A Seaside Century (LGD - 365 Days)
Saturday 13 May 2017, 102 Miles
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Today was a significant day and I decided to mark the occasion with a ride to the coast. Why was it significant? Well, you’ll have to read on. All will be revealed – eventually. My coastal destination of choice was Shotley Gate which is between the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich. It’s at the end of a small peninsula which separates the Orwell and Stour estuaries as they reach the North Sea.
I set off under grey skies into what last night’s weather forecast described as changeable conditions – in other words they didn’t have a clue. The app on my phone hinted at showers and sunny intervals so it seemed to be a case of pot luck. At least the wind meant the road surfaces were dry. Heading south east towards Hadleigh I was quite happily drifting along in my own little world. Suddenly my reverie was broken by a shout of “Hold your line” from behind me. This was followed by a group of Ipswich BC riders on their Saturday morning social ride. As they passed me I sensed an opportunity for a free ride so I upped the cadence and tagged on the back. This didn’t go unnoticed for very long and a couple of the riders dropped back to say hello. Included in the group were a few guys from the Cycling Knights who will be doing a Lejogle (John O’Groats to Land’s End) ride in a couple of weeks. They were quite a friendly bunch and even offered me the opportunity to do a turn on the front. I politely declined as I wanted to save my energy to ensure I could complete today’s century at a reasonable pace.
A short detour took us to Watson’s Hill, the only Warren Climb (#124) in Suffolk. I think it’s only been included for the sake of completeness. No matter, I decided this was a good place to accept the earlier offer to do a turn on the front and I upped the pace. I was trying to improve on my Personal Best, which I did, by 28 seconds. Remember however, that this is a climb included for the sake of completeness not because it is especially challenging.
Parting company with the Ipswich BC/Cycling Knights I headed through Hadleigh and East Bergholt to Cattawade and Brantham. As I rode along the Shotley Peninsula towards the coast it started to drizzle which then turned to rain. Eventually I decided to put my rain jacket on before I got completely soaked. Within five minutes the rain had stopped and the sun was shining! I’m guessing (hoping) that my rain jacket has some magical weather-changing powers.
I paused to take a couple of photos on the sea front, including one of a splendid Thames Sailing Barge, with its distinctive red sails, which was heading up the River Stour. These 19th Century flat-bottomed boats are ideal for sailing in shallow waters – they can float in less than 3 feet of water and the flat bottom enables them to stay upright when the tide is out. Sadly, they are not a common sight now.
From Shotley Gate I turned back inland, homeward bound via Ipswich. I had one other quest to complete the ride and this involved riding to the village of Wetheringsett-cum-Brockford to look at the village sign. This has two figures kneeling in front of the church holding scrolls. The person on the left is Richard Hakluyt who, in a varied life was a scholar, diplomat, spy and Archdeacon of Westminster. He was also a friend of many of the notable sailors of his generation, including Sir Francis Drake. Perhaps his greatest achievement was his book ‘The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation’ which he published in 1589. Richard Hakluyt was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1616. He is widely considered to be the first-ever great travel writer.
The other notable is the Vicar who wasn’t. George Ellis managed to hoodwink the church authorities into believing he was an ordained priest and was installed as rector of the parish. Between 1883 and 1888 and performed many marriages, christenings and burials until he was uncovered as a fraud. The resulting doubts about the validity of his various acts led to a special Act of Parliament, the Marriages Validation Act of 1888, which ensured that the various ceremonies were legally recognized. George Ellis was sentenced to seven years in prison and he did his ‘time’ in Dartmoor Prison. Apparently, he was quite popular in the village and after his release from Dartmoor, regularly visited the village and was made to feel welcome. Quite a story!
Well after the dubious deeds of Wetheringsett it was an easy spin back home to the rather less scandalous village that I live in. I rode round a few of the local lanes to ensure that I crossed over the century threshold. But what of the significance of the ride to the sea? On 13 May 2018, all being well, I expect to be dipping my front wheel into the sea at Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles. That’s in exactly one year, 365 days from today. Then it’s (only) 3,500 miles to Boston to dip my front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean at Revere Beach. So, did I dip my wheel today? That’s my secret!