As mentioned in the Introduction part of this post, there are a few reviews about this bike on the web already. Tony’s review on ebikechoices.com was the one that convinced me to give this bike a go. You may want you can read his expert review as well, at this link.

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We are born with nothing but faith

Faith“… when you hear (or read) this word, what is the 1st thing that comes to mind for you? Religion?

I can’t blame you. I would argue there is no religion without faith. Thankfully, though, the scope of the word is broader. If you write “faith meaning” in Google Search, the religious meaning actually comes 2nd. We are born is this world with nothing but faith.

Unlike many other animals who are up on their feet a few hours after being born, it takes humans many years to become self-sufficient. Even without knowing, we are born with the faith that either our parents or society will care for us. There are perhaps more meanings to this word that I could possibly write about here, but I want to focus on this one particular meaning: Faith in mankind.

I confess that in the last 2 years, especially this last month (Feb/Mar 2022), I have lost some of my faith. Wars and an increasing number of corruptible and power angry human beings lead to this innevitably, I think.

Although I am not a member of any church, I consider myself a religious person. Unlike other people, for my religion to survive I feel I cannot rely on faith alone… it must involve some level of science and evidence for me. I am not the kind of person who can base my beliefs in wild profecies, Biblical or otherwise, although I do believe that “…there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I do believe there are forces in motion in the Universe that our science may take dozens of centuries, perhaps tens of thousands of years to explain, if we don’t annihilate ourselves first. Our science is just starting to produce a huge network of things in this planet and beyond, so perhaps our universe being, … well, a lot older than us, is in essence a huge network of beings, covering a wide range of planets, realities and dimensions in which living (andnon-living“) humans are just a small part. Where our individual place is in this network is impossible to say, but perhaps many of the things we call “random” or “coincidences” are in fact the works of this network. If we knew ALL the laws that govern the Universe and had a computer powerful enough, we could perhaps even predict it.

Faith.Warmshowers.NCR4-1
Caro (Carolina) on the left and Meli (Melissa) on the right.

Last weekend I received the visit of two Warmshowers guests (if you don’t know what Warmshowers is, visit this page). They were Meli (Melissa) and Caro (Carolina) from Costa Rica. Meli and Caro are on a 2 years journey that started when they flew from Costa Rica to Madrid 3 months ago and presently found themselves at my house last Friday. Among the many obstacles they already had to overcome was the loss of their passports in Spain (according to them a 5 seconds distraction… thieves were likely after money only, but took the passports instead) and a number of other smaller problems, all to fulfill the dream of learning a bit more of this world and explore it with as little impact to nature as possible, by the power of their legs.

Their bikes were really heavy and Caro, had a serious problem in her bike: Only the front disc brake was operational. So I took them to Trek Bicycles here in Bracknell, a new shop I didn’t even know existed as they opened their doors less than a month ago. I must say that, having a general knowledge of prices and values here in the UK, I thought it would cost Caro an harm and a leg to have the problem resolved, especially from a brand such as Trek. Indeed, Trek wanted to charge her as much as £120 for the repair, but upon learning about their story they waived ALL labour fees out, sold the parts at cost and not only fixed the rear brake by replacing the entire braking system with a brand new Shimano one (except disc), but also replaced the pads on the front brake and topped up the braking fluid. They also did an overal inspection on the bike to make sure it was as safe as it could be in the couple of hours the bike was with them.

In my opinion, when you see this kind of attitude, you must bring it to public knowledge because there is too much business and not enough kindness going on in the world these days. To me, personally, it restored a bit of my faith in mankind, that was so damaged lately. My kudos to all in Trek Bicycles Bracknell for understanding that business without kindness is very likely not the most meaningful part of this network I mentioned above. We cannot eat money nor take it to the grave with us, but who knows… perhaps the relationships we add to our individual network in our life-times is something we can indeed take to the grave and beyond (I guess, for Christians is akin to going to heaven).

After all the most urgent issues had been resolved we had a wonderful evening in which my children cooked a delicious dinner for us and the next day (Sunday) I rode together with Meli and Caro to their next Warmshowers host, in Aldermaston by the river Kennet, some 33 km away (67 km in total for me). It was my 1st long distance ride in the year (yes, I should feel ashamed) and the day was beautiful as you can see in the pictures below. Meli and Caro don’t have a fixed plan. They are now riding to meet a friend in Bristol and then they don’t know yet if they are going to Devon or Wales (most likely north). I wish them a safe and pleasant journey in the UK and then back to the continent for their 2 years adventure.

Faith.Warmshowers.NCR4-9
Camino Ingles to Santiago, as part of the NCR 4.

Before I close this post, one interesting thing I learned on this ride was about the signs for the Camino Ingles (English Way) to Santiago on National Cycle Route 4 (NCN 4), which in Spain typically starts in Ferrol (or A Coruna). I rode from Bracknell to Bath a few years ago and these signs weren’t there. It makes sense though… I think pilgrims (on a bike or on foot) would go from London to Bristol on NCN 4, then south to Plymouth on routes like NCN 3, 33, 2 and so on. There is a ferry from Plymouth to Santander, which is part of the “Camino del Norte” (Northern Way to Santiago). Maybe centuries ago it was possible to sail from somewhere in the south of England to Ferrol or A Coruna. The website on the link above suggests English templars used to do this route to Santiago from England to ask Saint James for protection on their way to Jerusalem. Anyway, it was very nice to see these stickers as they reminded me of my own “Camino” journeys in 2015 and 2019.


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Pilgrims' Way Day 4: Lenham to Canterbury (3 Stages, 36.31 km)

<- Previous Post (Day 3)    |
"Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.” Abraham Joshua Heschel.

In this post…

    1. Introduction (this is the same as on previous posts, so skip to next section if you’ve already seen it
    2. The statistics and metrics of the day
    3. Stage 13: From From the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham to the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph
    4. Stage 14: From the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph to the Village Hall in Chilham
    5. Stage 15: From Village Hall in Chilham to the Canterbury Cathedral

Introduction

OK, if this is the first Pilgrim’s Way post of mine that you are reading, I’d recommend you go back a little and read my Introduction to the Pilgrims’ Way blog. There are a few things I explain there that I don’t here and this post might look confusing if you don’t know these things beforehand (e.g. why 15 stages?).

