Since she retired, my good friend Jane seems to have been busier than when she was in full-time teaching. So, when the opportunity comes to go riding for a day with her, I’m always keen.
As luck would have it, another good friend, Rebecca, is soon to start a new job and she’d picked my brains about the possibility of an electrically-assisted steed for her new commute, which at 21 miles a day is rather longer than her current one. It turned out that she too was free on the day in question, and since both Jane and Rebecca live in different parts of London, it was the same train that delivered them both to Billericay, where I had been waiting for about 3 minutes.
We exchanged hugs, pleasantries and small gifts. I had brought a couple of jars of my home-made marmalade, which I know Jane thoroughly enjoys, and it was particularly appropriate for Rebecca on this occasion as her new job is working for the Women’s Institute. Then we set off in the cold, bright April sunshine for our first port of call, which, at around 8 miles, was the very good tea room at Blackmore, where we imbibed coffees of different types as well as some sustenance. It was definitely a gloves-on morning and the ladies nattered away like old friends, which I was sure they would. I didn’t think they had met before, but it seems that they had a brief exchange at the start of the Dunwich Dynamo 2016 in which the topic of conversation was Dangly Bits, and how unfortunate if such things get caught in your rear wheel.
Today was a good morning for wildlife, and also wildnotlife, as we saw a couple of dead badgers. There were the first chiffchaffs of the year, at least 2 buzzards, and I think we heard at least one more that we didn’t see, a muntjac, a hare and possibly the prize of the day, a stoat hurtling across the road in front of us just as we entered High Easter. I also heard a fair number of goldcrests.
As we progressed, so the day warmed up. We had planned to have lunch at the Viper pub, in Mill Green. It is a very pleasant, unspoiled, basic pub in the middle of wooded countryside and Jane had expressed an interest in visiting. Unfortunately, it’s not well-placed for a ride from either Billericay or Shenfield stations as it’s just too close to the start, or, indeed, finish. We decided that on this occasion, since we only had about 40 miles planned, that we would try it for a late lunch, even though there were only about another 6 miles to Billericay station. Sadly, this plan was confounded by the fact that during the week they stop serving food there at 2pm and we arrived just before 2.30. We had a drink and some crisps, and then adjourned to the Cricketers, just along the road, where we had another drink and some jacket potatoes. The advantage of doing it this way was that I got 2 pints instead of just the one.
The ride back to Billericay was almost uneventful. Jane decided that it would be a Good Idea to ride through the ford at Buttsbury, and so she did. She was rather taken aback by the strength of the current and had to push quite hard on the pedals in order to maintain her momentum, and the result of this was a very wet foot. However, she can’t have been that far from getting rather more than her foot wet…
42 miles done…