The next day I ride north into Norfolk to meet my friend James. I’ve not actually met James before, or even spoken to him, but he’s part of the Twitter cycling community and we’ve chatted (typed) online a fair bit. After zigzagging along some quiet lanes I pick up a main road north, through Dennington and Framlingham to the border of Norfolk at Harleston. The main road is quiet, as it is Sunday and still early, and is flat and easy. A high gear is chosen and spun at a regular cadence. With no traffic and no junctions to think about for a good few miles allows the mind to wander, finding its own thoughts. The sound of church bells ring as I pass through somewhere. Somewhere else along the way I pass a trucks parts dealer where upended lorry cab wind deflectors look like icebergs floating in a tarmac ocean. As I said my mind was wandering so I didn’t notice place names. I remember Framlingham as there is an impressive castle visible from the road across a lake.
I keep pedalling and barrelling along the flat roads. No hills make it difficult to read the landscape, but as my eyes adjust to the constant horizon I start to pick out lines of trees or hedgerows indicating the path of the road. Corners tend to be sharp 90 degrees following the boundaries of fields. The straight horizon meant the sky above appeared huge, as though a massive dome animated by clouds and sunlight had been placed across the land.
As I enter Norfolk the land seems to crinkle more and be more wooded. The roads rise and fall a little more, and lanes plunge into darkness as trees create verdant tunnels. All the way along today’s route I pass old bookcases and dilapidated cabinets of vegetables outside houses; beets, courgettes, runner beans, outside others eggs for sale. A thriving micro rural economy running parallel to the macro one all around.
After fording a river and crossing a busy main road I see James heading towards me, with his son Seb riding pillion. We say hello, scan the map and start to pedal eastwards towards the Roman remains to the north of Stoke Holy Cross. We spin along lanes chatting about bikes and stuff, and play spot the tractor with Seb. Around an hour later we look for somewhere to stop and get some lunch. The first place we stop is a fancy pub where we see fear on their faces as we walk on their polished floorboards in cleats. We don’t stay long. A mile or so up the road we find a hotel where we can grab sandwiches and tea and chat some more.
After lunch I part with James and Seb and start heading south again, for Bungay and on to Halesworth where I can pick up the National Cycle Network Route 1 all the way back to Blaxhall. I spot the silhouettes of castles and churches on the horizon, but realise as I get closer I’ve misread silhouettes of groups of trees. There are real castles and real churches galore though, and many churches that have the appearance of castles, bell towers with battlements, maybe a sign of a turbulent history.
Once on NCN1 I just have to keep an eye out for the red and blue signs, so the pace picks up as I don’t have to stop every few miles to make sure I’m going the right way. It’s easy to get lost on the flatlands of Suffolk, with no hills to use as markers.
I can tell I’m back in Suffolk as there are a lot of pigs. Pig farms aplenty in Suffolk. Even an orchard that doubles as pig grazing, pigs wandering in and out of tree trunks. Soon I’m back on the road I started on this morning and heading around Glemham Hall Estate back towards Blaxhall. No dinner and pint today, just the front wheel off and bike thrown in the back of the car for the drive back to Brighton.
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/75725119
Miles ridden: 97 (was tempted to ride around the block to make it a nice round 100)
Feet climbed: 2500
Average speed: 15.7 mph
Tractors seen: Many
Local cheese consumed: Smoked Dapple
Cameras used: Holga 120 and Samsung Galaxy Ace/Instagram
Film used: Kodak Tmax 100asa
Thank you: James for meeting up and shouting me lunch, and Seb for his tractor spotting skills and navigation.