#5000colo Day 98: Soft Centre

Distance travelled: 32.19 miles
Cumulative distance: 1508.26 miles
Distance remaining: 3491.74 miles
Percentage complete: 30.17
Villages visited: Beeston, Great Dunham, Castle Acre, South Acre, West Acre, Swaffham, Sporle, Little Dunham, Great Fransham, Little Fransham, Wendling, Scarning, Daffy Green, Thorpe Row.

Another milestone today! I passed 1,500 miles, which is 30% of my total distance. Katie dropped me off in the wilds of mid-Norfolk and went for a walk with my in-laws, while I chopped off another chunk of my remaining villages.

I’m going to do another count-up soon, but I reckon I’m close to having visited two-thirds of Norfolk’s villages now. Very little remains to the east; draw a line between Wells-next-the-Sea and Thetford, and I’ve pretty much been everywhere east of it (bar a couple of odd villages I’ve missed, such as Hethel and Thurning, and a little patch immediately west of Holt).

Today was another ride through places with childhood memories attached; I started in Beeston, then went through Great Dunham, where I played my first-ever football match (we won 11-0). Then it was on through the beautiful village of Castle Acre, with its ancient castle and priory; I’ve not visited those since I was at school, but will try to get back at some point soon when I’m not cycling.

Next was South Acre and then West Acre, where the road decided it didn’t want to be a road any more and would rather identify as a lake for a bit.

I managed to plot a tentative and circuitous route around the edge of it without putting my waterproof socks under too much duress; it was sorely tempting just to build up some speed and see how far I could plough through it before the weight of water halted my momentum, but it was pretty cold and I still had 20 miles to go, so I thought better of it.

I then rode back to the market town of Swaffham, where I managed just over a year at high school before high school decided I wasn’t quite what it was after and kicked me out. This was a particularly challenging time in my life, after which I was given an SEN statement and sent away to boarding school in south Norfolk to try and teach me some discipline (I’m going to try to visit there too at some point soon).

I was tempted to make a diversion and see if the Pedlars Hall Cafe was open, as I have very fond memories of hanging out in the back room playing on all the arcade machines, inhaling the second-hand cigarette smoke from the older boys. Seems like an eternity ago.

From Swaffham it was on to Sporle, and directly underneath the giant wind turbine, which was an imposing sight from close up; I resisted the temptation to stop for a photo, though, and pressed on to Little Dunham, and then on to the Franshams (Little and Great). Just outside Great Fransham I saw another huge bird of prey, which I’m pretty sure must have been a buzzard (it was bloody MASSIVE, and mottled brown in colour).

At Little Fransham I hit the A47 opposite the Canary & Linnet pub, so I stopped for a photo opportunity. Being half way between Norwich (The Canaries) and King’s Lynn (The Linnets), this pub has an almost folkloric quality among my friendship group due to it being constantly mooted as a possible pre-Norwich-match drinking location. We’ve never been, although if the owners are reading this and would like to host us then let me know and we’ll pop in once we’re allowed to go to the footy en masse again.

Then I faced a mile along the A47, which I decided to brave rather than make a three-mile detour. Thankfully the traffic was pretty light and there were no mishaps or angry drivers to contend with.

From there it was into Wendling and on to Scarning, a road I’ve travelled hundreds of times in the back of my parents’ car due to it being en route to Dereham and Norwich from my childhood home in Bradenham.

I then cut across towards Shipdham through the delightfully named Daffy Green and the tiny hamlet of Thorpe Row, before pitching up at my parents’ house for a quick socially distanced meet-and-greet before driving back to Norwich. Toying with the idea of cycling again tomorrow, but will see how my bum feels in the morning. It was a relatively easy ride on my legs and lungs, but I just can’t seem to find a saddle configuration that protects me from saddle sores. Answers on a postcard…

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