Redhill to Wymondham – June 2009

Motivated by my Paris ride and feeling in good shape, a ride from home to my Dad’s home in Norfolk seemed like a good idea and the weather forecast was excellent.  A two day ride, I first took the train to London on Sunday morning and set off towards Tottenham with the aim of riding north along the Lee Valley towpath and out to the so called Hadams, before heading east and on to my overnight stay at the Saffron Walden YHA.

Starting Point - London Bridge looking upstream

Starting Point – London Bridge looking upstream

No1 London Bridge, my office for nine years until 1994.  Midweek at this time of day the bridge is usually thronging with commuters - this is more fun!

No1 London Bridge, my office for nine years until 1994. Midweek at this time of day the bridge is usually thronging with commuters – this is much more fun!

Coming from Tottenham then Enfield, the Lea Valley and surrounding area was my Dad’s old stomping ground as a young man on his bike and would soon be regenerated for the 2012 London Olympic Games, unfortunately not in time for my ride.  This is NCR-1, the number one national cycle route and I had high hopes, which were soon to be demolished.  The mostly rough track or broken concrete runs through derelict, graffiti covered areas of industrial wasteland, with poor signage and was all together a national disgrace instead of the national pride it should be.  There was the odd stretch of clear water and reeds along the bank but this cycle path epitomizes everything that is wrong with cycling and related infrastructure, it is embarrassing and depressing – those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

Lunchtime stop at Clavering

Lunchtime stop at Clavering

Still the sun was shining and the subsequent stretch through the Hadams area was a stark contrast to the previous experience. I could see why my Dad had been so fond of these roads which in 1939 would have been wonderful.  The ride thereafter through Furneux Pelham and eventually into my old territory Essex, was very pleasant, in an English way.  From my days as a youth cycling all over the county, Essex has many hidden treasures and Saffron Walden is one of them, though not so hidden nowadays.  Whilst a very attractive medieval town, being some 56 miles from London, it has inevitably been invaded by wealthy commuters; the small newsagents at the railway station was selling various wines for upwards of £100 a bottle!

I had to wait for the Youth Hostel to open so found a nice shady spot to wait in the main town park, where a fun-fare and Sunday market was underway.  Built in 1497 the wooden beamed YHA at Saffron Walden is the oldest building i Saffron Walden and has rightly been long been admired.  It is quite unsophisticated but characterful and comfortable nonetheless; it is a privilege to stay in such building and the YHA’s demise is a sad loss fro all of such opportunities – a case of use it or loose it.  For the first time in years I slept in a very large dormitory, with just one other man joining me later.  Such proximity encourages sociability, so we went to the pub and had a curry together.  It is with great sadness that a few years later Saffron Walden YHA was, like so many others, closed.

Saffron Walden YHA, built 1497, alas now closed

Saffron Walden YHA, built 1497

YHA dormitory, spoilt for choice i.e use it or lose it - alas the hostel has since been closed

YHA dormitory, spoilt for choice i.e use it or lose it – alas the hostel has since been closed

Day-2 turned out to be a long, hot day but nonetheless enjoyable .  Setting off by 8 am the route would first go east then turn north east and then climb, passing though some very attractive countryside which was dominated by stud farms – I was riding around Newmarket home of horse racing.  The route then passed under the A11 and off into the forests around the Thetford area, by which time I was hot, tired, hungry and thirsty.  Two problems though: (i) choosing a quiet route is good for a nice ride but also misses areas of population and thus places to refuel, (ii) any pubs, and there were not many, were closed as it was Monday!  I therefore had no choice but to ride on until eventually, much later than planned, I found a small village shop.

By now and for the rest of the day as I criss-crossed the A11, finally onto the western side by Snetterton, the landscape had become gently rolling and open to the unusually hot sunshine.  I have always found very hot weather the most difficult for cycling – you just can’t drink enough.  Still I eventually saw in the distance the tower of Wymondham Abbey and not long afterwards rolled into the driveway of my Dad’s house.  We were, of course, pleased to see each other but I’d like to think he was especially pleased today as I had ridden from my home in Redhill, some 120 miles, with 72 miles on the last day, my longest day-ride since I was a teenager. Not bad.

Journey's end - Wymondham

Journey’s end – Wymondham


STATS – MAPS – STUFF

Tour: 28th June to 1st July, 2-days riding

Maps: OS 1/50,000 144, 155, 167, 177

Total Mileage: +121 miles

Route: 

Day-1 Route Miles
Right out station across London Bridge to Moorgate
VR at Old Artillery Coy on Tabernacle Rd
SO @ Old Street to Shoreditch on Pitfield Rd
@ Rnd SO Pitfield then Rnd Whitmore Rd
L then R @ Northchurch onto Culford Rd
R then L @ Balls Pond Rd onto Kingsbury Rd
L @ Station onto Boleyn Rd
V onto Wordsworth Rd
SO to Stoke Newington
Bouverie Rd (cross Lordship Park Manor
L Bethune Rd then R Dunsmure Rd
SO to cross railway then A10 to Portland Ave
VL onto Craven Walk
Watermint Quay
L onto Lea Valley towpath
Cross M25 SO to Waltham Abbey 15.60
SO to Dobbs Weir 21.85
Join B181 and navigate to Stanstead Abbotts
B180 to Hunsdon
B1004 SO to Widford
Hadham Cross
Much Hadham
Cross A120 SO @ Little Hadham
Clapgate
Gravesend
Stocking Pelham
Continue east to Berden
VL to Clavering 41.46
Hill Green L to Arkesden
@ Arkesden L then R to Wendens Ambo
Audley End
L on B1383 then R to Saffron Walden 49.0
Day-2 Route Miles
NE to Ashdon
Bartlow
SO and cross A1307
R @ CR to West Wickham
L to Carlton
@ Carlton L to Brinkley
R @ B1052 joining B1061 to Newmarket
R just past Dullingham to Cheveley 22.35
L then SO to cross B1063 to Moulton
L @ B1085 to Kennett
R @ B1506 to Kentford
VR @ Kentford under A14
SO to Lackford (no map!)
L @ Lackford on A1101 then soon
R to West Stow
L @ West Stow
Brockley Corner
Ingham
L @ Ampton to Great Livermere
L @ Gt Livermere to Troston
L @ Troston to Honington
SO across A1088 to Sapiston
VL @ Sapiston to Coney Weston
SO @ Coney Weston to Kettishall
L to Gasthorpe (Roman Rd)
SO East Harling (joins B1111) 54.23
R @ East Harling onto Snetterton back roads (navigate)
Cross A11 to Shropham
R@ Mount Pleasant
Navigate to Great Ellingham (complex)
Cross B1077 to Bush Green
Deopham Green
Morley St Botolph
@ B1172 L to Wymondham 72.0
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