we (chris, mike, nive, lucas, jack) didn’t set off from amos until 12pm so maybe colchester was always a tad ambitious.
the first few miles were typical london cycling, pretty good route out along the ‘superhighway’ but not getting very far quite slowly. nive made it as far as west ham and then shot off for some whelks while the rest of us followed a rather complex route through the sights and sounds of the east end. we went past chris’ old stomping ground (romford ymca) and pushed on, yearning for a bit less concrete and a glimpse of vegetation. nature-lover jack was particularly keen on finding the country and we eventually found some, just in time to repair the first of our three punctures.
on we went through countless essex villages all seemingly devoid of cafes, open pubs or even shops. we finally found a garden centre with a teashop advertised in big bold letters but upon closer investigation discovered that ‘we’ve turned the cookers off’ so ‘you’d better go somewhere else you lycra-clad imposters’. whilst admiring a pearlised peacock-themed birdbath in said garden centre, a helpful woman directed us to a nearby village and the promise of an italian cafe.
after we’d asked almost every inhabitant of the village for further directions we finally, and gleefully, found the establishment and headed to the door. as we approached, the owner literally sprinted to the door and managed to turn the ‘open’ sign to ‘closed’ before we got there – shouting through the now-locked door that they would be shutting in 10 minutes. she also pointed up the road to another venue for our refreshment. we headed to ‘bygones’ only to see the proprietor taking down the sign which advertised the tearoom; this was starting to feel like a conspiracy! happily they agreed to stay open for us and toast, teacakes and cake later we headed off with renewed vigour.
we picked up the ncn1 near to chelmsford and discovered that it passes right by chelmsford station which might be handy in may. jack’s second puncture soon after the town centre was the final nail in the coffin and we got as far as hatfield peveral before heading our separate ways.
a good day out and it will certainly help us plan our route to harwich in may.