Quad Lock with a black friday deal, 30% off
Thought this may be of some interest to folk on here!
Amazing stuff. Must get myself out and ride.
Took two of my friends on a short North Norfolk tour last weekend. It's a perfect beginner’s trip, which was good because I'm shit at cycling and my friend JD hadn't ever ridden more than the 3 miles required for his commute and has a litany of physical ailments longer than most octogenarians. The only one of us who could boast any touring chops whatsoever was my friend N, who had originally suggested the route to me, but as a one day 100km excursion. I ignored her and took it down to 50 ks a day. We assembled at Cambridge train station, JD on his Brother Kepler, me on my Genesis CDF and N on her trusty Surly LHT, which had probably seen more miles than me and JD had ever ridden in our lives. If you'll recall last week, storm Gareth (Gazza to us) was set to wreak havoc on a tectonic scale, but after confirming that it wouldn't rain after 10am and that the 50km/h gusts would be largely behind us we set off by train to Kings Lynn where we began our journey, riding through the sparse exurbs along NCN1. JD and I, having come from the Midlands, enjoyed the sight of cheap housing and poorly maintained municipal facilities. N, fresh from a weekend in Seville, was less impressed. Before long we entered the Sandringham Estate, allowing us an opportunity to make various jokes about HRH Prince Phillip DoE running us over. The sky was overcast, and the whipping tail winds allowed us to progress with ebike like efficiency, N's rear panniers in particular acting like sails.
However as we detoured from NCN1 to allow our route to pass through Hunstanton we did get a taste of what Gareth's wrath could bring should we decide to oppose him. The unpaved road into Hunstanton was a pleasant jaunt running behind pastel holiday homes and beach huts, near to a vast and unevenly tessellated static caravan park. N suggested we pitch ITV a scandi noir influenced crime drama set on the Norfolk coast, but as we gusted past Rainbow Park Amusements we realised it would be too bleak even by the genre's standards. When we arrived at the center of Hunstanton the midday sun was nowhere to be seen and the winds had begun to feel cyclonic. We took shelter in Tina's Sandwich Bar, one of the only places open on this sparse pre- season Saturday, and inhaled hot tea and jacket potatoes. When we forced the door back open the howling wind seemed even more damning: a short walk along the cliffs, a selfie on the beach and we were back in our saddles.
The remainder of the route to Burnham Deepdale was dead straight and featureless. The small towns with attractive tearooms we'd seen so far fell away and there seemed nowhere truly appropriate for a break. The wind hounded us along the route’s undulations, allowing us to coast downwards and then hauling us to the crest of the next incline without much need for pedalling. Though it seems idyllic, it quickly became fatiguing: with no reason to pedal we cooled down, and the easy acceleration was tempered by the unpredictability of crosswinds which attacked through gaps in hedgerows. It felt as though we were in a permanent dusk, travelling along the same bit of sinusoidal country lane, with the same telephone wires looping along next to us, singing out in the wind like the stranded whales that beach themselves on this coast. We crested the final descent into Burnham Deepdale, bought some mussels (highly recommended by N) and nachos from the Jolly Sailors in Brancaster Staithe, then to the Nisa for roastable vegetables which N prepared in the communal kitchen, demonstrating considerable social nous by weaving between various groups of uptight Brits unaccustomed to spending time in a space with strangers. I lent support by staring vigorously into space and googling dark web drug strains whilst Gareth finally unloaded the whipping rain that had been threatened.
The next day we set off bright and early, hoping for a pleasantly middle class breakfast in Burnham Market, a bourgeois town in a bourgeois area of a bourgeois county. However we had set off slightly too bright and early, and nothing was open, neither the Joules nor the Jack Wills and disappointingly there wasn’t a Crew Clothing or White Stuff to be seen. We'd hoped to drop into the Tuscan Deli for breakfast but its doors remained firmly barred to the likes of us so we pressed on, past a middle aged chap in a rugby shirt and a Maserati who didn't think we'd said thank you to him fast enough. Our hesitation was only due to being stunned by the immeasurable service he'd granted us by pulling behind some cars that were parked on his side of the road, rather than seizing our lane and running us into the curb as would have been his right. Thus reacquainted with the inherent goodness of the human spirit we sped on, soaking up the weak sunlight, enjoying a more modest but still quite pleasant tailwind and coasting down through the grounds of Holkham Hall towards the sea.
JD and I mused that although we aren’t fans of incredible wealth disparities, they certainly made for some very fine tourist attractions. Perhaps in another one hundred years people will visit Islington and marvel from the safety of their hydrogen powered submarines at the opulence in which we once lived.
