What to do to mark such an occasion? The big 70th birthday coming up on the May 6th. Driving medicals were now required and motorbike insurance premium up by 25%. However, after a year riding out with the BER I as feeling pretty good and felt like showing two fingers to those that were saying that I had to start thinking about old people’s insurance, funding for carers and a good book for all the waiting about in the doctors surgery I could expect to endure.
Seventy years old, surely I could manage 70 miles on the bike in one celebratory trip? 70@70, I had cycled to Bradwell many years ago and it seemed like a good idea to try it again. The distance was right with a bit of nostalgia thrown in “You’ll never do it, be sensible, do the distance in kilometres not miles” Wendy helpfully suggested. I guess the mistake was to mention it to Paul at the Wednesday BER rideout “You can do that easily, it’ll be be good preparation for Dunwich anyway. A club like ours will provide the support you need, I’ll have a word with Mick and Adrian”
An e-mail from Mick to all members came through straight away. There was an encouraging response and a great offer from Mick: he would be coming and was willing to guide us through the Essex Lanes avoiding some busy roads around Maldon. He had led a ride to Purleigh the previous week and that would pretty well put us onto the road east to Bradwell. Wendy said she could do a picnic for us to have at St Peters Chapel. Gwen would provide Chocolate Brownies and Bakewell Tart. And so it was set.
My daughter Kate, son Dan and friend Vicky from the village set off from Stebbing at 9.30am. It turned out to be a warm day, a very gentle easterly breeze with wall to wall blue skies. Perfect cycling weather. Someone did say “how much did you pay for this weather’ I thought they said “pray” and thought He was indeed looking kindly on this venture. We were scheduled to meet BER riders at The Castle, Great Leighs. Sure enough they were all there including Ian, Gwens' other half who proved to be an excellent back marker.
Our route took us through Hatfield Peverell, the outskirts of Maldon then up to Purleigh for a bacon sandwich at The Roundbush Cafe. From there we headed off through Latchingdon and Steeple to Bradwell, a route that can be exposed and blowy. St Peters Chapel stands isolated at the end of a footpath so we had to carry our picnic the last few yards and settled in a shelter by the old chapel. The chapel itself is an austere simple building that warrants a visit in less favourable conditions, if only to sample the conditions St Cedd had to endure all those years ago.
Gwen and Anne left at this point and Peter Short joined us for the homeward leg. We took off from the chapel refreshed, refuelled and with the warm afternoon breeze on our backs seemed to glide along the road. Kate, who had only ridden 20 miles since Christmas finally gave in at Owls Hill, Terling after some 60 miles in the saddle. I could see that she was still tempted to carry on with all the encouragement directed in her direction from Adrian and other BER riders.
As time was getting on Braintree riders headed off just before Great Leighs, we finally got back to Stebbing just after 6pm, exhausted and happy that the day had been so successful. Many, many thanks to all you BER riders who came, especially Mick for navigating, my wife Wendy and Nick (enlisted at very short notice) who followed in the truck. What a day, 70@70 done!
Ed - a real big well done to you too Patrick and a very happy birthday ;-). PS its worth asking Mick about whether valve length is important but don't say I said anything!