The Only Way is Essex (C#30)
Friday 12 August, 110 Miles
Assuming I completed it this ride would be the half-way point in my 60 Centuries Series. So I thought I would ring the changes and ride somewhere new. But where? Help was at hand in the shape of Chris Sidwells Best 100 Mile Bike Routes Book. Browsing the tome last night his description of one ride caught my eye. The key sentences said “… there are no long climbs and not too many steep ones, but there are plenty of hills. It’s what competitive cyclists call good racing country, …..” So that settled it. I was going to Halstead and do a ride around north Essex.
The weather forecast promised sunshine but that infernal wind still seems to be sticking around. I made my way over to Halstead and parked near to Sainsbury’s. Although it was described as a short stay car park, 6 hours parking cost £2.60 and it was free after 3:00pm on Fridays. So a bargain.
|Dedham Vale - not quite as Constable saw it!|
I got the bike off the roof rack, sorted everything out and was soon away heading roughly east out of Halstead bound for Bures and then Dedham. Following a couple of navigational challenges getting out of Halstead I was soon into open countryside, quiet lanes and spinning along over the many ups and downs with a tailwind and warm sunshine on my back. I passed through Bures for the first time and made a mental note to stop for a sarnie on the way back. (The route is a sort of sideways figure of eight, with Bures as the pinch point in the middle.) Then it was into Constable country as I passed through Dedham Vale. The village of Dedham was pretty busy, so apart from taking the obligatory photo I didn’t linger.
|The ssssily snake ssssuning itself|
Next up was one of those surprises that you sometimes get on rides. As I rode along a quiet lane approaching Higham I spotted a grass snake sunning itself on the tarmac. So I pulled up for a chat. I tried suggesting that the snake moved out of the road to avoid getting squashed but it told me it wasss enjoying the sssunssshine and the warm tarmac. After something of an impasse I grabbed a stick and gently tried to encourage it to move to the verge – which it did very reluctantly. Job done I thought so I set off again. Looking back over my shoulder the sssssilly snake had already started to slither back into the road. Oh well, I tried my best.
From Higham I rode north to Hadleigh and then turned westwards and into the full force of that wind. The next 15 miles or so weren’t particularly pleasant. A combination of a fairly busy road, the dreaded wind blowing directly at me and increasing heat meant that getting to Bures was something of a slog. So I ground out a rhythm telling myself that lunch awaited at Bures. Lunch was a delight. There was a lovely deli where the lady running it made me a lovely chicken and bacon granary sandwich. This together with a can of coke and a couple of bottles of cold mineral water to refill my bidons soon restored me.
|Duck End Cart Shed|
From Bures I carried on west to Finchingfield which was mobbed with people enjoying the sunshine and then at Radwinter it was time to turn south to Thaxted and Great Dunmow. From there it was an easy ride back to Halsted passing, along the way, through a succession of villages whose names end with the word ‘End’. There’s Bran End, then Duck End and finally Oxen End. There’s a magnificent wagon shed at Duck End which seems to be built around some sweet chestnut trees. And unlike Bran End and Oxen End there is no village sign for Duck End – well I couldn’t see one. I should also mention that this is Mark Cavendish country as he lives nearby. Unfortunately for me, the Manx Missile is in Rio getting ready to ride and hopefully win Olympic Gold in the Omnium. Bumping into him, not literally, could have made a very good ride a great ride!
After the Ends I was soon back into Halstead which was very busy with rush hour traffic. And a final few words of advice. Queue jumping the Friday worker heading home is a very risky activity. Be warned!