Our first coffee stop of the day came after a brief gravelesque traversal from Holkham to Wells Next The Sea. WhilstJD and I congratulated each other on our 'dialled gravel setups', we were slightly taken aback to see a middle aged couple riding towards us on a pair of rental hybrids. We did consider chasing them down to explain how dangerous it was to ride trails like these on such inappropriate machines (which didn't seem to have 1x, tubeless tyres or even cable, let alone hydraulic disk brakes) but we were sure we'd see them again as they'd never manage the entire 1 km stretch of the finest off-road trails the UK gravel scene has to offer.
In Grey Seal Wells Next The Sea we had our delayed breakfast, smashing some espressos (quite pleasant) banana bread (with chocolate) and sampling a little bit of their microlot pour over (under extracted). We had a good time staring dreamily out to sea, counting the hordes of gun dogs, barbours and wellington boots of passers by. Sadly we forgot to charge N’s garmin and had to run the rest of the journey relying on the etrex which I periodically fished out of my pocket.
Throughout the entire trip JD and I had bantered about my quest for "UK gravel" spawned by unironically reading too much Radavist, and I had joked that the coastal bridle path from Stiffkey to Morston would be the highlight of the trip and some 'truly phenomenal gravel'. Well I was only half wrong, whilst it was a lovely stretch that I recommend to anyone who finds themselves in the area, it was largely boglike mud, a parting gift from Gareth. Despite my insistence that it was rideable if we all just let some air out of our tyres, I think that actually having more air would have helped them act as flotation devices and keep us out of the bottom bracket deep squelch. I'm being hyperbolic of course, it was probably only up to our valve caps. A mixture of pushing through the bog and cycling along gentle hardpack ensued, with the salt marshes to our left, Blakeney point ahead and the vast dome of the Norfolk sky all around. It was lovely and we arrived in Blakeney in high spirits, which weren't even dampened as we circumnavigated the village trying to find somewhere capable of feeding our group. Eventually we settled on the place we entered first, The King’s Arms, which did to its credit have a wide variety of mediocre food to go along with its brusque and unpleasant landlord. We topped this off with an unnecessary but delightful carrot cake and more espresso at The Buoy Cafe across the road. By this point I was unpleasantly full and dangerously over-caffeinated, as well as dehydrated because I'd forgotten to refill my water bottle. We span on up some of the most brutal climbs Norfolk has to offer, peaking at about 91m above sea level. Which felt a lot higher if I'm honest.
Our shadows were long and the sunlight no longer provided any warmth as we approached the outskirts of Sheringham with no clear idea of what time the train home would arrive. We had considered pushing on to Cromer but were beginning to feel tired, cold and, personally, slightly bored. We rushed through town, past an ominous looking coach parked at the train station and straight to the coast where we watched the sun setting into the angry North Sea for about two minutes before N realised the next train out of town was in five minutes. A final slog out of the station brought us face to face with what we'd all feared as soon as we'd arrived. The four words that strike fear into the heart of all Brits: Rail Replacement Bus Service.
Some confluence of N's charm, JD's hopeless, broken 1000 yard stare and me staying around the corner persuaded the driver to take pity on us and he allowed us to slide our rides into the luggage hold under the coach rather than cycle the remaining 30k to Norwich in the dusky golden twilight. Though perhaps that would have been healthier, as deprived of the distraction of winching ourselves up hills we found ourselves subject to the various infirmities the human body can fall prey to after a gruelling 50km a day trip. Additionally we all needed the bathroom and the coach driver turned the heating up to 34 degrees or something. It was stuffy to say the least and the meandering route that all RRBS take didn't do much for the speed of our return journey, but in the end we made it to Norwich, circumvented various railway workers who seemed out to irritate and antagonise and managed to get on our various trains home.
Route map for anyone else looking for a baby trip to get started with easy accommodation, flat terrain and low mileage: https://www.komoot.com/tour/57771038
Sorry about the length of this post, I know it was a pretty small trip on the scale of things but we were all quite proud we made it through and hope to do something bigger soon.
wow, you got your bikes on a rail replacement bus service?
I never thought anyone would manage that
I've done it a few time, trick is to wait for the last coach as they have the most space, also ask to put it in the rear storage space not the side with the rest of the luggage
Delightful! Love a good overnighter. There are some good camping spots in the woods north of Wells.
Surly is A++ touring steez.
Isn’t the sea north of Wells?
Excellent write up @Belagerent - I really enjoyed that. Your description of Burnham Market is spot on, horrible place.
Isn’t the sea north of Wells?
Woods, then sea, then ice.
I recall funny little railway, lovely beach, then sea. And lots and lots of caravans.
Good fish and chips too
That looks deluxe. Holkham is such a lovely beach, on another trip I'd love to sit out there for a few hours with a coffee. Maybe record a slow mo video of me doing a pourover?
It's really something doing that little jaunt along the coast and then coming out into that car park that has another fucking Joules in it. Why would you need a Joules there...why...