This post is all about the forth day of the pilgrimage – but do take into consideration I was cycling, so if you are walking it is likely you’ll cover much less ground than me! In this one day I covered stages 13, 14 and 15. I describe them separately here. The section below provides the statistics for the full day, but in each video, there are some statistics for each one of the stages such as distance and time.

YouTube Playback speed
YouTube Playback speed settings.

I reckon that the videos show the route and the difficulties quite well, despite being so speeded-up. You can pause them for more detail or reduce the playback speed in the YouTube interface, if you don’t mind watching it for a longer time (if you do this, don’t forget to mute the video to avoid hearing a slowed-down version of the music!).

Also, bear in mind that this pilgrimage was undertaken during the pandemic and that, although some restrictions had been lifted in the UK in August/September, many places, such as small community churches, were still closed.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

All of the details below are in my Pilgrims’ Way  Google Sheets Spreadsheet.

  • Date: Thursday, 3 September 2020.
  • Route: From the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham to the Canterbury Cathedral
  • Distance:  36.31 km
  • Departure time from Harrow Inn Hotel: Around 9:30am.
  • Arrival at the Canterbury Cathedral: Around 16:00h.
  • Duration of day’s Journey: 6h 04min (but includes several filming stops with the German TV crew). Moving time was considerably shorter = 2h 40 min
  • Expenses this day: Total = £63.00
    • £30.00 – Food.
    • £33.00 – Accommodation in Canterbury (does NOT incl. Breakfast next day)
  • Overnight Location: Premier Inn Canterbury City Centre, Kent, England. ✆ +44-333 321 9298
  • Type of Accommodation: Hotel
  • Walking the Pilgrims’ Way Guide (Leigh Hatts) Stages:
  • Physical and Body Stats: Link to the Garmin Connect Page for this ride
      • Duration (elapsed time): 6h 04min
      • Moving time: 2h 40min
      • Average Speed: 13.1 km/h
      • Average Moving Speed:  14.2 km/h
      • Max. Speed: 43.6 km/h
      • Total Elevation Gain:  358 m
      • Average Heart Rate: 133 bpm
      • Max. Heart Rate: 184 bpm
      • Calories: 1,482 CAL (Est.)
    • The tracking was done by 2 Garmin devices: A Garmin Edge 810 bicycle computer and a Garmin Forerunner 235 watch. There appears to be significant differences between these devices.

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Stage 13: From From the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham to the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 6’42″).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW13-Google-Earth-Lenham-to-Boughton-Aluph
Map of the 13th stage between the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham and the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took

Before I left the hotel in the morning I had the task of replacing the inner tube of the rear tyre. Thankfully the spare inner tube I was carrying with me worked well, but pumping a fully deflated tyre, with the little bike pump I had, took considerable time and effort.

Leaving the Harrow Inn Hotel, I turned right into the Waterditch Rd and then immediatelly right again into Rayners Hill which I had to ride for a few hundred metres to join the dirt track of the Pilgrims’ Way again on the left (which I almost missed). You’ll walk / ride a good few kilometres on these dirt tracks passing farmyard buildings with fields and often a tree line on both sides. The paths are wide, firm and easy to ride despite a bit of gravel on the ground.

It was in one of these paths I met 2 cyclists (a couple) whose intention was to tour from the southeast of the country all the way to Wales in the west, a good few hundred miles away. We’ve spent only a few minutes talking, I gave them a card, but they never got in touch and I don’t recall their names anymore.

You will eventually get to the A252, but will only have to ride / walk on it for 10-15 m in order to cross over to the Pilgrims Way (the road) on the right. The Pilgrims Way is a paved single track with farm fields on both sides at this point. Eventually the asphalt ends and it becomes a dirt track again with a denser tree line between the farm fields. Quite enjoyable to walk / ride on. The asphalted single track returns about 1 or 2 km later (still on cycle route 17).

At the T-Junction between Dunn St and Westwell Ln you’ll need to take a path that has a, sort of, “U” shaped gate (I had to lift my bike vertically to get through it) leading to a path on a farm field that appears to be part of cycle route 17 hence the curiously looking bike sign (as in bikes allowed) post. One would think cycle routes would be unobstructed paths that facilitate the life of cyclists, but that concept does not appear to be valid in the UK. You’ll ride / walk on unpaved single tracks until you get to the edge of a field where the path becomes less pronounced and when I was there the field had just been prepared for planting, so the crossing of the field wasn’t an easy / pleasureable ride. Surprisingly it all still appears to be part of cycle route 17. There is another of such obstacles on the other side of the field, but this one I was able to (barely) transpose without having to lift the bike. Curiously, this entire stretch is in Google Street View and whenever Google took these pictures it looked very different than when I was there.

As you re-join the asphalt straight ahead you’ll eventually get to a kissing gate that the original walker’s route instructed to take, but I decided to stick to the road and turn right few metres later. This road doesn’t appear to have a name, but will lead to the A251 and the village of Boughton Lees. The All Saints Church is perhaps 1 or 2 km away from Boughton Lees in a place called Boughton Aluph, which strangely does not appear to be a village at all as the only thing around it is the church and some farm buildings. To get to the church you can stay on the road or, like me, take the narrow shortcut path with barbwire fences on both sides (be careful). After riding a few hundred metres on some farm fields you’ll get to a metal Kissing Gate that leads to the church yard and where the German TV crew was already waiting for me as they wanted to shoot some scenes of me arriving at the church. The All Saints Church has a long pilgrim tradition as medieval pilgrims coming from both Winchester and Southwark would gather there to cross the (then) dangerous King’s Wood forest (which was known to be infested with robbers) together to Chilham. The origins of the church can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times (1066), but the church itself, more or less as it stands today is from 1329. At the time I was there the church was closed due to Covid restrictions but in normal times it hosts once a year the Stour Music Festival. Its well worth a visit.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Stage 14: From the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph to the Village Hall in Chilham

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 4’19”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW14-Google-Earth-Boughton-Aluph-to-Chilham
Map of the 14th stage between the All Saints’ Church in Boughton Aluph and the Chilham Community Hall in Chilham. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took

As mentioned in the previous stage, the German TV crew filming the Pilgrims’ Way documentary wanted to add a little acting in the King’s Wood due to the relevance it had in medieval times. As this isn’t really part of the route and the pilgrimage, I have not included it in the video.

