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03 June: Norton Heath to Maldon

posted 4 Jun 2012, 08:53 by South Herts   [ updated 13 Jan 2017, 23:35 ]
I like rides with an element of challenge and adventure and today’s ride filled the bill nicely.  The idea behind our car-assisted ride this year was to venture into unfamiliar territory and get to the east coast, or at least the tidal waters of the Blackwater estuary at Maldon.  Maybe it was this prospect that attracted 12 cyclists to defy the weather and gather at Norton Heath (nothing to do with my pestering them about it the previous week!).  I was glad to see so many eager participants, including some friends from the Essex B Forty Plus – were those genuine smiles or grimaces as we started off in the rain?  

The route demanded some careful pre-planning, although with so much online mapping and Google Streetview available there’s a danger of spending more time ‘flying’ the route on screen than actually riding it on the day.  Surely following NCR1 all the way to Maldon must be easy-peasey?  On a dry day I would have used the official route, but I decided to avoid some muddy off-road sections after Chelmsford.

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Setting off from Norton Heath Cafe
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The cycle route through Chelmsford

However, our first hazard came soon after I missed the correct crossing of the River Can just after High Bridge Road (those tiny blue signs are easy to miss when specs are misted up).  I took the next bridge instead and luckily spotted the wet sleepers in time, so we slipped and slided across that one on foot fairly safely.  But the next bridge, a hump-back masterpiece, nearly had me off as I missed seeing the ‘Cyclists Dismount’ sign – it was bad enough walking down the slope in cycling shoes as everyone else did.

”Walking
Slippery hump back bridge
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Stanford Mill footbridge- Just wide enough for the Trice

The footbridge at Stanford Mill demanded some skillful Trice steering by Judy to avoid plunging over the edge – I felt my popularity waning a bit at this point.

My next trick was to avoid the muddy Graces Walk and take Hurrells Lane just to the north instead.  The river was 1 foot deep at the ford here, so it was another narrow footbridge for the Trice.  As we crossed someone noticed the Footpath Closed signs had washed into the river.  Several planks were missing at the end of the bridge.  Carefully we handed the three-wheeler, plus all the other bikes, over the gap with the river running below.

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”lifting
Hurrells Lane ford.  A favourite spot for gathering firewood?

After this it was a steep climb to the highest point of the ride at Little Baddow; then downhill and we knew the sea wasn’t far away as we reached Cut-A-Thwart lane (cut across?).

Cycling through Maldon it looked quite deserted, surely everyone wasn’t at the Jubilee picnic in Maldon Park?  No, most seemed to be in the harbour front pub we had chosen.  So, after a quick look at the sailing barges, we headed back to town and found the cosy Crystal Café, where we watched the rain-soaked crowds at the Queen’s Thames Pageant catching hypothermia as we tucked into a cooked lunch.

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Jean on Cut-A-Thwart Lane
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Arriving at Maldon Harbour
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Sailing barges lined up##
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The Thames Pageant showing in the cafe

The rain had finally eased as we did the short hop to the BHN garden centre for a mid afternoon cuppa, but it came on again as we passed a full Hanningfield Reservoir, so I missed out the off-road short-cut of Metsons Lane.  My cunning plan to avoid all rough stuff didn’t quite pay off as, with just half a mile to go to Norton Heath, Neil was unlucky enough to get the only puncture of the day and walked back to the cars.  Must do this ride again on a summer’s day.

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Queen and Prince scarecrows taking shelter in Purleigh
”loading
Loading up Giles' van

3 June 2012



JonC

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