Sunday Ride 1st March 2015 – to Lamarsh

As the saying goes, “a pinch and a punch for the first of the month”; the temperature did less pinching than of late but the punch was delivered for sure by a steady south westerly wind. The bright morning had lured out nine riders and we were whisked along in the direction of Lamarsh, making Greenstead Green in good time for elevenses, and meeting John there. Two turned back so eight remained to enjoy the wind assisted ride along the roller-coaster of lanes, (some very pitted and muddy) which led us towards lunch. Somewhere near Colne Engaine, we paused to admire a herd of deer, steeple chasing across a fenced paddock.

At the lion Inn there are no sandwiches on a Sunday but starters from the lunch menu did the job before we began the return journey into the wind. The fast run out had given us a good time margin, so Perrywoods was chosen for threesies with the massive cake portions making up for any deficiency in the lunch diet. The wind rose a little as the afternoon wore on and it was hard going in the final ten miles against the “on-the-nose” breeze but at least I got in before the heavy rain began. 63 miles and a mainly enjoyable winter run.

Adrian Leeds

Sundays Ride (11 Jan 15)

It’s true what they say; you can’t have everything. Sunday was bright and dry if extremely chilly with a strong southwesterly breeze. We soon felt its edge as the six of us battled out of town into a country landscape right on the point of freezing. There was a little ice here and there in the puddles and on the tips of the kerbside grasses but nothing of significance. After about 20 miles we reached Hatfield Heath Tea Rooms on time for “elevenses” and welcoming the chance to stop and warm up a bit. Service was fast and efficient and I judged the teacakes as well priced and full of flavour. Back in the saddle we headed out through Sawbridgeworth and eventually along the exposed lanes with the wind holding us back and at points causing us to tack left and right as it tried to push us across the road.

Thankfully, we made it safely to Green Tye where the Prince of Wales (the pub, not the person!) – served us very well indeed with £3.50 sandwiches and good ale. Presently, John arrived; having ridden his recumbent trike all the way from Halstead he wore a shiny wet brow, imparted to him by the raging headwind. Thus seven of us began the journey home, which was less well assisted than we had hoped because the wind had by then dropped back a degree but still had some effect as we ran up past Spellbrooke and on eventually through sometimes flooded lanes to High Easter Post Office for our final tea break (choc brownie only £1.50!). An hour later I was indoors, mudded and windswept but very pleased with the 55-mile day. Not bad for January, really.

Adrian Leeds

The EMG Christmas Meet (14 Dec)

It was a very frosty morning and only four of us assembled at the Civic Centre. I had ridden over a fair amount of frost and ice crossing the park to get there and was not really keen to set off until later. The others pointed out that we could reach 11’ses mainly on treated surfaces and I was persuaded to go. We went around Writtle, through Edney Common and past the Viper taking Bag Lane, Trueloves Lane and the pedestrian underpass to arrive at Ingatestone Garden Centre well ahead of time. There we met Mel, with Phil arriving later so six went on through the Hanningfields route collecting John B along the way. There were still a couple of slippery patches where thickly frozen puddles had only party thawed, but thankfully we all stayed the right way up. Dave R had met with the SEG at their coffee stop and was already at Cock Clarks when we arrived. Two couples, (John and Margaret, Brian and Jan) made the Chelmsford contingent up to eleven. I’m not sure of the total but the combined ranks of us, the SEG and Havering Member Groups soon filled the pub with the bar queue stretching out into the car park. Lunch was served very efficiently and we enjoyed the usual Fox and Hounds good quality and value for money. After lunch the group dispersed and three rode to afternoon tea with the rest of us heading for home to warm up.

Adrian Leeds

Three Damp Sundays

Three damp Sundays – seen from Adrian’s saddle…

23 November – A horribly wet day. Only 4 of us failed the initiative test and set off to Blackmore tea-rooms where (by arrangement) – we met the Havering group and a couple of Southend riders. It was a convivial CTC meeting and we stayed a good while chatting over coffee with the occasional mournful glance out of the window at the persistent downpour. Dragging myself back outside, I bid a cheerful farewell to the others, who had all opted to call it a day. By now I was double-waterproofed by cape and jacket but the rain soon penetrated both and by the time we got to Edney common I was ready to throw in the very soggy towel, and headed for home. Martin followed leaving Dave and Diana to squelch onwards to Lunch.

