A Bit of Goat Mouth on the Norfolk Coast (C#45)
Saturday 24 September, 104 Miles
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I’m in Cromer with Daren (Nairo) Morgan getting ready for today’s century ride. This will be the third time Daren has joined me so it seems like he’s getting a taste for the longer distances. Our plan is to ride along the coast road to Heacham and then turn east and ride back inland to Cromer. The route is based on the one in Chris Sidwells book (Best 100 Mile Bike Routes). We’d been planning to ride here for a while. A few years ago I walked the North Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to Cromer so I was keen to try riding along the coast.
Before I start a ride I have a little routine I go through – checking my tyre pressures, pushing my bidons into the bottle cages, putting the essentials (phone, money, camera, gels etc.) into my jersey pockets, donning my helmet and so forth. The last thing I do is mount and switch on my Garmin. Now, I've been having some issues with the battery life on Garmin which seemed to expire after about 7 hours riding. (It’s supposed to be good for 15 hours use.) On the drive up here I'd been telling Daren that I’d got it all sorted and had eventually realised that having the backlighting and Bluetooth permanently turned on had been the cause of the trouble. Once the penny had dropped my battery life had shot up. Gone were the days when I’d have to worry about losing all my data at the end of a century ride. And the added bonus was that I could use the in-built navigation without any fear of the battery dying mid-ride. So I was feeling pretty smug about this, which Daren picked up on but was too polite to point out that I should have read the user manual in the first place.
So the last act of my pre-ride routine was to press the on switch of the Garmin which I duly did. Result – nothing. Zilch. Not a peep from the Garmin. It was completely dead. I was pretty sure that I had fully recharged it after my last ride so began to wonder if it was destined fro the Garmin cemetry, wherever that is. Nothing I did could bring it to life. So I was resigned to riding without the Garmin. All this meant that I would have to keep up with Daren for the whole ride and borrow his data when we finished. Daren is a rather faster rider than me, a petrol engine to my diesel motor, so I knew I was in for a serious workout when he set the pace.
We eventually rode off after my faffing around and for the first few miles I was not a happy rider. I found the absence of any information on speed, cadence, heart rate etc. fairly unsettling. And as the wind was blowing very strongly (c 18 mph with harder gusts) I was concerned about pacing my efforts. The added lack of a map also meant that I felt quite disorientated in terms of our progress and location. The coast road was quite busy so I couldn’t ride alongside Daren and sneak a look at his screen.
No matter, we made good progress with Daren pushing on quite hard and I was able to hang on the back. The winds were coming at us sideways which meant that we had to keep a good grip on the bars to avoid being blown over when we rode past gateways and gaps in the hedges. We were through Blakeney, Stiffkey (pronounced Stookey) and Wells pretty quickly and paused at Brancaster so I could get a photo of a rather fine old AA Phone Box. While we were stopped I gave the Garmin another nudge and, would you believe it, it sprang into life. The two downsides were that I had been ‘robbed’ of about 30 miles riding and the battery life was only 35%. So it rather looks like I hadn’t recharged it after all. Doh! So much for my earlier smugness. My late mother was fond of using a Creole expression for situations like this: “Mark, you’ll put goat mouth on it if you say things like that.” So, memo to myself : “In future be careful about what I say when I think I’ve ‘fixed” something.”
Leaving Brancaster us behind we carried on Hunstanton where we stopped at a café for a drink and a slice of rather tasty apple cake. A passer-by let slip that the café was soon closing so we’d better make the most of it while we could. Sadly, it’s likely that this will be our one and only visit here. Feeling suitably recharged we turned southwards and directly into the teeth of a gale as the wind speed had increased significantly as we had approached Hunstanton. But coming from the south at least it was a warm wind.
Passing through Heacham we turned east for what we thought was likely to be a fairly tough slog back to Cromer. And we weren’t wrong! Added to this were a few stretches on busy major roads which made the riding less than enjoyable. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom; we did have a few quieter and more scenic stretches including passing through Little Walsingham with its famous shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary. The village is often referred to as England’s Nazareth and pilgrims have been coming here since the eleventh century. Today seemed to be very busy with a steady flow of people who had come to visit and seek spiritual comfort.
Great Walsingham, just up the road, is a delightful village with some spectacularly half‑timbered buildings. Unfortunately, time did not allow us to have a look around as we still had about 40 miles to ride back to Cromer – with the prospect of about 20 miles into the strong wind. As it turned out, the ride wasn’t as tough as we had feared and we made good time to Aylsham before turning north for the final leg back to Cromer. This last stretch was pure bliss. with a tailwind we were able to wind it up and were riding at 20-25 relatively effortless miles per hour. What bliss. The only downside was that with about five miles to go my Garmin’s battery finally ran out. With a small kick up at the end we were soon back in Cromer, enjoying a welcome ice cream and posing for a photo with Cromer Pier in the background.