Ride Guide to: Northeast Essex - Road Cycling UK

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Ride Guide to: Northeast Essex

Starting point: Colchester North

Essex is a funny county; while some of it lives up to the stereotype of grotty, post-war suburban sprawl, inhabited by girls in white stilettos and lads who drive modified Renault Fives, the vast majority of the county is quiet and rural and home to possibly the best network of virtually unused country lanes in the UK.

This ride starts and finishes in Colchester in northeast Essex. For a brief period during Roman times Colchester was the capital city of Britain: nowadays it’s a bustling, cosmopolitan town that benefits from being close enough to London for commuters to make it their home but far enough away from London to have some character of its own. By train Colchester is only an hour from London’s Liverpool Street station, so this ride is perfectly accessible for London-dwellers, and it’s at Colchester North station that the ride begins.

B1508, quieter route out to Sudbury

Head out of the station towards the roundabout and take the first exit, the B1508 to Sudbury. There are two roads that run from Colchester to Sudbury and this is the quieter of the two. Within two or three miles of leaving the station you are in open countryside and working your way through the village of Wormingford.

After Wormingford you descend a relatively steep hill by Essex/Suffolk standards and for the next mile or two it’s possible to maintain your momentum as the road meanders its way through Bures, following the path of the River Stour. Between Bures and Sudbury the road becomes fairly rolling, occasionally forcing you into your smaller gears if you’re not careful to gain as much momentum as you can on the descents.

After a few miles you will have made your way through Great Cornard and into Sudbury. For what is essentially a very small town, Sudbury has one of the most confusing one-way systems going. If you’re in a rush to get on with your ride the best thing you can do is KEEP LEFT, following the signs to Halstead and Braintree. If you do get tempted into doing a loop of Sudbury town centre, your frustration with the workings of the one-way system may be soothed by the town’s pleasing architecture.

Into Alphamstone

Following the signs to Halstead takes you across the river Stour and onto a cross roads with traffic lights. In front of you the road rises up menacingly and if you decide to go this route, you’ll be climbing for a mile or so. The easier, and more scenic, option is to turn left at the lights and follow the road through the village of Middleton and onto Lamarsh. Once in Lamarsh take a right up the hill into Alphamstone.

It’s at about this point that map reading becomes an almost impossible task, such is the density of tiny little back roads, and it’s easier to simply follow your nose and/or the signs to various villages.

After Alphamstone your next destination is Pebmarsh; there’s nothing much to stop for in the village so go straight through, following the signs to Halstead.

The village of Pebmarsh

Before long you want to turn left so that you can make your way to, and then across, the A1124 towards Burtons Green. The best way to do this is by taking the left turn signposted “the Colnes” about a mile after Pebmarsh. The roads are really good fun here – twisty and hilly, and judging by the thick ridge of gravel in the centre, hardly used by motorised traffic. There are a few tight, blind turns so beware to keep an ear out for cars.

Small, quiet roads round Burtons Green
There are plenty of cafés to choose from…

Having crossed the A1124, you’re on some really small roads as you go through Burtons Green. If you’re with friends it’s probably around here that things will start to get competitive; the bad roads, covered in mud, make you feel like you’re racing in Paris-Roubaix and you instinctively start clicking up into bigger gears.

Wasting a bit too much energy along this stretch isn’t a problem as once you get to the end of the road you can either head right, to Stisted where there’s a nice cyclists’ café, or keep to the route and go left to Coggeshal where there are a couple of cafés to choose from, should you need the energy.

Bures Church, past early on in the ride

Coggeshal is a quaint Essex village and is a nice place to spend a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon. All good things must come to an end however and before long you have to saddle up again and start back towards Colchester. The most picturesque route is to cross over the A120 and take the back road across to Great Tey, and from here to Aldham.

From Aldham you can ride to Eight Ash Green where you can turn left, eventually climbing the hill up to West Bergholt, a village you will recognise having passed through it once on your way to Sudbury, situated as it is on the B1508. It’s now just a short roll back down to Colchester.

Stourbridge

One of the best things about Essex from a cyclist’s point of view is the sheer number of roads available, making exploring either a very enjoyable or very frustrating experience depending on your luck. Rather than give you a map to follow, we’ve just given you the outline of the villages you should look to pass through.

Here’s the list of villages in the order you should aim for:

Colchester North BR, West Bergholt, Bures, Sudbury, Middleton, Henny Street, Lamarsh, Alphamstone, Pebmarsh, Burtons Green, Coggeshal, Great Tey, Aldham, Eight Ash Green, West Bergholt, Colchester North BR.




Route Details

Where: Anti-clockwise loop West of Colchester
Grade: Medium
Distance: About 70km (if you don’t get lost)
Start/End Point: Colchester North BR

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