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5 December. Thank you, Dr. Beeching. 34 miles.

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The Flitch Way used to be a single track railway line between Bishops Stortford and Braintree but, thanks to Dr. Beeching who redrew the railway map of Great Britain in the 1950s, it is now a delightful cycle / pedestrian route instead which our leader for the day Graham incorporated into this ride, commencing in Old Harlow where Graham used to work.

Unfortunately for Graham, who decided to cycle from Ickleton to Old Harlow down his former cycle commuting route, he picked up a couple of punctures probably from the hawthorn needles which cover the lanes at this time of year. It was a bitterly cold and foggy morning and having struggled to replace the first tube his hands were somewhat numb by the time the second happened and so with time pressing he put out a MAYDAY call which Brian picked up and diverted towards Stocking Pelham where Graham was stranded. Meanwhile, several of the others on the ride had gathered at The Queen’s Head or nearby due to the road outside being dug up, and headed to a cosy caff in the back room of the local shop to keep warm with mugs of coffee.

Eventually, Brian and Graham arrived but there was still the second puncture to mend.

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Graham and Martin hard at work whilst Andrew stays erect with a bad back
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Job’s done! Everyone’s happy!

And so, 45 mins later than planned Graham led Andrew, Brian, Ken, Rod, Roger, Geoff, Howard and Martin eastwards and downwind along very quiet lanes, several of them National Cycle Routes, towards our coffee stop at the Meadow Hill café in Dunmow, where the fruit cake, buns and scones were declared to be excellent.

Fruit cakes in Dunmow

After coffee it was time to head back west and having crossed the busy A120 via a bridge we were soon cycling along the very straight Flitch Way with just the odd barrier to squeeze through here and there, and little or no mud – definitely a ride which Graham could have declared ‘guaranteed mud free or your money back’ but after last week’s experience decided it might be wiser not to. Eventually we came to a halt, appropriately enough, at Stane Street Halt, where trains had to be flagged down if a passenger wanted to get on. And for those wishing to get off, passengers had to ask the guard who then had to ask the driver if he would be ever so kind as to halt at Stane Street. Guards had a useful job to do in those days!

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The history of Stane Street Halt and the wildlife around it today

 

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Windmillers waiting patiently for the next train to Bishops Stortford

We exited the Flitch Way at this point and then made our way around Hatfield Forest to Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath, all looking glorious in the winter sunshine.

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Geoff and Rod approaching Hatfield Heath
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‘Brokeback’ Dawg feeling the pain?
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Wintry sky over Hatfield Heath

The wind appeared to increase a bit on the final leg and so we were ready to sample some fine ales and enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived back at The Queen’s Head.

This is where we went, the Flitch Way being the easy bit to spot:

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Thanks, Graham, for arranging a fantastic ride and for introducing us to your old stamping ground in Old Harlow. We’re glad you accepted a lift back to Ickleton with Ken. Two punctures is quite enough in one day.

Thanks also to Andrew for organising us all and we hope his back is no longer broke.

Martin

 

 

 

 

 

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