Fen Bridges - April 2021
Ride leader Claire sends this report:
Two riders sheltered in the shadow of Ely Cathedral as I pedalled over the loose cobbles of the Gallery towards them. Numerous bright front lights gave away their overnight plans. Gradually other riders appeared, discussing travel plans and distances travelled, until we were ready for the briefing, with a hooray for the new Friday riders.
It was already cold, with a biting wind but we set off in good humour, round by Ely Porta with a taste of the night to come, both through a brief background history and a sample of the potholes. Up to Little Downham we went, with a comedy warning of “hill”, street lights glaring in the sleepy village, then we plunged down the bend of Mill Hill into darkness and our adventure had begun.
A quick tech stop and some were wondering what the string of lights across the horizon was? A train, road, aliens? No, probably a chicken shed. You’re in the Fens now, riders.
The clear night sky was punctuated by the stars, as we clunked down Hundred Foot Bank. Novel warnings of “mind the gap” were found as we traversed the concrete slab road. Pausing at Welney Wash to peer into the watery gloom, we were glad the Wash was dry, avoiding the need for water wings. From here, the road drops below sea level, with mists rising and temperatures dropping further.
Zig-zagging Fen roads in and out of the headwind, over our third bridge we stopped to look at incognito WWII buildings at Three Holes. We passed the Friday Bridge sign but left that diversion for another ride.
On our right, a red disc loomed up from the fields, a Blood Moon joining us for the ride. Down Gravel Bank, the mists creeping more steadily across the road, reeds moodily lining the rivers, and the moon now higher in the sky, spookily lurking behind clouds.
For a while, it was riders in the landscape, no marks of civilisation apart from the tarmac under our tyres. The odd house, lonesome in the wilderness. Did we hear banjo chords out in the darkness or imagine it? We wound our way down single track roads, hands and toes numbing through the biting cold.
After attempting to lead the riders into a business park, we came to the very welcome West Lynn petrol station, another glamorous Fridays cafe stop. Much stomping of feet and hands under armpits, as hot drinks were successfully obtained through the night hatch after some initial, spirit dampening, confusion.
We chatted away, comparing temperatures with previous rides, agreeing the headwind this night was pulling the cold into our bones. Snacks munched, flasks drunk from, kit adjustments made, we set off for King’s Lynn proper.
Orange and midnight blue hues touched the edge of the sky, giving hints to the sunrise to come and birdsong floated across the centre of King’s Lynn, avians and riders the only creatures about as we pedalled under the South Gate, Porta to Porta. On to the Quayside, reaching the coast, admiring the glimmers of sunrise over the rivers end. We turned past the Minister, and chequerboard Guildhall, then back to the cyclepath by the river, taking in the lights of King’s Lynn port.
Early dawn light revealed misty rivers and gently brought warmth to riders, and we followed the river over larger bridges at Magdalen. An unfortunate puncture, forced a stop whilst the other riders enjoyed the atmosphere of the sunrise over the misty river on one side of the bridge and the half moon, high in the sky reflected in the water on the other side. A scene for contemplation, quiet discussion and sneaking drowsies.
Open farmland stretched out everywhere, occasional trees framing the sun, striped plough furrows hugging the damp air. Downham Market stalls were being set up as we passed through taking in some comedy off road, fingers crossed, we won the challenge with the puncture fairy.
Sun high, blazing in the blue skies, Denver Sluice and Ten Mile Bank beckoned. The river glittering on silky water, spirits soared with the temperature, and layers finally came off again. After some Cold War history point Littleport, we descended the grippy bends to Chettisham. Excited cries of “Cathedral”, The Ship of the Fens, sighted on the horizon. We’re nearly there, breakfast was calling.
The cathedral is visible for miles on the Isle of Ely meaning a draggy climb back into the city, really earning our breakfast. Back into the surprising busy town, queuing for Grain Culture, the display luring people in. Click-clack over to the Cathedral for a group photo and loop completion. Coffees on the market, and perching on a wall to devour our pastries, we compared notes.
We joked about having arranged excellent weather, but perhaps the thermostat could have been turned up a little! A beautiful night for a ride, the atmosphere and scenery providing a soul satisfying experience.
A fantastic group to ride with, many thanks to Anton and Barry, for being a splendid joint All Upper/TEC combo.
Photos courtesy of Lynne and Barry.