The bicycle chain came to a slow stop as my feet touch the ground. Above my head was the roar and rumble of cars, vans and trucks as they hurdled themselves around London’s ring road, famously known as the M25. The colossal bridge I was standing under protected me, but it certainly didn’t protect my poor ears. It was quite something. The people in their vehicles had no idea I was hidden underneath their rolling wheels. It seems everyone is on a journey to some where!
The River Lea was taking us on a journey and as any good hostess, she was keeping my boyfriend and I well entertained. We found ourselves stopping to observe the canal locks filling up and emptying so that the pleasure boats could continue on their merry way. These canal locks seemed to buzz with activity and was a great place to chat to friendly strangers willing to share their thoughts.
We were rolling into the afternoon as we cycled into the town of Waltham Abbey. This lovely town can be dated back to the 16th century and some of its history is interwoven among the stone walls of the Abbey. Part of the Abbey’s structure is still standing from the Middle Ages and it sits very proudly on lush green grass for everyone to laze on. It looked so inviting that we rested the bicycles on their sides and quickly stretched our legs through the grass in the warm sunshine. A good time for sandwiches!
Pedalling again we made a short detour to a dragonfly sanctuary. With big bulging eyes and bodies that shimmer with metallic colours, dragonflies are easy to spot hovering in the air. At times they appeared to chase along side the bikes, zipping this way and that, their delicate wings humming with speed.
Making it back to the river was easy and we were completely surrounded by the greenery of the British countryside. Occasionally a small village would join this scene and add to its colour. Uniformed terraced houses all lined up in a row, immaculate gardens over flowing with vibrant flowers and people sharing an afternoon in a pub’s beer garden. This is the England my Grandmother reminisces about and it really felt like a little bit of paradise.
We cycled past a collection of lakes. They were filled with small sailing boats cruising across their calm surfaces. Next stop was the impressive Dobbs Weir where the river water flowed rapidly and was rumbling with noise as water cascaded from one level to another. Mini water-falls sprayed the ducks as they enjoyed a late afternoon wash.
There was so much to see and time was running out… There were frequent signs dotting our path, urging us to take a walk on a nature trail or to visit some historic building…maybe next time? Pedalling in rhythm through the powdery gravel we soon passed through the towns of Broxbourne and Hoddeson.
The town of Ware was drawing closer and the path decided to shrink in size. It slowly got thinner as if it had been on a diet. It became the width of a slender snake with our bike wheels only just fitting within its gap. The trees started to close in on us too. As we tried to avoid getting hit by branches or from accidentally making a slight turn and ending up in the river, we came upon a gate.
This gate allowed us to stumble into Ware and straight away I was impressed. The town sits on one of the England’s ancient roadways and is stated to be one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. Also, it was once a brewing town where barley was transported in, and beer out via the river. By cycling around we were able to behold some of the rustic malting buildings standing as a reminder of the towns past. I was fascinated.
Sadly our journey had finally come to an end. We lifted our dusty bikes onto the train which was to return us back to London. While the train chugged away on the tracks, I saw reminders out of the window of where we had cycled, I smiled. The River Lea had opened my senses and allowed me to experience England in a fresh new light and I was grateful to her for being such a brilliant hostess.
This quiet thought was soon interrupted. “Where are we going next ?” questioned my boyfriend. I laughed saying “Wait and see!” I knew he was now hooked too.