A record turnout for the first 'proper' cycAle ride of 2012. 15 gathered in the car park of the Bricklayer's on a chilly March Sunday morning. First stop of the day was The Fleece at Boxford, but that didn't open until 12:00 which meant a leisurely winding route to Boxford via Stratford St. Mary and Dedham. We got the day's puncture over and done with early (Pam) along the way. Superb pints/halves of Mill Green's Mawkins Mild or Stella (no, not that Stella... but a Mill Green single-hop special) all round before a quick ride up to the Fleece's sister pub, and home of Mill Green brewery itself, the White Horse at Edwardstone.
The White Horse provided a range of great Mill Green beers and a very good lunch. Only a lack of crackling with the Roast Pork stopping it from getting a perfect score on the Whybrow Scoring Scale, a rare event. Here we also gained an extra rider bringing us up to 16 - a full minibus load! By now the sun had started to shine and it had turned into a glorious spring day.
Onwards into Sudbury to the Black Adder Brewery Tap. Dark Star Espresso Stout was the beer of choice for most, with 6 others to choose from it you don't like coffee (Jeff!). Heading out of Sudbury we passed by the Henny Swan in favour of the Lamarsh Lion. The Lion was, as ever, bustling and offered a range of ales including Wherry on gravity. Pam also shared chocolate orange cake (do come again Pam!)
We pressed on along the rollercoaster that is the road from Lamarsh to Bures where we lost a few riders to trains back to Colchester. The rest of us carried on and turned right up the hill that puts the "Mount" in "Mount Bures". How good of them to put a double Pub of the Year winner at the top of it as an incentive to get up there! The Thatcher's Arms welcomed us with Adnams Mild or a choice of Crouch Vales beers.
The route back to Colchester took us through Fordham so it would have been silly not to pause at the Three Horseshoes. The 'shoes has been recently refurbished and is well worth a visit. They were one of the first to have Colchester Brewery's new beers and usually have a range of 3-4 local brews on. It was Crouch Vale's Blackwater Mild all round!
From Fordham it was time to tackle Fiddler's Hill before rolling back into Colchester after 42 very pleasant miles. Observation of the day? Only one pub without lined glasses (pints or halves) - shame on you Thatcher's Arms! Mechanical mishaps - 1 puncture, 1 unruly wheel caused by a loose nut, 1 disintegrating gear shifter.
Thanks to Jeff for organising. See you all on the next one.