Day 376 – ENGLAND: From Little Oakley to outskirts of Chelmsford

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 82.8km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.3km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 6h 13m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 960.27km (plus 400km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: +425m
Descent / 下り: -460m

The silky smooth, quiet cycle paths of The Netherlands are a distant memory now. A longing. Not only are there no separate cycle paths in England, the roads are often very rough chip seal. It is tough going. But this is made up for somewhat by the quintessential English countryside. Quiet houses nestled in neatly clipped gardens surrounded by finely trimmed hedges. Small inlets like Wivenhoe were a pleasant sight too.

Wivenhoe, England

Above: 360 degrees photo of Winvenhoe
(click the image for a big version, or here for the collosal version)

Save the lights! (Wivenhoe, England)

After a few kilometers in the morning from Little Oakley, I started following the National Cycle Network Route 1. This is a cycle route that runs the length of the UK, following quiet back country roads. When it is signposted, it is extremely well signposted. When it is not signposted, you are very much on your own. No more nice blue and red stickers on posts to reassure you that you are on the right track.

Around Wickham Bishops, I lost the scent. The nice helplful National Cycle Route stickers disappeared. I retraced the route, and double checked that I had not missed a ‘turn here’ sticker while I was screaming down a hill. Nope. I was on my own.

So I decided to ask some locals where the route went. The first house I asked at had no idea. The next house I knocked on the door…no one home. The next house had no idea either. “National Cycle Network? Nope, never heard of that, luv.”

It appears that this National Cycle Network thing is not particularly well known. After a few more door to door efforts, I gave up and headed towards Maldon, just because.

But I was happy. Here I am at last in a country where I can approach people and just start talking. I still have to speak slowly and clearly (darn New Zealand accent), but people here speak English. What a novelty.

However, after two hours, my GPS screen looked like this:

Not a pretty sight - going round in circles near Witham, England

I was well and truely going around in circles. Time to sort this out. Earlier in a town called Colchester, I had registered with the Essex County public library system. This is a free service, and you can use the internet at the libraries for free. So I headed to Witham to see if I could find on the internet where the National Cycle Route 1 goes after Wickham Bishops. As it turns out, the route does just disappear at the spot where I had originally lost it. But it begins again in Chelmsford, and leads right into the guts of London central.

Armed with this info, I headed out again towards Chemlsford, again enjoying the very Engish-ness of it all.

This is England (near Colchester, England)

After more than 80km, I was getting close to Chelmsford. I could have kept going, but it is much easier to find a spot to sleep in the countryside than in the cities, so I found a nice sheltered spot under a bush and enjoyed my second night out under the stars in England. Thank goodness there was some abnormal clear sky weather conditions…

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