Ten intrepid explorers (plus some hangers-on) met at Alec’s Restaurant in Navestock Side early-ish on a bright and warm Saturday morning. The first puncture was suffered within the first few minutes (yours truly), even before we met the Savages (Mick and Ryan) in Willingale. However we were soon all on our way to our first stop at Andersonsfield Airfield, where a leisurely lunch was taken in the warm sunshine.
Our overnight stop (when we eventually reached it) was at the Dog and Partridge in Bury St Edmonds, apart from Jenny and Pete, who opted for rooms elsewhere. Alan S (AKA Wob) had his pannier taken off his bike by a rapidly-overtaking Ryan, who consequently had a large lump taken out of his tyre; whilst Mick had to remove a stick jammed into his mudguard. Ian (‘Rocket’) merely had to contend with a bike that wouldn’t turn corners….
Next morning, after Pete had worked out that his panniers needed allen keys rather than screwdrivers to adjust, we managed to escape Bury, the sat-navs trying to take us back the way we had come. Wob put on his mobile music box at full volume. It wasn’t the hip eighties tunes he started banging out that we objected to, but his singing, akin to the sound of a cat fight.
At our next stop in Fakenham, we were lodged in either The Bull or Erika’s B&B. However, the only place we found to eat in was the Wetherspoon’s across the road from the Bull, where we waited the best part of an hour for our food. We were glad we didn’t eat in The Bull though, where we found out the next morning that one of the punters was taken to hospital after a fight….
When on the Monday we eventually found somewhere for lunch, Paul ‘fireman Sam’ Elliott admitted he really should have paid and given his key back to Erika before he left that morning. Alan N sorted it though (thanks Barney). And why do you always find the flat tyre when you leave the pub, not when you arrive?
After the shortest day’s riding we packed our bikes in the guard’s van and took the steam train on the North Norfolk Railway from Holt to Sheringham, where a number of interesting anoraks were spotted. After a quick change at our hotel ‘The Lobster’ we wandered round this pleasant seaside town, before we realised we had left Jenny behind – only at the hotel, luckily. That evening was spent looking at old photos of Ilford and trying to slip the titles of James bond films seamlessly into the conversation.
Tuesday we were headed to Fincham, near the RAF base of Marham, so we were either watching the road for close-running cars or watching the sky for low-flying fighters. Once the sat-navs had given way to paper maps we stopped for lunch at The Litcham Bull, where Rocket found his bestest bike ever…
Our stay at the Timbers Country Lodge was pleasant, although we were a captive audience for dinner, and again it seemed like it took ages to get served. The evening was spent claiming everybody who appeared on TV (in Alan and Julie’s spacious room) were early Crest members, and inventing some improbable club history.
Wednesday morning, Paul ‘van Rompelberg’, Louise and Pete departed in a light shower for home via rail from Cambridge, but not before an embarrassingly-shaped sticker was added to Pete’s pannier. Pete’s reaction was not recorded. After Mick set a race-pace across the windswept fens, and past the sugar refinery where ‘entrance’ was written in 10 different languages, we took rain-refuge and coffee in the RSPB sanctuary at Lakenheath. Mick’s pace must have been too fast for his tyres, suffering two punctures getting to lunch at Mildenhall.
Later that afternoon we found ‘The Fox Inn’, an isolated pub with 23 ciders, one of which Rocket decided to try which was 9.5%.
After two halves, he was quite content to ride the rest of the way sitting on his rack rather than his saddle.
At Clare we again split between two places; ‘The Bell Hotel’ (where they had showers like a jet wash) and ‘The Ship’s Stores’ B&B. We gathered for a drink before heading to the (one and only) Indian restaurant for dinner, The food was great, but the attempt to rip us off for the bill wasn’t. Curry house chaos! By the time we sorted it out, it was late so after a swift nightcap we retired.
The final leg home involved a stop at The Compasses in Littley Green, a sign that we were nearly home, after a really enjoyable tour.
A great vote of thanks go to Alan ‘Barney Rubble’ Norris for the organisation and time he put into organising this tour. And thanks to my fellow tourists for supplying pictures for this piece.
Paul ‘Pockets’ King