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28 October. Sunny Suffolk. 34 miles.

The Plough at Rede was once again the meeting place for this tour of sunny Suffolk lanes. Brian and Joyce, the owners of the pub, had just entered their 40th year of running it and it was good to offer them our congratulations on arriving for coffee at 9.00am and placing our lunch orders. Providing good food and beer in a wonderful location, a friendly welcome and great efficiency, it’s no wonder the pub has been so successful over the years.

Maurice, Brian, Sandra, Rod and Chris set off as Group A followed a few minutes later by Andrew, Howard, Roger, Simon, Deborah, Ken and Martin. This is where we went, clockwise:

Note the near vertical line at around 6 miles – that’s Hartest Hill, also known as the hardest hill in Suffolk, with an average gradient of 7.6% and a max of 12.6%. And whoever said Suffolk was flat should take a good look at the elevation / gradient profile of this ride!

Passing initially through the pretty village of Hawkedon with its church surrounded by green meadows we cruised down a valley before the first climb up to Somerton where Group B stopped to watch Simon experimenting with what effect gravity might have on a tyre dumped by the roadside. Luckily it rolled towards a ditch instead of careering down the hill we had just climbed.

As Deborah said, ‘What is the prof up to now?’. In case you’re wondering, the plastic bag has nothing to do with Simon.

Hartest Hill came next, which resulted in another stop at the top to regain breath, followed by a pleasant run through to Lavenham and onwards to Café Como at Brent Eleigh, which necessitated taking the busy A1141 towards Hadleigh. We were reminded of how careful we have to be whilst making rare use of A-roads when Simon was overtaken by a Fiat Panda as a car was coming towards it on a clear stretch of road, leaving barely an inch between either of them – a narrow squeeze indeed.

Café Como is a popular place for cyclists and deservedly so judging by the quality of the coffee and cakes, the oozy flapjacks being especially tasty.

Coffee at Café Como for Group B, courtesy of Brian from Group A.
What is the collective name for e-bikes? Suggestions please. Ed. Note the Raleigh brand still alive and well on the e-bike on the left.

The return leg took us again through delightful villages and lanes with some interesting architecture.

This magnificent wall and arched gateway surrounds Wells Hall on Milden Road just outside Brent Eleigh.
This is the site of the former Ward & Son brewery in Foxearth, where Deborah happened to stop to peel off a layer. Established in 1848, the brewery was acquired by Taylor, Walker & CO. in 1957, repurchased from Ind Coope in 1960 and demolished in 1962
The Ward Brewery in its heyday
Those were the days.
The River Stour at Foxearth, looking very Constableish. But the water for Ward’s beers came from a 100m deep borehole into chalk – full history here: http://breweryhistory.com/wiki/index.php?title=A_History_of_Ward_%26_Son_Ltd

The countryside past Glemsford became quite hilly again, steep enough to tempt Roger and Martin to don skis at one stage given sufficient snow, with a splendid view towards Hawkedon at the end (main photo above).

Then it was back to The Plough to down a well earned pint and enjoy a good lunch, except for Deborah who had to head back, but we were joined by Suzanne who had cycled all the way from Abington and who had a strong head-wind for her return leg.

Thanks go once again to Maurice and Andrew for planning the route and organising us, and to Deborah and Brian for their photographs.

Martin

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