Five go to the seaside-15th October 2017

As this ride was into a busy sector of Essex I wasn’t sure how many riders would turn up but like the title says five of us left Chelmsford on a beautiful sunny morning. Our elevenses stop was at the Riverview Nursery at Hockley where Norman L met us. After refreshments Phil returned home so we still had five going onto lunch.

At Canewdon we walked through the churchyard for a quick look at the church and village lock-up before making a detour to see the old radar site. Not much can be seen from the road but Dave R said he remembered the wooden masts, which were part of the receiver. The transmitter masts were of steel and the one at Gt Baddow came from this site.

To avoid a busy section around Rochford I took the group off-road round the remains of the old Stambridge Mill.

Lunch was taken at Parsons Barn at Shoebury. This is a Wetherspoons and was remarkably quiet for a Sunday. Moving on we had a couple of culture stops in the old Shoebury Garrison, now all private residences. The sea front cycle path is about 4.5 miles long and requires no navigation input just collision avoidance tactics. Around the pier entrance we were down to a crawl and with hindsight we should have got on the road and mixed it with the cars.

Our return was via Leigh and along beside a noisy A127 until we got to Rayleigh where Norman went directly home. Along Rawreth Lane we met Brian Penny making his way home after a SEG ride. Three of us stopped at the Haybarn Tea Room in Battlebridge for a top up of tea. Most places close at 4:00 on a Sunday but I knew this one stayed open to 4:30.

I think the other riders enjoyed this ride as something different but it has two main problems, distance and traffic. Chelmsford to Chelmsford was about 65-70 miles and this could have been reduced but there is little that can be done about the traffic. The Southend Section of Forty Plus has a similar ride but the traffic levels are different on Thursdays.

My route on Google maps-

Mel M


Sunday Ride to Elsenham and Monk Street 19 September 2017

The Farleigh Hospice charity ride had no doubt had its impact on our group but only 4 riders set off on our scheduled ride led by John B. The weather was chilly and dull with the overnight mist having lifted into low cloud.

The ride to Elsenham Golf was along familiar roads which were busy with cyclists. Just after High Roding we were overtaken by a swarm of Essex Roads riders which was slightly intimidating. As one passed me he said “sorry mate” – I’m not quite sure what he had done but it was a nice touch!

Near Great Canfield two of the charity event riders were dealing with a puncture. As we passed we asked if they were OK but they were not. They had no spare tubes and no pump, just two gas canisters which had both been used. After supplying a tube and a pump, they were back on the road and we continued to Elsenham.

At elevenses some debate took place about the original lunch destination, Wendens Ambo and we all agreed to head for Monk Street instead. The pub there is great – good beer, friendly reception and the sort of snack food we like at lunchtime.

After another debate we agree Rayne station as the tea stop. By this time the sun was out and the world was a much nicer place. The route was via Lindsell, Lubberhedges Lane and for Dave R and me a good stretch on the Flitch Way. John and Dave S chose the road route but we arrived simultaneously at the tea stop.

Back at Chelmsford my computer showed about 57 miles. Here is a link to my Strava record:


Charity Ride – Foulness Island 10.09.17

Thorpe Bay Rotary Club have been running this annual ride around the otherwise off-limits Foulness Island for some time. For the last couple of years, they have allowed participants to raise money for their elected charity. I now work for Red Balloon of the Air, an educational charity providing academic and therapeutic programmes for children who have experienced trauma resulting in non-attendance at school. Based in Essex, I manage our provision in the county, teach online and support the face-to-face recovery of children who attend our satellite centre at The Notleys Golf Club, a popular stop-off for some of the local mid-week groups with which some readers of this blog also ride.

As I worked for 10 years at Thorpe Hall School, not far from the official start/finish point of the island ride near Great Wakering, I became used to the summertime commutes to and from work – for the most part in busy mid-week traffic. During rush hour, these are not the most pleasant of roads Essex has to offer, especially due to Rettendon Roundabouts Rage. However, I decided to resurrect that route last ridden a few years ago and ride to and from the start point. This would make a total distance, with the 23 miles around the island, of c. 75 miles which, although not a massive distance, I thought seemed a little more respectable to add to my sponsorship page.

