It was a cold morning with a light frost when Alan, Brian, Cathy, Paul and Peter met outside the Con Club for an impromptu Friday 40 miler. We pedalled off north through Bocking, left at the college, left at the almshouses and up the long incline to Beazley End. Here Paul and I saw a pair of kites flying together. Graceful power – quite uplifting to watch as they soared on the air currents.
Heading towards Blackmore End, Peter and I were discussing average speeds and he said he struggled to ride his bike at the speed of top marathon runners – who can complete a marathon at 13mph – when running!!! He found it quite awe-inspiring that runners could achieve that average. I found it astonishing - I can’t ride my bike for 26 miles at 12mph, let alone 13!
We skirted the righthand side of Wetherfield Airfield, heading up to Toppesfield and Stambourne. It is really beautiful open farmland here, and the verges are worth close inspection in springtime. This is an area where the rare oxlip grows, because it needs nutrient poor soil, often on boulder clay, where it is damp. Oxlips are very like cowslips, but the flowers are on one side of the stalk, not all around it as for cowslips. The Essex lanes in this area sometimes run through a small cutting, with clay banks, and if it is a section where the road floods, oxlips thrive. Worth watching out for, in April.
We pedalled through Ridgewell, up to Ashen (where we went beyond the boundaries of my bespoke Braintree OS Map !). We remained on the south side of the River Stour, and rode into Clare from the south side, ending up at the café at the disused station.
It was a cold day, so most of us fell on a hot drink and sausage butty. We had a pleasant chat with other café customers, and cuddled several muddy dogs.
It must have been cold out, because I usually have to change what I’m wearing when I get too hot, by changing from full finger gloves to half finger gloves, and removing my buff or helmet cover. But not so on this ride – actually I was wishing I’d put pedal pushers on below my leggings, rather than my cycle shorts. Needless to say Paul was still in shorts.
Shortly after setting off home, we passed a farm with fowl outside. On seeing us, they strutted into the adjacent woodland. Paul identified them as guinea fowl.
On the way back, we noticed there was a headwind. On the way out, the weather had appeared quite still, but it wasn’t – there was a 11mph wind. We did a loop from Clare through Belchamp St Paul, but rejoined the route back at Toppesfield and retraced our steps (revolutions?) back to Braintree. On passing the home of Peter S in Beazley End, Peter Skirrow and I rang our bells and waved – but there was no response. However, as we flew down the hill towards Bocking, who should drive past us with a friendly pip on the horn, but Peter!
Our group dispersed at Braintree College, going our separate ways home.
39 miles, 3 hours 45 minutes pedalling time, 11 mph average. Cold but dry – invigorating ride in good company!