The Last Leg

The nocturnal comings and going’s at our stopover did not actually disturb our slumber; whatever was going on was being carried out quietly. We woke the next morning to a lovely sunny day, and knew that the weather forecast for the next few days was scorchio.

Stealth camping 🚐

After carrying out our morning routines in preparation for the day and readying the van, we set off for the town of Dedham on the border of Essex and Suffolk, which was to be the start and end point of our circular ride the route of which Mr V had found online and was supposed to ‘give a real sense of being in Constable Country’.

Though we arrived at Dedham fairly early, the first car park that was recommended was already full with cars and kayak paddlers setting up, so we had to quickly find another that we had earmarked already just in case. Fortunately there was still some space in the second car park, but it was filling up fast.

We set to assembling Twolula; this is initially a two person job to hold and line up the couplings, but once these have been secured, Mr V is able to manage the other connections for gearing and brakes etc so I can get on with making coffee and packing provisions for the ride. Today’s ride was only around 14 miles so we did not need to load up with much food, though as the day was already getting hot, hydration was a must.

As we were sorting all this out, our car park neighbours came over to chat. It turns out they too were tandemers, but they were on their individual bikes today as they could not transport their tandem, so were very interested in Twolula and also Sam the Van as this setup too was something that they were aspiring to acquire in the near future. Such enquiries have become a regular aspect of our travels, and we are always happy to chat and wax lyrical about tandem touring or exchange travel stories and recommendations.

It transpired that our parking neighbours were intending to peddle the same route as us and set off whilst we were still finishing off our preparations. We were soon on our way though, sunglasses and visors donned and sun lotioned up to give us as much protection from the already warm sun.

As this was not a recognised cycleway that was part of the NCN, we could not easily use ViewRanger to navigate, so Mr V had overlaid the route onto an Ordinance Survey map app. We have used this method before, but find that it is not as responsive as the Ranger, and today was a case in point as we had to retrace our steps having gone a couple of hundred metres in the wrong direction before it was evident that we were travelling the wrong way!

Error corrected we peddled through the other end of Dedham and were on our way out into the country lanes, and pretty, manicured villages of Suffolk. The big difference we found today though was that, whereas such country lanes would normally mean light traffic, we had now entered the affluent outer reaches of the commuter belt. Indeed we encountered one gentleman who clearly likes to cut his commuter time down by driving some sort of low slung, high performance sports car which is obviously well suited to narrow winding lanes (not), and so not over compensating for anything! Though the countryside is farmed, this is a bucolic backdrop for the obviously eye-wateringly expensive properties, seemingly inhabited by those who consider that as they are country residents, it is essential that one of their cars is a large 4×4. You know, for all those tricky situations encountered in the ‘countryside’, but in truth they remain spotless with the 4WD never actually engaged, and yet they still squeeze their way around the country lanes in order to forage for necessities forgotten from the Waitrose delivery. And talking of deliveries; man we have never seen so many and varied delivery vans in one day!

We stopped off for coffee at a pretty little church, just as our parking neighbours were preparing to leave. We then proceeded to leap-frog each other around the route as one or the other of us stopped to take in a point of interest.

The highlight of the route is advertised as the painting of the Ascension, by Constable which is in permanent display in the Church of St Mary the Virgin. We stopped off at St Mary’s in Boxted, to view the Constable, commenting that it was really out in the middle of nowhere with minimum security. We searched the walls within the church, but found nothing that resembled the Constable masterpiece, concluding that perhaps it had been moved due to the pandemic? On consulting with google though, we realised the error of our ways. We were in the wrong St Mary’s.

We picked up our route again and were soon back in Dedham, which was rather uncomfortably bursting at the seams trying to accommodate all the vehicles milling around looking to park. Though very quaint, such villages often end up being a victim of their own charm, as the number of visitors wishing to sample the delights on offer becomes overwhelming and claustrophobic. We peddled back to the van, working our way through the traffic in the High Street and stowed Twolula away again, then proceeded on foot to the correct St Mary’s to cast our eyes on the Constable masterpiece.

There it is!

We had thought to walk out to Flatford Mill, made famous by Constable’s The Hay Wain, however the level of peopleage now milling around the area led us to conclude that this would not be a pleasant experience. We had also intended to stopover in the area for the night before making our way to Essex the next morning to stay with aunt and uncle, Bob and Babs. The heat and busyness of the area though were rather oppressive, so after checking it would be ok to turn up early, we headed south to Great Wakering and a few days of being spoiled rotten by our lovely relatives, before we headed homeward.

Chin-chin 🥂

As predicted the weather became progressively hotter over the next day or so, but we got up very early on the Sunday morning to have a little peddle from Great Wakering along the cycle route that travels along the sea front all the way to Leigh-on-Sea as the tide would be in and the air fresh. Though we set off before 07.00hrs the sun was already getting warm, but it was still pleasant. We had anticipated being one of the few people out and about at that time, but how wrong we were. We had completed our outward leg before 09.00hrs and the beach was already getting busy with families and groups marking out their pitch of the beach, setting out barbecues and clearly getting ready for spending an entire day worshiping the sun and sea. We left them to it and headed back knowing that a sumptuous breakfast would be awaiting us – Babs lives by the motto – ‘never knowingly under-catered’!

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