The first big spring ride of 2011

Last Saturday I made a foray out of my normal winter riding routine, which tends to include rides of around the 30 mile mark length wise, and notched up a very enjoyable 55 miles through the North Suffolk and Norfolk countryside.  It blew the winter cobwebs away, I saw some interesting sights, and so I thought I should share it with you.

The initial ten miles or so were part of one of my normal routes.  I happened upon three weekend riders on their road bikes, and hung quietly on their tails until our paths diverged.  I don’t know about you, but I always define my cycling ‘domains’ by the major roads that bisect them.  Broadly, I have the A14 – almost a motorway in terms of traffic, but always crossed by flyover – near my home, then to the north lies the A134 which runs from Bury St Edmunds, eventually losing heart when It realises it has entered Great Yarmouth.  This is a horrible road to cross, as it is always busy and carries lots of thundering sugar beet lorries all winter.  Further north, and almost at the edge of the known world cycling – wise, is the A11 Thetford to Norwich road which I am now starting to gnaw at.  Once I get long enough days, I shall venture north of it, and then comes the A47 which slices through North Norfolk, and if I ever get past that then I risk falling into the North Sea at Cromer.

But hey! Back to the ride.  I eventually traversed the A134, after a kind lady motorist let me cross much to the patent disgust of the drivers behind her.  A few windy miles across a fen [of which there are many in this part of the world], and I am confronted by the sight of herds of pigs being farmed outdoors.  They don’t really seem interested in me as I pass them by, but I still stop and look at their pig society where little of interest ever seems to happen, except rooting in the mud.

It had been raining, and the roads around the pig domain were of the best winter kind – cold, soaked and muddy.

Bear with me.  Porkers are not the only sight you see on my rides.  I tacked through familiar territory and stopped to take a pic of the Thorn before its drop handlebars were fitted.  As I prevaricated, I was passed by a trio of chaps riding winter bikes, who very kindly checked to see whether I needed help.  As they continued onwards, I noticed with excitement that they were going the same way I planned to.  I can never resist this – riders on their road bikes.  It sets off the pursuit hound in me.  I was on their rear, if you will, in a flash, quietly pedalling as they ambled in front of me.  They were not out to break any records, but as will become clear later, their sensible pace was far wiser than the one I adopted.  After a mile or so, I bade them farewell and roared impressively off uphill in front of them.

After a wrong turn on the busy A1066 road which saw me cycle half a mile in the wrong direction, then a mile and a half in the right direction, I paused at a bridge over the stream you see above.  There are some beautiful sights around, even when the season is cold and wet.  I was now in Norfolk, and I continued northwards along increasingly empty roads.  Cycling in rural parts of East Anglia is fantastically relaxing.  The sign in the picture below appeared, and caused confusion and humour:

I arrived at Roudham, just off the A11, which was the most northerly point on my ride.  I didn’t realise it but there i an interesting Church there, destroyed by fire in the 1700s and still remaining as a ruin.  It looks quite eerie on a dark, wet day like this.  Ironically, although no worshippers have entered its doors for hundreds of years, the graveyard is clearly well employed.

I rode on, lunching sporadically on my sandwiches and snacks, and wove my way east towards Diss before cutting south again.  At this point, I passed Redgrave Fen, which is a stunning little aquatic world screened by reeds and home to a manifesto of rare birds and wildlife, including a very big and seldom seen spider, the Great Raft.  I stood the Thorn up against the gate to get a picture.

Signs of spring are everywhere now.  Green shoots are pushing up on the verges, and leaves are starting to emerge from buds on the trees.  It’s only a matter of time now…..

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