Staycation with a Bicycle

The Half Moon at Belchamp St Paul... due a return visit

Christine Knight and husband David, CPRE Essex chairman, have dusted down the cobwebs and taken to their bicycles as they reacquaint themselves with the glories of the Essex countryside. Here, in the first of a series of articles or ‘blogs’, Christine tells how the couple ventured to the idyllic borderlands shared with Suffolk.   

Just over the border, but still beautiful!
Clare Castle
Looking back towards Clare, castle on the horizon
An idyllic scene near Clare

May 2021

In view of the continuing restrictions on our lives, it is unlikely many of us will be going very far again this summer. However beautiful the place in which we live (and its amazing countryside is one of Essex’s best-kept secrets), it is easy to tire of local walks and attractions. We have, therefore, after many years of pontificating, had a tow bar fitted to the car and bought ourselves a bicycle rack so we can travel a bit farther afield to discover, and rediscover in some cases, those areas of the county we haven’t visited recently, with maybe a few excursions across the border into neighbouring counties.
Neither of us have cycled much over the last few years, so our first trip was to Matching Green near Harlow – a three-mile circular route taking in Little Laver – just to get our legs working after what had seemed at times a very long winter.
This is a route we have walked many times, but being on a bike is different – having that sense of freedom, even though hills (well, slopes really) seem to appear out of nowhere and the wind always seems to be blowing in your face.
Having completed one outing successfully, we travelled a bit farther. This time we parked the car just across the border in Clare, Suffolk. Clare is a lovely place to visit and straddles the River Stour, which forms much of the boundary between Essex and Suffolk, but that wasn’t the purpose of our visit. Our aim was to complete a five-mile circular route via Belchamp St Paul.

The River Stour forms much of the county border

Once on our bikes, we crossed the Stour and were back in Essex within a couple of minutes. We cycled past Clare Priory and were soon in open countryside with amazing views back across the fields to Clare – being a sunny spring day, it had that wonderful smell of spring in the air, that heady mixture of cow parsley and hawthorn in the hedgerows and fields full of yellow rape flowers.
We soon discovered that Hickford Hill is definitely a hill and wondered whether we should have cycled the route in the opposite direction. However, what goes up must eventually go down!
We made it to Belchamp St Paul and what a glorious place. A lovely village green with a seat, swallows on the wires and a village pub (unfortunately not open on a Wednesday lunchtime but perhaps one to visit another time).
Returning to Clare was mainly downhill and after a couple of hours cycling it was good to return to the car for a well-deserved cup of coffee and piece of cake.

Homes with a view at Belchamp St Paul
Belchamp St Paul village green