30 November – Dave Russell’s ride to Monk Street via Dunmow. It was a much better looking day than the previous Sunday, tempting a dozen or so optimists to take to their machines in the false hope that they would stay dry. Fat chance! My own machine proved to be less willing and fell prey to a puncture at Writtle, then a second deflation but a few hundred yards later. I needed time to investigate this second one and two gallant assistants (Dave S and John B), stayed back to help sort it out, sending the others forward. After much (wet and muddy) tread-searching the problem was discovered to be a faulty tube, perished at the valve-base. We short-routed to Dunmow and met the others for tea before going on to Monk Street. It occurred to me that the back lane between Duton Hill and Folly Mill lane is the roughest stretch of “road” I’ve seen and an absolute disgrace for Essex County Council: have they heard of the new invention, Tarmacadam? The Farmhouse Inn coped admirably with the 9 of us before we returned home through the wet lanes.

7 December – The same four “go-in-any-weather” riders as 23 Nov rode joyously with a following wind to Perrywoods, taking slippery bridges, closed flood barriers and muddy farm tracks in their stride. The rain held off and John and Maggie joined us for coffee, mixing as we did with the combined hoards of Colchester riders also gathered there. Honestly, counting them was pointless as more kept arriving. As we departed the rain came on strongly, blown along by a cold wind. After a bit of tricky navigating assisted by guest rider, “Snowy” I got us out of Tiptree onto the desired route and thence to Lunch. The Donkey & Buskins welcomed us all warmly and we set out our kit to dry off as lunch was taken. The rather strange soup billed as “Potato and Leak” was queried with the management and explained away by the “Polish Cook” – (that’s how he does it). Head wind and just-above-freezing drizzle were the returning conditions so we gratefully accepted Dave’s offer of tea and cakes at his place on the way home.

Adrian Leeds

Semaine Federale 2014

Here’s my belated report on the SF – a cracking ride as ever…

With expectation in our hearts and Euros in our pockets, 10 doughty riders set off for Saint-Pourcain Sur Sioule. We had decided upon camping; 2 caravan dwellers and the rest in tents. Various routes to the campsite were taken, the tent men opting to break the 540-mile journey at Soissons to spend the night in a sort of concrete egg box costing 33 Euros per room (£13 a head) and worth every cent. At the nearby diner, Peter erroneously ordered an Andouillette, – a French sausage made from the folded up colon of a pig, with tripe as the filler. This eventually caused much hilarity and nose pinching amongst the other British diners. He sensibly, left most of it. My room mate Peter T was the first gastronomic casualty of the tour, shooting urgently from his bed with the nocturnal squitters bestowed upon him by some dodgy fish and colliding hard with the prison-style doorframe, my bunk ladder and the door all at once in a calamitous crash through which I slept! The next day he looked like a man who’d been in a fight and lost, but soldiered on regardless.

Mr. Cox and I took the N-roads and got to Saint-Pourcain to find things running less than smoothly. Just ahead of our arrival, an almighty thunderstorm had flooded out the “Dossiers” (administration), the campsite and cast doubt on the availability of food. But the sun was having none of this and it beat down so fiercely that were soon allowed onto the site and got our tents and caravan set up together on the rapidly drying field, braving the puddles and mud as we did so. Nearby, a less fortunate motor-caravan had bogged down, and we watched as it was towed out by the campsite JCB. Some people were wearing shorts-and-Wellingtons, reminding me more of the Glastonbury festival than a cycling event.

The sanitary arrangements completed the rock festival theme and would not have looked out of place on the set of “Papillion”. A grim block of 24 galvanized steel shower cubicles stood menacingly on a wooden platform just back from the road near the entrance to the site. In front of them was a long row of water points and sinks, topped off with perforated steel girders, forming a shelf for your for mirror, toothbrush, bowl etc. At the rear of the showers, arranged backs-to-backs with them stood a similar row of toilet cubicles. None of the cubicles had roofs: the toilets neither seats nor paper (presumably there’s no point if you have no roof to keep it dry). The thin steel doors rattled and clanged and were so close to the toilet that you couldn’t sit or stand without banging your head against them. They were wet with dew in the mornings and hot enough to fry the proverbial egg in the afternoons. The sinks had cold water only, fed by agricultural taps with short rubber hoses as “splashes”. Cubicle floors were made from steel gratings (slats) – through which, in the case of the showers you could see the knives and forks dropped by campers who had been using them to do their washing up because only the showers had hot water. At the end of the cubicle rows, in a position that you had to pass to get to the loos stood a large sort of butler-sink sluice into which caravan toilets were emptied and then washed out using a flexible hose attached to the sink. Despite all of this, the queues for these facilities stretched back quite a way at most times of the day.

