Sunday, 4 September 2011

4 Sep: Day ride in Norfolk (train-assisted)

Nigel writes: Today's all-day ride was "train-assisted", which means that instead of assembling at Brookside we met at Cambridge railway station and all bought return tickets to King's Lynn. Despite a forecast of heavy rain, there was 9 of us: Adrian, Greta, John, John, Edgar, Tom, Mick, Richard and me. We caught the 0905 train to King's Lynn. This called at Ely along the way, where we were joined by Cheryl. At 0951 we arrived at Watlington, the last stop before King's Lynn, where we all got off.

Adrian, our leader today, set off immediately towards our coffee stop in Castle Acre. A few moments later we met Doug coming the other way, who turned round and joined us, making a total of eleven riders in all.

With rain due at any time, the sky was dull but for now it remained dry and warm, and as we rode along it became immediately apparent just how quiet it was in this quiet rural area.


Adrian's route took us along quiet lanes and through countless tiny villages that I had never heard of before, so I won't list them.


When we reached a place called Blackborough Adrian suggested a mile or two of rough track, which would avoid half a mile of main road further on. About half the group joined him, leaving the others to take a very slightly longer route along roads.


The two groups didn't meet up again until about half an hour later when we arrived in Castle Acre, where two longstanding members of CTC Cambridge were now living. We received a warm welcome and, with the rain still not arrived, sat outside in their large garden drinking tea and coffee and eating thick slices of fruitcake with clotted cream.


After we had finished and were ready to go I announced that I would be breaking away from the group to have a longer ride. No-one wanted to join me so I set off alone, leaving the remaining ten to continue to lunch in Weasenham All Saints, afternoon tea at the Windmill in Great Bircham, and from there back to King's Lynn and the train back to Cambridge. So what follows (and the GPS track below) is my own solo route for the rest of the day.

My plan was to head north to Fakenham and then follow NCR 1 north to the coast at Wells-next-the-Sea where I planned to stop for lunch.

With a gentle tailwind I made rapid progress along some lovely narrow lanes to Fakenham, where I spotted my first NCR 1 sticker on the edge of the town centre by the Gas Museum:


Fakenham

A series of Sustrans stickets on signposts took me into the town centre, which looked quiet, tidy and attractive:


Fakenham

It was time to press on west towards Wells, so I followed yet more Sustrans stickers, only to find myself back by the Gas Museum where I had started. I soon realised that NCR 1 took several alternative routes through Fakenham. I turned round and soon found the correct route, but this confirmed in my mind the typical weakness of the Sustrans habit of putting NCR stickers on lamp posts without anything to say which direction along the route they actually go.

It was too early to give up on NCR 1, however, and it soon took me along some rather fine quiet lanes north towards Walsingham,. This is a place of Catholic pilgrimage. I passed the "Slipper Chapel", which seems to be the focus of religious interest. Its main significance for me was the way it encouraged large numbers of cars to use a rather unsuitable narrow single-track lane. However I was soon past it and after a further mile arrived in Little Walsingham. This was a tightly-built-up little village with narrow streets and lots and lots of places to eat and drink. Clearly this place gets a lot of visitors, and I made a mental note to come back and look round one day. For now I just stopped at the village shop and bought my lunch.


Little Walsingham

A few miles further on I reached Wighton, where I met the first of several marshalls helping with the cycling part of a triathlon.


Wighton

Just beyond Wighton a signpost said "Wells 3". The road looked quiet and tempting, but the Sustrans signs pointed in another direction, so with some trepidation I obeyed. The following three miles was a rough, loose, stony track, very uncomfortable and difficult to ride along and ranking with the very worst sections of the National Cycle Network I have used. (Note for the future: take the direct route between Wighton and Wells).

Fortunately even the worst roads come to an end, and I arrived at last at Wells. This attractive little town was busy with hundreds and hundreds of people.


Wells-next-the-Sea


Wells-next-the-Sea

By the waterfront I found the finish line of the triathlon. Presumably the swimming took place somewhere here, and I spotted runners staggering along the beach nearby where I sat down to eat my sandwiches. It was about 2pm. The beach was busy, the rain had still not arrived.


Lunch on the beach a mile north of Wells-next-the-Sea

After lunch I continued along NCR 1. This took me west through an area of woodland. This was clearly a popular area for walking, but the track was sandy and very difficult to cycle along. However in this case it was worth it, because after a couple of miles I found myself cycling right through the grounds of Holkham Hall.


Holkham Hall


Holkham Hall grounds

I had almost reached the far side of the Holkham Hall estate when the rain at last arrived. It was 3.15pm.

It continued to rain for about an hour, very heavily at times. And with my legs tiring the remainder of the ride was a bit of a slog. I rode west - still following NCR 1 - along quiet lanes west through Burnham Market to Ringstead. There the route takes a sharp turn south towards Sedgeford, Snettisham and Sandringham.



The gates to Sandringham House (with flowers for Diana)

I was now on a section of NCR 1 I had done before. I continued south through Castle Rising to King's Lynn.


Castle Rising


Which way to King's Lynn? Typically ambiguous signage on NCR 1

I arrived at King's Lynn at 6pm, in good time to catch the 1828 train back to Cambridge. I had vaguely wondered whether I would meet Adrian and the rest of the group, but they had sensibly taken an earlier train.

My train arrived in Cambridge at 1915. I was home a few minutes after that having cycled 80 miles.


View this GPS track (of Nigel's route) on a larger map

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