As I left the All Saints Church in Boughton Aluph, I crossed a farm field that led me to White Hill Road. The walkers’ route I had obtained on the internet was instructing me to cross the road and follow straight on the farm’s dirt track, but as I had to meet the German TV crew I turned left and climbed White Hill Road to meet them at the King’s Wood Car Park 2 km away. After all the filming I rode back less than a kilometer to enter the King’s Wood at the point I highlight in the video. Hard for me to make a recommendation about a path not taken, but if you are doing it on a bike I would avoid the farm’s dirt track and enter the King’s Wood where I did.

The ride through the wood is very nice and easy with only a few slopes along the way, being the one at the end the more challenging (but easily done). Eventually the path I took joins the path of the walkers’ route. You’ll exit King’s Wood at the A252, not far from Chilham. You’ll ride / walk along the A252 all the way to the Village of Chilham. The walkers’ path will lead you to the St Mary’s Church in Chilham, but by mistake I continued on the A252 and missed the church, hence the reason I end the video of this stage in the Village Hall. After the Village Hall, the next street to the right will take you to the church.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Stage 15: From Village Hall in Chilham to the Canterbury Cathedral.

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 13’09”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW15-Google-Earth-Route
Map of the 15th and last stage between the Chilham Community Hall in Chilham and the cathedral in Canterbury. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took

If you get to start this stage from the St Mary’s Church in Chilham you will likely be on Church Hill Road. You’ll cross the A252 to take Long Hill and continue all the way to Old Wives Lees, where you’ll turn right on Lower Less Road (the road that was undergoing roadworks in the video). You’ll walk to the “triangle” intersection of Lower Ensden Rd and you should see in front (a little to the right) the path that will take you through some farm fields all the way to the Apple Orchards of Nickle Farm in Chartham. I usually eat an Apple a day (to keep the doctor away) and to me seeing all the Apple trees and their pleasant smeel was a real delight.

Nickle Farm belongs to FW Mansfield & Son and it is a big business, with many workers, mostly coming from Eastern Europe for the harvest. As I rode through the farm I got a little lost and asked for directions, but communication was a bit difficult. I eventually found the path, but when I saw the pebbles on the track up hill I got demotivated. That forced me to look for an alternative and after talking to another person in the farm he recommeded the path to Canterbury over Chartham village, alongside the Great Stour river, which isn’t really part of the original Pilgrims’ Way route (see where the yellow line and the red line disconnect on the map above).

The original route, on the walkers’ path and the guide will take you to the villeage of Chartham Hatch (yellow line), but I decided to override that. This was MY pilgrimage afterall and, personally, I take a river path over a single track lane any time. Again, it is probably not right for me do make recommendations over a path not taken, but I am glad I did ride to Canterbury alongside the river. The path is beautiful, very flat and very enjoyable, but you’ll have to divide it with a number of other cyclists and walkers (incl. dogs, children, etc). You’ll see magnificent river houses, trees and fields all the way to Canterbury. I think the video is much better at showing you this than I could ever put in words, but if you take the same path as I did you’ll be giving up the historical path of the pilgrimage.

The video includes some drone footage I filmed the NEXT day with Katy and some details about Canterbury with Katy’s voice. I hope you enjoy the bird’s eye view of Canterbury at the distance (at that point the Cathedral is about 3.5 km away).

Upon arriving in Canterbury, as it became the norm over these 4 days, the German TV crew was already waiting for me at the Westgate Towers for a quite intense session of filming. Honestly, I felt a bit like a movie star walking into Canterbury city centre being followed by TV cameras and a filming crew. A sensation that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with due to all the attention it drew onto me… all for a good cause anyway.

I should consider myself lucky they were there though. I did this pilgrimage during the times of the pandemic and if it wasn’t for the TV crew I am sure a few doors wouldn’t have been open to me. Upon arriving at the cathedral I was warmly greeted by canon Emma Pennington who received us and led us first into the cript of Saint Thomas Becket and then into the high altar where I received my final pilgrim’s blessing and where Katy sang at the end of the video.

In all fairness, I must warn you, the pictures you see in the video are from the next day though as the arrival at the cathedral and all the filming for the TV crew was quite intense. I didn’t really had a lot of time to film for myself, but the experience is the same. If you ever get to watch the documentary, the final footage of me (if included at all) might likely be an aerial / drone footage at the campus of the University of Kent riding into the sunset (quite moving really) onto another challenge.

This stage concludes the pilgrimage. I hope you enjoyed this short series of videos and posts about my Pilgrims’ Way pilgrimage by bike. To me these are memories I’ll take to the grave 🙂

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Pilgrims' Way Day 3: Westerham to Lenham (5 stages, 70 km)

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"We're all pilgrims on the same journey - but some pilgrims have better road maps". Nelson DeMille.

In this post…

    1. Introduction (this is the same as on previous posts, so skip to next section if you’ve already seen it
    2. The statistics and metrics of the day
    3. Stage 08: From From the Days Inn Hotel near Westerham to Otford
    4. Stage 09: From Otford to Wrotham
    5. Stage 10: From Wrotham to the Peter’s Village roundabout in Wouldham
    6. Stage 11: From the Peter’s Village roundabout in Wouldham to Aylesford
    7. Stage 12: From Aylesford to the Harrow Inn hotel near Lenham.

Introduction

OK, if this is the first Pilgrim’s Way post of mine that you are reading, I’d recommend you go back a little and read my Introduction to the Pilgrims’ Way blog. There are a few things I explain there that I don’t here and this post might look confusing if you don’t know these things beforehand (e.g. why 15 stages?).

This post is all about the third day of the pilgrimage – but do take into consideration I was cycling, so if you are walking it is likely you’ll cover much less ground than me! In this one day I covered stages 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 and I describe them separately here. The section below provides the statistics for the full day, but in each video, there are some statistics for each one of the stages such as distance and time.

