Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hoe Lane

Not every ride is a Barling in disguise. Every week there is some one agitating for a longer ride. A ride that has something more to offer than the flat expanse of littorial Essex. When those voices win, we go out to Hoe Lane.

Essentially we head away to the old A130. Winding our way down lanes towards the antique shops selling pine stripped boxes and over pricedfrills of ancient lace in Battlesbridge. Out to the nightmare of the Rettenden turnpike, a major junction with cars coming from all directions like something from the start of the Wacky Races and suddenly up into the peace and genuine countryside of a deserted road which once used to carry all the traffic to Chelmsford.

The thing about a Hoe Lane is that not only is it a longer ride, it is a much harder ride - proper hills that sap the legs. It's a ride where you always need to save a bit because otherwise it's not long before you feel that horrible burn in the thighs, the wheels get harder to turn and it's become a long way from home.

A Hoe Lane is, though, the best of all rides. Traffic free, every time we're out there, it's a different . Either over the Hanningfield Reservoir and on to Stock with its dainty windmill. Alternatively, it's on over the A12 and out to Manningtree. Whatever the way it's where we feel we're really away from the urban. The variety of wildlife increases, trees crowd the road like soemthing out of a Samuel Palmer and the colours of verdant nature startl. Us untutored lot gasp as we ride onto a crest and see all of South Essex below. The lungs open up and we feel like we're really breathing at last.

Cycling does many things but one that always surprises me is the way in which you understand geography so much more intimately - every rise must, somewhere, be balanced out by a fall. The very geology of the land apparant with each turn of the pedals. Riding a ridge, you feel the pressures beneath the earth which created this upsurge of land. Coming into a valley you understand why a village is here and not elsewhere as you glide over an old stone bridge, a dribble of a stream still persisting. You follow the lines of ancient tracks that many have a wheeled a cart or shouldered a load before you.

Now the villages we ride through are double garaged with Mercs and Beamers. These well fed burghers all Barbours and Huskies smile slightly bemused at us as they go to collect their Mails and Telegraphs in the local shop. Their pointers and black labs waiting for their daily muddy adventure.

A three hour ride out here really is what it is all about. The reason we set the alarm and sneak out to meet at a second hand car lot in drizzle. The reason we can laugh at each others' blackened faces as the unmudguarded among us spray up all manner of scurf from the road and the reason we want to do it all again next week.

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