Hospitality and kindness

I know I have talked about this topic before but I make no apologies for going back to it. Since I last blogged about the odd people we meet we have enjoyed the most amazing hospitality and kindness just to prove that one or two grumpy individuals do not in any way represent humanity as a whole.

Way back in May I told you about the lovely sisters we met in Moydart and how one of them who lives in Suffolk invited us to stay with her. Well two months on and a couple of thousand miles further into our journey and Juliet was true to her word and proved to be a wonderful host. She and her husband Brian live in a sweet village on the Suffolk coast and their house joined the likes of Ardnamurchan and Dunnet Head in being one of the few dead end destinations that we have cycled to on the coast of Britain. But it was worth the effort.

Shingle beach, Suffolk

Shingle beach, Suffolk

We enjoyed a fabulous time walking on the beach, eating a wonderful four course dinner with our hosts and their friends Miggy and Jim and generally unwinding from our normal routine.

From there we only had a short ride to Ipswich to stay with a cousin of Gill’s who she hadn’t seen for over thirty years. It was a very emotional reunion indeed and it was just as well that Anita’s husband Justin was around to entertain me while Gill and her cousin did some much overdue catching up.

Thirty year reunion

Thirty year reunion

For the second night running we experienced the novelty of eating in company around a table and talking till late into the warm summer’s evening. The following morning we were treated to breakfast at a nearby cafe and left Ipswich full to the brim with food and kindness.

By now the current heatwave had really started to kick in and the headlines in the tabloid press assured us gleefully that we would all probably expire as the temperatures hit 32 centigrade. They say that warm air is easier to ride in as it is thinner but I was too busy reaching for my water bottle every few minutes to notice. A short ferry ride across the Stour to Harwich provided slight relief but even on the open water it was still unusually warm. From Harwich we wound through our first Essex lanes via Walton on the Naze to Clacton where we became acutely aware of the change in accent from the softer Suffolk drawl to the one I remembered from my days living in Brentwood a long time ago. We phoned ahead to book a campsite on Mersea Island and check the tide times because the causeway often floods at high tide. Unfortunately our timing could not have been worse and there was no possibility of getting there in time. We navigated in and out of Colchester then as we approached the road to the island the queing traffic made it clear that we would just have to wait for nature to take it’s course and for the waters to recede. By the time we reached our campsite all the shops were closed but the warden gave us milk for tea and the pub across the road did excellent food and beer. It was a tough day having covered sixty miles in such hot conditions and I have to say those first couple of beers barely touched the sides.

Our next destination was Maldon and yet another example of extreme kindness. Our host Jen was a contact from an internet forum and despite never having met us she opened her home to us, fed us and even offered to let us stay a second night so that we could have a rest day. It was a very generous offer made even more exceptional because she herself wouldn’t be here because of a prior arrangement. Some people really are wonderfully kind and they more than make up for the odd misery guts patrolling footpaths and moaning at cyclists.

We have had a lovely day taking in Maldon town (including The Blue Boar Hotel which has it’s own brewery)

Haybridge Basin Maldon

Heybridge Basin Maldon

and we are now relaxing before what is likely to be another night of thunder storms.

The Blue Boar hotel bar. Circa 1400

The Blue Boar hotel bar. Circa 1400

I can’t stress enough what a difference the kindness of these people makes to us and memories of their generosity and trust will stay with us always. Please don’t believe a word of what the press tell you about the world being full of hatred and violence, it’s not. Oh and you’re not going to die from a bit of sunshine either.