YouTube Playback speed
YouTube Playback speed settings.

I reckon that the videos show the route and the difficulties quite well, despite being so speeded-up. You can pause them for more detail or reduce the playback speed in the YouTube interface, if you don’t mind watching it for a longer time (if you do this, don’t forget to mute the video to avoid hearing a slowed-down version of the music!).

Also, bear in mind that this pilgrimage was undertaken during the pandemic and that, although some restrictions had been lifted in the UK in August/September, many places, such as small community churches, were still closed.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

All of the details below are in my Pilgrims’ Way  Google Sheets Spreadsheet.

  • Date: Wednesday, 2 September 2020.
  • Route: From the Days Inn Hotel at the M25 Clacket Lane Service Station near Westerham to the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham
  • Distance:  70.60 km
  • Departure time from Days Inn Hotel: Around 8:30am.
  • Arrival at the Harrow Inn Hotel: Around 21:00h.
  • Duration of day’s Journey: 13h 03min
  • Expenses this day: Total = £74.77
    • £17.79 – Food.
    • £50.00 – Accommodation (Incl. Breakfast next day)
    • £6.98 – Extras
  • Overnight Location: Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham, Kent, England. ✆ +44-1622 859 846
  • Type of Accommodation: Hotel
  • Walking the Pilgrims’ Way Guide (Leigh Hatts) Stages:
  • Physical and Body Stats: Link to the Garmin Connect Page for this ride
      • Duration (elapsed time): 13h 03min
      • Moving time: 4h 54min
      • Average Speed: 8.8 km/h
      • Average Moving Speed:  14.4 km/h
      • Max. Speed: 48.8 km/h
      • Total Elevation Gain:  681 m
      • Average Heart Rate: 143 bpm
      • Max. Heart Rate: 187 bpm
      • Calories: 2,853 CAL (Est.)
    • The tracking was done by 2 Garmin devices: A Garmin Edge 810 bicycle computer and a Garmin Forerunner 235 watch. There appears to be significant differences between these devices. For example while the Garmin watch shows an elapsed time of 9h 56m, the Garmin Edge 810 shows 13h 3 min. Distances are also slightly different, but the Garmin Edge 810 shows a distance that matches the one tracked by the Komoot App on my phone.

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Stage 08: From From the Days Inn Hotel near Westerham to Otford

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 6’46″).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW08-Google-Earth-Day-Inn-Westerham-Oxted-to-Otford
Map of the 8th stage between the Days Inn Hotel near Westerham (M25 Clacket Ln Service St) and the village of Otford. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

As I left the Days Inn Hotel I knew I was going to have to find a bike repair shop. One of the screws that holds the rack in place had become lose and fallen out (lower right screw), possibly due to all the Kissing Gates I had to raise my bike up and down vertically. I added a picture to the gallery which shows how out-of-alignment the rack was in relation to the frame of the bike.

I messaged Katy that morning and she kindly offered to search online for a bike repair shop as close as possible to the route of the Pilgrims’ Way, which isn’t easy. In case you have not noticed yet, the Pilgrims’s Way doesn’t exactly track along large populated areas, where is where you’re most likely to find bike shops. More on this later.

So, leaving the hotel I got a bit disoriented with my maps and started to ride in the direction to the motorway. Thankfully I realised this soon enough and corrected my mistake, but I was asked by a police officer on a motorcycle if I had entered the motorway, which in the UK is forbidden for cyclists and pedestrians.

Back on track, I rode on Clacket Ln until it met the Pilgrims Ln, which later becomes the Pilgrims Way. As mentioned before, many roads have the “Pilgrims Way” name along the Pilgrims Way route.

You’ll see some beautiful vineyard sights on the right as you pass by the Squerryes Wine Estate. You’ll be walking or riding on the Pilgrims Way (the road) pretty much until you get close to Chevening Park. At this point, the walking guide describes a walking path through Chevening Park by turning left at Sundridge Hill towards the village of Knockholt with the entrance at a place called Keepers Cottage. I contacted the author of the guide and even he struggled to describe the best way through Chevening Park. As this is all private property and likely footpaths I decided not to risk it and I turned right at Sundridge Hill, which becomes Ovenden Rd, and then turning left towards the B2211, which can be a bit busy in terms of vehicle traffic but still acceptable for experienced riders. At the junction with Chevening Rd I turned left towards Chevening Park as I wanted to visit the village and see the 13th century St Botolph’s Church there (where I flew the drone, with images described by Katy in the video). I am sure walking on Chevening Park would be a very pleasureable experience.

Leaving St Botolph’s Church I had to cross some farm fields to get to the B2211. I rode the short distance to the roundabout with Starhill Rd, turning left into Starhill Rd and then right into Lime Pit Ln which sort of ends in an industrial estate, but there is a kind of hidden footpath towards the A224, right by the bridge that crosses over the M25 to find yourself on, guess what? The Pilgrims Way again, not far from the village of Otford.

As I arrived in Otford, I tried to look for a place where I could get a stamp for my pilgrim’s credential and the only place I saw open was the Otford Tea Rooms and gift shop, which doubles as a charity shop. I thought it was as good a place as any to get a stamp, but unfortunatelly they didn’t have one, though they kindly signed the credential to prove I was there.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Stage 09: From Otford to Wrotham

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 4’39”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW09-Google-Earth-Otford-to-Wrotham
Map of the 9th stage between the village of Otford and the Wrotham Recycling Centre. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

Having left the Tea Rooms in Otford, I rode through the village centre on the A225 passing the entrance to the train station on the right, bridge over the track and turning right on “Pilgrims Way E” (where I can only presume the E stands for East). Eventually the “E” disappears and the road becomes Pilgrims Way again. You’ll pretty much follow this for many km / miles until the Pilgrims Way (as the pilgrims’ route) becomes a dirt track. As I mentioned at the start of stage 8, however, I was looking for a bike shop to fix the issue with the rack, so as I got to the village of Kemsing, I left the Pilgrims Way momentarily to look for a bicycle repair place that (according to Katy) should exist. I could not find it, but by the place it was supposed to be there was a car garage and the friendly mechanic solved the problem by securing the rack to the frame with a self-taping screw (which may have damaged the tread of the screw hole in the frame, but at least solved the issue).

