It was a lovely bright, cold day for a bike ride. Accordingly over 30 EasyRiders turned up at Drury Lane ready to pedal to 3 different tea stop venues. Mick started us off with the health & safety tip for the day – don’t ride in the gutter but take a reasonable amount of road space, and keep a keen eye out for damaged road surfaces. There are large numbers of potholes around drains on the road (which we can be confident won’t be repaired until the new financial year in April) and on the main body of the road as well.
The long group was led by Ian B, with Tim volunteering as tail rider riding to The Snug; the medium group was led by Chris, tailed by Adrian, riding to The Stores; and the short group was led by Mick, tailed by Gwen riding to The Hub. We had a new rider, Jack, join us, and he rode out with the medium group. Several riders returned to the Easy Riders after a break of a few weeks.
The medium group pedalled off down the hill to the Flitch Way, riding out to Rayne. As we were a large group, Chris divided us into two – one set of 8 and one of 9. We managed to get split up somewhere around Watch House Green, and the leading group (I think) went the correct way arriving at the Compasses, Littley Green having ridden uphill from Hartford End. My group had a much easier ride via Thistley Green to meet them. During this ride, I was delighted to see Mark again – I’d not seen him for ages! It turned out he’d been gallivanting in Sydney, Australia for 10 weeks. He has lived and worked there in the past and has 2 much-loved god-daughters living there, who are daughters of his best friend. He went out for a planned 7 week holiday, but was invited to stay for another 3 … so he did! How good is that!?
We pedalled down to Howe Street, and rode the chipseal up to Great Waltham. Adrian, riding at the back with me, said this was one his most loathed roads in the area, simply because of the rotten road surface. We soon arrived at The Stores and promptly ate them out of sausage rolls! (Ed - The Lemon and Ginger Scone with Lemoncurd and Cream was delicious).
We returned by riding to Howe Street, but this time continued east to ride past Hyde Hall. Here there were some very early vergeside plants in blossom. I’m familiar with seeing primroses at this time of year (and in this area we also have the rare oxlips too) but I saw aubretia in the vergeside banks. Aubretia is a purple herbaceous plant common in gardens but I’ve never seen it vergeside. Aubretia is named after Claud Aubriet, a French flower painter. It is a plant from the cabbage family, small hardy and perennial, and usually violet in colour.
We reached the A131, and had 200m on the main road before resuming on Route 16 down the old road, under the new road and pedalling up to Great Leighs. Here we turned right at The Castle, turning left towards Finches gravel depot. Here I was having a chat with Gifford about my next art project – I have a fascination with mundane objects and activities conducted by local workers, so I’m currently working on lino prints of Finches cement mixer lorries. I’ve had great fun carving the lino, and I can see similarities between this and how gravel extraction carves the landscape.
The majority of our group rode down London Road back to Braintree, but I decided to join Mike on the cycle route through Great Notley, and he headed to Rayne and I went back to Braintree.
22 miles, average 10mph, and 2 hours 10 minutes pedalling time.