Wednesday dawned clear, cold and bright. Great day for a bike ride. Braintree Easy Riders congregated at Drury Lane, welcoming 2 new members – Richard and Roger. Richard went out with the short group, and Roger joined the middle group with me as his buddy.
We pedalled out along Clare Road and up the Flitch Way. In conversation with Roger, it turned out that we have student interests in common. Roger’s recently completed his OU degree. He studied Open Studies – so had the benefit of picking an eclectic selection of topics, including Colonial History and German. I’m always impressed when people can speak more than one language. I can stumble through a bit of French, but Roger chose German as he had colloquial German from time spent in the Forces. He and I have both found there is a huge difference in how a language is spoken colloquially and how you need to use it academically. I can talk well about art using colloquial language, but, oh my word, is it harder to use academic English for an essay?! And Roger did it in German!! I take my hat off to him!
We looped through the south side of Rayne, then took the bridge across the A120, along the old road, turning right to Stebbing. This route was up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, and with my lack of fitness, I struggled up the hills. We turned left at Bran End onto the B1057, and could see both the longest group, and shortest group bearing down upon us from the right. The longest group flew past us (not because I am weak (!) but because they are stronger on hills). This meant the three groups were nicely spaced out. We took a little path across a recreation green just before reaching the B1008, then pedalled along to a new café, Rhubarb. This café is newly opened and will have long opening hours, to enable them to make a profit. We staggered our arrival, but I think slightly longer gaps between groups would have helped. However, our mass arrival meant the cafe did have good turnover that morning.
As a group we’ve been thinking about our safe riding, and from my observation, we rode quite well this morning. We pedalled off south, to take the Flitch Way on our return. I was riding at the back, leaving Dunmow, and we had split nicely into about 4 groups and traffic passed easily.
The only slight non-safe bit of riding was how we congregated to access the Flitch Way. This has had a lot of maintenance work to resurface the low-lying areas east of Dunmow that were a mud bath. The area has obviously had problems with undesirables accessing the route, as the council have obstructed the entrance with purpose-built concrete obstacles. Very effective at obstructing motorised traffic, but also COMPLETELY blocking the entrance. I wondered how footpath users were meant to access the foot path here, it was so totally obstructed. So about 10 of us were congregated on the roadside at the obstruction, trying to work out how to get past. Fortunately, passing traffic was minimal, and very considerate, as we managed to squeeze past, stumbling over multiple trip hazards.
The new surface on the Flitch Way was like intensely packed cinder. I wonder whether it will degrade quickly, but at the moment, it is much improved from how I remember it. We pedalled under the A120, round a few bends, and up onto the disused railway line, all the way back to Braintree.
21 miles, 9.8 mph and 2. Hours 15 pedalling time.