Monday 9th September
With a good partial days rest and a relatively decent night’s kip I was feeling revitalised and raring to go when I left Norwich. Weather, the skies were blue and the sun was doing its thing. Today I would straddle the broads toward the Suffolk coast. I made haste through a number of sleepy little broadside towns and I must confess to having to get off and walk up hill for the first time on my trip as I was well and truly beaten. I clocked my speed cycling uphill at 2.9mph, I hopped off and began to walk it at 3.8mph. So really, it made sense to walk it.
I found myself amused by the Ice Cream van that was doing the rounds through the nearby villages during mid-afternoon despite all the children having returned back to school. Was he really selling ice cream? Really?
I stopped in Reydon close to Southwold as the weather started to become inclement. I sought refuge under a shelter in a recreational field where I became instinctively hobo-esque. It just seemed so right as it was slashing it down with rain and I had nothing else better to do than to whip out a nice cold can of beans with miniature pork sausages. It went down a treat and I was far from ashamed of myself, I was clearly living the dream. Scouting about the place it seemed as if the grounds may have been a viable option for camping up for the night. My danger being that I was close to the proximity of townsfolk, dog walkers, crack heads and all round prying eyes. I’d have felt exposed if I would have stayed, so as the weather cleared up I cycled the short way down the road to Southwold.
In Southwold you can get yourself a holiday beach hut for a modest £50,000. You can also just not. I chose the latter. They do offer up an eclectic mix of colours though and are a standout attraction to the upmarket seaside town and on one of those rare days where the English weather behaves itself would no doubt make for an excellent location to chill out and stare into the vast nothingness of the North Sea. Southwold is also famed for its Adnams brewery and takes the lead in being the town’s largest employer. And so in tow comes a vast selection of pubs offering up the local brew. As much as I would have liked to have stopped for a few pints the spittle of rain that had started to circumnavigate around me was enough that I clearly needed to defer my locale to someone abundantly bleak and void of humans so as I may camp up for the night.
I headed towards Walberswick crossing the River Blyth on a cyclist/pedestrian exclusive route. Arriving in what I was lead to believe was perhaps Walberswick I aimed myself in the rough direction of Minsmere (Where I used to work), not far from the Sizewell nuclear power station .I now found myself completely off-road heading along a sandy path amongst heath and woodland where for essentially the best part of an hour I saw no signs and no people, I was well and truly alone and in the middle of nowhere. I eventually happened across a pair of dog walkers who were on the opposite side of the fence to where I was situated. ‘How did you get in there?’ they asked. I had no roundabout answer as we all left one another’s exclusive company none the wiser. I saw several opportune camping spots but with still 30 minutes of daylight left I shunned them and pressed on. I appeared to be in the habit of cutting it fine. I was eventually spewed out onto a real road with real signs and everything. I headed in the direction of Westleton, a short lived affair before the heavens opened and wasn’t willing to take any prisoners.
We’re talking buckets and buckets of copious amounts of water here, calculatingly nasty and unfair. I would have to set up an emergency camp and the less I fucked around in regards to it the better. Naturally I fucked around and made a bit of a hash of it all. I darted off road and in amongst the trees where at a fervent rate I began to pitch up my tent as the rain came filtering through the gaps in the trees in its torrential masses.
With the tent pitched, I launched all my gear from my bike into it shortly followed by myself. Inside I was greeted by further torment to my current predicament of what one could potentially call a nightmare. The interior of my tent pretty much resembled that of a pond, several ponds in fact. I lay amongst my sodden wet gear in my sodden wet tent and contemplated life briefly and more importantly my next step in it. It was all very easy to just say ‘Ah fuck this for a bag of chips ‘and depart, but it just wasn’t that simple. I was in the middle of nowhere at nightfall with a wholesome bulk of my material possessions. Plus I’m too competitive to be beaten by one of Mother Nature’s little piss shows. I stripped myself of my wet gear and moved the bulk of my wet gear to one side of the tent, I then dug out an old shirt and began to mop up the central pond in my tent and force the bulk of it to the sides of the tent effectively making a sort of moat around myself and thus placing me upon an island within my own tent. It wasn’t ideal, but the practicality of it all made more sense when one’s survival mode was switched on. The last thing a brother needs is to freeze to death in the night, or worse drown….well, there both pretty bad really and would have come across as extremely inconvenient for myself. With my dry island formed It would then boil down to the million dollar question. Was my sleeping bag wet?
These were nervous moments as I unwrapped the black bin-liner of which shrouded my sleeping bag. From the outside it felt dry, I then wriggled myself inside like a maggot etching its way deeper into an infected wound. Dry. And as the rain pelted it down all around me I lay on my little island in my nice dry sleeping bag in my un-nice wet tent, comparatively as snug as a bug. Well, almost.
Start: 10:30 Norwich
Finish: 19:30 Westleton
Distance: 54.12 miles
Calories burnt: 2054k
Total Run time: 26:11