Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Cycle Norfolk - 2

Only the faintest drop of rain today - more or less perfect for cycling. We set off at 10ish, the sun shining, bidding our hostess a cheery Goodbye. Within a mile, however, ping went my back tyre. (The nearest village was Rougham, so what should I expect?) Back like bad pennies we gloomily walked to our friend's house: she, however, quickly dug out an old bike rack and in two ticks off we all set in her car to the Fakenham cycle shop. Amazing. ("T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...")

From Fakenham, it's a doddle to where we are staying this evening - 40 miles South-East in Kirby Bedon. Both places are on Route 1 of Sustrans' marvellous National Cycle Network: I still have the old route map from my 2011 ride to Ampleforth, up through Lincolnshire. The difference between route levels is barely ever more than 40 metres: as far as Norwich, we more or less followed the line of the River Wensum.

Sitting outside Great Ryburgh Post Office, drinking coffee, we inhaled the scent of hops being malted. "Lovely day for bicycling: you must visit St Andrew's and see our stained glass," we were urged. Not Wailes' best, we thought, having followed this suggestion. But the screens and Ninian Comper's other extensive work in the church were well worth pausing to admire. A hint of late Strawberry Hill Gothic about them.

The next stop was to photograph a signpost indicating "Gateley" - off our route unfortunately: the parish name is apparently old English and translates as 'clearing where goats are kept'. No link, I think, with my grandfather Gateley's family, his great-grandfather, who kept a pub, hailing from Ireland (Co. Roscommon). On past the imposing gates of Sennowe Hall and to a bridge across the Wensum by an equally imposing mill - a beautiful spot, but only one among many today.

From near Guestwick, the path joins the Marriott's Way, a good surface, and so we progressed with no danger from four-wheeled vehicles as far as Norwich, except through picturesque Reepham. Time ran out for us to visit "Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia" at UEA's Sainsbury Centre, let alone any of Norwich's churches, but the final lap was shorter than I had expected so there was time for a hot bath before dinner.

My photograph shows an elegant lady, posted as sentinel at allotments alongside the cycle path.

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