An Adventure

That old chestnut - SPD pedals and trainers.... Amateur!

That old chestnut - SPD pedals and trainers.... Amateur!

This weekend was the weekend we’d planned to ride the South Downs Way. I don’t want to bore you with all the details but due to equipment difficulties and the need to extend our time for the Outer Hebrides and a few other trips planned this month we decided to do something closer to home, thus also saving the money to put towards the other trips.

We decided to ride to a coastal location about 30 miles from here. Shingle Street is at Hollesley Bay, Suffolk and this stretch of wild and desolate beach has always been a favourite place for me. Mainly because very few people go there. There is no sand, no blue waters, no fairground attractions or tacky shops and no frills. Just a rough, moody unspoilt expanse of shingle beach stretching between one village and another.

The trip was on/off for most of the day yesterday. The failure of our bike racks to be delivered by City Link coupled with the rather wet/windy/stormy weather forecast looming over us made it hard to decide what to do. Even a 30 mile bike ride to the coast could be turned into a soaking wet horrorfest if we decided to leave just as the good old British weather dumped it’s guts on us.

Decision made we left late afternoon with a planned 3 hours to get to our destination where we’d still have to find a discreet place to wild camp for the night.

3 hours 9 minutes later we arrived having had a pleasant, dry and even sunny trip the entire journey. The only eventful moment was when I rode straight through the stream from a leaking manhole cover where I then enjoyed a face and mouthful of sewage water which Wil found extremely amusing.

Secluded Spot - Shingle Street

Secluded Spot - Shingle Street

We found a little flat hideaway spot miles from houses in either direction on the beach and not far from the sea defence footpath but out of view. We dumped the bikes and heated up some water to make Wil’s potnoodle and my couscous meal and waited for the sun to start setting before we put the tent up.

It was the first time using our new 2 man tent but with only 2 poles and a handful of pegs it took minutes to erect and soon after we both crawled inside to get out of the mosquitos which had suddenly swarmed the area.

I set an alarm for 7am in order to get up and out before anyone walked past but it wasn’t needed. We had a terrible nights sleep – at first being hot, then cold, then too hot and with the both of us used to sleeping in a kingsized bed the confined quarters made for a challenging night of shoulders and knees. Eventually at 5am I got up and was so glad I did because it was just in time to catch the sunrise over the sea.

By 7am we were cleared away and by 8am we were fed, watered and on our way again. Instead of taking the same route home we opted to bike down to Bawdsey where we caught the Deben Ferry across to Felixstowe.

The ferry crosses the mouth of the river Deben where it meets the sea and although it’s only 200 meters or so to the other side there is a charge of £3.50 for yourself and your bike to be taken one way – rather hefty considering the distance but your other option is to go miles inland before a bridge is available. We got to the jetty about an hour before the ferry started and parked ourselves on a small wooden bench. A couple of road bikers cycled in to check the ferry timetable, stopping to chat to us on the way back.

Waiting for the ferry at Bawdsey

Waiting for the ferry at Bawdsey

The last time I used this ferry it was run by an old man who rowed the boat across the river with oars, he himself possessing two arms like the trunks of an oak tree. The roadies asked if we were waiting for the ferry, we said we were and one of them chuckled “the captain is a grumpy old bugger, have fun with that”.

Their observation of the ferry boat captain became blatently apparent as we stood on the jetty watching the small white engine powered boat edge closer. He was a different man to the one with oak tree arms but possessed a dark red face and a scowl as though he had a mouthfull of wasps. Even the whites of his eyes were red giving him the appearence of a man who spent 100’s of years battered by the coastal wind and salt water. He didn’t say anything to anyone as he moored, instead he turned to the wooden bench lining the opposite side of the boat, picked up 3 dead fish and lobbed them into the water and then began meticulously cleaning down the area in which they’d sat. Grabbing a large key he stepped off the boat and stomped off up the jetty without muttering a word and followed by the eyes of the 3 other people in the queue waiting to board.

Once in Felixstowe we headed for The Alex for a good coffee and breakfast before cycling the remaining 25 miles home in a strong head wind.

Luck doesn’t come our way often but it was greatly apparent this weekend allowing everything to run smoothly and all the rotten forecast weather to pass us by leaving us in the path of sunshine wherever we went.

Well earned breakfast

Well earned breakfast

That is, until we arrived home where the sky, as though it’d had it’s legs crossed the entire time we were gone suddenly burst open and hasn’t stopped pissing down yet!

More photos of our trip on my Flickr site.

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