It’s cycle tour time again for Richard ‘Bicycle Repair Man’ Higginbottom, ‘Crazy’ Paul Oberg and Dave Stead – The Whitley Bay Champion. Dave’s back is not 100% so he drives the first day into the Waveney Valley whilst Richard and Paul meet at Ely station. Incredibly hot day and Richard did some impromptu sunbathing in the car park prior to Crazy Paul’s arrival. Off we go and it’s flatter than a flat headed man wearing a flat cap as we make quick progress across the Fens, the wind slightly behind us. We’re heading East to Diss where Richard’s Dad lives but we’re working a Southerly half of an anti-clockwise oval route so that we don’t use the same route both days. We arrive at Isleham (whose single claim to fame is that it has a big seed distribution plant) and have lunch at The Griffin. Dull sandwiches and they forgot our chips. Service is a bit slow. Superannuated landlord pleasant enough. Unfortunately this is what many people see as typically East Anglian. However, as we were leaving Paul clocked an upcoming attraction – The Fen Boy 3. Now, I realise that I should have taken a photo and have been kicking myself ever since. But by way of proof, here’s a photoset of the “Swamp Rockers” in action:
Pedal on East and we go into the hinterland to the East of Freckenham. Well, that’s what I’m calling it as up until now it’s the one area of Suffolk I’m not familiar with (there’s nothing there except nondescript villages). Oh now here’s a surprise, there are quite a few sharp hills – nothing big of course, but we notice that we are completing our ascent off the sub-sea-level fens onto historically dry land. We also spot big rain clouds gathering in different parts of the sky but we are lucky to avoid them until we hear a rumble of thunder and take cover in a bus shelter at Sapiston. A significant downpour avoided, we cycled on past Honington Airfield (where many years ago Richard had learned to swim) and as the clouds gathered again we headed towards a lychgate by a cemetery opposite the church in Coney Weston. Paul parked up and scrambled up a bank and ran into the cover just as BANG the church took a direct lightning bolt. Eerie silence followed the almighty thunder clap and Paul wondered if the Bicycle Repair Man had been hit … no, Richard had fallen over scrambling up the bank and had felt the strike through the ground. Exciting stuff! “I’m so relieved you’re alright” said Paul as the rain pelted down, “I wouldn’t fancy fixing my own punctures with wet tyres”. Mixed drizzle, some sunshine (typical English summer weather in other words) accompanied the last leg of the journey across Redgrave Fen (a site of special scientific interest as well as Breckland’s leading beauty spot) as we home in on Richard’s Dad’s (also David) place in Diss. Dave (S) was en route but didn’t arrive until 8.30. We headed into town and found the only place serving food after 9pm was a Turkish restaurant (this is a bit avant-garde for Higginbottom the Elder) but he found many things he enjoyed on the menu, the waitress was pleased to have someone from out of town to talk to and we all enjoyed ourselves. For once Richard took a night off the beer and went home to catch up with his Dad as Paul and Dave sampled the local brew in the Saracen’s Head. We let them back in then Dad and I had three frames of snooker in his half-garage half-snooker room (I lost 2-1). And then got to bed after 1am.
Breakfast together the next morning and this time we’re staying North of the Waveney so Paul and Richard mount their bikes whilst Dave drives over to Ely and gets a train back East to Thetford – we meet up at Kelveston (about 5 miles East of Thetford) and then we rode via Thetford (local accent is unique in Norfolk as it’s cockney owing to the town increasing its population from 2,000 in 1960 to around 20,000 ten years later with new housing being taken up by London overspill). So cor blimey guvnor. Up to Brandon – famous for its flint buildings – and we had lunch in the Flintknappers pub – actually not very good (the overspill from Thetford ran into Brandon). But never mind, enough energy to power us along through Thetford Forest until we again reached the Fens – really not a lot to report this time as the landscape, whilst pleasant and green, returned to the flatness around Ely. Tea and cake at The Crypt (where the cat crapped and crept out again) was our final act until bidding farewell at Ely Station.