After that detour, I continued and after crossing Exedown Rd and continuing on the dirt track, I met two pilgrims on foot and had a quick chat to them. This track will pretty much lead directly to Wrotham and at the edge of the village when you meet the tarmac again, that will be the Pilgrims Way street in the village of Wrotham itself.

The end of this stage is in the rather disappointing Wrotham recycling centre (as per the walking guide) which is just a collection of recycling bins (bottles, paper, plastic, etc) on the left and the Wrotham recreation ground on the left. There are a few benches to sit on at the Wrotham recreation ground, but the recycling “centre” has really nothing to offer (unless you have rubbish to throw away), so I don’t think any pilgrims will be spending much time there.

I was in a bit of a hurry on this day. The German TV crew filming the documentary for the Pilgrims’ Way was expecting me at the Carmelite Priory in Aylesford later on, so I didn’t stop as much as usual to take pictures and unfortunately I have no photos of this stage to show, but I hope you enjoy the video.

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Stage 10: From Wrotham to the Peter’s Village roundabout in Wouldham.

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 7’25”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW10-Google-Earth-Wrotham-to-Peters-Village
Map of the 10th stage between the Recycling centre in Wrotham and Peter’s Village in Wouldham, Kent. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

For this stage of the pilgrimage I was confronted with the decision of whether I should ride to Halling or not. It would have required a ride a few kilometres north only to come down south again. I had also ascertained through Google Maps and Google Earth that the walkers’ route I downloaded from the internet appear to be inaccurate, as it led to a point at the edge of the River Medway in Snodland, south of Holborough, where there is no bridge or any discernible form of river crossing (maybe there used to be a ferry crossing at this point a long time ago). The walking guide actually instructs the pilgrims to walk north to Halling and then cross the river at the same bridge I did (quite new bridge leading to Peter’s Village). As I mentioned before, I was pressed for time at that point so I decided to skip Halling altogether in my pilgrimage, making the goal of this stage the Peter’s Village sign on the Peter’s Village roundabout (an arch metal structure welcoming visitors to Peter’s Village).

After the Wrotham Recycling “centre” you turn right to the bridge over the M20 and almost immediatelly after this you’ll find yourself on nice and quiet single track lanes with farm fields on both sides. In the T-Junction between the Pilgrims’ Way (in which the name plate actually had an apostrophe) and Nepicar Lane I decided to stop and record a short video to show the fields and document the fix on my bike.

Eventually the paved Pilgrims’ Way single track turns right and becomes the Wrotham Water Rd with the pilgrims route continuing on a dirt track to the left. This is a nice track with trees and farm fields and leads to a road called Vigo Hill where a few metres down the road you see the sign “Pilgrim House” at some residence which I stopped to take a picture of (I don’t believe it is a lodging, just a family house, but they do sell homemade preserves). Vigo Hill leads to a single track lane called (again!) Pilgrims Way that ends in a sort of cul-de-sac, with a small step at the end, and continues on a beautiful dirt track with trees on both sides. After crossing Birling Hill you’ll eventually get to a single track again called (guess what?) Pilgrims Way, a short ride for me because as I decided not to go to Halling, I turned right at Ladds Ln stopping just to take a few panoramic pictures of the impressive white ridges. I rode on Ladds Ln until the roundabout of Manley Blvd, taking the A228 to the roundabout leading to the Peter’s Bridge over the River Medway and to the roundabout of the Peter’s Village sign. I stopped on the bridge to take a few pictures of the river and then at the Peter’s Village roundabout to take a few pictures of the sign, but other than that I just continued on the way to the next stage.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Stage 11: From the Peter’s Village roundabout in Wouldham to Aylesford

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 9’59”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW11-Google-Earth-Peters-Village-to-Aylesford
Map of the 11th stage between the Peter’s Village roundabout in Wouldham, and the Carmelite Priory in Aylesford, Kent. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

I think I should mention again that, as I decided NOT to follow the instructions given by the walking guide, the end of “my” 10th stage (and start of the 11th) the Peter’s Village Sign. The distance between this point to the end of “my” stage 11 (the Carmelite Priory in Aylesford) is a short one: Just over 5.5 km. The walking guide instructs pilgrims to walk up to Halling, so “its” 11th stage is considerably longer.

This is the point where pilgrims have also the option to walk or ride north to Rochester, the point at which the Pilgrims’ Way route coming from London mets the route from Winchester. I decided not to do that because (as previously mentioned) the German TV crew was waiting for me in the Priory.

I rode through Peter’s village, but on hindsight I could have taken the path to the left of the roundabout, going under the bridge and then ride on what appears to be a nice river walk leading to the same cyclepath I took out of the village. After the cyclepath parallel to Village Rd you keep right on the fork to Old Church Rd, which leads to a closed gate, but with an open bike / pedestrian passage. I was concerned that this area was private property, but upon meeting some women walking the other way my concerns were dismissed. Whatever it is, it is a public right of passage and appears to be a nature reserve of some kind. You’ll ride / walk on farm track for a few metres until you reach Bull Ln, turning right in the direction of the Carmelite Priory, known locally as “The Friars“.

A visit or even a stay in this place is highly recommended and if you watched the video above you’ll probably get this by the number of times I said “amazing place!”. They offer Pilgrim accommodation there, but due to the Covid situation they were closed for guests. The friar told me the price for an overnight stay was £45, but better get in touch with them to confirm before you leave.

I can’t say enough how much I recommend a visit there.

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Stage 12: From Aylesford to the Harrow Inn hotel near Lenham.

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 9’24”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW12-Google-Earth-Aylesford-to-Lenham
Map of the 12th stage between the Carmelite Priory in Aylesford and the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham, Kent. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

What the video of the previous stage doesn’t show is the amount of time I spent with the German TV crew recording for their documentary. The Friar and I were acting for the camera to give the viewer of the documentary the impression that I was staying overnight, which I would have loved to do, if it wasn’t for the fact they were closed for guests due to the pandemic.

As we finished filming it started to rain. It was already late afternoon / early evening (around 6pm, I think) and I still had another 25 km to ride to my final destination of the day, the Harrow Inn Hotel near Lenham .

