Winter is here and it's the time of year where you have to think of things to keep things fresh. Different people have different goals and they tend to vary year on year by circumstances and frames of mind. This winter cyclocross hasn’t really worked out for us for one reason or another (mainly puncture and knackered rim related) and we never were ones for indoor trainers. So in the Duckhouse we are going to go by the famous Eddie Merckx quote. Ride as much or as little as you feel. But ride.
So as a little bit of fun and to mix things up a bit we put together 5 of our favourite routes from the village starting at around 20 miles and going up in increments of 20 to around 100 miles. Something to fill a cheeky week off or maybe your festive 500. Going out in all directions and touching most corners of Essex, we created these for you to pinch bits, try for yourself or inspire your own set of routes from wherever your duck pond may be. All the routes are able to download as GPX from Strava if you click on the title links. It's ok, we do this for free. You can thank us later, or buy a pair of socks...
This could also be the precursor to The Greatest Roads Of Essex Vol I which will almost certainly be a publication that goes straight into the discount bin but we might invest in either way for a laugh.
This route would prove a good individual TT route, a form tester or indeed an excellent pub crawl.
Hanningfield reservoir is a pretty and a famous local landmark (it’s pretty famous) as it’s where all our water comes from as well as being a magnet for migrating birds, fisherman and time-trailists. We go out of the back of the village and join up with Ivy Barns Lane via the Ingatestone Road and at the junction with The Viper, a beautiful and unique pub set back in the woodland. The picturesque meander continues through Margeretting (The Black Bull) and up Swan Lane (The White Hart) to Stock (The Hoop, an excellent lunch stop either on the way out or back) before turning towards the resi and taking on Middlemead, Essex’s true testing ground. We then loop the resi (The Old Windmill) and come back into Stock again (The Harvard Inn, ask for Lisa) towards Ingatestone (The Star Inn, where there used to be a miner bird in the corner and the bar was covered in old coins. Now it is a lot cleaner, which is a shame) and into Blackmore passing the 11th century church in Fryerning. It’s quite a long stint back to Blackmore from there after seven pints so you could hook a right instead, go to The Cricketers and phone a cab (01277 354335) or continue on the route firing through Fryerning and back into the village (The Leather Bottle/Prince Albert).
* Clearly we don't condone drinking and cycling... its all tongue in cheek (beak).
Very occasionally you get to go out on a group ride where you have no idea where you are for 90% of the time despite a) not being very far away from home or b) having ridden those roads plenty of times before but maybe in the other direction. So much so that on the day one of our number nearly got run over crossing the A414 whilst not realising he was indeed crossing the A414. Apart from that busyish junction, if its little roads you’re after then it’s little roads you’ll get in an order that isn’t overly obvious; so keep an eye on the Garmin or Wahoo or indeed the OS map you have stuffed down the front of your jersey.
It is amazing sometimes how, even in a relatively populated area, you can find and tack together little lanes to criss cross through the lesser touched parts of a place that you thought you knew pretty well already. (Thanks to Marek of Momentum Cycles in Brentwood for being the route master for this one!)
If there is a destination café in Essex it is the Blue Egg (or the nearby Andrewsfield Airfield, less good, cheaper, but massively more eccentric). If you’ve not been then you can’t live within a forty mile radius. And that not your fault. It probably the fault of your parents, so blame them. “The Egg” has gained local notoriety by being the favoured stop of local pros (Hampton, Dowsett, Sanders, Cavendish et al) and is a go to destination for more or less every club run in a ridable radius much like Box Hill is to South London. Indeed it has gained the nickname “The Box Hill of Essex” (has it? Or did we just make that up?). Our route out and back is pretty well trodden and home to some extremely competitive and totally unachievable Strava segments unless you have a world tour pro leading you out or a gale force tail wind (or both).
Even people who live in The Dengie joke about people who live in the Dengie. Voted the loneliest place on the planet 8 years on the bounce by The Lonely Planet this is the place you come for solitude and misery and even on a sunny day it's fairly bleak. However it's a right of passage for every cyclist in Essex and probably should be in Simon Warrens 100 climbs book because even on a calm day the inevitable headwind makes it as hard as any climb in the UK despite being pan flat. Our route takes us out via the infamous Burnham bends before skirting north towards Tillingham and Bradwell (essentially Belgium) before turning your back on Europe and heading back west toward Cold Norton and the WW1 airfield at Stow Maries. These roads are long and unhindered. Joking aside, wind or no wind, these roads are prime training grounds and can be brutal teachers on any day. As this ride is under 90 miles no café stop is recommended or indeed necessary.
We could base our century routes around many themes. Sports grounds, WW2 airfields, major airports, castles or villages beginning with B. But to keep it current, and furry we are going with Alpacas. Essex appears to be breeding Alpacas. They’re everywhere. They are indeed the new cow. The cow of the millennials. This 100 mile route follows their furry little tails around the county and has no particular rhyme or reason other than seeing as many of their fluffy little faces as possible! Our friend Jason rides more than most and he has mapped the populations of these elegant tall sheep onto a convenient map. You can take in the populations at Radley Green and Matching Green, Fyfield and Mashbury before turning north to Felsted and ultimately Great Bardfield where you can return via their encampment near Writtle. The Alpacha are a mystical being and if our map is anything to go by they are surrounding the county town of Chelmsford, potentially plotting their eventual takeover of the city.
We could have spent a long time describing the nooks and crannies of Essex's lanes, but we didn't, so be thankful! (You'd have probably stopped reading anyway. You probably have already to be fair).
Notes on Essex:
We have more coastline than any other county in England. However often it is unclear as to where estuarys end and the sea begins.
I’ve seen a seal once near Maylandsea. With my own eyes.
Sometimes you can see a Red Kite, but not very often. There is a breeding pair near Felsted.