Well put together words! Really enjoyed reading.
Why would you need a Joules there...why...
Why would you need a Joules there...why...
The Londoners holidaying in their second homes need somewhere to shop for beach wear... :)
Really enjoyed that - top stuff.
Planning my first bikepacking escapade on Fri / Sat 12 / 13 April - I'm on holiday with the family near Hastings the week prior and I'll be cycling home to the High Wycombe environs. About 120 miles over 2 days I reckon, my target is to break the back of it on day 1 and bivi somwehere in the woods around Swinley - I grew up just down the road in Finchampstead so I know plenty of quiet spots. Bike will be Arkose, road-focused due to the distance. Been a while since I did anything more than 50 miles in a day so might be a challenge, although I cycle commute every day.
I've bought the cheapo Planet-X bundle of seat pack, handlebar pack and smallish framepack, I have some OK kit from when I used to do a lot of mountain walking & bivvying so should be OK on that front. Sleeping will be a decathlon thermarest, mid-weight down bag & Terra Nova Jupiter hooped bivi. Really looking forward to it. Will look to post a trip report here.
So set off from Hastings about 10.30 am once I had bundled the family into the car and bid them a fond farewell. I was pleased with how well everything packed up, given I hadn't done a test run, with the exception of my ridiculous karrimat - light enough but looked a bit foolish hanging out the back like a giant yellow sail. Decent inflatable mat on the shopping list for next time.
I wanted to cover a lot of the distance on day one as I needed to be back home before lunch on day 2 so I bashed the A-roads out of Hastings before finding a nice B-road into Lewes where I scoffed down a mini-pizza, doughnut & flat white for lunch, with a nice riverside spot to sit & watch the world go by.
Back out on the road I was pleased with how fit I felt, 27 miles already under the belt on a loaded bike and I felt fine. The bike didn't seem much heavier or unwieldy when pedalling either. 15 miles or so more of B-roads and I arived at the Downs Link trail. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of this but my best hopes were realised as what ensued was 25 miles of beautiful quiet, flat #UKGravel that took me past some nice retro train infrastructure before spitting me out on the Wey towpath, which in turn led to the gritty urban heart of Guidlford
70 or so miles in now and I wasn't felling quite so fresh, so back on the A-roads to the woods around Crowthorne and a discreet bivi spot (but not before picking up a couple of cans from the last petrol station). 1 freeze-dried curry and the aforesaid cans and I was tucked up snug in my bivi by 21.30. 91 miles for the day which was my longest ride for about 10 years, very pleased.
Woke up with the dawn chorus about 05.30 and after a quick porridge I was back on the road - I'd been warm enough in the night but it was very cold riding, but the weather was beautifully clear. The roads were completely empty at that time on a Saturday but my legs weren't too responsive, nevertheless headed north through Wokingham in good spirits before some more gravel over Brunel's racetrack.
On the home stretch now and just remained to cross the Thames at Hambleden Lock then up the Hambleden valley to home, dodging the roadies who were coming out of hibernation by this time. I was home by 09.30 with a bag of hot cross buns from the farm shop to placate the family. 27 miles today for a total of 118 over the two days.
The bike was faultless, I'd recently replaced the groupset from Tiagra 9 speed & Spyres to Ultegra 11 speed hydraulic and the difference was massive, the Ultegra was a revelation. Schwalbe g-ones also very good on both road & gravel, I was running them tubed but no punctures at all. As stated above I was pleased by my fitness, took it steady on day one and was tired on day two but overall very happy. Next target - the Ridgeway. Thanks for reading!
Great write up.
Your sleeping mat looks like it would make mounting the bike tricky. I hope you're limber.
I just hooked my leg over the top tube! but it was far from ideal haha
Nice one, looks like a good trip out!
I've done it. Just chucked it in with the luggage. Another traveller had more significant anxiety (carbon road bike) but went for it in the end. Of course, the coach driver failed to shut the doors properly and everyone's suitcases flew down the street. Loaded up and set off again. Carbon road bike guy was dying for the entire duration of the trip.
Excellent write up!
I'm planning a 4-day solo mini-tour for the late May bank holiday. The only fixed element at the moment is visiting a mate in Malvern on the first night. Other requirements are finding nice roads to ride on, including riding up Cheddar Gorge, just cos I've never ridden up Cheddar Gorge before. And judicial use of trains at either end to avoid boring/busy bits closer to home.
So, something like:
Probably B&B'ing it the other two nights, so will be able to travel quite light. Intermediate locations based on a very rough Google Maps route sketch.
If anyone's got any route suggestions, either based on the above or different suggestions, would love to hear. (Especially if GPX files on ridewithgps!)
If you can work out a way of putting in the Ridgeway at the beginning you will not regret it.
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