The Second Leisure Ton
It was at an hour that Saturday mornings seldom start when a small group of shady characters gathered under cover of the Factory Shop. Their plan was to travel to the northern borders and it was imperative that they left early. It was Tiptree Velo’s first one hundred mile ride of the year “The Leisure Ton“Can you imagine the delight at the arrival of “The Jambuster” himself had he come to see us safely through the first part of the journey, or maybe just to check that we were not only going as far as the pub at Messing and sitting in the beer garden all day making up stories of our adventure to tell later?. Our leaders for the day’s journey Wendy (the navigator) Alan the pilot (he thinks he is the powerhouse on the tandem? but we have it from an expert cyclist that Wendy has good calves) a couple Liz and Ken had made their way up from darkest Sussex a few days earlier and made camp at Rockinghams in the shadow of the ancient long wood, also Sarah had left Kelvedon before the curfew had been lifted and made her way unseen across the Blackwater. Waiting even earlier at the Factory Shop disguised in what looked like a very fetching nightcap was Mark talking to Helena, Mark was there taking photos and waving us off then he was heading back to his warm bed. Eventually Pat and her son Antony (it was going to be their first Ton) arrived apparently Paul was still searching for their dog that had made the great escape through an open garage door, Pat then decided rather than hold everyone up she would return home to get the food rations from Paul, as soon as she left Paul arrived from a different direction, the hound was asleep on the bed, but by now we had lost Pat. A little later Pat then returned it was getting like a Brian Rix farce, so in fact at this point she was already up on the day’s mileage!! We headed north through Messing, Copford, Eight Ash Green, and Fordham the early morning view from Wormingford Hill across to the Sudbury transmitter was spectacular we followed the border at Bures on our way to the wild waste land of Suffolk this was probably the most hilly part of the journey with stunning views across the Stour, we had been warned that the roads along the northern borders are home to all sorts of vagabonds, ruffians and footpads. So as we travelled along the Stour valley towards Subury trepidation grew we had hoped to pick up guides that lived in these lawless wastelands and had a vast knowledge of the dialect used by the local tribes, but this had been scuppered by a bad back, they had however assured us that they had arranged refreshments in a local friendly encampment. This proved to be correct and suitably refreshed by an eight item breakfast at Ne-lea’s which was excellent with very friendly service and they have the cleanest and nicest toilets we have ever used. At this point Simon tried to embarrass us all and break our will by only ordering Toast and Jam but Tiptree Velo are made of stern stuff and all plates were licked clean even Sarah who is well known for standing outside Tea shops sucking on a dry biscuit she has found in her bag! And besides his error was costly as he paid almost the same price as we did for the eight items, we are sad to report we lost one of our number Paul fell at Sudbury. The rest of us pushed on having covered the first 20+ miles, we headed through Great Yeldham and then made our way to the settlement of Finchingfield where we stopped for a brief rest, on Sunday’s throughout the summer vast numbers gather here to worship a modern two wheeled idol fitted with bigger engines than most family saloons we all felt smug that ours was the old religion but I am ashamed to say that at the start of the next hill into a strong headwind several of our number would have converted there and then given the chance. Our journey then took us to Thaxted populated by the friendly people who had fed us the year before however we stopped on the Guildhall steps to lighten our packs and have a short Brunch break , sadly we have to report that Simon had fallen after Gt Bardfield he just could not face another food stop!!! Then by twisting and turning down little used tracks and every hill Wendy could find we think she was trying to avoid us being seen by any of the aeroplanes taking off from Stansted ?…. Eventually having made the safety of Takeley which was to be our second lunch stop of the day and having missed second breakfast some of us were feeling in need of nourishment, we succumbed to the wondrous delights that are advertised in these far off parts of Essex on boards outside newsagents and other shops, so great was our enthusiasm that some of us started to look for houses for sale in this area so that we could stop and live on “Magnums” and the like whenever we wanted but our leaders are made of sterner stuff and would have none of it we had to move on from the warm comfortable park benches and the wonderful readymade toilet stop trees which some of us used to full advantage. The next leg of our journey took us under Great Dunmow in a loop through Great Canfield, High Roding, North End, and onto Felsted along some very pretty back lanes, Helena had only ever ridden a Personal best of we think about 54 miles so to make the jump to over 100 was no mean feat and she was going well. At Felsted Wendy then directed us onto The Flitch Way an almost unknown wooded track “that is apart from thousands of dog walkers, Horses, children on bikes etc,” but today we were very lucky and the “traffic” was very light. We were heading for Rayne Station, are we going to finish the journey home in an armoured train like the relief of Mafeking or Ladysmith? you can imagine our disappointment on arrival to find the station had been abandoned years before but our relief at finding it was garrisoned during the hours of daylight supplying food to weary travellers . Helena had arranged for reinforcements to meet us here but on arrival no sign of Steve who was bringing extra clothing to combat the anticipated late arrival home, (apparently she makes a habit of just changing clothes in car parks we have been told).Steve arrived having made the journey twice, obeying the first text message only to discover on arrival the second text!!.We understand that the bedroom area was left in rather a mess as the man of the house tried to discover the elusive garment. Feeling refreshed we girded our loins, seldom in history have loins been so girded and we set off on the final leg, Great Leighs, towards Silver End across to Bradwell, Coggeshall Hamlet, Kelvedon, and Up to Windmill Hill at this point when we are almost home, Wendy then decided we had not had enough and took us back towards Feering, Messing, and towards Layer Marney, at this junction Liz and Ken left us to retreat back to their Motorhome having cycled well over 100 Miles. Wendy invited us back for refreshments, but Pat and Her son Antony had not completed the 100 on their cycle computers so they went off to do a small circuit before tea she had been getting faster and faster and now did not want to stop, but guess who arrived and just missed them again, Paul (we think he was still finding his way back from Sudbury but he denies it). We could see from the top of the hill that the bridge to Newbridge road was still intact so a final dash was made to seek sanctuary amongst the wild flowers that seem to grow in abundance in the first or last house on this side of the village. We gladly accepted Alan and Wendy’s hospitality and sat among an amazing display of wild flowers in the sun gorging on more nibbles, quiche and cakes washed down with homemade elderflower cordial and gallons of tea everyone was given a conducted tour of Alan’s pride and joy his compost heap or facility as he likes to call it. They had done it again produced another superb ride through some of the best of Essex countryside with terrific weather (apart from the headwind) and did we mention the food. Our total cycling time was 7hours 48 minutes, but the ride took us all day? our average speed was just on 13mph and some of us burnt off nearly 7000 calories but the scales still say an increase in weight…….. The only problem of the trip was a bearing in the back axel of the tandem trike came loose causing the gears to jump about and a very strange vibration up the rear seat tube when we braked, I don’t understand but Gill kept telling me to brake harder!!!!!!!!