A long trip however, Norwich being about 170 miles from Derby, so costing about 3p/mile - almost as cheap as cycling.
The pricing of rail tickets is a complete mystery to me - the difference between the most expensive seats and the cheapest is quite amazing and you need to book well ahead opting to travel at off-peak times. I cannot believe that they have a mathematical formula for calculating train fares. It seems more likely that they use a random number generator. The various railcards give discounts of around 30%. and it helps if you can be flexible as to actually where you go. Only a few weeks ago we travelled to Leicester FIRST CLASS for only £2, having the privilege of two cups of excellent free coffee, biscuits and much more comfortable seats. An added bonus was not having to share a carriage with the riff-raff in standard class, which usually includes us. The first class fare was actually cheaper than standard class, which further illustrates what a crackpot system they have.
So, it was an early start to catch the 7.13 train from Derby station on Thursday 7th March 2013.
Norwich is a good choice for cycling, as Norfolk abounds in quiet country lanes, the area is fairly flat and Route 1 of the NCN passes through Norwich on it's way from Orkney to Dover. The absence of hills and a dearth of hedges make for good views of the big skies and the enormous open fields some of which stretch to the horizon and beyond, with the ubiquitous green and yellow John Deere tractors dragging multi-furrow ploughs through the fertile black soil. Modern tractors are, like airliners, computer/GPS controlled, so it must be a pretty boring job driving them on these gigantic fields, with little to do but listen to the radio and to check that the computer is doing it's job.
From Norwich, Route 1 runs beside the river through Whitlingham Country Park along the Yare Valley, this being co-incident with the Wherryman's Way, a 35 mile walking and cycling route following the River Yare, which meanders slowly through the dyke-studded marshlands to meet the sea at Great Yarmouth.
Lots of private pleasure boats moored alongside the river, these surplanting the flat bottomed commercial sailing craft (wherries) of past times. Celebrating those far off days is this beautifully carved figure of The Wherryman at Bremerton, whose job was to manage the mooring of these vessels. The lack of a left foot does not seem to inhibit his running style and he looks like a latter day "jobsworth" to me.
Sadly it was too early in the year to see much of the wild flowers and burgeoning leaves which are soon to come, but lots of snowdrops brighten the bare earth of the roadside verges.
The large but attractive village of Loddon was about half way on the ride, so a good place to stop for lunch, especially since there is an award winning and CTC recommended teashop going under the appropriate name of Rosy Lee's Tearoom The small cafe was almost full with local people as is usually the case - locals always know the best places to eat.
|This is it -the best place to eat in Loddon, if not in Norfolk! Small in size but big on value.|
|Opposite the cafe is an attractive riverside park where locals moor their boats alongside their houses. This is the River Chet, a tributary of the River Yare.|
Fully re-fuelled now for the return to Norwich, but it was necessary to leave Route 1, taking more of the quiet lanes through scenic villages such as Mundham, whose flint-walled church has this beautifully carved sign alongside.
|The hill here is about as steep as it gets in these parts.|
Arriving back in Norwich as dusk began to fall, there was time for a pot of tea and a snack in Morrison's riverside supermarket. The return train journey was entirely in the darkness with little to see from the carriage windows but for the lights at the intermediate station stops. The station at Ely is notable, since you go in facing forwards and emerge facing backwards for the remainder of the journey back to Nottingham where, as it happened, a connecting train for Derby was awaiting. Soon we were back to the wet streets of Derby where it had rained for most of the day. By contrast Norfolk had been dry but overcast, with no wind, and not a bad day for cycling at this time of the year.
So, a highly recommended area for cycling and well worth another visit.
Mileage clocked from Norwich station and back was 35 miles, resulting in a touch of cramp in my ageing leg muscles which have not had much use in recent weeks.
Verdict - a wherry good day out!