Wednesday, October 26, 2011

End of Season Cycling

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The autumn having settled to being bright, mild and breezy, a last chance to have a cycle break before winter -- indeed I was apparently the last customer of the season at Suffolk Cyclebreaks; going through the south of Suffolk and the north of Essex, which I haven't done as much as places further north in the region.

An early start on Sunday took me most of the way past Ipswich by shortly after midday; though having been pointed at the restaurant at Wherstead Hall, I'd aimed for that, rather than again to the Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill, taking the bridlepath past Jimmy's Farm to cut the corner, and only have to do a little way along the main road until diving off into Wherstead village. The concrete track past the church brings you to the "hall" -- a large modern building, housing a local produce market, garden centre, and restaurant serving locally sourced food -- for me, a cheeseburger with local beef and cheese, plus a bottle of the local lager.

A14 bridge over the Orwell

A14 bridge over the Orwell

From there, I carried on along the coast, deciding as the hour was advancing (past 1:30, but in the low sun, feeling later) not to detour to the Butt and Oyster for more beer; but carried on, until suddenly happening upon the Baker's Arms at Harkstead, which advertised food still being served, let alone beer, so had a pint of Wherry, before carrying on. The official route as I took it last weaves a long way to fit through crossings of the Stour and the A12. This time I decided that being a quiet Sunday afternoon, the main road through Manningtree would be a simpler route, arriving at Dedham by 4pm -- and the Sun Inn was open, and serving amongst others, Arizona Bitter (Phoenix Brewery) and Wolf Bitter (Wolf Brewery). Thus fortified, I reached Milsoms (which in the last three years has realised that it makes no more sense to charge separately for wifi than it does for hot water).

Dinner was bresaola, king prawn and green mango curry, and lemon cheesecake, with lots of mineral water; and then with the windows closed in the cool night, not even the steady drone of traffic on the A12 disturbed me.

Morning, fortified with a full English, etc, I decided to avoid the rather unpleasant country between Dedham and Stoke-by-Nayland, and head rather directly to Hadleigh (where I got tricked by the cyclepath again), pushed up the long grind after crossing the A1071, then with most of the pubs mentioned in the guide being closed Mondays, struck straight cross country to Sudbury (cadging a coffee from my surprised parents), before taking a loop west on the way to the night's rest at Lavenham.

Partly guided by the OS map's PH markers, I struck through Glemsford, to find the first two pubs closed at lunchtime, and as it was close upon 2pm, I was despairing of finding a place to pause, when suddenly, the Cherry Tree Inn "Open all day for quaff and scoff". There was one other customer there when I went in, but more regulars drifted in as I committed a couple of pints of shandy, and I ended up joining in the attack on the Times' crossword.

Then when I could justify hanging around indoors on a glorious sunny afternoon no longer, made the last leg to Lavenham, parking up at the Angel. I took a bit of a wander around, including a pint at the Greyhound (where a greyhound wandered out from behind the bar and looked for attention), before dining at the hotel -- potted duck with Agen prunes, shepherds' pie with peas and spinach, then the cheeseboard; which I was ready for, having not actually felt the need for lunch.

The rain, which long range forecasts had suggested might wash the whole holiday out, went over in the night, leaving it somewhat raw but otherwise fair cycling weather in the morning. Approaching Gedding, there were some diversion signs, and I saw that the route I was planning to take was marked as road closed. But then I saw that the other end of the closure was a few yards away, and between, just a fenced off hole with more than ample room to cycle past; so I went on as I intended, until just after midday, when the Brewer's Arms called.

A burger of local red poll beef, and a pint later, and the sheet of cloud that had been hanging overhead all morning gone, I decided to amble north of the A14, then loop through the lanes back to Alder Carr farm. This time I ran into a rather more serious road closure on the approved route, but fortunately I could back off and take a separate cycle path through the new development.

And then, shortly after crossing the A1120, a sudden rattle rattle pop! as a bulge near the valve on the back wheel finally wore through and the inner-tube burst spectacularly. At least it was warm and sunny, and the road quiet, as I replaced the inner tube, moved the tyre around, and pumped up to do the last couple of miles. I suspect the tyre may be a little narrow for the wheel, as the new tube is also bulging in the same way. Still, now it'll soon be past the end of BST, and cycling to work, I can put it in for a service and get everything replaced that needs it.

With all this under the wheels, my odo is now well over the 3000 mile mark, getting me well past my stretch goal for the month.

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