An Ugley and Nasty Ride (C#39)
Sunday 11 September, 107 Miles
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Today was a rather special ride for several reasons. First and foremost, I would be riding with Michael, Nick and Stuart. We first rode together just over 12 months ago on our Lejog adventure. Together with Andrew, Geoff and Vince we formed a septet and rode together for most of the 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats sharing the pain and the pleasure along the way. Since then, six of us met up in the Lake District in May and we will the riding together again next month on the Tour of the Pyrenees. (I‘ll be blogging it.) Stuart has crossed over to the dark side and has been focusing on running this year so our septet has been reduced to a sextet. But as he lives in Haverhill, our start point for today’s ride, he had decided to ride with us and it was a pleasure to catch up with him again. Stuart has also achieved a certain notoriety for his cycling kit – and earned the nickname ‘Poison Frog’. He didn’t disappoint us today! Michael has named us ‘The Elites’ and there has been lots of banter about who is Elite A and who is Elite B. The distinction is based on our hill-climbing performances – or lack of.
The route which I had planned for today took in some new riding territory as we headed west into Hertfordshire. So that was an added interest factor. I had also worked out that we would be riding in 4 counties (Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire) which is a rare opportunity on a circular ride. Also, we would be visiting a couple of intriguing places which had caught my eye a while back whilst trawling the Interweb.
So we all gathered in Haverhill at Nick’s house and were quickly ready to set off. In a bid to get the jump on us and become the first and only member of Elite A+ Michael had ridden across from Ipswich and intended to ride back so that would add another 80ish miles to his total for the day! We were soon out of Haverhill before turning west at Finchingfield. We had a minor navigational moment at Great Sampford where the route I had plotted went down a track which the other three followed. I stuck to the tarmac and we were soon reunited.
From there we sped across to Newport turning south to ride parallel to the M11 before crossing under it to arrive at Ugley Green. Although it’s a fairly nondescript place, the name had fascinated me so I wanted to get a photo of the village sign for the collection. There’s also an adjacent hamlet of Ugley (without the green) which is even more nondescript and doesn’t appear to have a village sign but does boast a pub, amusingly named The Beautiful Ugley Chequers! And just to avoid any misunderstanding, some post ride research on the Interweb told me that the name Ugley is derived from Old English meaning a woodland clearing of a man named Ugga. So there you go!
We carried on westwards through some lovely gently rolling countryside under warming sunshine heading towards the next point of interest. After a game of chicken to get across the busy A10 dual carriageway we arrived at Great Munden and turned up a small lane to reach the hamlet of Nasty. It’s a sleepy little place and not actually that Nasty. But I bet the locals get a tad fed up with people like us turning up to get the photo. And readers, in the interests of authenticity, Nasty is derived from the Anglo-Saxon æt þǽm éastan hæge, meaning "at the eastern hedged enclosure”.
Leaving Nasty behind us, we then headed towards the edge of Stevenage and the most westerly point of the ride. By now we were keen to stop for a drink and after a couple of false starts we reached the Rising Sun at Halls Green where it was coffees all round. The sight of us in somewhat sweaty lycra prompted one of the staff to insist that we entered by the back door and not through the restaurant. There was a large outdoor beer garden so we were able to slurp our coffees there without causing too much upset to the other patrons. I did notice that we received a lot of surreptitious glances from the people around us. Some were along the lines of ‘What nasty people those cyclists are’ (if only they knew) as well as a few envious ones from people who would much rather be out keeping fit than indulging in the massive Sunday roasts on offer.
Suitably refreshed we set off again heading into the rolling chalk countryside. Passing Cromer Windmill I managed to persuade Stuart to stop and take a photo of me posing in front of it. Apparently this is the only surviving windmill in Hertfordshire. A windmill has stood on the site for over 800 years. The present one was built in 1860 after its predecessor was blown over. From there we carried on eastwards enjoying the ride in rather warm, and welcome sunshine.
Approaching the M11 near Saffron Walden I was riding with Michael while Nick and Stuart were a bit off the back. Suddenly we were confronted by a horrendous sight. Another rider was approaching us in a virtually identical Poison Frog outfit to Stuart’s. Michael, who has clearly studied these things, informed me that this was the male plumage; Stuart’s was the female version (the orange arm bands being the distinguishing mark). Well we kept pedaling on, not wishing to see if a consensual act would occur. When they eventually caught us up, Nick let slip that Stuart had indeed got quite excited!
After a quick pause in Saffron Walden to get some water we headed off for Haverhill and the end of the ride. With one last rise, Nick called it a hill, we were soon in Linton and virtually at the end of the ride. Well except for Michael who had another 40 miles to go to reach Ipswich. This was a truly memorable day out with good friends and I was chuffed that they had ridden on one of my century rides. I’m looking forward to our next outing – in Spain. Hasta la próxima vez.
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