Our main meals (breakfasts and evening) were provided in a large industrial warehouse a couple of kilometres across town away. This facility catered for perhaps two thousand diners with surprising efficiency. We cycled to breakfasts and walked to dinners. The food was of a generally high standard although it was best to go early to breakfast as the full range of fare ran out quite quickly. The evening meals were 4-course affairs with red or rose wine supplied. It became quite evident that us Brits simply can’t adjust to the concept of “unlimited free wine” in anything resembling a responsible grown-up manner. After the trudge home each night, “nightcaps” (scotch, bourbon and brandy) were taken beneath Peter’s gazebo accompanied by a copious supply of superb cake courtesy of baker Chris.

Believe it or not, the rides were the real event and the actual reason for being there. As usual there was a choice of four or five rides each day, fully marshalled, marked on the road in paper arrows and each supplied with a coloured map and fully detailed route sheet. Navigation was further simplified by the fact that we set off fairly late and so had 7,000 other riders to follow. Disbelieve me if you like but some of us still managed to go off-route twice during the 6-ride week or to put that another way, 33 percent of the time.

What immediately struck me about this year’s rides was that they were shorter in general than those of last year’s SF and to make up for that, markedly hillier. As usual, the routes were graded P1 to P5 in ascending order of difficulty. All riders began on the same route, with the P1 branching off first and returning, the P2 second and so on, and all rides reconverging towards the common finish. Our group split several ways, the stronger riders opting for more demanding options, but usually all meeting at the main feeding points on the way out or back. The official feeding stops were large-scale open-field affairs designed to handle the 13000 riders. Participants were marshalled into a bike-park, via which food stalls, a bar, water station and toilets were accessed. Covered seating, live entertainment, local culture and a general party atmosphere were all thrown in before you returned to the road for another 25-mile leg and then did it all over again.

The daily routines of eat, ride, shower, drink, walk, eat, drink, sleep etc. soon passed the time and before I knew it, it was Saturday, and time for the “Repas de clôture” with departure to follow the next morning. As the week ended the weather was becoming less settled. We heard from home that the end-tail of Hurricane Bertha was heading towards Europe and the spectacular electric storms we received underlined that fact. The 540-mile run home was certainly a worry and more so given that I had bought a non-flexible ticket. On Saturday, half the group left for home leaving 5 to ride a short P2 before calling an end to the cycling. We aimed to return to camp early enough to get most of our gear packed away.

By 5 p.m. the sky was turning black towards the west. Standing in the open-top shower I was pelted by the opening salvo of heavy rain. It was strangely soothing to mingle the hot shower with the large cold raindrops and I was quite lost in pleasure for a while until I realised that my shorts and towel were hanging on the back of the steel door, receiving the same rainfall. I began to towel off, and then gave up. I hastily pulled on my shorts, opened the door, slid on my wet sandals on the wooden platform outside and, towel around my neck, ran the 400 yards to the tent and dived in. I quickly secured the porch zips from the inside, kneeling in the fresh mud as I did so. I was soaked, muddy, sweating and inside a tent full of wet gear. Outside, I could hear Peter asking Tony if he’d like a coffee. I shouted up one for myself, but just then, the heavens opened fully and a strong bind blew onto the rear of the tent, (sheltered to some extent by the car, which I had moved there just an hour before). The hardest rain imaginable then fell, and kept falling for a prolonged period. It banged like a drum on the tent and the wind began to lift the rear of it, so I was obliged to spread-eagle myself on the floor to hold it down. Outside, I heard people shouting excitedly in French but above these strange yells, the fibreglass poles above my head began to stress and oscillate as the tent fabric distorted this way and that as the water pelted it. After what seemed like an eternity (probably 15 minutes) the wind died down and eventually the rain stopped. The sun came out. Gingerly, I emerged from the tent to watch the French family on the next pitch, aided by half a dozen others, lift their large frame tent off of the lake in which it had been sitting and set it down again 10 metres along the field. They had a trailer which they began packing after that and a few hours later, were gone. All around us there was water in long, deep puddles. In my mind I began to wonder if I would successfully drive over this field, fully loaded, at 7 a.m. the next day. My muse was broken by a familiar voice: “Where’s that coffee got to?”

