I managed to miss the Wednesday bike ride because of a dentist’s appointment, although I waved at the group as they pedalled down London Road in the rain. I have to admit that the fair weather cyclist in me, was rather glad I was not going with them. However, Gwen and Ian and I had decided upon a spin out to Great Waltham.
We set off up the Flitch Way to Rayne, and joined the road to Felsted. We pedalled down Mill Lane, and up to North End and Onslow Green. Ian and I were debating what type of hedges we preferred – I’m into deciduous hedges such as copper beech, whereas he prefers native evergreen, like yew. He dropped into the conversation that yew was poisonous in all parts (except the red aril) and for this reason, historically had been used by fletchers to make arrows. This led to a debate about whether a fletcher made the whole arrow (his view) or just fitted the flights (my view). We agreed to find out once we got home. As it turns out, according to Google, the fletcher applies the flights – but I was unable to find out the correct term for an arrowmaker.
I was route-learning so consulted the map regularly, even though Ian knew the area intimately, having cycled these lanes frequently when he was training for the end-to-end ride a couple of years ago. (He must have been keen – 30m, c2 hours, to get to work, a full day of work, then 30m, c2 hours, home!). Unfortunately my map reading meant I took us round 3 sides of a square to reach Stagden Cross, and realised it would be a bit more than 14 miles to Great Waltham – and we were on a time limit to get Gwen back to Braintee for midday. We flew along south to Smallshoes, and turned left to go due east to Great Waltham. This meant it was 18 miles to our tea break (about 20% more than I thought!)
We received a warm welcome at the Great Waltham Stores, and asked for sausage rolls, and were told a big group on Wednesday had eaten the lot! The chef said he had made 2 batches specially for this group and they fell on them like a ravening horde! Gwen, Ian and I wolfed our tea and buns, and leapt back on our bikes. We headed due north out of Great Waltham, then picked up Route 50 through North End and Littley Green, across the staggered junction at Lavender Leez.
Gwen and I were observing the ripening berries in the hedgerows. She’s planning to make some sloe gin and bramble preserves. Every year I look at the rose hips along the Flitch Way, and wonder about making rosehip syrup, but I never get round to it. Trivial information for the day – is that the fine hairs inside rose hips are used to make itching powder. Gwen – you’re probably best sticking to the sloe gin – much more popular!
We continued due north through Bartholomew Green, to pick up the Flitch Way. We shot down gradient of the disused railway line to Braintree – and we parted our ways at 12.05. Only 5 minutes late on Gwen’s timeline! 28 miles, at 11.3mph, c2 hours 35 minutes pedalling time. A great spin, in good company, on a lovely day.