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From the driver’s seat: Cycle ride recce turns into lost cause

PUBLISHED: 14:44 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:44 18 June 2018

On it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy Russell

On it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy Russell

Andy Russell

Trying to follow a cycle route by car to recce it for his wife turned into a Norfolk mystery tour but, after five hours, motoring editor Andy Russell finally lost it... or did it lose him?

On it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy RussellOn it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy Russell

Hindsight is a wonderful thing in the cold light of day. Shame I didn’t see things quite so clearly the previous evening as daylight disappeared while ‘misplaced’ on a remote rural road in the wilds of darkest North Norfolk.

It had all seemed so simple when my wife wanted to recce a cycle route from our home near Norwich to Heacham, near Hunstanton. Alarm bells should have rung then – follow a cycle route... in a car.

Her special cycling sat-nav said it was 47 miles... that’s if you were a crow that can ride a bike as well as fly.

Setting off around 6.30pm, and on a ‘school night’, I had a nasty feeling it was going to be a long job, more like 80 miles as we headed in the opposite direction to Acle and on to Horsey, near Winterton.

On it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy RussellOn it like a car bonnet! But things weren’t under control as my wife, Denise, and I checked out a cycle route... by car. Picture: Andy Russell

Trying to follow a cycle route on a small-scale map, through the twists and turns of roads with no names or numbers, saw us going wrong a few times.

And then we came up with Plan B. On the day, just take the new NDR – it will always be the Northern Distributor Road rather than Broadland Northway as far as I am concerned – to the Holt road out of Norwich. Once at Holt, head for Letheringsett, peel off for Glandford and pick up the cycle route again at Wiveton.

Dead easy... until we missed the turn at Wiveton.

It seems that when road signs were removed in the Second World War, amid fears of German paratroopers invading, some were never put back, or if they were, some of the fingerposts were left off so the confusion continues.

Anyway, back on track, for it was little more than that, we soon came to a section of bridleway and a big blue ‘Unsuitable for motor vehicles’ sign. We identified a ‘short’ detour by road round it. It turned out not to be short and we got lost again... by which time darkness was closing in fast which, by now having picked up National Cycle Network Route 1, made looking for these little signs even more difficult.

To make the mission more miserable, and add to the eyestrain in the failing light, we were having to avoid what my wife thought were muntjac deer running around in the road... but were actually hares! Well, it was dark.

By Burnham Market, and another labyrinth of country lanes none of which seemed right (even when we turned the map the right way round), our patience ran out. Seeing a sign for Docking, I suggested she follow it when she does the ride, then look for one to Heacham and Plan B route should be about 65 to 70 miles. Job done!

With that, and the fuel gauge running low, I headed for King’s Lynn and a filling station. We finally arrived home five hours after setting out which, ironically, is roughly how long she expects the actual cycle ride to take!

It’s all part of her training to cycle from London to Paris for charity in autumn. What worries me is that if we get lost in our home county what hope do we have in France? Sounds like a cue for song.

Follow me on Twitter – @andyrussellauto

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