The Joy Of Essex 2 Cycle Ride

I led a ride around my bit of north east Essex about six weeks ago and it was very well received, although lots of people who wanted to come weren’t able to. So I organised a similar ride for Sunday 11 August which more people were able to attend. It turned out to be a very enjoyable day – and one with three ICE Sprint trikes!

As usual the plan was to meet at Manningtree Station at 9am for breakfast, leaving for the ride at 10am.

When I arrived at 8:45am Delthebike was already there, having cycled all the way from Southend (50 miles). He left home at 5am!

I ordered my traditional Station Café Half Breakfast to set me up for the day.

MNG Station Breakfast

Del had already eaten his.

We sat around chatting as more people gradually arrived.

MNG Eating Breakfast

Then James arrived and sat next to Del – can you tell them apart?

MNG James and James

Delthebike took this pic of me before the start.

Auntie Helen and camera (photo courtesy of Delthebike)

By the time we were ready to go, a group of twelve of us, we had a good selection of bikes including three recumbent trikes, a Moulton, a fixed-gear bike, a Dawes tourer, two Thorns, a Mercian singlespeed, a Ridley carbon road bike and two audax-type bikes that are the same frame but different brands (a Hewitt Cheviot and a Byercycles Aravis).

MNG a row of trikes

Here we are ready to leave the station.

MNG Leaving The Station

And this was our route for the day:

Joy of Essex 2 Route

So we headed off through the centre of Manningtree, enjoying the faces of passers-by as this group of different vehicles (and three recumbents) passed through. There was another cycling group starting from Manningtree at 10am (apparently) and we saw several people in lycra who were probably heading for that ride. I think we may have eaten all their breakfasts!

We were a group of mixed abilities (as usual) but I thought it would be good to try to keep reasonably together so I stopped regularly for people to catch up.

A brief stop

Obviously on the hilly bits it was easier for each to go at their own pace – Graham on the ICE Sprint FX whizzed ahead on the uphills as his legs needed to get going, I trundled uphill at my usual pace.

Here’s Del’s picture of Mrs Wowbagger, Wowbagger, James and Mark underway

I had made a slight mistake with the route and so had to ensure Delthebike was with us when I went off route as he was following the route on his Garmin and stopping to take lots of photos – I didn’t want to lose him!

I liked this identical body language between Bob and JenM!

Body language

It’s an enjoyable ride from Manningtree up to Mistley, Bradfield Heath and then down into Wix. At Wix we headed towards Tendring, at one point stopping next to a field of onions which was being harvested. I like to pick up roadkill onions so may have to go back that way in the next few days to see if any have fallen off the tractor trailer!

We headed to Beaumont-cum-Moze and then headed inland again through some lovely quiet lanes until we arrived at Weeley. A quick spin up the hill out of Weeley over the railway line and we arrived at the Hilltop Garden Centre and its Floral Cafe.

The Garden Centre manager had said (when I visited earlier in the week) that we could take our bikes through the Staff Only bit to park them where we could see them whilst having our cake, so we wheeled our way up a little corridor and parked them on a grass patch near the cafe.

We went into the café and everyone lined up for their tea and cake.

Which cake to choose

It was a bit like school dinners!

School dinner queue

I had a piece of chocolate cake but unaccountably forgot to photograph it so here is a picture of the slice of cake I had on my recce trip to this tea room earlier in the week.

Hilltop cake

We were ready to leave at just past midday which was way ahead of my expected schedule. I phoned the Haywain, where we were going for lunch, to warn them we’d be about an hour. Andy the landlord was a bit concerned as they were due to be busy around 1pm (I’d originally expected us to get there at 2:30). He said we may have to wait a little while for food – I said we’d try to ride in a leisurely manner.

So we faffed around a bit more, Andrij using some insulating tape to stop a broken spoke from moving around too much. On we went, into a surprisingly fierce headwind as we rode towards Great Bentley.

The headwind made conversation a bit difficult but we pootled onward, enjoying the sunshine and the views, on this flatter section.

From Great Bentley we headed to Frating where James (my husband) took over the lead for a little bit, bringing us into Great Bromley and then up the back lane past the church to head to the Hawywain, which we reached at 1:20.

Sitting outside were TimC and his daughter who had ridden from Manningtree Station (Tim couldn’t make the beginning of the ride).

TimC, Wowbagger and Georgia (courtesy Delthebike)

We went into the pub and they had set aside a room for us which we all managed to squeeze in (there were 14 of us now and I had said 12 to the Haywain). We mostly ordered baguettes although Bob had a full roast dinner and a few people were still full of breakfast and cake and so just had beer.

Here is my roast chicken baguette – it was very nice!

Haywain lunch

After a leisurely lunch we pootled off, this time with TimC and Georgia along.

When we reached the end of Waterhouse Lane between Ardleigh and Great Bromley James and Mark turned off to go back to my house. James was having a bit of trouble with a painful knee so didn’t want to irritate it further by riding the extra 20+ miles.

Goodbye to James and Mark (photo courtesy of Delthebike)

We were down to 12 cyclists again.

We rode the back route through Ardleigh, passing the field of alpacas (we stopped and had a look at them), then heading to Lamb Corner where we took the road to Langham, crossing over the busy A12 on a bridge.

Delthebike had planned to ride home from somewhere round here but decided to keep going with us and headed down Gun Hill with us on the super-zoomy descent into Stratford St Mary.

From here we headed past Stratford St Mary Church and then rode downwind at a good pace into Dedham. The original plan was to stop at The Boathouse for an ice cream but we could see it was heaving so we carried on into Dedham Village, noticing the ice cream machine at the Essex Rose tearoom had no queue and there were seats outside. So we stopped, parked up all our bikes and queued for our 99 Vanilla Ice Cream.

Whilst we were queuing some other people arrived and took some seats but we were able to sit down and watch Bob fixing the puncture on his front wheel that he’d got just as we were arriving at Dedham.

Bob fixing his puncture with help and advice from 11 other cyclists… (photo courtesy of Delthebike)

Here are Mrs Wowbagger and Wowbagger with their ice creams.

Ice cream queue

It was then time to head off for the final five miles or so to Manningtree.

I’d chosen the route that avoids the A137 as much as possible; it’s a scenic route but pretty hilly so there was quite a lot of waiting at verges for people to catch up.


Whilst waiting at the corner of Jupes Hill and Mill Hill (next to Stour House in Dedham Heath) JenM noticed that Georgia’s fantastically yellow-accented bike had one black valve cap and one yellow one. It just so happened that Jen had a yellow valve cap on one of her wheels too, so a trade was done and bicycle/clothing matching was restored!

The final run down Cox’s Hill was great fun – I reached 36mph which was 4mph less than last week when I had a tailwind for it (and was chasing a velomobile).

Cox’s Hill is fun going this way! (photo courtesy of Delthebike)

We stopped for a cuppa at the station and talked to a Dutch family of a mother and three children who had cycled to Cardiff and back. The children looked fairly young (young teens) so this was a very impressive feat!

We waved goodbye to our plucky group of cyclists and then I rode home.

A very enjoyable day with great weather and good food!

One of the other recumbenteers, Graham, was videoing much of the day and he has put together a pretty long but good video of our day.

Graham Williams’ video

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