I may have already mentioned that I’m a tubby, I smoke far to much and am more than a little partial to cheese and wine in unhealthy quantities. I’ve also mentioned that I’m cycling for fun rather than any expectation of improved health or longer life-span, so it was a massive surprise to me when I found myself suggesting to Tommy that we hit Hadleigh Country Park.

I haven’t yet mentioned that I discovered Strava somewhere along the line, and I found that access to ‘data’ made me want to ‘improve’ in a mildly competitive but totally un-focussed manner. So, despite my natural fear of and subsequent avoidance of hills we found ourselves bypassing the ‘easy’ route and hitting the shared use trails of Hadleigh country park and castle.

Having already enthused profusely about Canvey being a fat cyclists dream location, I feel that Hadleigh needs a bit of background info. I can honestly say that cycling there is definitely not a faty bloke’s dream. as there’s a lot more up than down to pedal on most of the (very well maintined) paths and trails.

Hadleigh was once home to Hubert de Burgh the 1st Earl of Kent sometime between 1215 and 1230 when he built a munting big castle at the top of a wooded hill. Having established parkland (including a fishpond), he subsequently fell out of favour with the then King Henry VIII in 1239, was locked up and stripped of the castle (and estate). For a number of years, the castle was retained as a royal estate, passing through the hands of various Edmunds, Edwards and Richards over the next 300 years or so until it was broken up for the value of the stone and left pretty much as it is today (after a few landslides and collapes throughout the 1960’s 70’s and again in 2000).

At some point. it was purchased by William Booth (no relation to Will-I-Am of the Black Eyed Peas) and ‘donated to the Salvation Army in 1891 who still own and manage Hadleigh Farm. with the Castle being managed by English Heritage and the Country park surrounding both being managed by Essex County Council Despite the unholy trinity of God, Tree huggers and Greed managing the entirety of land, Hadleigh Farm (to the joy of the Sally Army) was selected as the 2012 London Olympic venue of choice for the Mountain Biking events. Between 2008 and 2012, much effort was put into creating a challenging course, which has subsequently been adapted for public use with blue, red and black sections for all abilities.

It’s a pretty cool place to have on your doorstep, and throughout September we racked up a good few miles hitting the hills and shared use pathways throughout the park, but really never gave much thought to the Olympics or the public Mountain Bike Course. Was happy to note as the miles increased that so did my lung capacity, it’s around an 80M elevation from bottom to top on average, plus the 20m elevation from Canvey to the park entrance we use near the station, and instead of walking up everything I began to improve and only had to walk up mostly everything.
I still hadn’t got round to fixing my seized forks, but otherwise all was well.

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