Well, that final “abra-ca-dabra” from yesterday must have done the trick, because today was MAGIC! Every box was ticked, it had everything, it was super!
Despite the day dawning grey, with a heavy dew and a chill in the air, by the time we had packed up and mounted the bikes, the clouds had parted, the grey was replaced with blue and we had…sunshine! We shed layers before the first pedal stroke had begun and then set off in t-shirts, into the sunny countryside. Right from the start we were on lovely country roads, passing cottages, farmland, hedgerows, through trees and barely any traffic. Magic!
I pedalled along with a grin on my face, issuing forth several “I love it!” statements. It’s been a while since they’ve been spoken, but today, everything was special. As we passed beautiful little cottages with hanging flower baskets and rode along the quiet lanes, we came across horse riders up ahead. This meant we had sunshine, quiet country roads, birds twittering and now horses clip-clopping along the lane. “Magic day” boxes were being ticked left right and centre! It was so special, that I called out to Steve to stop up ahead. I’d been composing a little song about the magic moments, in my head, and now had to stop to write things down before I forgot. It ended up being a four-verse ride, there were so many magic moments to sing about!
We pedalled into the small, sleepy and lovely little village of Blackmore. What did we see in front of us? A tea room. Tick! It was still early, way too soon for elevenses, but these are the moments that are there to experience. We were back in a delightful little village, we had a charming little tea room, the sun was shining on the outdoor seating. How could we ride past! We stopped for second breakfast and I grinned as I sat with my pot of tea and toast and Steve enjoyed his juice and toasted tea cake. The wasps threatened to take some shine off the experience (they are absolutely everywhere in this part of the country!), but we just moved inside and had the charming setting of the tea room interior, with its low beams and village charm. Perfect.
We decided there and then, to not only implement our Sunday tradition of the pub lunch, but to include sub-clause 3.5.7-1/b., known more commonly as “go slow Sunday”. The principles of this new sub-clause, which was voted into effect last Sunday are:
1. Go slow
2. Take our time
3. Include a tea room or similar establishment where possible
4. Second breakfast prior to elevenses is permissible and, in fact, encouraged, particularly if outdoors and in sunshine
5. The ride should be a short one in order to fully enjoy the slower pace without stressing about reaching a set destination
6. Enjoy a leisurely pub lunch
7. Ride only a short distance after this pub lunch, so as not to compromise the digestive process following the larger than usual midday feast
The introduction of the sub-clause was passed unanimously. With this now in effect today, we took our time in this lovely little tea room. It was obviously a favourite stop for cyclists because there was lycra on every seat. The road bikes were leaning outside and singles, pairs and groups of cyclists wheeled up at regular intervals. The tea room was obviously happy to welcome this clientele because on the counter, along with the displays of Victoria Sponge and Millionaire’s Shortbread, was a basket of energy gels. The cyclists could enjoy their double espressos and crumpets, and then take a quick gel before setting off for the onward ride.
After leaving the tea room, we scooted up the road to experience another village moment. I’d seen a sign as we rode into the village, advertising the village market, so off we went to the village hall. I wandered in and strolled along the few stalls and came away with a jar of very nice looking, homemade strawberry jam, made by and served to me by a lady who looked like she should have the title of Lady. She had perfectly coiffured grey hair, sweeping back from her forehead in two symmetrical wings, a floral apron and pastel blue dress, and she fitted the village picture perfectly.
The onward ride continued to be utterly delightful. We had a short stretch on a busy road, but it was only short, before we turned into another quiet and peaceful country road. We passed other cyclists who waved and said hello, we passed Mercedes drivers who smiled and waved, so we had the lovely friendly people too, adding to the scenery and magical village experiences.
We pedalled into Writtle, another charming little village. There were cottages and small shops surrounding the village green, with a central duck pond to complete the picture. By this time the sun had departed and the sky was blanketed in various shades of grey, but that didn’t dampen the experience one little bit. We sat beside the duck pond for our official elevenses and just enjoyed pausing in the peace of the village.
As we were sitting there, a man approached us who can only be described as “dapper” in his sage green jacket and trousers, shiny brown shoes, checked shirt and sparkling silver hair. He approached us with his hand outstretched.
“Johnny Dalton. Pleased to meet you.”
We shook hands and introduced ourselves.
“Where are you heading today?”
We told him where we were off to and a bit about the trip.
“I’m getting ready to do a three day cycle tour myself in France. The wife’s going to drop me off and I’m going to ride a voise vertes, Green Way and then she’ll pick me up at the end.”
We said that sounded lovely, then he asked us about our technology and some of our gear. Then he reached for his wallet, pulled out a card and handed it to us.
“If you need somewhere to stay tonight, you’re welcome to camp at our place. Here’s the number, I’ll be out for a while this afternoon, but give a call and you’re more than welcome to stay with us.”
What’s that I’ve been saying about the people here!? We thanked him several times for his generous offer and had we not already pre-booked accommodation, we would have knocked on Johnny’s door.
After a pleasant sit, followed by our chat with Johnny, we began researching a suitable pub for our Sunday tradition. We settled on one just up the road, so we slowly pedalled through the village to have a look at this lovely little place and then headed towards our pub. It was the sort of village where we weren’t too concerned with leaving the bikes unattended, so we locked them up around the back of the pub and headed inside. This place was a real pub. The decor, the tables, the staff, everything just said “English pub”. It was great! The food was good “pub grub” too. Steve had sausages and mash, which after devouring a few mouthfuls, he rated as “awesome” and I had a jacket potato with backed beans and extra veg, which was pretty darn good too. Simple fare, but hearty and just right for Sunday lunch in a pub.
With full and quite weighty bellies, we pedalled slowly out of Writtle, for the mere 5km ride to our final destination in Chelmsford. With no campsites available in the area, we had to resort to a hotel once again, so we set off, with “dodgy Dave” the GPS playing his games again by telling us it was 25km to our hotel, rather than the 5km it actually was. Dopey Dave wasn’t tricking us today.
The ride into Chelmsford was off road, along a cycle path and then through Admirals Park, a lovely green space of gardens and lakes and a cycle/walking path running through it. Chelmsford is the only city in Essex and while we are never too keen on spending time in cities, this one gave us a very nice introduction with the peaceful ride in, through parks and gardens.
We arrived at the hotel after only 26km of riding, checked in and carted our gear up to a very nice room. The space we’d been given to store the bikes was outside and near the road, which we weren’t too keen on, but a quick enquiry with reception and they were happy for us to keep the bikes in our room. So up the elevator our trusty steeds rode and they are now parked in a space in our sizeable room, safe and sound.
After hoping for a magic day, to vanquish the memories of yesterday’s experience with the busy roads and traffic, today well and truly delivered. We had sunshine, a tea room, villages, countryside, quiet roads, friendly people, scenery, pub lunch, twittering birds, horses plodding the lanes and virtually no traffic. Tick..tick…tick…tick…TICK! It was a glorious day. Splendid. Delightful. Fun. Perfect. MAGIC! Thank you England, thank you again a thousand times over. You heard my call and, in your quiet and unassuming way, you presented us with these marvellous gifts today. Today is the sort of day that will cement the wonderful memories we have of English villages, countryside and people, but will also make it that extra bit hard to leave. Did I mention it was a great day? It was…