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Solo to Aldham

After the snow a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to start increasing my distance again. I’d only been riding for about 20-25 miles once or twice a week during the winter, and with mild weather, I had no excuse for avoiding an increase in distance. To my mind, under 20 miles is a short ride; 20-29 miles is a medium ride, and over 30 is a long ride.

As usual I checked the weather before I set out, so I could ride into a headwind on the way out, and have a tailwind on the way back. This meant I was riding east, to Aldham. The weather forecast indicated that it was likely to be foggy for the first part of the ride.

I took the Flitch Way to Braintree Station, then along the footpath to go under the railway line at Mill Hill, and up onto Millennium Way to Fowlers Farm. I was glad that traffic levels remain low, and I pedalled down Long Green in the mist with very few cars passing me. I rode along Cuthedge Lane heading east towards Coggeshall. Here I saw a couple of walkers, as I approached the quarry workings. It turned out to be Dee and her neighbour so I dismounted and walked for about 10 minutes with them. Dee recently had quite a bad fall from her bike (while out with Ann) and has taken a while to recover. She hit her head and knee badly, and had a lot of facial bruising and a tremendous black eye, but has recently returned to riding her bike. Dee was unimpressed by the fog, but I (contrary as ever) was enjoying the seasonal variation.

I pedalled on to Coggeshall, riding past St Peter’s Church, then turning right onto Tey Road. There is a road-level crossing point on the A120 that enables bikes and pedestrians to leave Coggeshall, which leads to some lovely roads for cycling.

I saw 3 riders approaching, all well illuminated in hi-vi clothing. As they neared me, I noticed the horses were wearing headgear. The horse on the right was bare-headed, the middle horse was wearing a pink hat, and the left horse had a black hat with ear covers. I was surprised at the variation between them. It turns out that ear bonnets prevent flies and dirt from contaminating a horse’s ears as it can distress them. I thought flies were unlikely at this time of year, but horses can also be unsettled by wind and noise, and apparently some trainers use cotton wool balls to additionally muffle sound inside the ear bonnets. However, I’ve also discovered that when the horse’s hearing is reduced this way, they are more dependent on the rider for directions in terms of touch and also listening to other aids. Perhaps this is why the horse to the right, was very slightly in the lead.

Seeing these horses reminded me of something that happened when Margot and I were riding our bikes a couple of days earlier. We had ridden to Toppesfield, and stopped at Gainsford End for a refreshment break – hot chocolate and apples. While there, a horse and rider came out from a farm entrance, along with a walker with a Jack Russell puppy enveloped in her jacket. We discovered the puppy, Clive, was only 11 weeks old and awaiting his final innoculation, so was not allowed on the ground. As I’d love to have a Jack Russell, I spent several minutes chatting to the owner, and making much of Clive! By this time, Margot noted that the horse had been lovingly eyeing her and her apple. The rider said it was ok to give the apple core to the horse, and the horse swapped Margot’s apple core for a handful of saliva!!!

From here I rode eastwards to Great Tey and through to Aldham. There is a bench outside Aldham Village Hall, but it is fully exposed to the weather. There is a better bench (dry, shaded and sheltered) in the entrance lobby to the Church of St Margaret & St Catherine, which is where I had my flask of hot chocolate. (Best ever recipe – 400ml hot skim milk and 2 squares of Lindt seasalt chocolate!).

I headed homeward – through thick fog – skirting the north side of Great Tey, then along Americas Road to skirt Earls Colne airfield, and arrive at Greenstead Green where the fog lifted. By this time, I toiled slowly up the hill south of Greenstead Green, as the increased distance made itself felt in my legs. Then it was the usual route across quiet roads to Bocking Church Street. I pedalled down Panfield Lane and picked my way through various footpaths back home.

33 miles, out all morning and I’ve finally managed a long ride!


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