Saturday, 20 June 2015

Leg 548 from Pakefield to Hopton - Recce of things most easterly

During the first week in June I was on holiday so I decided to recce our stage on the Suffolk coast. As my fellow relay runners weren’t available, I commandeered the long-suffering other half to accompany me to cycle the route.

First things first, we checked the handover point. Yep, a nice wide verge near the water tower, enough room for us and the “camera crew”. Must remind my friend and support crew, Angela, to practise night–time shots! Now decisions: my inclination would always be to get as close to the sea as possible and I could follow a track from here straight to the beach. But it will be dark and also add a bit to the route so I think we will follow the road for a bit and then take a side road to the lower promenade so we can run right past my beach hut (no 59), where I have spent many happy hours watching the waves. We won’t be able to see much at night but we’ll smell the sea and feel the (hopefully warm) breeze.

The beach was beautiful today. The Pakefield end has formed into dunes in recent years and some beautiful flowers had sprung up amongst them. The Jolly Sailors looked inviting right on the edge of the cliff but we resisted the temptation.

I did have a dip in the sea though, a refreshing 14ºC.  Rather enjoyed but I promise Toto and I will not go skinny dipping on route to Hopton!

Running (or cycling) past all the colourful beach huts, past the Claremont Pier and on towards the South Pier is pure pleasure.  Unfortunately the sea wall near the South Pier was damaged in last year’s tidal surge. It is now getting fixed, and I'm hoping all the barriers will be gone by August but even if they aren't we'll be able to run along the prom all the way to the harbour and past the most easterly pub in Britain, the Fisherman's Wharf on the South Pier. 

The bascule bridge over the water to the north side of Lowestoft is a pain in the neck for drivers in Lowestoft and apparently, Mr Cameron has promised a 3rd crossing by 2020.  We will see...

Today we crossed the bridge without a delay, and it should not be a problem for us on the day unless someone decides that essential maintenance work needs to be done on 4th August.  Hope not, as a detour via Oulton Broad would add several miles to the route!

So over the bridge and through the rather uninspiring industrial area of North Lowestoft. Up till the 50s it was the Beach Village, where thousands of people lived and worked, mainly living off the sea one way or another. We pass the most easterly church in Britain, and follow the route of the Lowestoft Scores Race, Britain’s most easterly hill race. It is the first race I ever ran -  a tough 4.75 miles along the sea wall and up and down steep slopes, including 409 steps, between the beach and the High Street.

Now we arrived at the most easterly point in Britain, the Ness Point, where a giant wind turbine, known as Gulliver, was overlooking my other half trying to cough up a fly he just swallowed! It will be a slight detour off the route but we really want to go there.

From here we cycled along the sea wall for a mile or so. It was very windy, as it always seems to be here, and it reminded me how helpful it was to place myself behind a large bloke in the Scores races to get through this section. As the wind in Lowestoft blows against you regardless of what direction you are travelling, I decided it would be too bleak to run here at night so for the Relay we will backtrack from Ness Point and run along the road.

The rest of the route is pretty straightforward, through Gunton and Corton passing several caravan parks and holiday villages. After Corton there will be another couple of miles on a quiet, lonely and, I imagine, very dark road so we will definitely need our head torches to see our way to Hopton. But we were cycling today and had plenty of time, so we stopped for a drink in Corton and again in Hopton, where I received Casey last year, before heading back to Pakefield.

We are really looking forward to running this section. The British coast is an amazing thing in all its variety and I can’t wait to see everyone else’s photos of their routes.  Almost as good as being there!

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