FNRttC Friday Night Ride to the Coast (and back again) Fen Bridges 30th April Ride report


Well-Known Member
The Flatlands
The second night ride of 2021, and slightly different, as we ride to the coast at King's Lynn, then back again. My phone did not like the cold and flaked out after King's Lynn. This was very frustrating as we had a brilliant sunrise. Barry and other riders shared their photos, which I've collected in this album https://photos.app.goo.gl/nFdKMDCLwCtkeEHC7
Two riders sheltered in the shadow of Ely Cathedral as I pedalled over the loose cobbles of the Gallery towards them. Numerous bright front lights gave away their overnight excursion plans. Gradually local and train-delivered riders appeared, discussing travel plans and distances travelled, until we were ready for the briefing with a ‘hooray’ for the new Friday riders.
It was already cold, with a biting wind so the assembled seven riders jigged about to keep warm, hands flapping, feet stomping.

We set off in good humour just after midnight, the Cathedral clock striking the hour. Clattering over the cobbles, round by Ely Porta with a taste of the night to come, both with me giving a brief background history and a sample of the potholes in the first 10 minutes.
Up out to Little Downham, with a comedy warning of “Hill”, street lights blaring in the sleepy village, then plunge down the bend of Mill Hill into darkness.
A quick tech stop and wondering what the string of lights across the horizon was? A train, road, aliens? No, probably a chicken shed. You’re in the Fens, now riders.


The clear night sky was punctuated by the stars, as we clunked down Hundred Foot Bank. Novel warnings of “ridge”, “lumps” and “mind the gap” were found as we traversed the concrete slab road.
Pausing at Welney Wash to peer into the watery gloom, we were glad the Wash was dry, avoiding the need for water wings. From here, the road drops down to below sea level, with mists rising and temperatures dropping further. I joked that this was going to be the lowest ride they’d ever done.

Zig-zagging Fen roads in and out of the headwind, over our third bridge with a stop to look at an incognito WWII building at Three Holes - a Home Guard Store, lurking behind a car park.
Back into the villages and the novelty of street lights at Upwell and Outwell, an illuminated church by the bridge junction. We passed the Friday Bridge sign on the way but left that diversion for another ride. More massive potholes as we turn for Marshland St James, a village laid out in a long strip with the old station buildings another history moment pause.

On our right, a red disc loomed up from the fields, a Blood Moon joining us for the ride.

Down Gravel Bank, the mists creeping more steadily across the road, reeds moodily lining the rivers, and the moon now higher in the sky spookily lurking behind clouds.


For a while, there were only riders in the landscape, beacons of white beams shining, no marks of civilisation apart from the tarmac under our tyres. The odd house lonesome in the wilderness. Did we hear banjo chords out in the darkness or imagine it?

By an old Toll House, riders found cover for a comfort break. I was too cold to remove any clothes, choosing to (metaphorically) cross my legs for the moment!


Hitting another bridge climb, who said there weren’t any hills? The cat's eyes disappeared up to the stars as we headed up up and over the A47, whizzing down the descent. Winding our way down single track roads, hands and toes numbing through the biting cold.

After attempting to lead the riders into a business park, we came to the very welcome West Lynn petrol station, another glamorous Fridays cafe stop. Much stomping of feet and hands under armpits, as hot drinks were successfully obtained through the night hatch after some initial, spirit dampening, confusion.

We chatted along comparing temperatures with previous rides, agreeing the headwind this night was pulling the cold into our bones.



Snacks munched, flasks drunk from, kit adjustments made, whilst getting ready for the entry into King’s Lynn proper. Orange and midnight blue hues at the edge of the sky, giving hints to the sunrise to come.
Birdsong floated across the centre of King’s Lynn, avians and riders the only creatures about as we pedalled under the South Gate, Porta to Porta.
Onto the Quayside, reaching the coast, admiring the glimmers of sunrise over the rivers end.


We turned past the Minister, and chequerboard Guildhall, then back to the cyclepath by the river, taking in the lights of King’s Lynn port.


Early dawn light gently brought warmth to riders and misty rivers, taking in the boxy industrial section as we cycled south.

The route snakes back and forth over the rivers, onto an island where we turned off down a narrow thin track to a dead end. A ruined church, skeleton in the chill air, with an isolated hamlet.
Back following the river and over larger bridges at Magdalen. An unfortunate puncture for a first timer, saw a TEC stop @Elybazza61 and Anton whilst the other riders enjoyed the atmosphere of the sunrise over the misty river on one side of the bridge and the half moon, high in the sky reflected in the water on the other side. A scene for contemplation, quiet discussion and sneaking drowsies.
Repairs made, we lazily passed over the next bridge, savouring the scenery. Photo @Elybazza61

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Open farmland stretched out everywhere, occasional trees framing the sun, striped plough furrows hugging the damp air.
On Barroway Drove, another puncture, where rider and TECs Anton and Barry did a thorough job of sorting the issue, whilst the women riders resolved the age old problem of looking for suitable bushes!
Downham Market where the stalls were being set up as we passed through taking in some comedy off road, fingers crossed, we won the challenge with the puncture fairy.
Sun high, blazing in the blue skies, Denver Sluice and Ten Mile Bank beckoned. River glittering on silky water, spirits soared with the temperature, as layers finally came off again.
After a brief Cold War history point in Littleport, we descended the grippy bends to Chettisham. Excited cries of “Cathedral”, as The Ship of the Fens, was sighted on the horizon. We’re nearly there, breakfast is calling.

