What a splendid day! The sun shone, the birds sang and the wind was light.
Mrs. Wow & I caught the train from Southend, joined another at Shenfield and met Scum of the Road and Jurek, both Witham-bound. We found Brain Road (has the highest IQ of any road in Britain) without any problem and began the day with introductions over a nice cup of tea.
Nutty was already there. He cycled, setting off from SE Essex at about the same time that we left home. How lovely it would be to be fit! Born Again Cyclist and Mrs BAC turned up next, and last, but by no means least, Fatters arrived.
Soon we were on the road. We headed north out of Witham towards White Notley, and on the whole the cagers drove in a manner inappropriate for the road conditions. Eventually, we turned left and things calmed down. The group had become split, with The Current Mrs. R leading and Oscar’s Dad guiding the back markers (Mrs Wow and me). The Born Agains were sort of caught in a no-man’s land and missed the left turn so Fatters went storming off to hunt them down and guide them back to the straight and narrow. It’s a marvellous trick if you can do it, but he rounded up not two lost sheep but three (he’s been taking lessons from Valiant)! We were joined by a lady on a very smart Cannondale who was out for her Sunday Training Ride, and she stayed with us all the way to our lunch stop in Little Baddow. Will she become an ACFer or did we frighten her off?
We headed through Ranks Green, where the Pretty Lady is no longer a pub but a private house, then through a ford in the Great Leighs area. I paid suitable homage as we neared the church: in 1965, the Rector of Great Leighs, the Rev. A. H. Franklin, was my Latin master. If he’s still around the old boy would be well over 100. His nickname was “Granddad” then, long before Clive Dunn sung a song of the same name.
From here we rode towards Terling and the second ford of the day. This was an altogether different kettle of fish from the first, and, having a reputation to keep up, Nutty briefly contemplated attempting it on his bike. What finally decided him against this course of action were the strains of “Farewell & adieu to you Spanish Ladies” wafting from a passing trawler.
So to Hatfield Peverel, where, in true ACF style, we took a wrong turning. No problem – a quick about turn and were were heading the right way again, and it wasn’t long before we were crossing the Chelmer by Paper Mill Lock and climbing That Hill. It’s the second time in a week that I have climbed it, and it holds no particular terrors for me now. At the top, we arrived at the lunch stop, the General’s Arms. Shepherd Neame “Late Red” bitter was the preferred option, accompanied by the Sunday Roast in my case, Mrs Wow opting for liver & bacon.
After this there was a very pleasant downhill run via Spring Elms Lane towards the Hoe Mill bridge at Ulting. From here, we approached Nounsley where there is another ford, but on this occasion it was not on our itinerary. Another visit to Hatfield Peverel was in order, after which it was an easy run back to Brain Road for tea and cakes.
The total ride was almost exactly 30 miles, which, when added to the 4 or so miles we cycled to and from stations, allowed me to pass two important milestones: today I completed my monthly target of 400 miles, and I also passed 2000 miles since registering with Cyclogs. Scum of the Road and Jurek both remarked how pleasant this bit of Essex is, and how it didn’t seem like 30 miles. That must be down to two factors: firstly, it was an excellent route chosen by Steve & Kirstie, and secondly, as ever, ACFers are ace company.
For photos, click here