Mike Stapleton writes: Today's ride to Hatfield Forest went via a coffee stop we hadn't visted before - Saggers Garden Centre in Newport. This garden centre is quite unusual in that it is at the back of one of the shops on the High Street and has a do-it-yourself tea room with space for just six people. The cakes are home made and it has filter coffee. It has a glorious view over the centre's garden which stretches down to the railway and contains all sorts of ornamental arches, statues and of course shrubs.
After coffee we headed out along the road where all the cycle club quarters are located. We passed through the bridge under the railway which has a very sharp turn where cars are supposed to hoot. Then on to Henham which is a lovely village with a green and a village pond. This leads to the tiny road past Cherry Green, with its surprisingly steep hill which always catches me out - I had to push hard up the last bit.
Then on to Broxted and the various Ends that make up the village and the road to Molehill Green. Molehill Green is famous for being the centre of the battle to stop the expansion of Stansted Airport. Personally, I suspect this will be put on hold for several years due to declining usage of the airport. If this happens it will be good news for cycling as the expanded airport would spoil some lovely countryside that we often ride through.
We carried on through Takeley to Hatfield Forest. This is an ancient area of woodland which used to be a royal hunting forest. It is now managed by the National Trust so there is free access for cyclists. The centrepiece of the forest is the lake and visitor centre, which has a handy cafeteria. We ended up by the lake where we ate our sandwiches and watched the wildlife. Much to our surprise we spotted a pair of terns perched on a log on the other side of the lake. It was so pleasant there that we stayed until half past two. Since we had to go a fair distance to go to tea we had to hurry.
On the way we went through Thaxted and could not resist stopping for tea at Poppy's Tea Shop on Fishmarket Hill. Poppy's is a lovely tea shop that I highly recommend. They have all sorts of tea and serve lovely cold drinks like ginger beer - just what you need on a hot afternoon. They also have fancy cakes and scones but all we wanted were drinks.
From Thaxted we continued on to tea, riding directly to Saffron Walden along the B184 to save time. We usually avoid the B184 as it is bit busy but today this was a good ride with a following breeze which speeded us along the way. After Saffron Walden we took the B1052, which took is up a long hill which was relatively easy with the wind behind before dropping down into Linton and climbing back up again to Balsham and tea at the Bell.
The Bell did us proud as usual. We had fourteen for tea which was a great relief as there were only two at five o'clock and we feared we might be under numbers. We always get a great welcome from the publican who is usually to be found at the bar. This is real English pub - and just to cap it all we heard that England had won the Test Match and that an English rider had won the Tour of Ireland. Mike Stapleton.