The meeting point was Hyde Park Corner. I decided upon this again purely for nostalgia as for several years the night rides to the coast started from there. My ride actually started at Euston where I met Dr John. We cycled the few miles to Hyde Park where Geoff was ready and waiting.
The night was still quite mild but not as warm as it had been of late. Thankfully rain - which had been very heavy during the day - stayed away and there was only the gentlest of breezes. After chewing the fat for a short while we headed off into the night.
Progress was brisk and I was conscious of the fact that I was riding with two very good cyclists. If the pace was too quick we owl reach Burnham-on-Crouch with hours to spare, so the pace was gentle.
Much of the first 20 miles or so was urban cycling but the roads were fairly quiet which made things a great deal more pleasant.
At a petrol station we stopped for a few quick refreshments and Dr John took the opportunity to get a snack. Sadly there were no hot drinks of sale there for him.
|Dr John powdering his nose
After roughly 20 miles or so the urban started to give way to rural and busy lit streets were replaced by narrow, unlit country lanes. It was quite lovely cycling along with the roads virtually all to ourselves .
I knew that on this ride we would come to a ford that could get pretty deep at certain times of the year or when there had been heavy rain. The last couple of days had seen almost biblical downpours and I wondered how deep the ford might be. I had heard of the foolhardy cycling through, not anticipating how deep the water was and ending up with it hitting the top of their saddles.
The water was not too deep but there was no way my bikes was going to ford the ford as it were. Thankfully there was a conveniently placed footbridge adjacent to the ford, so we stepped carefully across. As we did, mist rose from the depths creating an quite sinister mood.
With the ford out of the way we pressed on. Our halfway point - which wasn't quite halfway at 32 miles - was the village hall in Stock. On previous rides (with much greater numbers) this had been opened up by a team of volunteers who served all manner of lovely goodness. We had to make do with the bench outside.
We arrived at Stock Village Hall at just after 03:30 in the a.m. and with only another 22 or so miles to go I knew that we would have to remain there for a little while. Geoff proved to be a saviour. In his pannier bag he had stored away this this very moment a flask containing hot coffee. I have to report that it was wonderful!!
We stayed quite comfortably at Stock Village Hall until about 04:50 a.m. with dawn approaching. As we had been sitting there it started to get progressively colder to the extent that all of us put on a extra layer or layers. I didn't feel warm again until several miles later.
The early morning was quite stunning. Stopping to take some photos of a windmill the views just got better and better. The sky was clear. The sun was coming out and the miles were flying by.
Our breakfast stop was 'The Cabin Dairy' which opened at 08:00. We arrived at 07:15 which wasn't actually bad timing.
Propping the bicycles against the wall we retired to one of the tables, waiting for The Cabin to open. The sausages served at The Cabin were much talked about in the past and when my 'Full Monty' arrived I can report that the sausages were as good as I remember them (I think four years ago which was the last time we cycled to this location).
The ride could have ended here but on on previous ride we got a ferry to take us across the River Crouch so that we could cycle the 10 miles to Southend where we would get the train from there.
As we waited lot of very expensive motorbike started to park up for perhaps a Saturday morning show it all off kind of thing.
I had been in contact with the gentleman in charge of the ferry and he said that he would be able to take us across slightly earlier than the official 10:00 start. Good to his word at about 09:40 he rang to say he was just coming in.
Walking our bikes the short distance to meet the ferry - which was a small boat - we had to walk down a rather steep gangway. This proved to be rather difficult, if not comical. Dr John went first, followed by myself and then Geoff. So it was that Larry Grayson, Frankie Howard and Charles Hawtrey walked with bicycles trying not to fall over.
The boat journey didn't take long but was very pleasant. (Geoff and I had mercilessly wound Dr John up about this part of the journey. He was informed that there was danger of rogue waves, capsizing and a general swell so great he would be advised to take some travel sickness tablets before getting on the ferry).
Once on the other side Geoff guided us the 10 miles or so to Southend Central. The journey there was lovely and again the scenery before us was stunning. At Southend Central we said goodbye to Geoff and Dr John and I boarded our train for Liverpool Street.
This was a lovely adventure and one I would definitely repeat. Dr John and Geoff were great company and I thank them for being slightly unhinged enough to trust me with the navigation (which I have to report went rather well).
Despite knowing that the original leader of the night rides to the coast, Simon won't read this blog post, I think it only fitting that I thank him too. I more or less used his route and would not have been introduced to the joys of nocturnal adventures had I not signed up for one of his rides over fives years ago.