Witham and back

The last day of October dawned frosty and bright. The health & safety tip for the day comes first. When riding on frosty morning, be particularly careful when riding across manhole covers, or on tarmac that has been worn smooth by car tyres. These smooth surfaces get incredibly slippery when frost melts, and sudden braking will cause a skid. (I know, I’ve done it!).

We congregated as usual at 10am at Drury Lane, and there must have been about 36 of us. The medium and long routes were similar, with the short route being somewhat more direct.

Gifford led the medium group out south, down London Road, then along the cycle path through Great Notley. I was tail rider, and was talking with Peter and Steve, about the Highway Code. We had a bit of a debate about hand signals for car drivers, and discovered some of us were a bit hazy about the difference between the signal for slowing down (straight arm, up and down) and turning left (bent arm, rotating). I could remember my driving test, and how I needed to know the hand signals (even if I’ve never used them!). I also remembered a discussion with my father, who said when he passed his test (immediately post war), he had had to be familiar with signals with the whip, from horse drawn vehicles such as from the brewery!

From the roundabout at the south end of Great Notley, we took the first left turning and followed some idyllic minor lanes and tracks, picking up Route 16. On Terling Road, we had quite a few vehicles behind us, when we approached temporary traffic lights. The 12 of us were quite well spaced out, and several of us pedalled furiously at the light, waving frantically, hoping to make the movement sensor keep the lights at green until all of us had got through. I think the lights turned red after us, and held up the traffic instead, allowing us to reach Powers Hall End on the west side of Witham. I was very aware of some traffic behind me, and would have run out fast onto this roundabout, but instead, nearly crashed into Mave, who had correctly given way to the car approaching from the right. As usual, it is the person to the rear that is normally the cause of the collision, due to following too close … which I was! I needed to pay heed to the traffic around me and safe spacing!

We pedalled through Chipping Hill, round by the station, then turned onto the old main road through Witham. We reached the garage where we stopped for our tea break, discovering Mick’s group had arrived a little earlier. Here I discovered the waitress serving us was one of my old university friends (looking at least 10 years younger than she is!). This led to a conversation with Gael about our respective university courses, and mutual interests in modern art history. Gael told me of her time as a PhD student, studying modernist and postmodernist theories related to film and literature, and her particular fervour for the Bloomsbury Group. She was absolutely radiant and illuminated with enthusiasm when talking about it.

Ed - coffee stop with proper bikes

We took the back roads out of Witham to Rivenhall, and turned left. This is a road that takes quite a bit of traffic and we need to sharpen our traffic awareness. We did well, in that we split into two groups of 6, but we could have by allowed traffic past when there are places where we can leave the road (such as the car park at the Western Arms). We went straight through Silver End, then took our usual route to Fowlers Farm and along Millennium Way home. 23 miles.

Its ages since we had a blog post written by a member of the shortest ride. I’m away next week, so if someone would like to write the blog, I’d be delighted to read it. However, the week after, I’d be equally happy to have a discussion at the coffee stop with riders from this group, and write a blog from their perspective. I want everyone’s experience to be represented’

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