Ramsgate to Sandwich will never be a stage in the Tour de France. We bowl along the chalk cliffs, past Pugin’s house, through cabbage fields, past the replica Viking Ship at Pegwell Bay, into the nature reserve, before skirting the Pfizer site, now an enterprise zone, and coast towards the cupola of St Peter’s Church, added when the town’s Flemish population rebuilt the tower in 1661. It only takes an hour and is mercifully flat; nevertheless, we feel that the exertion entitles us to a treat, in the shape of tea at The Salutation.
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It is served beneath the shade of lime trees: tiers of sandwiches, homemade cakes and scones, brought on trays that came originally from the Savoy Hotel. Across the gravel is the façade of one of Lutyens’s best houses, in his Wrenaissance style. There is no better way of enjoying it. On Sunday, as we threw our bikes at the foot of a tree, we were found ourselves being greeted with the offer of free beer. Ample stocks of it had been laid in for a tiddlywinks championship.
But they’d overestimated the thirst of the tiddlywinkers, who could not allow alcohol to take the edge off their concentration. Sun bathed the mudflats as we pedalled home.
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