That evening, we 5 paddled off the site in wet sandals, carrying brollies and wearing all sorts of kit. After a mile and a bit we were in the queue for the food; a sea of brollies and flapping plastic. John calculated that 2600 meals were eventually dished up. Service was pedestrian, with initially, each dish ceremonially ushered in with a musical accompaniment. We drank the vin de table and waited. The standard of cuisine was top drawer. Beginning with a “bouchior”, then starter of fish pie and a main entrée of fillet steak accompanied by an egg thingamajig and pate de pommes de terre; then cheese; then a trio of sweets, all and each of superb flavour. It was ca fine meal, all set to live music, dancing and a massive party atmosphere, making a great finale to the week.

We plodded home to our damp tents. Next morning we got up, struck camp and were away before you could say “Robert est votre oncle”. I think mine was the first vehicle across the mud and water, which nevertheless caused a 4-wheel drift onto the harder ground. God knows how the hundreds of others behind me faired. We dumped our rubbish, parked briefly at the facilities and were gone; N-Roads to Moulins, then motorway all the way to the ferry.

In the afternoon the weather again worsened. The A26 flooded and we were caught in a series of downpours. The ferry was delayed and changed departure gate, resulting in a chaotic driving circuit of the port by the passengers. When we finally got to sea, the swell was as bad as it gets: spray crashing against the front windows of the ship which rolled and pitched like a fairground ride. There were soon some rather grey-faced people and the toilets smelled of vomit. (Sailor Tony loved this and marched around the ship taking it all in.)

We finally got home around 11 p.m. By then I just wanted a proper bath and a good sleep in a real bed.

During my eight nights under canvas I managed to complete 6 rides of varying difficulty, punctuated by a rest-day when I judged myself “rained off”. It summed up to 380 miles with about 16,000 feet of ascent. I’m not exaggerating if I say that these rides were some of the best cycling I have experienced. Steep, long climbs (for me), stunning views with volcanoes on the skyline; chateaux; ancient churches; small character filled towns, whose inhabitants turned out to cheer you on; beautiful old buildings; vast open landscapes; sweeping descents (including several sets of sharp hairpin bends); great riding company (including the French, of course). In summary, the SF once again delivered cycling pleasure of the highest order. Roll on the next one!Exif_JPEG_PICTURESemaine Federale Moulins Day 4

Four Counties Audax 8 June 2014

 

Herts Wheelers organise this annual event, which this year was headquartered at Ware. Dave Southin and I entered the 160 Km “Four Counties” option, (theres also 2 counties, 3 and 5 to chose from, depending on your desired distance). We enjoyed superb weather all day. The ride goes by the highest points in Bedfordshire (Dunstable Downs), Cambridgeshire (GT Chishill) and Essex (Duddenhoe End) giving the riders a succession of stunning views across the English Countryside. Hilly, but worth it!

 

