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When I stayed at the Westleton Crown last year, I wasn't aware that it was a bit declassé -- it just seemed like a nice country hotel, located conveniently to the coast, not too far from Southwold. Nice enough that as CycleBreaks offered it as a new single centre this year, I used up the remnants of last year's leave carried over to take a couple of nights there with the intention of enjoying the spring weather.
Now I hadn't been planning on the weather being like it was last year, but nor had I been expecting this
when I booked. And this wasn't the worst -- on the way there, taking a wrong left out of three near Stradbroke, the satnav helpfully corrected me down a single-track road where the drifted snow was still across the road in places, as rutted ice between small lakes (not that some of the bits on the route it had intended were much better -- approaching this bit
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was much the same, with drifted ice across the road before seeing this wonderful sign ahead). The sun was generally shining, though, and in the bits where I was sheltered from the relentless north-easterly, the glorious spring day that should have been managed to emerge in places.
At least having been accustomed to these sorts of temperatures on the commute to work, I had judged how much to wrap up so as not to overheat, and so I was warm enough, even wanting a little of the breeze through my fleece for air cooling. The other side-effect was that I didn't get anywhere as thirsty as I usually do on long summer rides, so getting to Halesworth around 11, it was just time for a cup of coffee for warmth, before taking the scenic route (past Bernard Matthews Bootiful Turkeys) to Southwold for lunch.
Southwold was as near to deserted as I've ever seen it on this day in the school holidays running up to Easter, and while there were a few well wrapped up holidaymakers on the beach, nobody was trying the water.
A substantial lunch was had at the Blue Lighthouse, and then I did the loop around the town and over the bridge to Walberswick, where, based on past experiences I declined to take the off-road bit to cut off the corner. The main road to Westleton being closed, I went into Dunwich, though didn't feel the inclination to stop for beer at the Ship. The bridlepath from Minsmere was actually quite passable -- drier than it has been last summer -- though there were some places on the last leg towards Eastbridge where I wheeled over snow/icy slush. And thence going off-piste back to the hotel, discovered some sights I wouldn't have by staying to the rustic routes.
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Having been heartened by the good state of the offroad sections on Wednesday, Thursday I took the short-cut track past Minsmere, which only had a couple of bits of wheeling past wide puddles, and after a diversion to the coast at Sizewell
I headed along the off-road section (cautioned as for hybrids and mountain bikes in the itinerary) towards Thorpeness, finding that while there were a few sandy sections that called for pushing, it was nowhere near as bad as the Walberswick off-road, and far better signed than I'd been led to believe to boot.
It was not yet half past ten after heading to the southern end of Albeburgh, so I headed through Snape to Orford via Iken, and was there by about 11:30 -- time for shopping at the smokehouse, too early, and a bit too far from base, for lunch, so I took the direct route back to Snape and took a light lunch at the Golden Key, just off the main drag, before ambling back.
There was a little bit of "twisty lanes all alike" where trees and thickening cloud put me off my dead reckoning when faced with a series of possible left turns at Eastbridge, but I was back to base by 3pm, time for a cup of coffee before beating the worst of the Bank Holiday rush home.
In total, about 85 miles, pretty much evenly distributed between the days; keeping up the cycle commuting, even at a reduced level, over the winter helped me avoid the usual long first day and collapsed second.