Return to Norfolk

I set off at about 04:35 yesterday morning, headed for the Norfolk border near Sutton Bridge. Attentive readers may remember that I attempted this last June, but fell short of my intended destination due to my Garmin eTrex failing, and some unanticipated roadworks.

I hadn’t had more than about 90 minutes’ sleep. I actually got out of bed at about 03:00, restless with anticipation. But I didn’t want to set off too early, because I knew it would be cold out there for a couple of hours at least.

I’d wrapped up fairly warm, with the intention of taking off the excess layers and relocating them to my backpack later in the day. Conditions were tolerable over the first twenty minutes or so but by the time I was pedalling along Gracedieu Lane, five miles in, I was very uncomfortable. My fingers were icy cold even in gloves and I was shivering. I’d descended about 250 ft closer to sea level at this point; cold air tends to cling to lower ground and clearly, it made a big difference.

So I decided to change course and head east through Rempstone and Wymeswold rather than Normanton, Stanford and Burton on the Wolds. I’d be on higher ground much more quickly. Sure enough as soon as I’d ascended the West Face of Rempstone Road, the ride was much more tolerable. Half an hour later the sun had burned away the early morning mist and I’d warmed up nicely.

I must say the scenery had been spectacular in the bright morning sunshine with the landscape shrouded in swathes of radiant white mist.

I maintained a steady pace against a light headwind and was in Bourne by 10:00. After that it was flat Fenland all the way to my destination.

There’s something faintly post-apocalyptic about the Fenland, east of Bourne. It’s like no other place in the country; reclaimed marshland criss-crossed by straight, narrow roads and drainage channels. It has a curiously desolate aspect, especially in bright sunlight.

I reached Sutton Bridge by about 13:20. I crossed the bridge and continued on to my destination, the border between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, by a circuitous route intended to avoid the A17. But this was so poorly surfaced that I decided to take my life in my hands and returned to the bridge via the busy A road. Not much more than a mile of it, thankfully.

I’ve done this ride four times now, never by quite the same route and this last one was definitely the best compromise between efficiency and scenery. I’d spent many hours preparing it with a route planner. The route I did yesterday is well served by petrol stations and village shops, making it easy to find somewhere to pick up more food and hydration. The key to doing a long ride like this is to keep eating.

Warm and sunny most of the afternoon, really nice weather. I took a sunblock stick with me to apply to my nose, as it often suffers a bit of sunburn on a day out on the bike when the sun is shining. About 50 miles into the ride I stopped by a farm gate to dig my MP3 player out of my frame pack. I noticed the sunblock stick fall out of the pack and into the grass. I made a mental note to pick it up before I set off, but I didn’t. However it was still there when I stopped at the same place on the way back, 77 miles later. Fortunately my peaked cap (I eschew a helmet on comfort grounds for long rides) appears to have protected my face quite nicely.

I replaced my misbehaving eTrex with a newer touchscreen model, this was the first time I’d used it and it worked very well. Much more ergonomic and a bit lighter. The map display looks a lot better on a phone to be fair but the AA batteries in an eTrex last a very long time.

I listened mostly to coverage of the various Platinum Jubilee events on 5 Live. Despite being a republican myself I did find it quite interesting. Also listened to more of the Reacher novel, although when it turned out that the whole first chapter is an elaborate deception intended to set you up for a plot twist, I got a bit annoyed with it.

The sun set at about 21:15 and twenty minutes later, it was time to power up some bike lights. I’d intended to bring a powerful little LED front light as well as my head torch (another reason not to wear a helmet) but after searching my backpack, frame pack and clothing it became apparent that I hadn’t. I had two rear lights but I only had the head torch to use as a front light. Although it’s very adequate, I don’t like to have a single point of failure and I’m never sure how long they last between recharges. Fortunately it was still going strong when I arrived back at the garage door.

Saw a dead calf by the side of the road near Six Hills. I’ve seen a lot of roadkill in my time, but I think that was a a first. Looked to have been moved there deliberately, it was lying exactly parallel to the road and only just visible in the long grass. Grim.

First time I’d used the Roubaix since October. It feels pleasantly comfortable and reliable but actually the S Works or the Cannondale would have made slightly lighter work of the distance I put in front of it.

Back on 175.91 miles, my third-longest distance. I was glad to have completed that successfully after last year’s failure, but I think I’ve squeezed all the juice I can out of the Norfolk trip now. I’ve done it four times and the novelty’s worn off. I’ll do something else next time.