15 riders assembled at Drury Lane at 9.30am for Mick’s Friday 30 miler. Fantastic weather for mid-March cycling – bright, and cold, even if we did have a bit of a headwind on the way out. Mick was leading and Helen was tail rider on the way out. As we departed Mark came flying along and tacked himself onto the back of the group.
Mick led us south down London Road, and we reassembled at Dagnets Lane, where Ann joined us. We pedalled down, briefly joining Route 16 to go past my favourite Finchs gravel depot, then due south to Belstead. Here we turned right to cross the River Chelmer, coming out at the B1008 in Broomfield. We did a dog leg across the main road, heading west along School Lane (opposite the Angel). Mick led us through the back roads of the north east estates of Chelmsford, crossing various bits of green space, until we came to ‘The Village’, a housing development off Writtle Road. These are on the site of Crompton & Co’s factory, that became Marconi Radar Systems. I saw some Heritage Trail stones set into the façade of various houses, and looked up the history. (Photos and information courtesy of Stuart Axe, 2008 on Flickr).
Colonel Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton (1845–1940), who built the factory in 1895 was an electrical engineer and a pioneer of electric street lighting and traction motors in the UK. The company he founded manufactured electrical switchgear, alternators and generators for power stations in the UK and worldwide.
Crompton & Co’s factory, was built in Queen Street in 1878, originally known as the 'Arc Works'. After a fire destroyed that factory in 1895, it was replaced by a new electrical engineering factory in 1896. In 1927 it became Crompton Parkinson after the 'Crompton and Co' amalgamated with 'F&A Parkinson Ltd'. During World War II the factory was frequently bombed by the Luftwaffe. In 1969 the Crompton Parkinson was downsized and operations moved elsewhere after a takeover by the Hawker Siddeley group. The site was then taken over by Marconi Radar Systems Ltd. The Marconi factory closed in 1992 after years of decline and after a few years of dereliction, the site was demolished except for the front building to which the 'Crompton and Co' signage is still visible.
The high-density housing development called 'The Village' was opened in 2002 and, in line with modern road-naming policy, the roads reference the history of the site: Rookes Crescent, Evelyn Place, Crompton Street and Parkinson Drive.
We emerged on Writtle Road opposite the entrance to Chelmsford Cemetary, and pedalled along to the junction with New London Road, where Radio Essex is. Here I rode forward into the box junction, the lights turned red as I was preparing to turn right, and I nearly had a collision with a car driven by an old man, who was jumping the lights. Fortunately I, and about 3 riders behind me, safely made the turn, after avoiding the idiot driver. We reached Chelmsford Museum where our tea break was planned at The Hive Café.
Jim Yeates, who had not fancied the ride into a headwind, had very sensibly jumped on the bus to meet us there. I thoroughly approve of him getting his money’s worth from his bus pass like this. When I get mine, I’ll do the same!
Chelmsford museum was built in 1865 by the local brewer and industrialist Frederick Wells, for his family home. Oaklands House was designed by his brother-in-law, Charles Pertwee, in the Italianate style, inspired by Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s house on the Isle of Wight. It remained the family home of the Wells until 1908 when Frederick died, and the Flowers family moved in. When ostentatious houses like these are only occupied by one generation of the family, it makes me wonder why? Were there no inheriting children; or did none of them like the house sufficiently to keep it? During World War I it was used as a hospital, but was empty by 1930 when Chelmsford Borough Council bought it for use as a museum.
Jim Dodge stepped up to the mark to act as tail rider on the way back. Mick led us back out through the housing estate on the north east side of Chelmsford towards Chignal Smeally, with group members making a great job of sitting on the corners to make sure the whole group got through. We approached Howe Street and sat on the junction there, waiting for the tail group, and discovered Mark had had a mechanical, when his chain had come off. As is good practice, a group of riders had waited with him until the repair was complete, and then they caught us up.
On the way back Helen and I were discussing loneliness and how people with the drive and determination participate in social activities, but certain types of people are less likely to be able to do it. I was lonely when I moved out on my own, to an area where I knew no-one, aged 25, and pushed myself to join a swimming club (where I met Jim – and the rest is history!). It made me think about the impact of Coronavirus advice – not to go to large gatherings; self-isolating if you return from travel; not visiting care homes; not holding hands with elderly people (people with dementia quite often like to hold hands). I wondered whether a consequence of Coronavirus, would be an increase in loneliness, particularly for elderly, single, people. Whatever else happens with Coronavirus, I’m going to “stay busy, stay active, stay socialised!”
From Howe Street we pedalled to the A131, where we had a couple of hundred yards on the main road, then through the underpass at the dual carriageway to ride up through Great Leighs. We took the cycle route through Great Notley – I like this low-traffic route, as I dislike riding London Road in a group.
Health & safety tip for the day is to LOOK BEHIND YOU BEFORE YOU PUSH OFF. There were several people observed to push off in front of approaching vehicles – specifically at the slip road roundabout on the south side of the A120 when we were returning home. One day we are going to end up with an accident, caused by one of our riders. Please take note of this!
We dispersed to our various homes. 32 miles, 3 hours 21 minutes, 9.8mph. Fantastic ride which I thoroughly enjoyed; my longest ride for about 4 months, in conducive company.
Thanks for leading us Mick, as it was the right speed and distance for me to build stamina.