To make matters worse, there appeared to be a small puncture on my rear tyre, which caused the air pressure on the tire to go steadily down over a period of 45 to 60 min. Instead of stopping and fixing the problem, replacing the inner tube with the brand new one I had brought with me, I decided to continue stopping from time to time to pump more air in the tyre. At the time I thought this would save me more time than a permanent fix and I knew I could always fix it at the hotel later on.

As I left the Priory, I rode through Aylesford on the High St, taking the Rochester Rd until it met the Pilgrims Way (the road). After a small mistake I took the dirt track crossing under the A229 continuing on the nice dirt track among trees and fields on both sides. After that dirt track, the road you’ll get to is (again) called the Pilgrims Way (for a short while) and as it turns left it becomes a road simply called “The St”, but you’ll continue on the Pilgrims Way to the left. That is the point I had to turn my lights on as it was starting to get dark and I was still some 18 km from my final destination. I knew then I would arrive in the dark.

I crossed the A249 in the village of Detling and continued on the Pilgrims Way passing the village of Thurnham, stopping on one occasion to pump air into the rear tyre and trying to ride as fast as I could (which at that stage was already becoming a challenge as I was tired) with rainfall of varied strength.

I passed the village of Hollingbourne still with daylight, but dusk was already falling. It was a few kilometres after Hollingbourne that I had the only incident / accident of the journey and, for me, it was an unique one. As far as I can ascertain from watching the timelapse video, I must have had a sudden loss of control, perhaps due to the slippery conditions, or low pressure in the rear tyre or simply an oversight by me, and suffered a fall, apparently hitting my head on the ground or on the edge to the left in such a way that I completely lost memory of the event.

From watching the video above I concluded that I don’t appear to have lost consciousness, only memory, which is a very weird sensation. To see oneself, yet not to remember anything, is somewhat disturbing, in my opinion. Other than a few bruises and small cuts (which I only really saw after arriving at the hotel and going for a shower), not much appeared to have happened to me.

I only realised I had an accident some 10-15 min later when I stopped at the crossing with Stede Hill near Harrietsham to pump air into the rear tyre again. By this time daylight was gone and I had to continue in the dark, hence the reason I changed this portion of the video to show only a Google Earth fly-along animation.

I arrived at the Harrow Inn Hotel, checked-in, had a shower and went to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner. The German TV crew was there also and we had a few beers and laughs after having watched on my phone the timelapse video of the fall together.

As you can imagine due to the time pressures and the fact that it was getting dark I didn’t stop to take many pictures along this stage, so the gallery below is rather small.

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Pilgrims' Way Day 2: Farnham to Westerham (4 Stages, 77.81 Km)

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"Curiosity does, no less than devotion, pilgrims make", Abraham Cowley.

In this post…

    1. Introduction (this is the same as on previous posts, so skip to next section if you’ve already seen it
    2. The statistics and metrics of the day
    3. Stage 04: From the Bishops Table Hotel in Farnham to St.Catherine’s Village in Guildford.
    4. Stage 05: From St. Catherine’s Village in Guildford to the National Trust’s Box Hill Stepping Stones
    5. Stage 06: From the National Trust’s Box Hill Stepping Stones to the Feathers Hotel in Merstham
    6. Stage 07: From the Feathers Hotel in Merstham to the Chalkpit Lane in Oxted

Introduction

OK, if this is the first Pilgrim’s Way post of mine that you are reading, I’d recommend you go back a little and read my Introduction to the Pilgrims’ Way blog. There are a few things I explain there that I don’t here and this post might look confusing if you don’t know these things beforehand (e.g. why 15 stages?).

This post is all about the second day of the pilgrimage – but do take into consideration I was cycling, so if you are walking it is likely you’ll cover much less ground than me! In this one day I covered stages 4, 5, 6 and 7 and I describe them separately here. The section below provides the statistics for the full day, but in each video, there are some statistics for each one of the stages such as distance and time.

YouTube Playback speed
YouTube Playback speed settings.

I reckon that the videos show the route and the difficulties quite well, despite being so speeded-up. You can pause them for more detail or reduce the playback speed in the YouTube interface, if you don’t mind watching it for a longer time (if you do this, don’t forget to mute the video to avoid hearing a slowed-down version of the music!).

Also, bear in mind that this pilgrimage was undertaken during the pandemic and that, although some restrictions had been lifted in the UK in August/September, many places, such as small community churches, were still closed.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

All of the details below are in my Pilgrims’ Way  Google Sheets Spreadsheet.

  • Date: Tuesday, 1 September 2020
  • Route: From the Bishops Table Hotel, Farnham to the Days Inn Hotel at the M25 Clacket Lane Service Station near Westerham.
  • Distance:  77.81 km
  • Departure time from Winchester: Around 9:30h.
  • Arrival at Farnham: Around 20:30h.
  • Duration of day’s Journey: 11h 04min
  • Expenses this day: Total = £57.57
    • £22.47 for food.
    • £35.10 – Accommodation
  • Overnight Location: Days Inn Hotel at the M25 Clacket Lane Service Station near Westerham, Kent, England. ✆ +44-844-2250772
  • Type of Accommodation: Hotel
  • Walking the Pilgrims’ Way Guide (Leigh Hatts) Stages:
  • Physical and Body Stats: Link to the Garmin Connect Page for this ride
      • Duration (elapsed time): 11h 45min
      • Moving time: 11h 04min
      • Average Speed: 7 km/h
      • Average Moving Speed:  13.4 km/h
      • Max. Speed: 65.1 km/h
      • Total Elevation Gain: 1,253 m
      • Average Heart Rate: N/A
      • Max. Heart Rate: N/A
      • Calories: 2,566 CAL (Est.)

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Stage 04: From the Bishops Table Hotel in Farnham to St.Catherine’s Village in Guildford

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 10’31″).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW04-Google-Maps-Farnham-to-Guildford
Map of the 4th stage between Farnham and Guildford. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

Katy left the hotel about 1h before I did. The destinations was Guildford for both of us, but as she had a train to catch and a time to get home for her first professional engagement that day, she took a more direct route to Guildford’s the train station while I continued on the Pilgrims’ Way.

