The weather forecast for the weekend was surprisingly warm for being late October, however, a pretty nasty wind and rain storm was approaching the UK from the Southwest. Meteorlogists promised very high winds and torrential rain, but this was only to hit Suffolk by Monday night, so I should be more or less safe.
Although I did not particularly stuck to the route below, it's an idea of what I did, and certainly would be a good one if you indeed fancied a go...
A quick journey on a very old-fashioned Greater Anglia British Rail Class 90 train and I set off East towards Southwold, on the Suffolk coast. I initially followed some bits of a route published on Jack Thurston's excellent Lost Lanes book to then carry on towards the sea. It was the perfect cycling day, with temperatures in the early twenties, sunny spells, and a decent southeasterly wind, which pushed me much of the way. I took it very easy and simply enjoyed the quiet countryside of this part of the UK. Even though it is still close to the crowded Southeast, it certainly does not feel like it in terms of traffic...passing only a few cars per hour.
|Southwold Pier - definitely above your average UK pier!|
|Southwold beach, and the nuclear power plant in the background|
|Surely the tiniest ferry in the UK!|
|Yep, that's were your bacon and sausages come from!|
|Suffolk coastal trail - narrow and slippery|
|Dunwich Heath in the background|
|The fishermen and I were the only ones on the beach when the sun set|
|Waiting on the sunset to pitch the tent|
As I had seen warnings of severe weather on all the national newspapers, I confirmed with Lucy that I would be ok for the night. It appeared I was to expect heavy rain showers and winds up to 50 km/h from the Southeast, but nothing worse than that. Being dark at 5:30 pm, I was tucked in my sleeping bag at 8 pm and asleep shortly after that.
The night storms were constant, and at 2:00 am I was abruptly woken up by a partially collapsed tent - the ground wasn't really quite solid and the gusty winds had pulled the pegs out, leaving me with a useless tent in the middle of a downpour. I got out and used the bike to pegged it down more securely, which worked brilliantly until the following morning.
|How to peg the tent in soft ground and strong winds|
After a pretty miserable night, the skies opened and I enjoyed a nice sunrise with some porridge cooked on the stove.
|Can't beat the views!|
|Ready to go|
The rain stopped a few km out of Dunwich, but then, the promised Southeasterly winds made an appearance. Even though the proper storm was yet not hitting Suffolk, I could certainly feel a very stiff headwind which was to accompany me for literally the entire route to Cambridge.
The GPS took me on very quiet roads, all very flat and theoretically easy, if it not were for the gusty headwinds. The km did not seem to pass, and I struggled all the way, my speed being brought back down to 8 km/h on several occasions. It felt like a 120 km uphill, and eventually took me 10 hours to reach my destination.
|Tons of fresh veg|
It got dark by the time I reached Cambridge, and the station certainly was a very welcome sight. I was completely shattered, my face being wind-burnt, but it had been a good way of spending the weekend and seeing the autumnal colors. Of note also, a friendly truck driver congratulated me on my high visibility approach - he had seen me on the road and said my gear was spot-on with a high-vis vest, blinking red lights, and reflectives. Always good to be reassured!
Back at home I was glad to see I had escaped one of the worst storms that have hit the UK. In a few hours time winds up to 160 km/h were registered in the Isle of Wight and chaos brought to the whole Southeast on Monday morning.
|Sunset as I approached Cambridge|