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09 June: Norton Heath to Gt Bardfield

posted 12 Jun 2013, 06:51 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Jan 2017, 23:39 ]
The plan for our car-assisted ride today was to break our routine of local rides and to meet with some old friends and some new people in Essex.  We crammed 5 of us and our bikes inside two vehicles for the short drive from Hatfield to Norton Heath and arrived in good time for a second breakfast, boosting our energy reserves for the ride into a NE wind coming off the North Sea.  Liam and Elizabeth of the Essex 40 Plus joined us at the cafe. We were all joining the 'Blue Egg' ride, organised by Havering CTC, and the bonus for me as our 'ride leader' was that I was just going to follow Gordon and party around their route.  It wasn't quite that easy, as I ended up leading our contingent while the Havering bunch were delayed by a p***ture (it happens to the best of us).
Bikes loaded in car
Loading up in Hatfield
Charity cycling jersey
Tracy's London-Paris jersey
Large group of cyclists outside cafe
Leaving Norton Heath
Five cycling towards camera
Quiet Essex Lane

The Essex countryside can be bleak and windswept in winter, but now it was lush and windswept and the low cloud kept the temperature right down.  At least it didn't rain all day, as happened on last year's ride to Maldon on the Queen's Jubilee.  We were soon warming up and just amazed at how many other cyclists we saw, all coming towards us and going like the clappers.  Then we figured out it must be a sportive or a charity ride and it turned out to be an Orchid ride (which included a 100 mile sportive) with about 500 participants - wow!

We soon reached Felsted and, while some stopped briefly at the Post Office for a break, my curiosity drew me to a medieval house bearing the inscription "George Boote built this house 1596" and a most peculiar bracket carving of the 'Hag of Felsted'.  

Group outside Post Office
Corner of old building with carved female figure and inscription
The Felsted Hag
Group having lunch on cafe patio
The Blue Egg
Cycling along fenced lane
Hartford End

Still heading north, we passed Andrewsfield airstrip.  Blink and you would miss it, but it was a massive construction by the American airforce in 1942 and opened as their first bomber base in 1943.  We arrived at The Blue Egg, where we found Stuart inside waiting to meet us.  It was quite busy, so being a hardy lot we took our lunch on the patio.  Portions were large, which is just what we needed on a cool day.

I had suggested a more easterly route back, but we decided to retrace to Felsted as it was such a lovely route on quiet lanes.  Turning left at the Hag of Felsted, we had the wind behind us and bowled along to the outskirts of Chelmsford, where we joined NCR 1 taking us to Writtle Agricultural College and The Lordship Tearooms.  Here we relaxed for a while as the courtyard was quite warm and sheltered, before taking our leave of the Havering CTC and returning via NCR 1 to Norton Heath.  Bill asked me whether we were heading north or south on the NCR (it's our North Sea route and links Dover and Harwich to the Shetland Islands).  I said we were heading west, but we were actually heading south towards Dover.

Group having tea outside cafe
Side view close up of cyclist
Bill on NCR 1

It was great to meet the Havering CTC and we hope they can join one of our rides soon.

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Jon 09/06/2013