Friday 14 Jun 2013
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as Bromley Cyclists began to arrive for their camping trip to Essex. Some had taken the day off, some had come after work and Shaun and Andrea had cycled all the way from Ipswich and arrived after dark.
Tents were soon up and the BBQ lit, beers were opened and we settled around the fire for the evening. The girls had brought their onesies, a pink one, a cow and a zebra which made a truly wonderful sight and unfortunately photos were taken.
Then it was off to bed. Quite a lot of rain in the night made sure we had an interrupted sleep, together with the particularly noisy birds. Before we knew it morning had arrived and people began to surface and Spencer arrived with the boys, unfortunately having had part of his roof rack fall off along the way.
A little later start than expected, but we were underway shortly after 8.30am. We hadn’t gone more than 100 yards when there was a commotion from behind and on looking round we were surprised to see David had taken a nasty tumble. We dusted him down and everyone was soon back on their bikes and heading in the direction of Heybridge, via some quieter country lanes. Turning into Promenade Park we were now off the road and travelling down the towpath alongside the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation which runs all the way to the Heybridge Basin. Here Eve got her shoelace stuck in her toe clips so she was on the deck too.
Everyone settled into their breakfast, some having a full English, others a lighter option, but everyone was happy and the view was lovely.
After breakfast we had a ride around locally before heading off to the the little village of Ulting. The noise from behind sounded like a shot out of a gun and on turning round we saw that Spencer’s tyre had literally exploded. The inner tube was soon replaced and something put in the tyre to temporarily repair it so that we could continue our journey.
We arrived at The Cricketers pub on Danbury Common for lunch, which was a little different from the last time we came here – it was changing hands the next day, but nevertheless they managed to rummage together some food for us.
Just as we were about to start off the rain arrived, so it was back in the pub for a longer than expected break, Spencer never missing the opportunity for a Bromley Cyclists impromptu meeting as we sat around a huge table drinking our coffee. When we eventually did set off from the pub the rain started again as we headed off road across Danbury Common. A scream from behind signaled our third faller of the day, Linda. who had bumped into another bike and was on the floor. A nasty bruised leg but OK. The rain was now really quite heavy as we cycled on, probably about 10 miles from the campsite. As we were already soaking wet we just carried on, and once back made our way to the showers to change into some dry clothes.
Once the rain had stopped everyone was out on the field, some flying kites, others just enjoying a glass of wine or beer after our rather horrendous ride back. As evening approached some were off to the pub for an evening meal, while others lit the BBQ.
A few drinks were had tonight and some funny moments followed, but the one I shall remember best was Steve W singing Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham after quite a few whiskies.
The terrible weather of Saturday afternoon/evening was a distant memory as the campers stirred on Sunday morning. It was still, fine and bright; there were high thin clouds but even through these we could feel the warmth of the sun as it dried our still wet kit.
I arrived at the site at 7.30am bright and ready for the days cycling. To say it was a hubbub of activity would be an overstatement, but there were cyclists up and about. Very soon others began to stir and it was all I could do to stop pulling my camera out and getting some incredible imagery, but I remained self-restrained and peoples dignity was not forever destroyed. I must say there was some incredible night attire on display. Someone dressed as cow someone else as a zebra.
Spencer got the breakfast cooking Spam! and great news there was plenty of it. There was rumour of over-indulgence the previous evening, I am happy to report that if there was then no-one was visibly suffering the after-effects.
A little later than intended at about 9.30am we set off along the lanes of the beautiful Denge Peninsula in the direction of Bradwell. There were 15 of us in total, there were three on recumbents (Steve Watkin, Steve Hardy and James), James worked very hard on today’s ride and did very well indeed.
In Kent, which is our usual cycling playground, on a morning such as this we would have expected to see dozens and dozens of cyclists out in the lanes. In Essex there are either fewer cyclists or perhaps they all come to Kent for their cycling – the roads were deserted. Progress was slow but steady. Linda had a puncture outside the Cricketer’s Arms where we would like to have stopped to have a coffee, but it was closed so we completed the repair in the car-park and continued.
At around midday we arrived at the waters edge overlooking the River Crouch Estuary. There is a very interesting rather lonely little chapel here which serves the Othona religious community nearby. It is dedicated to St Chedd and is named (oddly enough) Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall it is built on the site of an old Roman Fort. There were some peoplein the chapel rehearsing hymns with an acoustic Guitar. It was very peaceful.
Looking out from the chapel we had a wonderful view of the estuary and could see sailing barges toing and froing in the fresh breeze. We were on the edge of a large nature reserve and we could see hides on stilts for the twitchers to carry on their hobby. This was all rather spoiled by the rotting carcass of the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station which sits on the coast like some vast block house. How such an ugly building was ever allowed is amazing. Yes we need power but surely not at that cost to this coastal haven.
Having paid our respects to St Cedd we remounted and retraced our route across a cinder path to the road where we turned towards nearby RAF Bradwell. At the entrance we found a memorial to those brave young men who made the ultimate sacrifice. Eve led us into the airfield and whilst trying to understand the orientation of the runway Jack hit an almighty crater in the road and took a heart stopping tumble. We held our collective breath, but this is Jack and in seconds he was sitting clutching his hand as Shaun cleaned a vicious looking graze and applied a dressing. Jack jumped on his bike as if nothing had occurred and we carried on to join a group of model plane enthusiasts who were sheltering from the wind.
Steve Watkins decided to lead a party (cross country funnily enough) on the alternative route past the power station at this point. The rest of us turned back and made our way by road to the Green Man at Bradwell Quay.
We had a very tasty lunch and loitered awhile before it was time to move on. It began to spit with rain. and after a while we stopped to put waterproofs on, but never really came to anything and by the time we got to Burnham on Crouch it had stopped. We said goodbye to Shaun and Andrea, and Spencer, James and Jack as they headed homeward along this section of the route. You can read more of Shaun and Andreas adventures on Facebook.
At Burnham we cycled very gently along the seafront until we found th The Park Tea Rooms; what a little hidden gem this is? Quirky, quaint, picturesque, twee in a really charming way. We were made really welcome and enjoyed cream teas and tea in beautiful bone china cups and saucers. Absolutely lovely. We loitered for about ¾ of an hour before we set off for the final leg back to the Huntsman and Horses IN BRIGHT BEAUTIFUL SUNSHINE.
At the campsite we quickly finished striking camp and calling goodbyes under a blazing sun we headed to our homes.
A fantastic weekend well done Eve!!