Saturday, 23 July 2016

LEG 7 - DAY 6: Harwich - Southend

After a somewhat broken night's sleep in the amazing Harwich RNLI station, (with various garbled messages coming over the radio periodically), we set off at a leisurely 7.30am. 

En-route to the Harwich Premier Inn (luxury!) where the Peloton were staying, we dropped in to Morrisons for a quick round of 'supermarket sweep', to grab some breakfast. 

After a little faffing by the group we got underway, heading south through Essex countryside.... Today was to be a day of skirting around the Essex estuaries, and taking in the glorious countryside, beautiful villages and a lot of white Range Rovers.... 

The peloton cycled as one, as we churned through the first 20km of the day, and it wasn't long before we pulled in to Walton and Frinton RNLI. The station itself was positioned in an elevated position, just back from the waterfront, while the boat was moored at the far end of Walton Pier. A quick photo, and a top up of water, and we got underway again heading south along the waterfront. 

It is fair to say, that Walton have fully embraced beach huts. Not one of the Peloton of 9 had ever seen so many in one place- it was quite a spectacle!

About 10km along the waterfront we arrived Clapton-on Sea, where they were holding a vintage car gathering at the Pier. It felt like little had changed there in the past 60 years... 

A little further along the coast we arrived at the Clapton RNLI station, for a quick photo, and water fill, and on we all went, now splitting into two Pelotons, to enable a few riders to push on...

A bit of a logistical glitch meant that our ferry across the river Colne wasn't in-fact running until the afternoon. The downside was that this would involve a 10km detour into Colchester to cross the river. The positive side however was that we got to cycle along the beautiful Colne estuary, and take in a quick lime soda to re-hydrate. 

By 1pm we were feeling rather peckish and a little low on fuel, so a stop in at a pub on the way, with a good garden out the back, got us refueled and up and running again. 

The penultimate Lifeboat station of the day was Burnham on Crouch- a great station overlooking a large harbor, with a very welcoming crew. We were given soft drinks and able to grab a quick update on the final competitive stage of the Tour De France (go Frome!) before getting back on the road to make our final ferry crossing of the trip.

While waiting for the ferry boat to arrive, Rad decided to go for a quick dip in the River Crouch, and spurred on by the group, upped his game in an attempt to do a forward flip.... This ended in disaster as the metal edging to the decked pontoon had come loose, and resulted in his feed getting stuck and cut/bruised as he ultimately did a enormous belly flop! Thankfully, the injuries were minor and were were able to plough on. 

Once off the ferry we had a short (c 10km) ride into the 'bright lights' of Southend's waterfront amusement parks, in the middle of which is the Southend RNLI station- our accommodation for the night. The crew were very welcoming, and told us a bit about the station (one of the busiest in the country) which houses one of the RNLI's four hover craft, two D class lifeboats, and an Atlantic Class off-shore Rib. 

Given the proximity of the Station to Southend's 'Adventure Island Amusement Park' (immediately next door- c 5 yards away) with the associated lout music and screems from the roller coasters, we suspect it is going to be a long night...!

Friday, 22 July 2016

LEG 7 - DAY 5: Gorleston - Harwich

With only three days left of our trip, we woke this morning and for the first time in seven years had a very leisurely start! Bliss... We were not due to meet the Peloton who were coming to join us for the ride back to London until 9am, so we made the most of the fantastic breakfast at the Cliff Hotel (many thanks again to Panos for putting us up there).

With Will Holland and the peloton cycling from Norwich (about 25 miles away), we met up shortly after 9am at Gorleston RNLI, for a quick photo before getting on the road together. Now 8 cyclists in tops with another joining us tomorrow and two more on Sunday.... In addition we had the Craig and Archie (RNLI Crew from the Thames) in a support van, and Frank adding additional support. Quite a team! 

Our ride today took us south along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast lines, through some stunning countryside and beautiful villages. 

If there is such a thing as a perfect cycling conditions, this could have been it: Blue skies, sun, 10mph tail wind, 24 degrees, and gently undulating countryside trough beautiful farmland. 

Lowestoft was our first station of the day- a bustling harbour and small port where we took a quick photo and topped up the water  before forging on. It took some getting used to riding as per of a larger peloton having only had the two of us for the past 6 expeditions...

Southwold was only a little way down the coast. A stunning market town, where we were later to have lunch, and the RNLI station at the river mouth- a beautiful stop. 

A small passenger ferry (rowing boat), with the politest ferry man we have come across to date, took us across the river- 4 at a time-and kindly gave us free passage. We were soon under way again, churning across the Suffolk countryside.

Aldeburgh was our penultimate station of the day. The very welcoming crew gave us a tour of the station and boat (without doubt the most immaculate and highly polished we have seen to date- the 24 year old Mersey Class Offshore Lifeboat that looked cleaner than the day it was delivered!) The station was in a beautiful spot on the beach, and we all had a bit of a break before heading on.

Between Aldeburgh and Harwich (our final station of the day, where Rad and I would be spending the night on roll mats), we had two further ferry connections across river estuaries. The first (Felixstowe Ferry) we made comfortably while the second and bigger crossing from Felixstowe to Harwich was a little tighter, so a few of the Peloton pushed on ahead, and the Ferry man kindly waited a little after the final run of the day to take us all across. 

A great day, through beautiful scenery- edging ever closer to the finish line. 

LEG 7 - DAY 4: Hunstanton - Great Yarmouth and Gorleston

After two big days on the road, covering 375km in a heat wave, we thankfully had a cooler day today, with only a 130km ride to contend with, and in near perfect conditions. The North coast of Norfolk was stunning (if not slightly hillier than expected!) and we churned through mile upon mile of rolling farmland, interspersed with beautiful villages and the occasional windmill. 

After a quick stop at Hunstanton RNLI station (which houses an impressive hovercraft as part of it's fleet, for rescue jobs across the shallows of The Wash) we got underway and headed east, across the north Norfolk coast.

Wells-Next-The-Sea was our first station stop- a bustling seaside town with the RNLI station positioned at the end of a long sandy promontory at the estuary mouth- a really stunning setting. After a quick look around the boat and chat with the crew (and once Rad had stopped faffing with his kit) we ploughed on east.

Sheringham was our second station of the day-  a small seaside town overlooking another white sandy beach. A lovely lady from the shop welcomed us and filled our water bottles, before we were off again.

On our way to our third station, Cromer, we came across a beautiful church green and hamlet where we stopped for an early lunch in the shade of the church spire. One of our best lunch stops to date.

Next along the road was Cromer- a larger and bustling seaside town, with an historic centre and large pier, at the end of which was a fantastic RNLI station. The mechanic who was at the station welcomed us, and gave us coffee and the use of their computer for updating the blog, before ploughing on. 

Happisburg was our penultimate station- a remote station at the end of a long single track road leading to yet another beautiful white sand beach. From there we took a rough unmade track for 4km (not ideal on already tender backsides!) east, before re-joining the main road. 

After yet more beautiful (and thankfully more Norfolk-like flat) countryside we pulled into Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. Passing the fairly impressive bustling commercial dockyards we arrived at Gorleston RNLI. One of the crew, Panos, had very kindly offered to put us up at his fantastic hotel (The Cliff) just down the road, so we went on immediately for a hot shower and a beer with Panos and Paddy the Mechanic. A great day.