He Only Tried to Knock Me Off! (LGD - 377 Days)
Monday 1 May 2017, 72 Miles
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Several times recently Daren (Nairo) Morgan had said he’d planned a route in the Fens that he was keen to do. So today became the day to do it. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea though because the weather forecast promised quite strong and gusty winds and seemed rather evasive on the matter of rain. As I loaded the Infinito into the back of my car in heavy rain I began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all. I needn’t have worried though since by the time I arrived at Nairo’s house, almost on the edge of fenland, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. The wind was still blowing as strongly as ever.
When I arrive at my starting point I like to think I am quite quick and efficient at getting ready to start riding. I try to spend the minimal amount of time getting my kit sorted and making any final adjustments to my bike. I much prefer to sling my leg over the saddle and pedal away. I have been known to pay for this when, several miles later, I realise that some crucial accessory is still in my car. Nairo, by contrast has a rather more methodical and deliberate approach to his pre-ride routines. Mrs Nairo calls it faffing around. (I couldn’t possibly comment!) Today’s “faffing” seemed to involve some superglue and an overshoe.
Anyway, cutting a potentially long story short, at five minutes past 10:00 am we set off and with a strong tailwind we were sailing along the three and a half mile long Southery Straight. This starts at five feet above sea level and ends at seven feet above sea level. Just in case you get the wrong idea though the gradient does fluctuate as it drops to zero feet near the middle.
After passing through Southrey we crossed over the A10 road to reach Ten Mile Bank. This is one of my favourite lanes in this area as it’s usually quite quiet and runs alongside the River Great Ouse with some great views that stretch westwards over the massive expanses of the Fens. The view on the other side, with its waterfowl and occasional boats chugging past, is not that bad either.
Normally when I arrive at Denver that marks the end of the fenland experience (or the start if I’m riding in the other direction). Instead today Nairo’s route took us to Downham Market which I think used to have a reputation as a frontier (i.e. wild west) town. King Charles I had a hideout here for a while after his army was routed by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Today it seemed to be largely asleep as we passed through.
Crossing over the Great Ouse again we headed into true fen country with the flat land stretching away ahead of us as far as the horizon. We passed through several delightfully named villages including Marshland St James and Wiggenhall St Mary the Virgin. As we had started to swing round and ride eastwards, the wind became more noticeable. Spotting that rare thing in the Fens – a shop that was open on a Bank Holiday Monday we pulled over to refuel in Wiggenhall St Germans. This was also the halfway point of the ride.
Once we had refuelled we were underway again riding along a lane with ‘Road Closed Ahead’ signs (it wasn’t) before crossing over the A10 again and into the rather more gently rolling countryside of this part of south west Norfolk. We passed through a succession of small and attractive villages before arriving at Boughton where Nairo clearly said that we would be going straight on. There was a strong gust of wind and the next thing I knew was that Nairo was bumping shoulders with me. After a few heart-stopping moments I was eventually able to shove him away and I turned into a side lane. After regaining my composure I saw Nairo back towards me muttering something about my trying to knock him off his bike by not turning. I then realised that his “straight on” was in the sense of a compass bearing. To other road users, including yours truly, it was a left turn!
No matter, we both survived the collision and were able to have a laugh and a brag about our bike handling skills. Well I did; I think Nairo was still trying to come to terms with the moronic riding of the one on the left. The rest of the ride was, fortunately unremarkable. The only real thing of note was that we had a little geology lesson near Foulden where Nairo pointed out a Pingo to me - a geological relic from the ice age. I returned the compliment by suggesting that the next time we were riding in north west Norfolk I would show him some Eskers.
By now our legs were beginning to feel the effects of pedalling into the wind so it was great to arrive at our destination where Mrs Nairo produced a truly excellent freshly-made Victoria Sponge. Just the ticket too!