It seemed like a wonderful idea: take the train to Sevenoaks, cycle up the hill to Knole House and then through the countryside to Ightam Mote, where I would wander and take lunch, before making my way back to the station.
But oh did I get lost!
Getting to Sevenoaks by train and then up the (steep, long) hill to Knole was fine. I arrived, however, long before the house was due to open for visits and so I enquired of the visitor centre whether they had any maps of the routes between there and Ightham Mote, just under 5 miles away. I myself had a rough Googlemap print out but no sat nav (for some reason cycle sat navs are very expensive and I don’t own an iPhone or a phone with 4G).
Knole produced a walking map and I set off around the side of the house (with the walkers) and up the hill.
I went round in a circle, missing the back exit and ending back up at the front door. 45 minutes later. Over rough parkland on my tiny road bike tyres. Mmmm.
I set off again, found the exit onto the road and after another 30 minutes arrived back where I started.
Lots of people were crossing the road to take the walking route, and so I hitched up my bike onto my shoulder and joined them in walking through the woods and fields. It seemed like hours, along the bottom of the valley eventually, and finally I did arrive a Ightam Mote, exhausted, a bit queezy (by now it was midday and very hot). I locked up the bike, offered someone else queuing if they wanted to go in for free with my Life Member + Guest National Trust membership (they did, of course), stumbled down the path to the moated house and slumped under a tree by the lake. For a good 30 minutes.
So what did I learn?
- The walk between Knole and Ightam Mote is very nice. It’s a full day trip there and back but I recommend it on a dry Spring or Autumn day.
- I need to invest in a sat nav for the bike if I am to take longer trips in places I’m not familiar with!
- It is very difficult to take attractive photos of either house.
The success of this story is that I did manage to cycle back on the roads from Ightam Mote to Knole. On arriving at Knole over the undulating landscape I once again felt a little queezy, but I managed to go around the house before heading back to the station.
That was my only long cycle ride last year! Roberto the Conder cycle only went out once. I haven’t even been to see him since September, when I put him in his new storage box on the side of the street, 5 minutes walk away (prior to that he had lived in the lounge for 4 years and I finally gave in and put him in cycle storage). Perhaps if I head out more this year I’ll build up my stamina. Indeed, I have joined a cycle club, so there is hope.
When visited: July 2015