It’s Graham’s birthday. He’s 22 and about to start is 3rd year at Essex Uni. He suggested that I join him for a ride from Wivenhoe (where he lives when at Uni) to Southend (where he lives when he’s with us). Last night I took the train from Prittlewell to Wivenhoe, and then we went for a curry.
This morning we started riding. There were bits of the route home with which I was not familiar, so I printed off a few maps fro streetmap.co.uk. We were due to set off at around 8.30 as I had to be back in Southend in plenty of time to get ready for a 3 p.m. teaching appointment. The first 15 minutes were spent pumping up Graham’s tyres. His bike is a “Uni Special” which we bought a year ago for next to nothing. It was new, but is so cheap that it’s not likely to get nicked, and if it did you just wouldn’t bother the insurance company.
We followed NCN Route 51 for a while and ended up in Colchester. It was pleasant, with the tidal stretch of the Colne to our left, and the railway and Essex Uni to our right. We then hit a wall, or more accurately, a fence, where some building work was going on. We were forced onto nasty busy roads around the Colchester port area and gradually left the traffic behind as we approached Rowhedge and Fingringhoe, a placename in which my son and his friends take a puerile delight.
Graham was flagging rather, and it turned out that he was suffering some after-effects from the previous evening’s curry. Eventually these effects wore off and we made better progress. We went through Abberton, Peldon, Little & Great Wigborough, Salcott-cum-Virley, Tolleshunt d’arcy, Goldhanger, Heybridge and Maldon. I cycled up the steep hill from Heybridge to Maldon, and when I reached the top I sat on the wall round the churchyard to wait for Graham, who was walking. An elderly woman approached and congratulated me on my achievement – “It’s all I can do to walk up!” – and I graciously accepted her accolades. Graham, meanwhile, had arrived and informed me that the only reason he hadn’t cycled up was that he can’t ride as slowly as I can and didn’t feel like overtaking in heavy traffic!
From Maldon we negotiated the nasty A414 and then left the main road through Hazeleigh and towards Cock Clarks. I noticed that Graham was flagging a fair bit now, and when he caught up with me at the top of one of the hills, he was evidently in pain as a result of a poor bike and a lousy saddle (his bike had an old Brompton saddle on it, but one of which the foam had torn and bits of it were hanging off). We went through Bicknacre and I offered the option of one of the Rettendon pubs and a phone call home for some motorised support.
While I was waiting for Graham near the end of Buckhatch Lane, a group of three cyclists went along the main road ahead of me. One of them looked dangerously like John Steer, one of the CTC top dogs locally. At about the same moment, SJS Cycles telephoned to say that my Thorn Raven Sport Tour was ready and when would i like it delivered? Tomorrow of course!
The pub and lift option became a necessity as poor old Graham was getting slower and slower and there was a danger of me being late for my teaching appointment, so we opted for the Wheatsheaf at Rettendon. Normally I would have gone for beer, but not when teaching later, so it was soft drinks only. We must have been in the pub for well over an hour, but we were the only customers. The Wheatsheaf used to be a really nice little Ridley’s pub, but I can’t see them surviving on the sort of custom they had today. How much of that is due to the Greene King takeover and closing the brewery, I wonder?
Eventually our chauffeurs arrived and we were on our way.
Footnote: shortly after this ride, the Rettendon Wheatsheaf was boarded up and has not re-opened.