When I volunteered to lead a ride I decided to take them in a slightly different direction to our usual rides. I got six riders on a bright but fresh Sunday morning. With a group that size you would think it would be difficult to lose anyone but there’s always one! Dave S went ahead of me before Ingatestone and got out of hearing range when we made a turn. After doing a tour of the ‘burbs of Brentwood we found him at our destination, the Café in the Park. He was already talking to an ex- member of the extinct Brentwood Group.
Suitably refreshed we made our way across the south of Brentwood and into the countryside to the west. The terrain gets lumpy out there but the result is some pleasant views and after the recent rain everything looked fresh.
The Two Brewers at Ongar was surprisingly empty so we were served quickly and had a leisurely lunch. It was good to find a pub still doing baguettes on a Sunday although a full Sunday roast was on offer.
There was some reluctance to use the farm track to Kings Street so we had a short stretch of A414 to ride. It was remarkably quiet. Meanwhile Dave R had used the track and declared it OK.
Finding a tea stop is often a problem i.e. too close, too far but seldom closed at about 3 o’clock. This is what we found at Francesca’s Coffee Shop in Mountnessing despite their web site giving a 4 o’clock closing time. Of the five remaining riders there were no takers for an alternative tea stop so I continued on my way back to Chelmsford. After White’s Bridge near Margaretting I was on my own and completed the ride after 56 miles.
First the cast of riders- Adrian, Dave R, Diana, Mark B, Ken R, Brian S, Brian T, Janette, Joe and Margaret D.
I joined them at The Cedars Hotel, Stowmarket on the Friday. Some had already done a short ride on the Thursday after they had travelled up.
Friday’s ride was led by Ken and all eleven of us rode out for elevenses at The Forge Café at Thornham Walks. We continued on towards our destination, Laxfield, and the signposts were doing strange things. One would say three and a half miles and the next one would be six miles! The strong headwind in fairly open countryside got the better of Margaret so she and Joe turned back. The intention was to sample the King’s Head or Low House for its old world charm but we were disappointed to find it closed until 5 pm. Lunch was taken at The Royal Oak instead. The ride back via Debenham was wind assisted. Afternoon tea was taken at Stonham Barns. Unfortunately this place is on the A1120, which at 4:30 pm is rather busy. Showing some consideration we formed two groups and pulled in to let a backlog of traffic by. On entering Stowmarket the ride went to pieces! No one had an up to date map of a new housing development and the electronic devices were giving contradictory information so we split in two and made it back to the hotel. Miles covered 56.
Saturday’s ride was led by Mark. Margaret had opted for a day of retail therapy. This ride was basically travelling west to Bury St Edmunds with an elevenses stop at Teacups Tearoom in Woolpit. We also had a culture visit to Woolpit church. The ride into Bury was on some excellent cycle paths but later we did have to negotiate two busy roundabouts to travel south to our destination the Maglia Rosso. This is a cycle café/ shop in a former pub at Hawstead. Our return trip took us to the Five Bells at Rattlesden. I couldn’t believe tea and coffee was 50p! I had two mugs of coffee from the pot I was given. Horse racing was on the TV and a little gambling went on with Ken the benefactor. On the way into Stowmarket we passed a free range chicken farm and I spotted my first egg vending machine! Miles covered 41.
For Sunday the group split up and only Adrian (leader), Mark, Diana and me rode east. The ride out to Woodbridge took us off-road twice, which was slow but not difficult. Our route was very undulating with some nasty little hills. At one junction Mark failed to unclip and had a lay down! Late elevenses were had at the Ferry Quay Café (also known as The Caravan) near Woodbridge railway station. The ride had a loose basic plan but was largely made up as we went along. We opted for Newbourne Fox for lunch after a brief stop at Waldringfield. It was busy but they were very accommodating and we sat outside in the sunshine for our soups. There was some retracing back into Woodbridge and then the Garmin directed us to ride on the A12. It was made to adjust to a quieter route. There was no direct way to our tea stop and we were zig-zagging across the countryside mostly into a headwind. Tea was taken at Helmingham Hall. A visit was made to the local church, which is rich in monuments to the Tollemache family. The return ride was fairly direct involving retracing some of the morning ride. 59 miles covered.
At this point I had to leave the group as I had to be home for the next day. A very pleasant three days in a wonderful county in good company. Also thanks to someone the others didn’t meet, my mate Bob who fed and provided me accommodation nine miles from The Cedars base camp.