Today is my birthday and I decided to do a solo ride around my little corner of Suffolk.
My occasional cycling chum Mark had done something dodgy to his knees a few days ago so decided it was safest not to attempt a ride with me and do further damage. So a solo ride it was, going wherever I wished at whatever pace I wanted and stopping whenever I felt like it.
Unfortunately when you’re on your own it can be quite difficult to stop faffing and actually get out on the bike. I had planned to leave by 10am but it was 11:20 by the time I had opened my cards and presents, eaten some of the Toblerone for breakfast, walked the dog, faffed about a bit, fiddled with my trike’s seat and more.
The dog’s been in the dog basket on the back of the trike over the last few days and it has now developed a mystery creaking sound which I think might be something to do with the rack or the seat but I can’t seem to cure it. Before I set off I took the seat off, tightened everything up, put the seat back on, checked the rear axle was properly done up (as that can cause creaking sounds) and found that it was, so hoped I had solved the creak.
Oh well, I would just have to put up with it. It is only intermittent anyway, generally when I’m putting a bit more power through the pedals.
The forecast for today was rain until 10am followed by sunshine. However the skies above me hadn’t taken note of this and it was quite overcast. Never mind, I trust the BBC, I decided to set off with vest top, shorts and sandals.
I had plotted a route from home to Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford, Bures and home. This is a 53 mile loop which felt like quite a long way as I hadn’t left home as early as I’d hoped. There were lots of opportunities to vary the route as I was going along, however, so I set off looking forward to a Tea Room Cake Crawl for my birthday.
The first seven miles is part of my standard 20 mile route so it seemed to go very quickly. However the clouds were getting thicker and the rain started to come down as I headed through Dedham. In fact the rain got heavy enough that I sheltered under the A12 bridge at Stratford St Mary – dangerously close to a very good tea room, but I managed to keep myself out. I really didn’t need a Hall Farm Shop enormous cake slice after just seven miles.
After a few minutes the rain had died down enough that I continued on, up the hill into Higham and then taking the laney route from Higham towards Hadleigh which goes through Shelley. There are some beautiful views on this route, although as you can see the clouds still looked rather ominous.
I was reminded of what a wonderful green and pleasant land we live in.
The poppies beside the road were beautiful.
I enjoyed the speedy zoom down the hill towards Hadleigh. I usually take this road going in the other direction where it’s a horrible grind up so this was a nice change.
At the bottom I stopped to look at the scary clouds. One of the military helicopters was heading my way too (you can just see it in the photo).
I rode through Hadleigh, passing by a few more tea rooms (I make that seven in total I had passed by this point without succumbing) as I decided to stop at Hollow Trees which is at Semer, just past Hadleigh (and up a nasty hill). As that would be around one o’clock it would be a good time for lunch.
I crossed the busy A1071 and then headed up Semer Hill which is fortunately not quite so appalling travelling northwards.
At Hollow Trees I had a sandwich lunch and a cup of tea. As I had arrived it had started raining again and I hoped that an hour or so’s break would give the clouds time to go away. I’d done 15 miles by this point and had decided to definitely not go all the way to Long Melford as it would take me too long.
After Hollow Trees I headed up towards Lavenham but a bit of route planning suggested I should turn off before I get there and head straight down to Boxford. This would mean I didn’t have to go all the way to Sudbury and that rather hilly road down through Henny Street which, although beautiful, is hard work on recumbent legs!
So I turned southwards at Milden, relieved to get out of the westerly headwind, and pootled my way down some lovely country lanes to Groton and then Boxford.
I crossed the A1071 again (this is the Hadleigh to Sudbury road and rather busy) and then looked forward to the nice little road through to Leavenheath and Nayland. There were some Road Closed signs as I took the road but this doesn’t usually matter on a bike.
Unfortunately after a couple of miles it became clear that this time it did!
That is most definitely a closed road! I think it was for the pylon works that they’ve been doing for ages around here but was rather annoying as it meant that (a) I had to go back up a steep hill again, and (b) had to do a fairly long diversion. Silver lining to this cloud was that I would now just happen to pass by the Artisan Tea Room at Assington which does nice cakes.
So I wound my way back up the hill, then turned left to Hagmore Green on a road I have travelled many times but is rather mucky with lots of flints. I wasn’t too keen on getting a puncture but managed to avoid it.
I crossed the A134 which is theoretically a relatively direct route home but is a nastily busy road that I avoid if possible. Plus there aren’t any tea rooms that I know of along the A134 so I carried on to Assington.
I had a rather lovely piece of birthday cake at the tea room – summer fruit sponge.
You can just see Alfie through the windows there.
After my food I went to visit the Rheas that they have in a paddock out the back.
The Rhea got closer and closer and just after I took the next photo it pecked my camera, which was a bit of a surprise. Fortunately the camera survived!
As I set off after my tea and cake the weather had significantly improved – we now had the forecast sunshine. I had some wonderful views as I went past Arger Fen (which has fabulous bluebells earlier in the year). I liked this wonky gate with its views west.
The view eastwards at this point is of the grain store with the rather amusing topiary:
This actually says WAC for W A Church but it looks like WAG to me!
And then I was over the hill (in more ways than one!) and I looked down on the Stour Valley which presumably has Colchester in the far, far distance.
The zoom on my camera isn’t too good but you can see here the beautiful rolling fields of Suffolk and Essex.
And then it was the fast and a bit narrow zoom down the hill to join the Bures Road that heads east.
Except there was another wretched Road Closed sign at the junction with Bures Road (just on the Suffolk side of the Stour) and I thought it a bit risky to go that way in case the road was as closed as the previous road. I decided to be safe and keep going south to Wormingford instead.
Wormingford is at the top of a pretty fierce hill (fierce for Essex, anyway) but approaching it this way isn’t too bad. Once I crossed over into Essex my phone got some signal again – I had been in a communications blackout for most of the time I was in Suffolk, weirdly.
I went past the church in Wormingford with the attractive leaning brick wall (a health and safety nightmare, undoubtedly) and then turned eastwards across to Little Horkesley. This is a lovely quiet road and with the wind behind me and the sun shining it was lovely!
From there I headed to Great Horkesley, crossing the A134 and joining one of my standard cycling routes through Boxted, Langham, Dedham Heath, Ardleigh to home. I sped up considerably for the last nine miles as the roads are nice and flat and the tailwind was helping slightly.
In total I had done 45.5 miles and so very much deserved my birthday Toblerone and a cup of tea when I got in.