Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Shingle street and sundry estuarial delights

The Shottisham camp site is about 5 miles from the coast and 3 miles from the Deben estuary. Both easy cycle trips through a gently undulating landscape of cornfields and woods. There is little traffic and the lanes are covered in wild flowers. Magic! In some ways the idyllic ride towards the coast does not quite prepare you for the empty salt marshes near Shingle Street. The lanes are pastoral and cosy, but the marshes are a wild place and the shingle banks almost other-worldly, exuding a slightly un-nerving emptiness like the ethereal backgounds you get in paintings by Dali or Ernst.

What makes the shingle bank a site of special scientific interest is the way clumps of  maritime flowers and low shrubs dot the stoney surface. It is this feature which gives the area its slightly surreal ambience.

There are few houses dotted about, probably belonging to fishermen originally. None are very old, some late Victorian, but most post-war. I supect that the area is so inhospitable that it remained uninhabited until modern times. The only older buildings are a series of Martello towers built in the first yearrs of the nineteenth century in response to the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.

We returned to the van for a late lunch. By this time the temperature was hovering around the thirties, so out came the awning and a bit of a post lunch laze until the heat subsided somewhat.

view from the awning..

However, we are not too adept at doing nothing, so by late afternoon a cooling breeze had blown-up and we decided to see of we could find the riverside pub called the Ramsholt Arms, reputed to have a stunning view across the Deben estuary. It should only have been about a three mile ride, but we missed the turning and probably added a couple of miles to the jaunt by accident. No matter, the area is very beautiful, and since we had now worked up a bit of a sweat we did not mind at all that a local farmer had parked his giant automatic sprinkler in the corner of the field ensuring passersby, as well as his broad beans, received a proper soaking. Eventually we found the pub, and it is beautifully positioned next to a small quay used by fishermen and the yachting fraternity.

We had planned to stop for a coffee but fate intervened. Just before we arrived at the pub, while blithely pedalling through the lovely riverside woods, I was surprised by a metalic snap, my bike seat parted company from the stem and I parted company from my bike. Luckily I was going at no speed at all. It soon became apparent that the adjustment bolt that fastens seat to stem had sheared. We were about 3 miles from the van and there seemed to be no other option than to wheel the bike back. 

After a few minutues of huffing and puffing up a small hill we realised that at 26kg, wheeling the bikes back was not going to be easy. I experimented with two techniques that would enable me to ride it home. The first was to stand up on the pedals and rocket along like Chris Froome doing a sprint finish; the second involved perching my backside on top of the battery behind the seat stem and riding along leaning back, somewhat in the style of Peter Fonda in Easyrider. Both techniques looked equally ridiculous, but ignoring the somewhat quizzical glances of passing motorists, using a mixture of sprint finish and Chopper nostalgia I was able to ride back to the van. Cycling opportunities were the main reason for choosing to stay in this area. We decided to move tomorrow a bit further up the coast to find somewhere nearer the Suffolk coast path, though we were a bit hazy where that might be as we had left our UK camp site book at home.


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