East Suffolk Sunshine Sing Song (C#59)
Monday 28 November, 103 Miles
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Last night’s weather forecast was full of promise and it certainly did not disappoint. Even though it was dark when I got out of bed I could tell that this was going to be one of those epic autumn days that are perfect for riding. By this I mean dry, light winds, clear skies, sunshine, cold and crisp air but with no frost or ice to worry about. The sort of air that rasps your throat and tingles your cheeks, but in a nicely invigorating way!
I’ve had my eyes on another of those rides in Chris Sidwells ‘Best 100 Mile Bike Routes’ book – around East Suffolk. So with such perfect conditions today was the day for it. And to get the full Sidwells experience I decided to start where he did, in Diss instead of starting from home. So at 8:15 I rode out of Diss heading east towards Stradbroke and Framlingham. Riding directly into the bright sunshine proved to be a bit of challenge and I regretted not putting on a cap with a peak in place of my standard Castelli thermal skully. (I’ve since ordered one online.) Even with sunglasses it was occasionally quite difficult to see the road surface clearly so my strategy of avoiding very minor lanes in winter meant (hopefully) that I wouldn’t have too many potholes to contend with. Whilst on the subject of road surfaces, the dry conditions meant that I could enjoy that delightful slightly sticky sound of tyre rubber on tarmac which always gives me a buzz. At times like this I can forget the Garmin numbers and revel in the sounds of progress being made as I turn the cranks.
Reaching Eye I re-joined my ‘standard’ coastal route. But what surprised me was how different it felt. Starting from Diss, instead of from home, meant that I had shaved about 10 miles off the route at this point. And although the scenery was the same as usual, the ride felt very different. I guess this was the subconscious effect of reaching Stradbroke and Framlingham about 30 minutes sooner than I normally would. An illusion of course, but a very pleasant one.
Once I reached Framlingham I headed on to Saxmundham, crossing the A12 which for me is a bit like entering a new country. This is simply because I don’t ride on the eastern side of the A12 that often (outings to Orford excepted). As I headed towards Leiston I could see the Sizewell reactor dome looming menacingly in the background. Then I soon reached Aldeburgh, the first of my targets for the day. Approaching the seashore I could hear the sound of the surf crashing onto the shingle. It’s one of those unique sounds that I always associate with happiness. Being born and growing up in the West Indies, the beach was a constant feature of daily life. The end of the school day was often followed by a trip to the nearest beach for a swim. One school I went to was within sight of a lovely sandy beach and I regularly used to get told off for looking out the window dreamingly when I should have been looking at either the blackboard or my textbooks! Today Aldeburgh was quiet with just a few dog walkers on the front. There was quite a lot of activity around several of the fishermen’s huts so I imagine that they had recently landed their catch. The one I paused outside had a mouth watering list of marine delights on offer. Sadly, transporting a supply of fresh wet fish on my Impulso was beyond my capabilities.
From Aldeburgh I headed up the coast through Thorpeness with its delightful Meare and the House in the Clouds. The House in the Clouds was originally built in 1923 as a water storage tower. Nowadays it’s available as a holiday rental (the water tank was removed in 1979). It’s not a cheap place to stay though – rentals range from around £2,000 per week to over £3,000 in peak season (including Christmas and New Year). So I’ll just enjoy the view.
Leaving Thorpeness I rode back to Leiston before heading north, and parallel to the coast towards Southwold. By now the sun had worked its magic and it had warmed up a bit (to about 5°C). I was enjoying the ride and feeling really happy. Sometimes when I’m this happy I’m prone to bursting into song. At this point readers I must come clean and tell you that I am not known as a tuneful singer. Quite the opposite in fact. But exercising my lungs when I’m happy is something I enjoy doing. Normally this isn’t an issue as there’s no one around to hear me. But today was rather different. As I rode towards Southwold I had been drawing on a wide repertoire. Stopping at some temporary traffic lights I was so wrapped up in my happiness that I carried on singing without being that aware of what I was doing. Something made me look over my shoulder to see a silver haired woman in a soft top sports car who was grinning at me. How embarrassing! She then shouted at me to say how happy I seemed; cycling must be the reason. I smiled inanely and fortunately the lights changed so I could move off without having to respond with some ‘clever’ comment. As she passed me after the traffic lights I received a lovely smile and a wave.
Unlike Aldeburgh, Southwold, which was my other goal for the day was bustling with activity. There seemed to be some sort of small market in the town centre and the stall holders were doing a brisk trade. I headed along the North Parade pausing to take a photo of the Impulso and the pier. Then it was time to continue onwards to Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and finally to Diss. But let me share a little secret with you. Leaving Southwold I had to stop at that same set of traffic lights. And do you know what? I gave the citizens of Southwold another nice little ditty. Well, it would have been rude not to. Sadly, or even perhaps fortunately, this time I had no audience.