The thought process went like this... Here’s a route (thanks HubVelo whose route for the “Essex Strade Bianchi”, ESB, we have used as inspiration and as a basis for this), but I don’t fancy riding in urban East London and we can take this to the sea. And the spirit of the aforementioned route we shall name this after a classic. She shall be "The Maldon Gold" (a beer that is also far superior than the other one!).
Our beginnings would be the famed (Mandy’s) Tea hut at High Beach in Epping Forest. The spiritual home of minestrone soup and the only liver sausage and cheese roll worth eating. From here you can not only take advantages of the tea hut but also the ample free parking; and so we did. Taking the forest roads to the Wake Arms roundabout we made our way down to Theydon Bois up the other side and escaped the M25 via a gravel track that was a former Roman road that continued into the Essex countryside toward Toot Hill.
Gravelly goodness nr Norton Mandeville.
These aren’t roads we haven’t ridden before, far from it, but the ability to join them up with little gravel tracks, green ways and byways will make the day all the more interesting, exciting and rough on the bum. The first half of this route is however a little road heavy with a few gems in between. The next section of Essex pave begins after crossing the A414 at High Ongar where Forest Lodge Rd turns into a superb little gravel track through Norton Mandeville and into the back of Norton Heath. From here we leave the route of the ESB and start to use a bit of local knowledge. A rather bumpy green lane and a farm track later and we get to the outskirts of Chelmsford and use the city centre cycle way that goes through the parks and high street before eventually finding our way to the flood plains on the other side of town, picking up National Route One to take us to the top of Danbury via the woodlands of Lingwood Common.
Route 1 to Danbury via Graces Walk. Further double track.
So far so good. We are at one of the highest points in the county but we aren’t renowned for our mountains so the legs are good. We have taken a flat route to this point and from here its downhill to the sea via the side of a golf course and the old London road to the seaside/estuary town of Maldon at just shy of 40 miles. Maldon is famed for a few things. Clearly good beer but also sea salt, Thames barges and for being the home club of former test match cricket captain Alistair Cook who grew up nearby.
Now the barges operate mainly for the tourists and it is on one of these that we find the first coffee of the day and a breakfast bap. The first half has been fairly straight forward but we know that this route is a bit back ended so it's off and out following a mixture of canel path (tough on the bum) and road to take us to Paper Mill Lock at the base of North Mountain, Little Baddow.
The canal path is rock hard. It’s a rough pedal. In winter this would be absolutely brutal, but today it’s just a bit uncomfortable but very pretty following the river for half hour or so, passing the numerous dog walkers and canoeists that inhabit this former industrial artery to the county town now city of Chelmsford.
As a change we now ascend the infamous lower slopes of North Mountain, the winter snow has melted and the roads are clear. The descent takes us through a river crossing and traces our outbound route briefly before firing us to Hylands Park via Galleywood and a spalsh and dash at The Running Mare. Locals and non locals alike will know Hylands for its beautiful ornamental gardens as well as nationally celebrated shows such as "All About Dogs" and the now defunct "V Festival".
Hylands House. A large white building with a massive garden.
From now on the road miles are few until our next stop at Blackmore. Dissecting Hylands, navigating our way through Writtle woods and down to Ivy Barns Lane where we can use further bridal ways and unpaved lanes to take us to the village and a warm welcome from Judy at MeGarrys Antiques and Tearooms. Most visitors to Blackmore will go straight to the tearoom in the centre of the village but the real gem is here. Tucked away at the corner of the green. You should visit.
After a cheeky coffee and a scone off we set picking back up the SBE route. Onward out of Blackmore shortcutting via little bits of bridal way that get us once more under the M25 and into Dagnam Park. Our only urban piece starts here as we tack across the outskirts of The Hill (Harold Hill) to get us to Havering-Atte-Bower another high point that looks over the Thames Estuary from the QE2 bridge all the way to The City.
"Don't follow me I'm lost and low on sugar".
70 in. 15 left. A back road from the top of the hill takes us down into a hidden valley leading into a farm. Suddenly you could be anywhere and have to remind yourself you are inside the M25. The road is straight and it becomes rough very quickly firing into a long straight farm track full of loose rock and holes; the stuff of which dreams (and punctures) are made. We can now almost taste the minestrone soup! Out of Hainault Park, through Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill into the back of Epping Forest, the ancient woodland where we started this giant loop that was gifted to the people of the city by Queen Victoria in 1882. Lumpy and steep forest road twists the knife and takes us back to this starting point where we are greeted by Mandy back at the tea hut! “Where have you been?! You’ve been gone a while!”. She knows us too well to be shocked at the response.
All in all a cracking day out. The full route is here or by clicking the picture above. Thanks to HubVelo for making their Essex Strade Bianchi route free to use as it gave us the basis for half of this beast. A great route in the summer however in the winter it would be absolutely brutal! Thanks to Tom for coming and sharing another great day on the bike!
N.B There is a slight glitch to the route at Utling where you need to follow the road bearing left where possible and get back to the route when you come close to the river. this should be visible on your GPS unit.