At 6.30 a.m. a group of five very keen cyclists assembled in the Bricklayers car park ready to depart for the first leg of our cycle trip to the Norwich Beer Festival. Our plans were to follow the National Cycle Route 1 which links Colchester and Norwich as it wends its way through Britain from the south coast to the Orkneys. Navigation was by means of a GPS, Ordnance Survey maps and the vague memories of two of the riders who had cycled this route previously. Cycles ranged from a very swish Bianci road bike with a very slightly buckled rear wheel to a mountain bike with no mudguards or luggage carrying facilities.
Our first mishap occurred whilst riding down a steep hill towards Stratford St Mary. A combination of late night rain followed by freezing temperatures early in the day had left patches of black ice on the road. This resulted in a very nasty incident involving two riders who fell off of their bicycles followed by a similar incident a little further along the road. Several injuries were sustained including a badly bruised wrist and back for one of the riders. However, he was determined to carry on despite his injuries and managed somehow to survive the two days. Following these incidents we rode very carefully for the next few miles until we were sure that ice was no longer a hazard.
The route took us through Hadleigh, and around the north side of Ipswich. We varied our route to avoid Woodbridge and cycled on to Bredfield where we had originally intended to have lunch at the Castle Pub. This pub is between owners and is closed so we decided to ride on to the Three Horseshoes at Charsfield (after a joint effort to mend our first and only puncture).
Lunch was superb - ham, egg and chips followed by a substantial fruit crumble and custard washed down by 2 pints of very good quality Earl Soham Victoria Bitter. With stiffening muscles and very full stomachs we forced ourselves back onto the bicycles with the hope that we might reach Framlingham in time to visit The Station Pub. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare before closing time and enjoyed a pint of Gannet Mild – again from Earl Soham brewery.
The weather remained dry and sunny but cold throughout the day. We rode onto Peasenhall and couldn’t resist calling into a delightful café for cups of tea, scones and a toasted tea cake.
Our arrival at Halesworth for our overnight stop was completed in darkness. We stayed at The Angel Inn. After an hour or so to recover, enjoy a hot bath, we polished off yet another meal (very good Pizza and Pasta dishes) accompanied by pints of Adnams bitter. The Halloween party which was in full swing throughout the evening created a slightly livelier and noisier atmosphere than wanted at this point in the day and so we walked a few yards down the road to visit the White Hart. This is a very pleasant pub with a good range of Adnams Ales. Here we finished our day with several pints of Adnams Old. On returning to the Angel the Halloween party was in full swing, which caused several of our group to experience a broken night’s sleep as their rooms were situated directly above the music and the noise from inebriated party goers.
We set off at approximately 8 45 a.m. the next morning after a consuming a ‘full English breakfast’. The temperature was slightly warmer with cloudy and overcast skies. We were very conscious of the forecast which predicted torrential rain roundabout lunch time. We therefore made as much haste as we could physically endure towards Norwich, via Beccles, Lodden and Bramerton.
After one minor accident on the way resulting in a broken pedal we arrived at the Norwich Beer Festival shortly before 1 p.m. – total distance, 104 miles.
We were given a great welcome by the Beer Festival Organiser who very kindly rewarded our efforts with a festival glass and some free beer. Colchester CAMRA would be very pleased to return the favour to any Norwich members who do the reverse journey by bicycle to visit our winter or summer festivals next year.
Amazingly, the torrential rain did not begin until we were on the train back to Colchester at 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon.
Please see below for some interesting statistics about our journey provided by the GPS.
- Total mileage to Norwich Beer Fest - 104
- Average speed 10.6 mph
- Max speed 27 mph which we hit on the road from Bramerton down to the sea level point
- Total cycling time 9 hours 48 minutes
- Total time stopped 5 hours 40 minutes (not including the overnight stay).
- Highest point on the route was 138 feet at Ilkeshall St Lawrence
- Lowest points were sea level near Langley Green and near Brammerton
- Total ascent 4234 feet!