Adrian Leeds

The DOT SHARP memorial ride

I’d say it was a success despite the weather and only half the riders turning up. We still got 20, but as “organiser” – I’m biased anyway. Here’s a quick quote from one of the victims who paid the immense sum of £5 to enter-on-the-line…. 11th May 2014 – The Dot Sharp ride No doubt the damp blowy weather restricted the entry numbers. Adrian had 19 riders on his register. Both the Chelmsford and Havering Groups were well represented but SEG had only two, Brian P and I. I got away dead on 9.30 and was out on my own, which was convenient as I had a phlegm issue! The rain stopped about 10.00 and I carried on alone to our first check point at Hatfield Heath. Whilst I was having some refreshments Brian and the Chelmsford bunch turned up. I then paired up with Brian for the rest of the ride. After Hatfield Broad Oak my rear tyre suddenly deflated. The fix was too hasty as I could feel something was wrong so about a mile up the road I stopped and noticed the tyre wasn’t sitting in the rim properly. That sorted we made good progress with the wind behind us. There was a quick stop at Great Waltham to write down the answer to the second control question and then it was largely riding into wind. After Chelmsford Brian began to flag and at the top of the hill just before Stock I waited for him. He told me to go on, which I did. The ride up to Padhams Green into wind was tough. I was down on the drops, which was an option Brian didn’t have. I got back to the finish at 13.50 and found 4 or 5 Baddow Club members already there. I think they passed me when I had the puncture. A mug of tea, a chocolate biscuit, a chat with Adrian and then Brian joined us. Computer read out 51.4 miles, average speed 14.0, max speed 30.2 mph. Brian declined a lift to Billericay Station so I went back through Padhams Green and met the Chelmsford Group completing the last stretch. I think I they had had a culture/lunch stop off route at Great Canfield Church. Summary- enjoyable but could have done without the wind! Mel Martin

Ride Report 4 May 14

The bright spring sunshine attracted only eight starters but then some of our regulars were overseas, touring and thus avoiding the quite chilly breeze. The traffic seemed mercifully light until we neared Stansted where we rode a mile on the B1051 and were overtaken by several vehicles including a Mercedes CL55 car doing at least 100 MPH. The Yeoman café at Stansted served us well before six went on to Fernaux Pelham for lunch. The Brewery Tap made us welcome with a good selection of light options including Dave’s “Garlic Infused Camembert Baked In Its Box” – which he generously shared around. The ride home was punctuated by mechanical failures – firstly my chain decided to break at the spring-link (thanks to Martin for the repair), Diana’s rear tyre threatened to disintegrate, de-laminating further as we went and then my gears jammed. (Damaged rear mech and broken jockey wheel, caused by the earlier chain failure). Nevertheless, we made it to Sawbridgeworth, where The Shed stayed open late for us to enable a coffee stop. Not sure of the trip mileage but is was well into the 60’s in my case.

See Strava:
http://www.strava.com/activities/137367092

Adrian Leeds

CTC Spring Tour of Norfolk

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This year’s return to Norfolk saw 14 riders booking into the Park Hotel, Diss and 4 at the nearby caravan park. There were 4 octogenarians, a couple of 60-somethings and the rest in between somewhere. They rode 12 solos and three tandems, one of which was a “Pentacycle” (5 wheels!). We enjoyed the usual superb support, eating and bike parking provided by the venue, which also cut us a deal on our rooms and some 2-for-1 dinners.

So, it was just a matter of deciding where to go. Broadly speaking, there were 2 groups of 6 and 9 bikes with the smaller group going a little further each day than the larger. But these groups completed some rides together and if not, usually met up at some point. The rides began on arrival day with Dave’s short afternoon ride to Bressingham Gardens tearooms – a sort of “taster ride” taking and hour each way around the quiet lanes. The next day, the whole group of 18 followed Brian and Jan’s tandem on a ride out to Stowmarket, visiting the same tea-stop at Cotton for elevenses and afternoon tea. I made that a quite impressive 53-miles.

We had good weather up to this point although the breezes were definitely chilly, despite the bright sunshine. Norfolk farmers would seem to be heading for a good harvest this year, with all of the crops well ahead of schedule for late April, lining our route for mile after mile. The rape crops were particularly noticeable, sending huge carpets of yellow over the horizon (not to mention tons of inhaled pollen).

Day three began wet, but after a short delay we set off and the rain stopped almost as we left. The 2 groups met for elevenses at the quaintly named “Blo’ Norton”. (Corruption of the word Below, perhaps?). To get there we had taken the “river route” along the Suffolk side of the River Waveney eventually tracing it back to its source. At this spot, the Little Ouse also begins, flowing in the opposite direction towards its destination at The Wash. In the damp, bright morning spring air the valley route looked just plain beautiful, like a rolling constable painting. The groups parted and five of us embarked on the longer ride to Thetford, eventually running out of open farmland and into thick forest along gently rolling straight roads with little or no cars and just the odd tractor. To me, the short lunch stop in Thetford was a bit of a letdown. The town has changed significantly since my Suffolk childhood and is now in the aftermath of large scale London resettlement, followed by large-scale industrial failure (the closure of the Thermos factory). It looks a sad shadow of its former self. Back on the road we went north before heading east through more pretty Norfolk villages. At East Harling, we paused to visit the church, where a lady Church Warden gave us an impromptu tour. These old buildings and their contents are always a source of fascination for me and this one didn’t disappoint. It has medieval painted oak screens, tombs and effigies of the 16th century landed gentry and beautiful stained glass, all of which have survived the Devolution, Civil War, Puritanism, bombing etc. Marvellous!

