TWT Truste Barry Burles reports:
The delights of many adventures are the unintended benefits. The thought of 84 relentless miles to North Norfolk was daunting. My first outing recceing the 20 miles of the route to Ely resulted in me peddling through the flood waters alongside the River Cam with frozen and wet feet. However, it forced me to find an alternative that resulted in us taking National Cycle Route 11 to Ely through Wicken Fen. The benefits were great because Route 11 was on mostly hard cycle path surfaces suitable for the road bikes. And it took us across some fabulous open Fen wetlands with great bird watching, wild-looking highland cattle and rare breads of horse. The natural distractions and frequent punctures during our training rides meant that we missed many trains back from Ely, where we invariably stopped for a scrumptious poached egg and hollandaise sauce breakfast, doubling whatever calories that we might have burnt.
The next 20 miles was a straight sprint along 10 Mile Bank to Downham Market after which we were noticeably in the Brecklands navigating our way down rutted and puddly farm tracks and through numerous hamlets with extraordinary names such as Totenhill, Wormegay and Blackborough. This was a long haul through the 55 mile stage when energy simply ran out and the banter stopped as the determination to simply keep going switched on.
To add insult to aching muscles, we encountered our first hills. Never has the support team been such a welcome sight with their broad grins and stupid questions asking us what took us so long? Our condition was quickly remedied by their freshly brewed coffee and tea and the wonderful consommé soup, flap jacks and scotch eggs to die for. But our cause to complete the distance was more pressing. After warming up in the Paddling Duck pub, we slowly recovered and were ready for the final 20 miles that went surprisingly easily as we all seemed to find our second wind.
It was not long before we were in front of another pub crossing a river (picture above) where cars can no longer go. Refusing to be distracted, we peddled on along the pilgrim route through the Walsinghams, cycling past black caped churchmen walking towards us along the Holy Mile to the slipper chapel. Knowing that Langham was now close, the hills to Binham and then on up to Langham were easily managed.
We arrived to the welcoming cheers of wives and girlfriends. We knew from the church clock chiming four that we were just in time to watch England beating Wales that added to our glee. A few beers, a great rugby match and delicious dinner and wine all provided a delightful end to a happy day.
A bunch of men playing hard together engenders the best of camaraderie. The highlight of the adventure was the good spirits that everyone brought with them and kept sharing throughout.
We have since organised a second bike ride along the same route with a riders from the Cambidge Rugby Club. Together we have raised just short of £7,000 for The Waterberg Trust which was a rewarding effort in itself. Many thanks to all our sponsors.