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9 May. Highways and byways. 16 miles.

Maurice incorporated almost every local byway into this ride but whilst getting some gravel and pothole practice in before leaving the car park of The Red Cow he fell off his bike in a rather classy slow motion sort of way, gaining a few scratches in the process. Windmillers soon came to the rescue and hauled him and his bike up (getting out from underneath a heavy e-bike is no mean feat), and no other damage was done other than to his ego. All agreed that pushing bikes across loose gravel was probably the best bet.

Accompanied by Nick, Simon, Graham, Rod (just back from Oz), Alan and Martin, Maurice then led us on a tour of local highways and byways. This is where we went:

Byway no. 1 soon came into view – the lovely climb from Builden End over to Langley Lower Green, passing a Wash / Thames watershed ditch on the way. Not too bumpy either thanks to Essex CC’s upgrading of byways in recent years. Heading towards Brent Pelham before turning left to Roast Green and up past Poppy’s Barn brought us to Byway no. 2, a former Roman Road which joined Braughing with Great Chesterford. This is the only part which remains that can be walked / cycled, and in the tramlines of Roman wagons and chariots too. What heritage we have on our doorstep!

The featured photo above of modern-day Roman soldiers, a.k.a Windmillers, was taken at the exit of the byway near Cooper’s End.

Cycling through Duddenhoe End and up to Littlebury Green, where Simon is busy restoring a former quarry into a nature reserve with the help of other volunteers, we whizzed past his house and on towards Byway no. 3 – the pleasant route alongside the woods between Catmere End and Elmdon, pausing to admire the Jersey cattle at Freewood Farm.

Maurice and Simon receiving admiring looks from a Jersy heifer

‘Hey, you, get off my bike!’

Cycling past Simon O’s house in Elmdon, which seemed all locked up, made us think of what he has been going through recently and to hope he is doing ok. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we enjoyed a beer on a summer’s evening in his and Ollie’s back garden, where Simon proudly showed us his very own outdoor bar. I want one! I want it now!

Finally, Byway no. 4 was meant to take us directly from Elmdon to Chrishall, which it did for Rod who was out front with hearing aids turned off / not working, but the remaining group decided to take Graham’s detour to the north end of Chrishall through the infamous ‘big dipper’ and soft gravel – all because Martin reported a tree down on the intended route which Charles had promised to chain-saw away before heading off on his sailing trip. But he hadn’t – the tree was still there but Rod managed to get his e-bike around it somehow and got back to The Red Cow long before the others.

And so ended a very pleasant tour of local highways and byways, except perhaps for Nick who said he still suffers from a bashed up knee from many years ago and so prefers the highways to the byways.

It was great to have Rod back with us again after his long stay in Australia, where both he and his wife had Covid at one stage and had to lock themselves away. He seemed relieved to be back in a country with Covid on the wane, no floods, no nasty spiders and no crocodiles, and celebrated by buying a round of drinks. Cheers Rod!

But it was sad not to have Andrew with us and we hope he makes a steady recovery from his recent ladder accident.

Thanks, Maurice, for organising a great ride.

Martin

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