A couple of weeks ago I was asked to lead a ride for the ELAM group. A bit of a double edged sword, a great chance to pick a route via my favourite roads, but also somewhat nerve wracking – you don’t want to miss a turning, lose anyone and so on. For the ride I choose a popular loop around Essex, starting in Harlow, then taking in Finchingfield, Halstead, Mersea Island, Maldon, Burnham-on-Crouch then returning to Harlow.
The first leg starts at Harlow McD’s just off M11 Junction 7, takes a number of rural and twisty roads up through Ongar, Hatfield Heath, Standstead airport, Thaxted and then Finchingfield. These back roads twist and turn and are great to throw your bike left then right, and almost all have great condition tarmac. With the weather warming up a much needed ice cream was had in Finchingfield as we checked out all the bikes on show.
Next we head East to Halstead, via Wethersfield and Sible Hedingham, a nice twisty route with many swopping bends with few hedges for great distance visibility. Don’t forget the old ‘stop in the distance you can see’ mantra, as on this occasion we came across a nasty two car head on smash on this section.
Out of Halstead there’s a lovely wide high speed swooping right hander up a hill, so have knee sliders at the ready. Next we cut out the boring A1124 and slow Colne villages, and opt for the country lanes through Pebmarsh to Bures. Careful here, my Satnav cut corners off route here taking us down some unplanned dirt tracks either end of Pebmarsh Road, where unfortunately one of the group picked up a puncture. Next we head South from Bures on B1508 towards Colchester, another fun section before we cross the A12 and skirt round a busy Colchester, past the Zoo, cross the Abberton Reservoir and onwards to Mersea. The last section on the A1025 is always congested with tourists, but we’re nearly at our destination. In West Mersea I can highly recommend the Oyster Bar for great fresh fish and oysters (and some very reasonable prices). If too busy, the Victory pub opposite does standard pub fare and has plenty of space, or check out one of the establishments along this seafront.
The second half of this route takes us from West Mersea around the Blackwater estuary to Bradwell and Burnham-on-Crouch. The first section to Maldon is a nice fast twisty section dotted with a few small villages, though tourist traffic can build up on the approach into Heybridge. Maldon Tesco’s marks about the 100 mile half way ish point, making a good fuel stop.
Skirt the rest of Maldon via the ring road then the route heads toward Bradwell. A section often quiet with great roads to open up and a slew of 90 degree bends. Hang a right on to the B1021 into Tillingham, a more rural road but with some very tight 90 degree bends – don’t get caught out! Head straight through Southminster and on into Burham-on-Crouch. Bikers congregate outside the Cabin Dairy Cafe Tea Rooms which offers well deserved ice cream and refreshments. Note weekend & bank holiday parking is allowed on this street for motorbikes – nice!
The route then goes back West towards London, taking in the main stretch of ‘Burnham Bends’ – a sequence of left/right 90 degree corners. A little overrating compared to the prior section, this road is always too busy and has a 40mph limit now. The route continues on main road to South Woodham Ferrers, before diverting off onto more rural roads through East & West Hanningfield, Stock and Ingatestone, Blackmore before finally hitting the A414 back to our Harlow starting point. A nice section along quiet country lanes and B roads, interspersed with some picturesque villages, each with nice pubs if you fancy finishing the day with a good meal.
All in a decent length ride, approx 160-170 miles odd. Starting at 9:30am, we didn’t finish to around 6pm, though that did include some delay due to one of the group picking up a puncture. Group rides always make less progressive than you would if riding solo, so always factor in some contingency if leading a group.