Next day we were all together for the short ride to Eye, where the “long” group opted to ride on whilst the majority took tea. This resulted in their discovering the Bank Arts centre, of which, I’ll say more later. It was getting more drizzly as we went and our eventual elevenses at Debenham was in a tiny bric-a-brac shop reminiscent of the one run by “Miranda” in the TV series of the same name. It was decided to abandon the original plan (Framlingham) in favour of chasing after the other group, who, led by Ken and Maureen were heading to Laxfield for lunch at The Low House. This ancient and very charming pub is well worth a visit with its oak panelled screens, and beer cellar (no bar!). We got there chilled and wetted, just as the others were finishing but enjoyed the mushroom and garlic soup and a welcomed warm-up before leaving. We caught the others once more on the Eye route and had afternoon tea at “The Bank” art studio, culture centre and teashop. This former Midland Bank branch has been superbly transformed and we found it contained working artists, home made cakes and a gallery in the old vault downstairs. We were well served and enjoyed some beautiful exhibits.

Sunday was the final riding day and the morning sunshine had us all keenly off and away. The small group plumped for a ride along the Waveney Valley towards Beccles whilst the shorter run was to Harleston for elevenses, again led by Brian and Jan. The conditions were pretty well ideal for cycling and we made good progress on the small lanes and traffic-free roads to elevenses at the Flixton Buck. This is a unique pub, one of whose former landlords was Alan Breeze (you need a long memory for this) – who was a regular on the Billy Cotton Band Show in the early 1960’s. It also is the site of a very large, free aircraft museum. The old planes are a mix of military and civil aircraft parked on a large field with hangars at the rear housing many more aircraft, helicopters, engines, bombs, and most importantly, the “NAFFI” café. We supped tea at £1-a-mug and ate home made cakes served by some very fetching ladies wearing 1940’s period dress. I dallied a long time there, momentarily forgetting the ride but don’t regret that and I have vowed to return to this Aladdin’s Cave of aeronautical nerdiness and wonder. Back on the road we passed by Bungay and skirted Beccles before looping back to the south of the Waveney, stopping for further snacks at Fressingfield and afternoon tea once more at The Bank. The by now familiar and scenic run through Yaxley and Mellis completed the ride.

In the final reckoning, the “short” group had covered about 170 miles and the “long” one about 230. The beautiful farm lanes, traffic-free roads, big landscapes, villages, pubs, cafes, museums, windmills and churches made this tour fly past in a wave of enjoyment. Roll on the next.

Adrian

Sunday Ride 23 March 2014

Eight riders set off, into a stiff westerly breeze, having seen the Met Office forecast and therefore not expecting any bad weather before lunch. After the first squall at Writtle 2 turned back for lack of waterproofs and the rest donned our wet gear and headed for Sawbridgeworth, with the wind “on our noses” slowing us all the way. Tall black clouds towered up in front of us but there was plenty of sunshine amongst the showers and the woodland areas were lined with primroses and daffodils. You could sense that a little spring magic was happening.

Still under that spell, three of us carried on to lunch at Allens Green making a loop round Gangies Hill and riding the bridleway, (which was surprisingly firm and not at all difficult) – up to Perry Green. We arrived at lunch just before 1 p.m. finding the Queens Head welcoming as ever and excellent value. A large group of cyclists from the Bishops Stortford club gradually arrived, filling out the public bar area with wall-to-wall blue and red Lycra. After lunch we rode the small lanes, counting the steady stream of jets taking off towards us from Stansted, banking steeply into 180 degree turns low over our heads. This muse was sharply interrupted by loud thunder and a stinging hail, clipping our ears us from the left. We pressed ahead across Hatfield Forest and on to White Roding where we were thankfully able to dry out at Bretts Buttery before the last leg home.

Adrian