After retrivieng my bike from the hotel’s shed (it does fit 2 bikes easily… more than two might be a bit of the squezze though), I set out on my way. Because of the Covid restrictions the hotel wasn’t offering breakfast to its guests, but I thought I’d find a place to have breakfast along the way. Easier said than done in times of lock-down.

It was a beautiful day and getting out of Farnham is very easy. As you can see in the video immediatelly after crossing the A31 (after the bridge where I took the pictures of the flowers), the Pilgrims’ Way route took me to Darvills Ln which is already way marked as being a part of the North Downs Way. At the end of Darvills Ln I found myself at what appeared to be the gate of a property I reluctantly entered as it was a clear public footpath that led to a small bridge after a little gate. I am not sure what to advise future cycling pilgrims here. If I write my Pilgrims’ Way cycling guide I will try to find an alternative, as after the bridge the bushes on the path get a bit too dense to make it a comfortable ride. I didn’t see any “No Cycling” sign, but it is just a bit of common sense. Regardless, this path will lead you back to the A31 Farnham-bypass road which you’ll have to cross. I don’t recommend you ride on the A31 as traffic is extremelly intense and there are no hardshoulders, but there are low traffic roads inside of Farnham that lead to this point as well.

After crossing the A31 I got a bit lost at Guildford Road as I was supposed to take the underpass (subway passage) to Park Ln but crossed to the other side of the road instead (you’ll see it in the video). I quickly realised my mistake and back-tracked a few meters, taking the underpass and finding myself right in front of the Shepherd & Flock pub, where you should keep to the right. The path leads to, what I suspect, might be a small farm, but I do believe there is still right of passage there. There is a closed gate, but the gate has an open passage to the left to get through. After the gate you’ll find yourself first on Rock House Ln and then on Guildford Road where you’re going to pass the Princess Royal pub on the left (good food, been there before) and continue on the direction to Runfold and Seale (on Seale Ln).

Arriving in Seale I tried to enter St Lawrence’s Chruch, but it was unfortunatelly closed. Right after the church there is a war memorial and I thought it was the perfect and quiet spot to fly the drone and capture some aerial footage of the church and the path ahead / behind. Katy did the voice-over about Guildford, in the distance, and St Lawrence’s Chruch at this point and I personally believe that, in addition to the nice views from above, her explanations are very interesting and spot on. You should watch this part at least, even if the rest of the video might not be that interesting to you 🙂

After Seale you’ll continue on the Puttenham Rd, which eventually becomes Seale Ln again (I know… the English have a distinct pleasure in making everyone confused with their road naming system – or the lack thereof) passing by St John the Baptist Church (where I stopped to take some pictures) towards the Puttenham Golf Club which you’ll enter as the North Downs Way squezzes between it’s fields on the right the small farms on the left. This portion of the Pilgrims’ Way is beautiful, but you should be aware on dry summer periods you may find several patches of sand banks which make cycling challenging (I presume it will be quite muddy in winter too)..

I left the North Downs on an appropriatelly named Sandy Ln, but on hindsight I think I could have continued on the North Downs. Sandy Ln will lead you to the destination of this stage, which is St Catherine’s village, belonging to the town of Guildford. This stage ends at the Ye Olde Ship Inn Pub where pilgrims can rest and have some refreshments (closed at the time of my pilgrimage).

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by Katy and me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.

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Stage 05: From St. Catherine’s Village in Guildford to the National Trust’s Box Hill Stepping Stones

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 13’46”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW05-Google-Maps-Guildford-to-Box-Hill
Map of the 5th stage between Guildford and the Box Hill Stepping Stones. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

As you might have heard in the video of Stage 4 during the drone footage at St Lawrence’s chruch in Seale, when Katy told you about the town, Guildford is one of the largest towns along the Pilgrims’ Way. It has 80 thousand residents and stage 5 starts in St Catherine’s village in the outskirts of the town. The first landmark you reach is the crossing over the river Wey. The pedestrian bridge has a few steps, which means you’ll likely have to push your bike up and down the bridge as you can see in the video above and in the pictures below. Its a really peacefull corner of Guildford that I didn’t know existed until then.

After the bridge you’ll find yourself riding on the fields of Shalford Park to get to the Pilgrims Way, which in this case is the name of the road you take. It was at the corner of Pilgrims Way and the A281 (Shalford Rd) that I took the picture of the Pilgrims Way road sign with my bike to the right. I used that picture at the start of all Pilgrims’ Way videos I made.

You’ll ride (or walk) on Pilgrims Way for only a few hundred metres until you reach Shepherd’s Way, which I missed and had to back-track a few metres. At the end of Shepherd’s Way you will enter the dirt track of the North Downs Way which is really beautiful and will present you with views of forest tracks, rural landscapes, horses and nature in general. If you’re cycling, please be careful as there are deep sand-banks in places where cycling is not possible or very treacherous (many horse riders and dog-walkers along this path as well). After you cross Halftpenny Ln and continue on the North Downs Way, you’ll have a climb through a path of woodland to reach the Church of St Martha-on-the-Hill, which I really recommend that you take your time to appreciate, specially the views. I regret not having flown my drone in this location as this is one of the most interesting chruches along the Pilgrims’ Way (imho) given its somewhat remote location. The altitude will allow you to see very far and perhaps let your inner child enjoy the rope swing hanging from a tree branch, but make sure it can sustain your weight 🙂 (I also regret not having tried it myself).

Unfortunatelly the church was closed due to the covid restricitions at the time, but I know they have a purpose made stamp for Pilgrims’ Way pilgrims, so take the opportunity to get your pilgrim’s passaport stamped as well.