The cathedral is visible for miles on the Isle of Ely meaning a draggy climb back into the city, really earning breakfast.
Back into the surprisingly busy centre, queuing for Grain Culture, the display luring people in. Click-clack over to the Cathedral for a group photo and loop completion. Coffees on the market, devouring our pastries, wall perched, we compared notes, first timers and seasoned Friday Nighters.
We joked about having arranged excellent weather, but perhaps the thermostat could have been turned up a little!
After breakfast, riders headed home. Some by bike, others by train, I rode with a couple to the station to show the way. Then after a quick stop at home to ditch stuff and check in with DH, I set back out for a loop to make it a century ride. The headwind picked up and rain clouds loomed but I felt surprisingly strong for 10 hours into a ride (and no sleep for 26 hours).

A beautiful night for a ride, the atmosphere and scenery providing a soul satisfying experience. Fantastic group to ride with, talking with each of the riders as we went along, exchanging experiences, periods of quiet and enjoying the ride’s rhythm. Anton and Barry were a brilliant All Upper/TEC team.

Great to get back in the swing of night rides, trains permitting, the next one will be Maldon.
It's a series of duck sheds between Downham and Pymoor actually :smile:

Next time, if you want to avoid the bone-shaking bit of the B1411 along the hundred foot, turn right on the green by the church when you come into Downham, out towards the Droves, then go down Black Bank and turn left onto the Wisbech Road / A1101. It spits you out at Golds Hill, much closer to the suspension bridge at Welney.

Also, it's a much nicer (and less lumpy) ride from Littleport to Ely along Padnal Bank via Queen Adelaide - which takes you along the course for this year's boat race.


Well-Known Member
The Flatlands
Oh of course, now you say, yes I have seen the signs for ducks - I didn't put the two together! Thanks @Reynard :-)
It's a tricky one balancing out which roads to use. I live locally so know the roads quite well.
What puts me off the alternatives is that A1101 is busy with tractors and Branch Bank has really bad potholes down the left hand side. It's also the site of car accidents from drivers taking the bends too fast (boy racers), so both of these rule it out for a night group ride.
Yes the surface down 100ft is bad, but overall, I prefer that over potential issues with potholes and cars.
It's my local patch too - you may have seen me out and about on my "shrunk-in-a-boil-wash" bikes :blush:

Swings and roundabouts regarding the roads, I suppose. I ride alone, so only have to think about myself. :blush: I'm far too slow to ride in a group LOL


Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
What puts me off the alternatives is that A1101 is busy with tractors and Branch Bank has really bad potholes down the left hand side. It's also the site of car accidents from drivers taking the bends too fast (boy racers), so both of these rule it out for a night group ride.
Black Bank, not Branch Bank! No corners on Black and worst bits resurfaced in the last two years. There aren't many tractors overnight and they're easy to see coming around there. Agree Branch is horrid, as is Queen Adelaide IMO.

One small note: your pic of the "port" is actually of the two road bridges and Saddlebow Industrial Zone. The port was behind you then, as you were on the east bank and the sea is to the north. The direction of your sunrise pic, although the buildings hide the port from you.

Other than that, great report. Glad it went well. I rode Gravel Bank with a group yesterday with a blissful tail wind. :smile:
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Actually, Black Bank is OK, although they've not done a terribly good job of fixing the cracks in the road between Downham Common and the level crossing. But as long as you stay 3ft from the edge, it's fine.

Have to confess it's a little while since I've been out Branch Bank way. :blush: But the roads out here are generally in pretty poor nick anyway, and they've gotten way worse over the winter. Guess I've become immune because it's either ride them or not ride at all. :blush: Though if you want a really bone shaker, then Downham to Coveney is a good bet...


Well-Known Member
The Flatlands
I’m used to it too, but you have to watch out for these things when you’re ride leading.
I ride down all of these roads regularly.
Basically I think these are overall the best choice of route for a group at night. Another ride leader might have a different idea, that’s up to them.
I’m used to it too, but you have to watch out for these things when you’re ride leading.
I ride down all of these roads regularly.
Basically I think these are overall the best choice of route for a group at night. Another ride leader might have a different idea, that’s up to them.
Guess you do, likely it's a whole different kettle of fish compared to my solo bimbling... :blush:
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