With rain not scheduled until later in the day, there was a reasonable turnout of 10 as we headed NE in the direction of Colchester. Included in that number were Delia and her friend from the NW, getting in some steady miles before an exciting cycling holiday in Vietnam in June. We look forward to hearing about that, maybe with a blog post and one or two pictures when you get back, Delia?
Dave R. led us on a slightly longer ride to elevenses of just over 28 miles which took in Broomfield, Terling, Witham, Rivenhall, Messing and Copford, before passing Marks Tey station on the way to the Mill Race Garden Centre in Aldham. A good steady pace and no unforeseen incidents meant we arrived by late morning in the by-now warm sunshine. After some sustenance in pleasant surroundings, I was the only one to turn right to head back for 30 miles home via Kelvedon, Silver End, White Notley, Great Leighs and Boreham, adding about another 30 miles. By early afternoon, there were some big spots of rain in the wind which didn’t amount to much until about 4pm. I hope the rest didn’t get too wet on the return leg?
This was the first part of the route:
The bright sunshine was tempered by a cool easterly breeze as I set off for Wangford but I consoled myself with the fact that it was dry and fine and no rain was forecast for several days ahead. The breeze seemed to strengthen as I progressed toward the coast. My route went via Messing, Copford and through Colchester and Ipswich town centres then stayed west of the A12 through Wickham Market and Peasenhall, finally arriving at 6:30 p.m. quite drained by 89-miles of head wind.
The Angel Inn is a quaint old pub, just off the A12 and a couple of miles west of Southwold in Suffolk. Eighteen of us dined together on that first night, enjoying the good food and ale supplied by our helpful hard working hosts Christine and Peter. We had taken all 7 of the inn’s rooms plus one at The Plough nearby with a further 4 riders in caravans near Reydon on the Southwold road. Everyone that day had been cycling – either arriving by bike or arriving by car and taking part in the afternoon ride-out to Halesworth, and we all noticed the North Sea breeze.
On Friday the entire group rode to Beccles where leader Brian had arranged for the 650-year old Church of St Michael The Archangel to have a coffee morning. The Group then divided with some taking the trip to the locks Inn, Geldeston and Ellingham and the rest going on to Oulton Broad’s Park Café, for a view of The Broad with The Old Maltings across the water. The café served some very nice homemade food, particularly the chicken soup which was more like a casserole. The group divided once more with my half taking a route around North Lowestoft, then down the steep “Ravine” to the old sea wall and Ness Point (the most easterly point in the British Isles) before heading to Southwold Pier to meet the others for tea.
On Saturday we all rode down to the “Low House” at Laxfield for a superb lunch (via two route options) and again recombined for coffee at Halesworth in the afternoon, still battling the ever-present breeze.
The first leg of Sunday’s ride was to Flixton and the excellent (but freezing cold) Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, where we were hugely entertained by Diana who very bravely took the controls of a flight simulator under the very stern direction of James, (a retired RAF instructor). I’ll leave the reader to judge how well she did but at one point (commenting on her handling of the joystick) the instructor said “my good woman you are flying an aircraft – not stirring a bloody Christmas pudding!” How we laughed. Afternoon tea was taken at the St. Peter’s Brewery; too late for a tour of the brewing plant but we sat ourselves down in the magnificent St Peter’s Hall tea-room where some of the seats are ancient carved choir stalls, presumably from the ruined priory across the road.
The final tour day began with the short hop to Southwold, taking in the Gun Hill followed by the Lifeboat Museum. For elevenses we visited the Harbour Café, which will be familiar to anyone who has ridden the Blaxhall Audax. From there we took lunch at Dunwich before riding on to Minsmere for tea. On the way back we visited Wenhaston Church, which houses a “Doom Painting” dating from the late 15th Century. This quite remarkable and beautiful object, painted onto wooden boards by a monk, once spanned the central isle of church. It had been whitewashed out during puritanical times and stood outside the church as firewood in the 19th century before being uncovered by a chance shower of rain, and eventually saved.
Tuesday came round all too soon so it was time for the long slog home, aided by a following breeze but lacking the excitement of anticipation which had spurred on the outward journey. Back to “normal” again, until the next one!