The descent from St Martha’s Hill was very mountain-biking like, which was fun, but be careful as there are patches of sand and lose rocks along the way. Zooming in on this spot you’ll also notice that my track and the walker’s track diverge a little on the descent until they reach Guildford Ln, but you’ll soon enter a single-track which will lead to some farm fields which are perfectly rideable. If you continue on the single-track following the walker’s path you’ll reach a locked gate with a stile I would not recommend overcoming, so I had back-track a few meters and diverge to the A25, which, despite the heavy traffic, has a small pedestrian footpath on the right. My navigation software lead me to another closed gate in what appeared to be private property (it was probably trying to make me re-join the the original Pilgrims’ Way path), so I just continued on the A25 turning right at Upper Street and then Chantry Ln where you’ll cross a Ford and get to a footpath gate clearly marked with a “No Cycling” sign. I was nearly back-tracking or considering pushing my bike when I realised there was another track a few metres up with a cemitery to the right. It doesn’t seem to be on any map, but it was on the downloaded walker’s track. There were no signs that I should not cycle on it, so I took it, and surprisingly that path led me to a road called “Pilgrims Way” again. You’ll find “Pilgrims Way” roads in many different places along the Pilgrims’ Way route, probably remnants of the ancient pilgrims’ track. This is in the village of Shere and you’ll take a few more single-tracks to reach the village of Gomshall.

As I arrived in Gomshall it was already 14:00h and I was really hungry, not having had anything to eat that day. That’s when I rode pass the Compasses Inn and decided to stop for a bite in their beatiful river side beer-garden (this is the River Tillingbourne, the same you crossed over on the Ford in Shere). I had a delicious veggie-burger and I totally recommend it to you.

I left the Compasses Inn after about 45 min and continued following the Walkers’ path only to reach a set of kissing gates too narrow to fit my bike trhough, so I had to back-track once again, riding past the Compasses Inn again on the A25, under the railway bridge until I reached Beggars Ln which is a long climb that forced me to push the bike up through most of it (I blame it on the veggie-burger 😉 but, seriously, it was difficult terrain with sand and deep erosion cracks in places). Once you’re done climbing, the path through the woods becomes flat and leads you to Ranmore Common Rd. This road will lead to the St Barnabas Church where I did take the opportunity to fly my drone again and where Katy did some wonderful commentary on the video. I particularly like the reference she made to the Bishop of Guildford calling it a “cathedral in the woods”.  Well worth watching, if you ask me.

After St Barnabas Church you’ll pass by the vineyard fields of the Denbies Wine State which Katy also references in the video. To me, I felt like I was somwehere in France, having riden my bike through the  vineyards of the Champagne region in France on my way to Rome during my Via Francigena pilgrimage of 2016. Take your time to enjoy the sights.

The final descent will lead you to the A24 which is really tricky and dangerous to cross due to the extreme high-traffic, please be careful. Once you cross it you’ll find yourself at the car park of the Box Hill Stepping Stones, where this stage ends and it is one of the main natural landmarks of the Pilgrims’ Way.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos .

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Stage 06: From the National Trust’s Box Hill Stepping Stones to the Feathers Hotel in Merstham.

If you haven’t done so already, please watch the video first and then read this blog for more detail! I didn’t want to include all this information in the video voiceover because it would have added too much to the length of the video (which is 14’53”).

The picture below was used in the video and I hope will help you make more sense of the text below.

PW06-Google-Maps-Box-Hill-to-Mertsham
Map of the 6th stage between the Box Hill Stepping Stones and the Feathers Hotel in Merstham. In yellow the downloaded walker’s path. In red the path I took.

This stage was, without a doubt, one of the most challenging (if not the most) of the entire journey.

As you can see straight from the start of the video (after my little speech at the beginning), the footbridge has steps, but these steps are really a child’s play in relation to the steps up Box Hill (nearly 300 in total). Lack of attention on my part made me miss the right turn my navigation software was telling me to take. I was really tired and not feeling very demotivated at the moment and climbed a lot more steps than I needed to (I probably did about 200 of the 300 steps when I needed to climb only about 100). “Here you do, here you pay” as per a Portuguese Proverb. I could have removed this portion from the video, but I decided to keep it in for your amuzement.

After all the bike pushing ordeal, I reached a kissing gate too narrow for the bike to get through. Ordinarily I would try to find an alternate route, but this was not an ordinary moment. Thankfully as I was removing my panniers to lift the bike over the gate on my own a runner arrived and he was more than happy to give a helping hand. There are good people on this Earth. After that I thought to myself “That’s it! No more bloddy kissing gates“… yeah, right mate… I didn’t quite follow that, I’m afraid.

At least at the beginning I did put in practice my new “no more kiising gates” resolve, as when I got to the Box Hill Rd the walker’s path pointed to a field with a kissing gate, which I promptly declined to take and continued down on Box Hill Rd turning left at Old Reigate Rd and joining the A25 (Reigate Rd) a little later. I did make an attempt to re-join the walker’s path at Chalkpit Ln (you’ll see this name again in other places) when I found it  just to be another dead end (a local resident told me there was no way through, unless I wanted to cross some people’s gardens, which I obviously wouldn’t). Back on the A25 I rode to the next round-about and took the first exit to the left on the B2032 toward Betchworth Station and then re-joined the walker’s path about 1 km later. If you do take the same route, please be careful as these roads are narrow have no cycling/pedestrian paths and traffic is intense.

Once I re-join the walker’s path on a single track, guess what? Another kissing gate! That was how long my resolve of “no more kissing gates” lasted. Thankfully it was one that I could easily overcome with the bike, so I decided to continue on that track. Met a few local cyclists on that path which indicates it is used for cycling as well, however, there are footpaths on which I decided to just push my bike out of respect for the rules. This portion of the Pilgrims’ Way will take you up Reigate Hill, so there was a lot of pushing the bike in places, up to the Inglis Memorial where I arrived just as the sun was setting. Reigate Hill is similar in elevation to Box Hill, just not as steep. Just before the Inglis Memorial I recorded a video explaining the situation and that I was going to abandon the Pilgrims’ Way in favour of an urban route. I recorded another video at the Reigate Hill car park where Komoot re-routed over to Gatton Bottom instead of going through Gatton Park and the Golf Course the get to the final destination of this stage which is, according the the guide, Quality St. I set my stage’s end to be at the Feathers Hotel in Merstham as it stands right at the corner of Merstham High Street and Quality St, so a very good approximation of where I would have ended had I stayed on the walker’s route.

The picture gallery below shows the pictures taken by me along this stage. Click on any picture to enlarge.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos.