Exmouth Exodus 2016

I’ve done this overnight ride half a dozen times but was very undecided about whether to participate in this one because of the dire weather forecast. Wonderful summer weather was due to be interrupted by an unseasonably deep depression coming in from the Atlantic bringing with it strong winds and rain particularly to western areas. I knew that 107 miles including significant hills would be a challenge for a 72 year-old even in benign conditions, but finally decided to give it a go.
I had planned to use my faster Focus road bike but given the forecast opted for the heavier Thorn and took additional clothing in a pannier. I ended up with more than I needed to carry but annoyingly failed to pack my cycling shoes! This meant doing the ride in trainers which didn’t help my progress.
My wife dropped me off at Salisbury en route to our destination for a three night break in Sidmouth and I took the train to Bath for the start on Saturday evening. By the time I arrived there the rain was teeming down and the wind picking up so I decided to make a slightly early start at about 9pm.
The cycle path to Wellow is a very enjoyable ride including two long former railway tunnels which have been adapted really well. This year they also provided a welcome mile or two in the dry! After Wellow some lumpy sections lead to a long slow climb to the top of the Mendip Hills above Cheddar Gorge. I found this quite hard not just due to the rain but the stiff wind was a south-westerly, ie a persistent headwind. The wind conditions in the Gorge itself were very tricky, gusting from all directions as it funnelled up this famous topographical feature.
The brilliant Cheddar Scouts fed and watered us in their hut before we headed out across the Somerset levels (which aren’t really level at all). Here there was little shelter from the wind and it was quite a grind to the next stop at Fivehead village hall. Here volunteers had prepared hot food for us and I am very appreciative of the commitment of the helpers who had given up a night’s sleep for us.
I spoke to my wife from here and said I was feeling very tired and doubted whether I would finish the ride. However I was very reluctant to give up and carried on, heading for the big climb up Blagdon Hill on to the Blackdowns. Day had broken by then and the rain had virtually stopped. The headwind was still there however and was especially hard-going across the open terrain at Smeatharpe aerodrome.
A short tea stop at Luppitt Common was followed by the steep descent to Broadhembury and onwards through Ottery St Mary to Otterton where my wife met me before the final climb through Yettington. With support available I jettisoned much of the raingear, tools and spares to help me on this climb.
I was greatly relieved to arrive in Exmouth after my slowest Exodus yet. I had met some great people over the 107 miles and (in hindsight!) really enjoyed the event. The weather was a challenge to say the least but they are guaranteeing good weather next year, so I just might be back for one more. I slept for most of the rest of Sunday.
I gather well over 200 people registered in advance for the event but only 120 did it. I guess the weather put a lot of people off turning out. Quite sensible, but it is sometimes nice to feel you’ve done something despite the conditions.
Here is a link to my Strava record: https://www.strava.com/activities/686268300

Martin

5 June 2016 Sunday Ride to Bures

On a beautiful summer’s day I was disappointed to find only five riders at the start for our ride to Bures but by elevenses our numbers had swollen to eleven.

From Chelmsford we headed to Channels and Terling, before taking part of the NCR 16 route through Witham to reach Rivenhall.  We followed the back road along the bottom of Braxted Park to Tiptree for elevenses at Perrywoods.  My walnut and stilton scone was fresh from the kitchen and absolutely delicious, even by their usual high standards.

All eleven of us set off towards Bures with a brief stop for a photo at Aldham Church when Ken and Derek left us heading for home.

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After a short ‘puncture stop’ we arrived at The Eight Bells in Bures just after 1pm but were warned of a longish wait for food as they were very busy.  We secured a large table in the corner of the beer garden and had plenty of time to put the world to rights and discuss the EU referendum.  We were joined by Alan and Clive from the Colchester group and later a group from Suffolk CTC arrived.

In my last post I was extolling the virtues of the pub in Lamarsh so I was sorry to hear that the Suffolk group had been scheduled to go there but found it had closed.  It’s such a shame to see excellent pubs like that one closed.

On our way home we again stopped for tea at the delightful National Trust property Paycocks in Coggeshall  where they managed well coping with nine cyclist descending on the small café.

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I had 67 miles on my cycle computer on returning back in Chelmsford.

Here is a link to my strava record:

https://www.strava.com/activities/599584807

 

Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Ride to Lamarsh 1 May 2016

A frosty start to the day, but by 9am the brilliant sunshine had warmed things up nicely and six of us set off from the City Hall heading for elevenses at Greenstead Green farm shop.  We kept up a reasonable pace and arrived there just after 11am.

Sadly the service there left something to be desired with the orders arriving incomplete and cutlery only provided as an afterthought (and with some prompting).  My toasted teacake was the worst I have ever had – dry and leathery.  You could say ‘stale’!  I registered my opinion with the girl at the till who said she would inform the chef.  Personally I can’t imagine any chef having played any part in creating such a teacake!

Norman went back but we were joined by John on his recumbent trike for the next stage to Lamarsh via Pebmarsh.  At the Lion Inn we had excellent service, great beer and an enjoyable lunch with no ‘sorry we only do Sunday roasts’ to cope with.  This really is a great pub for a lunch stop with excellent views across the Stour valley.

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The narrow back-roads I had chosen for the ride back to White Colne were not really ideal for John’s trike but luckily we didn’t meet any oncoming traffic on the narrowest sections.  John had inadvertently taken a route of his own down into Earls Colne but we all managed to meet up again for tea at the Paycocks NT property in Coggeshall – a new watering hole for our group and an excellent one at that.  The garden looked spectacular with a wonderful display of tulips.

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Tom and John left us to make their ways home and the rest of us made our way back to Chelmsford via Kelvedon and Wickham Bishops. 

A great day’s cycling under sunny skies.  I recorded just over 60 miles.

Here is a link to my Strava record:  https://www.strava.com/activities/562228744

 

 Martin

Sunday Ride to Marks Tey and Little Totham 13 March 2016

A rather misty start, but soon the sun was breaking through and five of us set off in good spirits from City Hall heading for our elevenses at Marks Tey. We do it so often that I’m getting a bit tired of the obvious route through Boreham, Wickham Bishops and Tiptree, so I took a route via Channels, Terling and Witham where we tried out the impressive new pedestrian/cycle bridge over the mainline railway at the North end of Witham. The extended ramps are very cyclable and this is an excellent new facility.

We then tried an off-road link at Coleman’s Farm Little Braxted to reach the road from Rivenhall towards Tiptree. Unfortunately there is a short section which is quite rutted and a bit slippery so you could say my ‘name was mud’ but the others were very kind to me, withholding what I suspect were their true feelings on the matter!

The rest of the ride via Kelvedon, Messing and Copford was fairly uneventful although the unremitting NE wind made it quite hard work and we didn’t arrive at Marks Tey until 11.30am.

The car park at the Diner was full of classic american cars which provided some interest for those who like that sort of thing.

We were pleased to find Dave R there, only a few days after his ‘op’. He seems to be recovering well and was in good spirits. Eric and Heather had cycled there on their own, maybe having had a premonition that I might be going off-road!

Seven of us then went on towards our lunch destination at the excellent Swan pub in Little Totham, although three peeled off to return home before we got there. I’m getting a bit slower on hills these days and the others went ahead a few miles before we reached Little Totham. They did not know my route however so we ended up getting separated. Our caring group secretary was waiting for me on the ‘unplanned route’ but I was already at the pub! Thank goodness for mobile phones.

John B met us at the Swan and we all cycled back to Chelmsford via a tea stop at Bunsey Downs having covered about 56 miles.

Here is a link to my Strava record: https://www.strava.com/activities/516114554

Martin

3 January 2016 – Sunday Ride to Maldon

“Cycling in the Rain” came to me on this ride as a variation on the well known Gene Kelly song. I’m just not sure that the following line about being happy again was quite appropriate though!  Yes, it rained from start to finish and the planned ride to lunch at Stow Maries was curtailed by agreement ‘nem con’!

Three of us were determined (or crazy) enough to go to the start and we agreed we would go to the Maldon elevenses stop by my planned route and review then.  This route was a bit longer than strictly necessary to get to Maldon and took in the cycle route to Hammonds Lane, then via Little Baddow, Nounsley, Ulting and Langford Park.  Given the conditions perhaps Langford Park was not such a great idea but we made it through with a bit of slipping and sliding!

After some debate we decided to take the direct route up Market Hill to the Fig Tree café in Maldon.  I am so glad I had specified a really low bottom gear on my Thorn bike or I might not have made it without dismounting.

The Fig Tree café is excellent.  We always get good service there, the quality is good and the prices very reasonable.  We were pleased to find Dave R already having his tea and teacake.  We managed to spend a happy hour there putting the world to rights before venturing out again into the rain for our ride back to Chelmsford via Danbury and Sandon.

I arrived home at about 1.15pm with 32 miles on the clock.

Here is a link to my Strava record:

https://www.strava.com/activities/462094234

Martin

 

 

8 November 15 – Sunday Ride to Hatfield Broad Oak

A mild day with only light wind attracted 10 riders to the start at City Hall. A quick voted resulted in a clear decision to stop at 11am for 2 minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday wherever we were.

We set off on the normal route via Fyfield and Moreton arriving for elevenses at 10:50 at the Harlow Garden Centre. There we were joined by Chris and Gillian and I was concerned that serving 12 people might mean we were in the queue or being served at 11am. This could have been awkward if no-one else was interested in the 2 minutes silence. In the event we were all served very efficiently and were at our tables at the anointed hour. It was great to see and very moving that at 11 am Big Ben struck from a radio behind the counter and all staff and customers stood and remained silent. Brilliant – I needn’t have worried.

9 Riders went on to lunch at the Cock Inn in Hatfield Broad Oak. The route took in a couple of ‘traffic-free’ sections at Matching and after Hatfield Heath which both worked out fine.

A stop for tea at The Snug in High Easter and then home well before dark after about 53 miles.

Here is a link to my Strava record:

https://www.strava.com/activities/428939283

Martin

Ride to Lamarsh 1 October 2015

We’ve had some beautiful weather this last few weeks and today was no exception. A chilly start but then hardly a cloud to be seen all day and only a light southerly wind in the afternoon.  However this only attracted 5 riders to the start, although a total of 8 were involved at some point during the day.

The route to elevenses at Greenstead Green took us via Channels, Terling, Cressing and Stisted.  The countryside looked at its best in the misty morning sunlight but it seems we were all a bit ‘head down’ as we completed the 22 miles to elevenses by 10.50.  There was a ploughing competition going on at Greenstead Green and the second-hand tool sale attracted a lot of interest from our group.

Looking for bargain seconhand tools

Looking for bargain seconhand tools

The route via Colne Engaine and Daws Cross on quiet lanes to our lunch stop at the Lion Inn at Lamarsh was particularly enjoyable.  A shame that this otherwise excellent pub doesn’t serve sandwiches on Sunday lunchtimes.  Nevertheless the starters offered were of good quality and the beer pretty good too.  John and Margaret were due to meet us there but a puncture en route had delayed their arrival.  Unfortunately it was rather a quick ‘hello and goodbye’ as we were ready to leave.

We intended to have tea at Perrywoods but on passing Inworth Chruch we noticed there was a flower festival on.  We stopped there and were offered excellent tea and a huge choice of cakes for a very modest contribution.  The highlight though was probably a chat with a lady who was very knowledgeable about the architecture and development history of this church.

Alter flowers in Inworth Church

Alter flowers in Inworth Church

Then it was back to Chelmsford for an early finish with 62 miles completed.

Here is a link to my Strava record of the ride:  https://www.strava.com/activities/406258261

Martin

Dunwich Dynamo overnight ride 4/5 July 2015

Having already done 4 ‘Dun Runs’ I really didn’t intend to do a fifth.  But then I thought I missed last year for family reasons and hadn’t therefore done it since passing my 70th  ‘milestone’.  The weather forecast was good so it seemed like a challenge I couldn’t ignore.  My wife was happy (I use the word loosely) to get up at the crack of dawn to collect me on Sunday, so I made a late decision to go for it.

I had a good ride and arrived at Dunwich at 5.40am feeling not too much the worse for wear.  I guess being a natural insomniac has some advantages, but 115 miles is by far my longest ride since the Exmouth Exodus last year.

I have mixed feelings about this event.  It really has outgrown itself and has become too much the province of the speed merchants.  As a touring type I feel rather intimidated as one of these groups comes pounding up behind in the dark and races past like a swarm of wasps, often leaving me little wriggle-room to avoid road defects.  And whereas on my first Dynamo in 2007 I had some spells of peace and solitude to enjoy the still of the night, this simply doesn’t happen much now.  Interestingly most of these fast groups seem to pass you numerous times as they keep stopping whether for punctures or to feed.

Also I really didn’t appreciate the half a dozen riders I saw and heard, who were playing music from portable players on their racks or in their rucksacks.  It brought out the worst of the ‘Victor Meldrew’ in me!

One rider came alongside and asked me if I ride with SEGS.  I told him no Chelmsford, but I do know quite a few riders in SEGS.  Turned out he was Peter Wotherspoon’s son-in-law and it was good to have a chat with him.

I had a few stops on the way, first to consume my own food at Dunmow by the doctor’s pond, then at Sudbury in a pub which I’d better not name as it was 1am!  My last stop was at a wayside property near Helmingham which offered a very welcome bacon butty.

Here is a link to my Strava record: https://www.strava.com/activities/339291250

A few photos:

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My lighting and navigation kit

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At London Fields for start

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More riders at London Fields

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Sunset near North Weald (see also sunrise below)

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Bacon Butty stop near Helmingham

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Sunrise over Suffolk (how can “pink sky ant night etc” be right? Sunset and sunrise were both pink!)

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Made it! Breakfast at Dunwich

 

Martin

Sunday Ride to Widdington 21 June 2015

Was it the overcast sky or the fact that it was Father’s Day which depleted our turnout today to eight riders?  A shame really as we had an excellent day’s ride and the sun progressively worked it’s way through.

We took the usual route via Roxwell, Bird’s Green and Matching Green to our elevenses stop at Hatfield Heath Post Office café.  Coming into the village we found the ‘festival’ in full swing and had visions of the café being over-run with hungry and thirsty festival-goers.  However the opposite was the case and we were served quite quickly, although had we arrived 10 minutes later our experience might have been different.

Only three of us went on to lunch at Fleur-de-Lys in Widdington where we chose from an excellent menu of light bites/starters. Dave and I both had the Camembert with garlic, redcurrent ‘jam’ and delicious granary bread:

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From there we took the off-road track past the Henham mast and then to Broxted, Molehill Green and High Roding to our tea stop at the excellent ‘Snug’ café at Lodges in High Easter where we met a number of other cyclists including a group from Maldon Cycling Club.

Thence back to Chelmsford via the Chignals having completed 100Km or 63 miles.

Here is a link to my Strava record: https://www.strava.com/activities/330057173

Martin

Sunday Ride to Rickling Green 26 April 2015

A dank drizzly cold miserable morning came as a shock after weeks of dry sunny weather and this clearly took a toll on the turnout. Only four of us set off from the City Hall in these abject conditions and I was finding my choice of shorts and more particularly mitts rather than full gloves were somewhat misguided!

We were led by Diana via High Easter little Canfield, Bacon End and the far side of Stansted airport to a welcome elevenses stop at Stansted Mountfitchet after 26 miles. Peter Tibbett joined us there having cycled down from Cambridge and consumed a breakfast and two coffees in an hour-long wait for us to arrive.  He joined us for the ride to Rickling Green for lunch by which time the drizzle had stopped but it was still very cold.

Diana kindly treated us to a round of drinks to celebrate her birthday the next day and we enjoyed our lunch break in the Cricketers Arms.

After lunch we headed for Great Dunmow for tea before the final leg back to Chelmsford where we arrived at about 5pm having covered about 62 miles.

Link to the Strava record: https://www.strava.com/activities/293018109

Martin