There is a choice of Hanningfields to pick up the old A130 rise to Rettendon, and I opted for the gentle drag up to Butts Green and East Hanningfield to warm up. Setting off at 8am, I was too early for the road race mentioned below on Mel’s ride, but all the preparations were in full swing and other more competitive types were warming up more vigorously than me in anticipation of the racing to come. Once over the Turnpike and Hawk Hill roundabouts, the roads via Hullbridge, Rochford and the Wakerings are pan flat and certainly quieter and more pleasant than on weekday mornings.

The start/finish point was Cupids Country Club, where very helpful and friendly Rotary Club volunteers, including one or two friends from the school, were checking us in and generally pointing us in the right direction. I understand over 1000 cyclists took part throughout the day, but with half-hourly phased start times to avoid overcrowding. Simple refreshments were available, although the coffee was of the ‘brown-grit-in-a-styrofoam’ variety.

So what of the island itself? Most of the non-military ‘action’ takes place at the aptly-named Churchend at the far end. The road to get on and off was straight and exposed, as you might expect, with various checkpoints and rather ominous signs about the current UK terror threat level at regular intervals. The reminders of the military nature of the island were never far away in any sense. But the island is also home to some 150? residents. Some of the land (and marshes beyond) are often scattered with weapons, in tests we hope are rather smaller in scale than the more infamous shows of strength elsewhere in the world. But other areas of the island seem peacefully rural, with the village nestling among open, arable farmland. This rather well-written Southend Echo report from 2009 speaks of the paradoxical nature of island life – almost as paradoxical as the combination of the phrases ‘well-written report’ and ‘Southend Echo website’ in the same sentence!

The 4-mile circuit beyond Churchend village started with the same smooth tarmac as that which forms the spine of the island. However, after a couple of 90 degree turns and waves to children watching the spectacle from their garden gates, the terrain changed to gravel, some soft mud and puddles. Complete with strengthening headwind, this wasn’t exactly the pavé of Paris-Roubaix, but the same skills of relaxed vigilance, maintaining momentum and letting a road bike find its own natural line were necessary. One or two of those who visibly tensed up struggled a bit, and with worry etched on faces, there were a couple of spills, but nothing serious. There were several broom wagons and volunteers/first aiders dotted all around the route, so risks were managed very well and the emphasis on safe enjoyment could be maintained.

I did the recommended 3 loops of 4 miles, caught up with the school caretaker who was supporting by bringing the minibus as a very brightly-coloured support vehicle, then headed back down what for some had become the long walk to freedom. Freedom took a while coming for me too, as by now the wind had really got up and was doing its best to blow us escapees back the way we’d come. Cue 15 minutes of head-down effort, punctuated by cheery waving as I saw the happy, smiling faces still coming the other way on cheap, steel mountain bikes effortlessly pedalling towards the village. Inside, I was thinking, ‘You wait!’

IMG_0625No photography is allowed on the island, but here I am with my medal (a reward for the triumph against the headwind, if nothing else). As well as that recent effort, the fixed grin also masks the pain of 2 minutes previously, when, having leant my bike against the barrier and turned around, a considerable gust blew it straight back the other way, with all its steely weight transferred from top tube to midway up my left thigh. After a little recovery time, though, I put in a quick loop around North Shoebury (to make the total miles up to 75) and took it gently on the way home with a steadily increasing wind and a couple of short, sharp and squally showers for company.

I can thoroughly recommend this ride: it’s well-organised, easy cycling, for all my histrionic hyperbole, and a good opportunity to see a quirky little part of Essex that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is the ‘Relive’ video of the ride, which takes the gps mapping data from Strava:

10th September- Destination possible but a bit close!

Five riders turned up for the start on what was a fairly chilly morning. Dave R had a personal diversion to make so the four of us started out on a convoluted route to get us to Heybridge Basin by about 11 o’clock.

On the way we came across a road race in progress. This was the Andrews Trophy R. R. organised by the Southend Wheelers. It was based on East Hanningfield and consisted of 13 laps of a 5.8 mile circuit. It was well marshalled with advance warning cars and motorbikes. We weren’t shown up because we were going in the other direction!

