The plan was to rely on Great Northern and Abellio Greater Anglia ( suitably abbreviated to AGA) to transport six Windmillers to Cambridge initially and then all take the 09.10 to Thetford for a 10.00 start. Great Northern delivered Sandra, Rod and Lawrence on time but AGA failed miserably and so Ken, Keith and Martin had to pedal furiously to Whittlesford after first lugging their bikes and panniers over the bridge to Platform 1 at Great Chesterford only to be told that their train had been cancelled, and then lug them back again. The position at Whittlesford was not much better but eventually a train arrived which just connected in Cambridge with a later train to Ely, involving a change there for Thetford. That was the theory, but an angry baton waving Fat Controller told us we could not get the next train to Thetford because there was not enough room for our bikes. As it happened, two of us could have boarded because when our train eventually arrived, exactly an hour after our scheduled train, the guard said that six bikes were not allowed…………. But he was a genial guard, and a cyclist, and so he relented. And so, at last, we said goodbye to Ely Station, waving two fingers at the Fat Controller as we did so, and we were finally on the start of our two day bike ride.
Setting off from Thetford finally at 11.00 meant that lunch arrangements might be compromised but we sped up National Cycle Route 13 to the edge of Thetford Forest with the wind behind us. But at Galley Hill the route deteriorated into an off road stretch of 2 miles through the forest and due to torrential rain the day before it was full of deep puddles. We got through without incident and were soon on very quiet lanes heading due North, clocking up the miles with no effort.
It soon became apparent that the planned choice of lunch stops were both achievable and so we decided to make for the farthest one, The White Horse in Longham, having placed our orders in advance by phone. We were greeted warmly and given a nice table where we could be noisy and not upset other diners.
With 30 miles behind us already, and fortified by an excellent lunch, the remaining 22 miles to Wells through delightful villages and very quiet lanes was a breeze. The route was primarily No. 13 but with adjustments to reach Longham and cut out East Dereham, eventually teaming up with No. 1 in the Walsinghams, having avoided Fakenham by going through Great and Little Snoring on roads familiar to Windmillers from last year’s ride in the same area. Just before Little Walsingham we paid homage to the site where John T had his unfortunate accident last year, from which he has made an excellent recovery.
Thoughts of Wherry began to happen soon afterwards and by 4.15 we whizzed into Wells and were on the deck of The Albatros by 4.30 admiring the view and downing some excellent pints from a new barrel.
Captain Ton was a charming chap but asked us to move our bikes from where we had placed them on deck as they were obscuring the all important sky lights to the space below.
Once on board, new names had to be allocated of course in true Good Ship Venus style to reflect our nautical hierarchy for the night ahead, except for Sandra the Wren who had wisely chosen luxury b&B accommodation close by. As Maurice was sadly unable to be with us, Martin was promoted to Captain Ugger, Ken was First Mate Preen, Rod was Second Mate Carter, Keith was Midshipman Paul and Lawrence was Roger the Cabin Boy. Andrew’s verses from the Good Ship Venus were much in our minds…………..
Once settled, if that’s the right word, in our cabins Keith led us on a tour of Wells and we had a pint in a nice pub before enjoying a superlative meal at the Wells Crab House Restaurant. Sauntering back to the Albatros, we bid goodnight to Sandra on the way, who never ceased to remind us of the triple aspect room she had and the quality of the plumbing compared to our solitary shower. But then you can’t beat a quiet nightcap on the deck of the Albatros listening to the gentle rippling of the tide and a good night’s sleep.
Breakfast for the shipmates was a Dutch pancake or full English, both of which contained sufficient calories for several days ahead, whilst Sandra ate at a luxury breakfast cafe nearby. It took a while to get going but by 10.00 we set off on what was thought to be an easy ride to Kings Lynn, following National Cycle Route 1 the whole way.
The first part of the ride took us on the off road stretch behind the pine trees between Wells and Holkham beach before heading up through the Holkham Hall Estate to the road behind leading to Burnham Market. Acknowledgements are due to Lawrence for the pics hereafter (and the one of the Albatros above) due to Martin’s phone running out of oomph.
Unlike the previous day, the wind was on our nose for most of the day and the hills were surprisingly non-stop from Burnham Market onwards as the route went westwards along a quiet straight lane of nearly 10 miles to Ringstead, resulting in quite slow progress. But an amazing pub, The Gin Trap, hove into view in Ringstead where we enjoyed coffee before heading south to Kings Lynn, passing through pretty villages full of flint faced cottages.
The Sandringham Estate then made an appearance but despite rattling the gate we were not allowed in:
The ride through the Estate was very attractive and there was a useful stretch of cycle path alongside the busy A149 before turning off down an avenue of trees for lunch in a cafe in Castle Rising, the local pub being out of action which would have been our preferred choice for celebrating the fun we had over the 2 days.
After lunch it was a straightforward ride through to Kings Lynn following the well marked Route 1 the whole way including an excellent cycle path to the station, only having to cross a couple of busy roads at marked crossings. With no plans to catch a particular train, we arrived after 35 miles to find a train about to depart in 4 minutes and so there was no time for a final pic outside the station. The journey back was a dream compared to the outward one.
Here are the routes taken:
Thanks to everyone for taking part.