The Joy Of Essex Cycle Ride

I don’t only tour in Germany – I also cycle in England!

I’m a member of two cycling forums, CycleChat and YACF (Yet Another Cycling Forum), and have previously organised some cycle rides in my corner of Essex which people from those forums have attended.

Having not led a ride for a couple of years I thought it was about time so organised one for Saturday 22 June, entitled The Joy Of Essex.

This was my planned route (zoomable map)

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The plan was to meet at Manningtree Railway Station at 10 for the start of the ride, but I would be at the station an hour earlier for breakfast (they do an excellent cooked English breakfast).

Alfie waiting outside the Station Café

I headed in for breakfast; after all, I needed plenty of energy for a 34 mile ride…

Half Breakfast at the Café

I was soon joined by audaxer Lindsay who was having a rest day (just cycling 35 miles with me) as the following day she was doing a tandem trike time trial (she ended up with the Ladies Time Trial record!).

Before long we were also joined by Tim Hall, my husband James, friend Mark and a new face from CycleChat, Paul.

Paul, Lindsay, Tim, James and Mark

After a short session of trying on my spare CycleChat jersey, we headed off on the first leg of this epic ride, an eleven mile jaunt over to Boxted.

Tim Hall had his camera with him and always takes excellent pics – he’s given me permission to reproduce some of them in this blog post.

He took this one of my suntanned feet following my German cycle tour.

Auntie Helen’s feet – I need to give ’em a scrub!

We headed into Manningtree (the station is on the west side) to take the scenic route along the walls to look at the river Stour. We passed the Manningtree clock with its rather unusual number arrangement.

Manningtree Clock (photo Tim Hall)

We headed along the Stour briefly, turning south and up a bit of a hill once we reached Mistley Towers.

Mistley Towers (photo Tim Hall)

At the top of the hill we had to ride along the main A137 for a short while but the traffic wasn’t too bad. A group of six can spread out a fair bit but we kept a reasonable pace (although knowing Lindsay was on a rest day we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous).

We were soon back onto quiet country roads, taking Mill Hill towards Dedham and then heading along Long Road West to Lamb Corner before heading into Langham, where we briefly stopped at Boxted Airfield (which is in Langham), an old World War Two USAF base.

Bikes at the memorial

Boxted Airfield Plaque (photo Tim Hall)

From here it was just a couple of miles until we arrived at Fillpots Nursery, a garden centre with a very good café (although Mark seemed to have been overcharged for his scone).

I enjoyed a piece of sponge.

Oh look, a piece of cake!

It was nice and relaxing after the enormous energy expediture of the previous eleven miles!

Tea ‘n cake

We headed off for the next leg of our journey – another 11 miles. We aimed towards Dedham, pootling along the quiet country lanes that are my regular cycle routes.

Another random stop to look at something-or-other

We went down Gun Hill (which is always fun) and then turned off towards Dedham, riding through it and then back up the hill the other side.

Mark was finding it rather warmer than he had expected!

Mark seems to be overheating! (photo Tim Hall)

As we were cycling up the hill out of Dedham I saw my friend Kirstie’s parents. I reckon I see them about half of the times I visit Dedham. Kirstie’s mum said “I saw a group of cyclists and thought that it might be you!” and I pointed out that I was leading from the back (everyone except James was up ahead).

Tim took a great photo of James and I as we reached the brow of the hill!

Auntie Helen and James (photo Tim Hall)

After another 11 gruelling miles we arrived at The Haywain, one of my local pubs and probably my favourite.

Parking the bikes at the pub – and the sun has come out!

I decided to have a reasonably light lunch as breakfast and cake had not been that many miles ago so enjoyed a chicken and stuffing baguette.

Food!

After lunch Paul had to head back to Manningtree Station and Mark needed to get home so he and James headed back to our house (where Mark had parked his car), so now my little band of cyclists numbered just three as we forged ahead on our final 14 miles.

We headed south from the Haywain towards Little Bentley, again on roads I cycle several times a week. Tim liked the new use for the old BT phone box – a book swap and noticeboard.

Little Bentley phone box (photo Tim Hall)

We were riding into wind now along the NCN51, the route to Harwich that I took on the way to my Konstanz to Koblenz cycle tour a month ago. It was nice to be on quiet roads and able to chat.

At Wix we turned north, crossing under the A120 and following the undulating road to Bradfield Heath which then heads for Mistley Heath and we were soon whizzing down the hill towards Mistley Towers past the Edme Maltings.

We arrived back at Manningtree Station and had time for a cup of tea before Lindsay’s train to Bury St Edmunds and Tim’s train to London. After the cuppa we said goodbye and Lindsay headed to the other platform to await her train.

Waiting for the train

Tim’s train arrived and he put his bike in the Guard’s Van before heading towards the Big Smoke.

Tim heads to Lunnun

My ride to and from Manningtree increased the total ride distance for me to a heady 42.84 miles (which I covered in 3 hours 39 minutes, so an average of 11.7mph which is pretty good for a group ride). Sadly the relatively relaxed pace meant that I only burned 1,967 calories – I leave it up to you, having seen the photos of my breakfast, cake and lunch, whether I burned them off!

I’m going to re-run this ride (or a slightly longer version) in a month or so’s time as lots of people wanted to come on this one but were unable.

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