We had been invited by the Newark Rangers to go along on their ride to Fledborough Viaduct today, and so Phil Harris and I met them at Newark Railway Station at 10.30am. There was a good turnout with close on 30 cyclists, about 50/50 rangers and public. We were soon speeding Northwards with a strong tailwind, at one pont on a cycle path alongside the busy A1 road,
The viaduct originally carried the Chesterfield to Lincoln railway across the River Trent, which forms the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border, about 12 miles North of Newark, but now takes NCN Route 647 (The Dukeries Trail) heading towards Lincoln. It is one of the longest viaducts in the country, having no less than 59 arches, being built of 9 million bricks, and is quite spectacular, but difficult to photograph when you are actually on it.
Phil fiddles with his panniers as the beast approaches. Best not to turn your back on such machinery, Phil, the steering is primitive, the brakes are poor, and the ten ton weight could do serious damage to anything in it's path.
Between the steamroller and the viaduct was the village of Fledborough, were we visited the home of a Sustrans Supporter whose wife and family had laid on food and drink for the party. This turned out to be the most delicious bacon cobs, tea/coffee and a variety of home made cakes, which were served in a large gazebo, beside the pond in their garden. All very civilised and much appreciated by the hungry cyclists. Before leaving we had time to visit the charming little church nearby.
The food and drink served to sustain us for the next stage of the journey, as turning Southwards, we now had the wind in our faces. The official lunch stop was to be at the Bottle and Glass pub in the village of Harby, and there lay another pleasant suprise, for we found a hog roast in progress on the spacious lawn, and ......I kid you not......... beer at £1 a pint! Were we dreaming? No, it was true and here is a picture to prove it.
In case you wonder, it seems that 108 pints is a pin, and that is the size of the small barrel, which happens to be half a firkin.
* See correction in Comments. A pin is in fact 36 pints it seems, so presumably a firkin is 72 pints. Anyway at this price, who cares?
The hog roast was something else, delicious chunks of hot pork roasted overnight, in fresh bread cobs, with apple sauce, salad and sauces all for £3. Fortunately we were (hopefully) burning off as many calories as we were consuming.
A few years ago, during the construction of the Water Rail Way, which runs alongside the River Witham between Lincoln and Boston, we managed to get ourselves invited to several offical opening ceremonies, and they always had a hog roast. It was nice therefore, to recall happy memories of those days which are no longer, since the completion of that section of NCN Route 1 in the area.
Reluctantly getting back on our bikes to complete the journey back to Newark, and heading into wind once more, we were somewhat dismayed to see a milepost stating "Newark 14 miles", but we had no option but to push on, and ridng in a tight group did shelter some of us from the headwind.
We could not, therefore resist the temptation of yet another stop for tea at a very nice garden centre cafe where the lady kept the giant teapots replenished, ensuring that we had enough fluids to last us back to Newark, where Phil and I took advantage of the toilets in the Waitrose store and (you won't believe this) had yet another pot of tea to pass the time until the Nottingham train arrived 50 minutes later in the nearby Newark Castle station.
Well, what a fantastic day out that was. Eleven and a half hours away from home, forty something miles cycled, and countless cups of tea consumed, not to mention the beer and the food. Apart from the strong Southerly wind everything about the day was just perfect, so thanks be to Alan, Tony, Roger and the other Newark Rangers for putting on such a wonderful ride. We look forward to welcoming you to Derby on 22nd October, but we can't promise such good weather, nor a hog roast, and certainly not beer at £1 a pint!