A Victorian cyclist: rambles around the Kent countryside

The book, ‘A Victorian Cyclist’, brings to light a comprehensive journal written by a cyclist in 1886, offering a very rare opportunity to follow in the tracks of this explorer of the Kentish countryside.

In all there were descriptions of nine different ‘rambles’ covering a different route in East Kent and each starting from the seaside town of Margate. The rambles took the cyclist as far as Faversham and the outskirts of Ashford, varied in distance between 30 and 80 miles and in total covered nearly 500 miles of East Kent’s less well-known countryside. The longer trips necessitated our cyclist staying overnight at a pub or inn – not forgetting that our cyclist was probably using a tricycle that weighed in at about 75 pounds and which pre-dated the invention of pneumatic tyres. Country roads at this time were often rough, tarmac being relatively rare.

Our cyclist recounted many historical facts about places along his routes, often stopping to talk to local individuals about their surroundings or paying a visit to an ‘off the beaten track’ village or hamlet so as to unravel its history and bring to light past heroes, characters and famous residents. It must be noted that some of the old descriptions, monuments and brasses in the churches he visited may well have since disappeared, and some of the buildings he spoke of, such as Birchington Hall in Thanet and several mills, have certainly disappeared, rendering the information provided by our cyclist a potential gold mine for the genealogist or historian.

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