49 miles on the 'Friday 40 Miler'

I’d been feeling fat and unfit after the 12mph ride on Wednesday, so on Friday, I decided to take a large brave pill and turn up for the Friday 40 miler. I had been persuaded to do this by Gwen, who assured me she was riding, and I would be able to keep up with her. As it turned out, Gwen ended up working a short notice shift at Farleigh Hospice Shop. I was very glad I had arranged with my husband Jim to meet us at the café stop in case I wanted to bail out after 20 miles!

About 13 of us pedalled off down the High Street, straight down London Road, turning right at Youngs End. We rode on through Howe Street up the hill and turned right then left skirting Great Waltham). Somewhere around here, we went past a Road Closed sign, and assumed we would be able to squeeze past on our bikes. We were wrong. There was a team working with a man in a cherry picker, and a lorry with what I would describe as a giant grasper clamped on a telegraph pole. I don’t know whether they were putting a new pole in, or taking an old one out, but whoever was operating the grasper, was giving it a good waggle! It was quite clear that it would be unsafe to pass.

So Mick turned our group round, and rerouted us. We pedalled down roads that appeared to skirt Chignall Smeally and the west side of Broomfield (I was not quite sure where we were at this point) and picked up Route 1 to pedal through Writtle Agricultural College. Here we saw a woman walking a three-legged greyhound. We went on through Newney Green, and turned right onto the A 414.

Here our group naturally split into 3 – one group of boys ahead, followed by Gael and me, and the rest of the boys behind us. I found this a bit fraught, as we spent about 2 miles with traffic careering past us. Once we turned right at Norton Heath, Gael had some trouble with one of her new cycle clips, adeptly turned the bike upside down, and removed it like a competent mechanic (which I’m not!).

This was the first time I’d been to Norton Heath café, and I thoroughly approved of it. More of a greasy spoon/transport café than a tea room – with substantial butties and breakfasts for very low prices. My husband Jim came out to meet us, but after 24 miles I decided I felt strong enough to ride home too.

Gael with her coffee, and my sausage butty.

When Gael revealed she had taken a tumble earlier in the ride, and clonked her elbow, Peter S assiduously got out the first aid kit, and applied some new first aid technology – a portable ice pack, where the chilling effect is created by breaking a crystal inside the plastic pack.

How come Bill appears to be holding the cigarette from the poster?

Two Butty Bill. (He had a fried egg butty, before this bacon butty)

Willingale Spain just visible behind the trees, and Willingale Doe to the right.

On leaving the Norton Heath café, we pedalled north to Willingale, pausing in front of St Christopher’s, Willingale, where there are two churches in one church yard. There is a rumour that 2 sisters quarrelled and each built her own church, but this is unlikely because the churches are from different periods. A more likely reason is thus: in the 12 Century, Harvey d’Espania built Spains Hall and the Church of Willingale Spain. In the 14thcentury, the D’ou family moved to the parish, which expanded considerably because the wool industry flourished and the original church became too small, so a further church, Willingale Doe, was built in the same churchyard. Until 1929 each church had its own Rector, but now most services are held in Willingale Doe, with only special services in the 12thC Willingale Spain.

We pedalled on to cross the A1060 at the Four Wantz, past Clatterford End, to High Easter. It was as well Mick knew which way to turn at key junctions!

Sign directing to High Easter and Good Easter. At least it had been painted.

We paused at the left turn in Stagden Cross, for a drinks break, before heading north to Onslow Green. We went onto North End and our tired legs then had to grind up Mill Lane into Felsted. We headed east through Felsted and turned left past the primary school, over the Flitch Way to turn right onto the B1471. We rode into Rayne, and started filtering off into our own routes home. Some went along the main road, but I and two others joined the Flitch Way at Rayne station to have an easy, off-road, downhill run back home.

49 miles, 11mph average, 4 hours 22 minutes pedalling time. I was delighted to have completed my longest ride for about 3 years, without being in a state of total collapse at the end. Many thanks to Ian, Gael and all the others who jollied me along at a sustainable pace.

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