An Autumnal Ride to The Naze (C#43)
Wednesday 21 September, 117 Miles
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I stuck my head out the back door this morning and was greeted by the sight of my breath on the air and the remnants of some overnight mist. Brrr! I’m pretty certain that autumn has now arrived. Well, we can always hope for an Indian summer. But do you know what an Indian summer is and where the phrase comes from? I wasn’t that sure so I did a bit of research on the interweb.
Since 1916 the Met Office has defined it as “a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November.” So let’s all keep our fingers crossed so that we can enjoy some extra riding time. The origins of the phrase are not entirely clear. The balance of opinion is that it refers to conditions that enabled Native American Indians to continue hunting beyond September. The first record of the term being used dates from 1778 in a letter from a Frenchman called John de Crevecoeur dated 17 January 1778. In his description of the Mohawk country he wrote "Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warm which is called the Indian summer." There you go.
|Great Finborough church spire peeping through the morning mist|
So whatever the terminology, the weather today hinted at excellent riding conditions. With a bit of luck, as the sun rose the mist would clear and temperatures would rise. And, as far as I could tell there was no prospect of rain. So I set off hoping that I wouldn’t be disappointed. As I rode along there were some excellent views with villages, and especially their church towers and spires, poking out above the low lying mist. However, as I headed southeast towards Bildeston and Hadleigh the mist got thicker and became more fog-like with visibility reducing. And there was I riding without any lights. Passing through Hadleigh though the foggy mists disappeared completely. It was almost like going through a door from a dark room into a well-lit one. The sun also decided that it was time to come out and play as the clouds lifted. The early morning chill had gone and I could feel the rays warming my forearms. Time to remove my arm warmers. What bliss!
Crossing over the A12 and passing through Manningtree I was into countryside that I’ve never ridden in. I was soon at Mistley with its rather splendid warehouses close to the quayside on the banks of the River Stour. The other rather striking architectural feature are the Mistley Towers which are all that remain of the church which was originally designed in the 1770’s by Robert Adam – one of only two churches that he was responsible for. Sadly, the main body of the church was demolished in 1870 when a new, larger church was built nearby. Only the two towers now survive from the original church.
Putting Mistley behind me I rode on to Walton-on-the-Naze on the coast. Although I didn’t stay there very long it struck me as quite a nice place; a smallish, intimate seaside town with a distinctive character. Well, that based on only a few minutes observation so I could be well wide of the mark. The pier is the second longest in Britain. Just down the coast is Clacton-on-Sea which, as it’s a much larger place, I’m guessing is more like the typical seaside resort. Time didn’t allow me to extend the ride to Clacton so I’ll have to sit on the fence for now in terms of expressing any opinions.
Leaving the coast behind I turned northwest and rode inland, passing to the north of Colchester and back into south Suffolk. From Dedham to Lavenham I passed through a succession of extremely pretty and largely undeveloped villages and hamlets. Higham, Thorington Street, Stoke-by-Nayland and Boxford were each lovely. This was delightful countryside and certainly put a spring into my pedalling as the miles clocked up. I must make a point of coming back and spending more time in this area, riding round the lanes. Once again, I was surprised at how much variety there is in Suffolk’s countryside – it’s just waiting to be explored. Well, by me at least! So, watch this space …….