It is a truth universally acknowledged that a middle-aged couple in possession of a good tandem must be in want of a ride.
So it was that Mrs Wow and I set forth on a bright, cold morning for just that. Having had no positive responses to our belated invitation for company on this jaunt, we decided to miss out Wickford all together and head straight to West Hanningfield, along well-travelled roads. Initially I had cast a clout in the form of my windproof jacket, but before we had reached Southend Hospital it emerged from the pannier and was taking pride of place once again, keeping out the wind in precisely the manner it was designed to do.
We kept up a respectable speed to Rayleigh, whizzed down the hill past the station and took a right turn towards Battlesbridge. Here we took a photograph of a rare sight: an Essex oast house.
Carrying on through Rettendon, we noted that someone had been sweeping the cycle track. It was actually quite reasonable to ride on. Then, into Hoe Lane and South Hanningfield where we took some photographs of pleasing scenery
and the reservoir where a few boats were out as their occupants tried to catch trout.
It wasn’t long before we reached Baddow and The Bringey, and we were met with the sight of a well-honed Dawes Galaxy as another cyclist had beaten us to it. It turned out to be Delthebike, of this very parish, who had responded to our invitation and had been racing around south-east Essex all morning trying to find us.
After some coffee and beans on toast, our augmented party set off along the Baddow Road where we negotiated the fairly unpleasant Army & Navy Roundabout and a few hundred yards of Parkway before taking our left turn into London Road. The traffic lights steadfastly refused to acknowledge our existance, so after they had passed up two opportunities to allow us through we took the law into our own hands and turned right anyway. A brief exploration of some of the residential roads behind the Essex County Cricket Ground took us to a footbridge over the River Can and into Admiral’s Park, the scene of many an afternoon stroll in games kit when I was in my teens and the PE staff quite unreasonably expected me to run round a two or three mile course and get all hot and sweaty in the effort. There are more ways than one to spoil a good walk. It was here that we revisited one of the more interesting traffic signs of the day.
This is NCN Route 1, and it’s quite a good way of getting out of Chelmsford. We found the Chignal Road and not long afterwards were on the old A130, Great Waltham High Street. Off we trundled towards Howe Street (not, I fear, named in honour of the man gave such a frank account of what it was really like working for Mrs Thatcher) and on towards Littley Green. There were some quite attractive residences along the way.
I wouldn’t like to have to pay the heating bill for the second one!
Shortly before arriving at the pub, I heard the agitato tones of a J. S. Bach orchestral suite somewhere in the region of my left buttock, which is the signal that I had a phone call. One of the great things about riding on the front of a tandem is that one has a butler on hand ready to do everything for one. Mrs. Wow delved into my pocket,
fondly caressing my gluteus maximus as she did so and answered the phone. It was our son & heir who had locked himself out of the house while taking the dog for a walk. Now neither son nor dog had access to food while we were away and they had at least a 4 hour wait for our return. Denis spent the afternoon at Camp Bling helping them to erect a shed for Irene to live in while the dog spent the time displaying some quite uncharacteristic aggression as he growled at any other dog that came near.
It was not long before we were in the pub, enjoying some soon-to-be-extinct ale (Hardy & Hanson’s Old Trip) which has been run down by the Greene King juggernaut. The Compasses, Littley Green, has a well-deserved reputation for everything being gravity drawn.
We gave the soup a miss but did enjoy their “huffers”, large triangular baps with a filling of your choice. I went for the OTT, which is pretty much a full English breakfast shovelled between the two pieced of bread and cemented in place with molten cheddar cheese.
Knowing that our poor little waif (all 6’1″and 16 stone of him) would need access to his anti-rejection tablets caused us to get up a fair bit of speed after lunch. I have always been impressed that, in spite of having already covered more than 30 miles, it is the post-lunch session in which one cycles the quickest, and the miles whizzed by. It wasn’t long before we were at the foot of North Hill, Little Baddow. When we reached the top
Delthebike handed round some very welcome rock cake.
Coming down the other side of Danbury Hill is always a delight, and although our speeds are relatively sedate compared to such boy racers as Jaded, there is an awful lot of momentum gained as about 31 stone of us (pilot, stoker, luggage & bike) achieve speeds in excess of 30 mph. The Thorn tandem gives one a tremendous sense of stability and I am much happier cornering at speed that I was on the Claud. We can lean it over quite significantly, and the gorgeous winding descent of Creephedge Lane had me looking over my shoulder to see where Del was – he is normally a much faster cyclist than I am – and he was some way behind.
We stopped at the “Tropical Wings” rooms for a very welcome pot of tea and then from Battlesbridge we were very much wind-assisted. We stopped for two final photos at Doggetts Lake.
We were within a mile of home when suddenly the dreaded bonk set in. Not too surprising I suppose, as we had covered 34 post-lunch miles with only half a rock cake and a cup or two of tea to keep us going. We stopped for a gratuitious chocolate & raisin cereal bar, but reached our abode before the sugar kicked in.
Total distance: a little over 66 miles in a few seconds over 6 hours’ riding time. Very pleased with that.