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Falling Leaves Tour

According to Google Maps, a bike ride from Drury Lane to the Shell Café at Hatfield Forest and the return home is 39 miles. Not quite long enough, by my definition, to be a Long Ride (which is 40 miles). Aydin was our ride leader, along with me, Paul (Simpson), Peter (Skirrow) and Kevin.

Health & safety tip for the day, is a reminder of the hazards of autumn cycling – as Mick would put it – beware of riding over ball bearings! By which he means, mind the acorns! Also be aware wet leaves are slippery, and often conceal a puddle. If you change momentum suddenly when on wet leaves, your wheels will slide from under you, and you are likely to headbutt the ground!

Aydin led us out the Flitch Way, turning left at Rayne station, through Felstead and down Mill Lane. Kevin and I were discussing how lovely some of the cottages were, as we passed, and we were debating the relative merits of living in the clean air and quietness of the countryside, as opposed to being close to a town, with the facilities of health centres, shops and sports centres. I’m definitely a townie, who likes the facilities close, and the ability to ride out to countryside fairly quickly. We rode past one of my favourite country houses in Onslow Green, which has 3 apple trees in full fruit in the front garden, one which I think is called Bloody Ploughman. It is a deep, deep red apple, with red flushed flesh, and apparently (according to the Scottish gardening programme Beechgrove) was bred to grow in Scotland.

Aydin had picked some lovely quiet lanes for us to ride through. We crossed the B road at North End and headed over to Hatfield Forest. I was puzzled to see red route markings on the road as we turned a corner past a building site on a tiny rural road. Then we turned a corner and the red route continued! We rode up to the entrance to Hatfield Forest – which is a National Trust site, with a car park that is free to members, but very expensive if you are not. The red route made sense then – the local authority does not want narrow country roads with restricted visibility to be obstructed by poor parking by people who don’t want to pay the car park fees. Much to my surprise, Aydin said we had averaged 10.5mph into a headwind, on the way out to Hatfield Forest.

As we were about to leave the Shell café, I saw Dick had a nasty cut to his leg, caused by his bike falling on him, and the pedal catching his calf. He was sticking a couple of small plasters on it, and they were filling quickly with blood! I said that as a first aider, I would lie him down, put his leg up and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding, then rip off these plasters and put on a large, clean one. He winced as I mentioned ripping plasters off his hairy legs and surprisingly(!) declined my offer. However, his bike was obviously listening and liked the idea of lying down with its wheels in the air. Dick’s group left ahead of ours, and as we exited the car park, we saw Dick’s bike upended, with the rear wheel being removed prior to the tube having a plaster applied to its wound!

Aydin led us back to Braintree by much the same route (although Paul took the fastest route via the Flitch Way as he was keen to find out whether his first great-grandchild’s arrival was imminent!). By the time we were back in Braintree, we had averaged 10.75mph. Thank you Aydin – a great ride, well led, at an appropriate speed in conducive company.


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