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First timer takes Shalford

Several Support Riders have volunteered to step up to Ride Leader now the Easy Riders have to ride in groups of 6 or less, in line with Government Covid-19 guidelines. I’m one of them! So today, I was leading one of the short routes, with riders who I would describe as ‘Steady Eddies’, and my group convened at 9.40 at Braintree Railway Station.

They were a good group to ride with. I had planned a route that I favoured, out to Blackmore End (I prefer very quiet roads, and it was my first time leading a ride). I included a couple of options, depending on group preferences. One choice, was whether we wanted to ride 17 or 20 miles – and 17 miles at a gentle pace was the group’s decision. Then, did we want to go clockwise, with our break after one-third the distance, or anti-clockwise with the break two-thirds the way round? We chose the latter.

We headed north – walking our bikes through the town centre, through the new road layouts. We pedalled through the housing estate to Deanery Hill, and headed down to the Almshouses. From here, we pedalled up towards Beazley End – a long steady hill – which the group dealt with, in an exemplary fashion. We paused half way up for a drink break, and debated the benefits of bike riding in relation to Covid. Most of us feel the better for getting out on our bikes, and in my opinion, the deep breathing required for hill climbing is really effective at cleaning out the mucky air from the bottom of your lungs, and therefore maintains good lung health.

At Beazley End, we pedalled past the house where Peter Short lives, and saw him outside, carrying out some sort of household maintenance. Cheery greetings were exchanged as we rode past. We approached Blackmore End, and turned left where there is a deconsecrated church being renovated into a private home. I love looking at this building, as it is a very sensitive repurposing. Today I particularly admired how the twin avenue of trees leading to the door have been individually shaped. Each tree has a cluster of sappy growth at the bottom, which has been trimmed to form a visual ‘flowerpot’ with a lollipop head of growth on top. Very effective. This road is very quiet and has some attractive dwellings, including an oast house. Further down there is a sharp turn left, taking riders down to cross the River Pant, before climbing again to join the B1053 for a short spell to Shalford Village Hall.

We met up with Gifford’s group who were also having their break at Shalford Village Hall. Today’s health & safety tip is about how to use your buff in the time of Covid. As we are meant to wear a face mask when entering a shop, I suggest all riders make sure they have a buff with them, even on a warm day, to be donned when purchasing refreshments in a shop. For the uninitiated, a buff is a tube of fabric, worn around the neck under the chin, which can be pulled up partly or fully over the head to keep you warm in winter. In Covid time, just pull it up over the nose and mouth, and breath through it.

From Shalford, we pedalled back to Great Saling, then took Pods Lane to the Flitch Way. We rode down the old railway gradient, with me greeting all walkers and their dogs, to ensure they knew we were riding past them (and talking to the dogs usually stops them jumping up at us). By the time we reached Braintree, we had ridden 17 miles, and averaged 9.1mph. A lovely ride, with a group who were in good humour.


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