I took the ride down the canal towpath and at first I couldn’t believe my luck on how quiet it was and then we met loads of walkers.

Waiting for us at the Lock Café were Ken R and Chris S. Dave R re-joined us a little later. Sitting outside we watched (and heard) seagulls and starlings make short work of food left on the next table.

The lunch venue was at Goldhanger and having finished elevenses by 11:40 a direct route was impractical. We headed north to Tiptree and then back south again. Chris had a tyre go down within a mile of the pub so we left him and John B to fix it.

Adrian joined us at The Chequers making it eight huddled round two small tables. The pub was very efficient on getting the food out.

Afternoon tea venues are short in number but I had discovered under the Heritage Open Day scheme the chapel at Little Baddow was doing cream teas so four of us sampled these. The ladies serving could not be accused of being well organised but they meant well and it was all in a good cause.

The wind strength had really picked up and on our return three of us had to battle against it up Hammonds Road.

Mel M

27th August Destination impossible

I had a look at destinations the night before and thought they don’t make sense i.e. we are likely to get to the pub in Clare at 13:50!

Adrian was down to lead so took six of us to our elevenses stop. Because Chelmsford to Aldham Mill Race is a long stage we went up through Springfield and round Boreham Interchange. I put this Interchange in the same category as Rettendon Turnpike i.e. avoid if possible.

We arrived at the garden centre as expected after 11:00 and found Phil there in civvies.

Adrian was going back so I proposed two likely destinations and it was decided to go to Layer de la Haye. I had a route prepared so took the lead. We were now down to five so easily fitted round a table at the Donkey and Buskins.

After lunch Martin went off to Abberton to meet his family but not before making a wrong turn and doing a U turn!

The remaining four of us made for Bunsay Downs for tea although JB rode straight passed.

I was on my own riding down Woodhill Road and didn’t think I would see anybody I would know. Turning into Mayes Lane were Brian Penny and Martin Pipe. SEG had been to Broads Green, which is not that far away so it must have been some drink session! Coming up to the junction near Sandon School I had behind me the unmistakeable sound of a British motorbike. I stopped to have a look and it was Brian Taylor out for a spin. The engine had to be stopped to make conversation.

Back in Chelmsford to retrieve my car I had done 65 miles.

Mel M

Sunday Ride to Abberton Reservoir and Copford 6 August 2017

A lovely sunny morning but only four of us turned up for the ride today. The first leg to Abberton was a little longer than our normal ride to elevenses at about 24 miles. This is slightly longer than the minimum distance but I wanted to avoid busy roads where possible. However we made good time and arrived at 11:07. The Essex Wildlife visitor centre has a very good café and we enjoyed sitting outside overlooking the reservoir.

The next leg to Copford was hard to plan as it’s only about 5 miles away but we managed to make it 9 miles! There we were joined by three more of our colleagues for lunch at the Alma which is now serving the lighter snacks again on Sunday lunchtime.

As we had not used it before I identified Cressing Barns as our tea stop and we rode there via Great Tey and Coggeshall with an increasing but manageable SW wind.

Having fuelled ourselves with cake and copious tea we set off for Chelmsford and I arrived back with about 63 miles on the clock.

Here is a link to my Strava record of the ride:

And you might find this an interesting presentation of it:



Sunday 30th July 2017

Only three riders turned up at the start. Martin C led Dave S and me to Rayne Booking Hall. Here we met Dave R and later John and Maggie turned up. This was only Maggie’s second time out on the tandem after her knee op.

I had come prepared for a ride to Great Yeldham but no one was interested considering the wind strength. As a result Dave R and I decided to go to The Compasses at Littley Green using the Flitch Way as far as Stebbing Road.

Sitting at a bench on his own was Jon Collins. I had seen him earlier cycling into Wickford as I motored out. He explained the majority of SEG returned after elevenses and only three had gone on. The other two, Martin Pipe and Martin Fuller, were still out there somewhere in Essex! They arrived quite late just as we were about to leave.

I rode back in Chelmsford with Jon C.

Mel M